November 23, 2014

Culture Watch

Bridging the gap: While most of ArtsNaples will focus on Russian artists, the Naples Museum of Art hosts an exhibition of a Russian-born, American original—Louise Nevelson.How Do You Say ‘Audacious’ in Russian?

You can’t say the organizers of ArtsNaples World Festival lack audacity. When they finally settled on doing an annual festival, in the vein of the famous Spoleto, they could have taken it easy.

They could have started small, a few performers, a couple of days and limited venues. They could have picked the works of a more accessible region. They could have scheduled it for a time when the streets are overrun with people looking for something to do.

But instead, they planned a 10-day, multi-venue festival in May, featuring hundreds of performers and the cultural treasures of Mother Russia.

Audacious, right? Not really, says Founding Artistic Director William Noll.

“We’ve been planning this for three years,” he says. “So we’ve had time to prepare and get it right. And certainly Russia is very rich in every element of culture from art to music to dance to opera, even film. It just seemed like a good idea to begin there.”

Not, say, Latin America with a sizable built-in audience of expatriates and a culture familiar to most folks in South Florida?

“We’re going there next year, but that familiarity is also what makes Russia a good first choice,” Noll says. “We didn’t want to be too familiar the first time.”

And surely you wanted to schedule it in February or March, right?

“No. People aren’t starving for things to do in March,” he says. “So we created this idea of ‘Stay in May,’ something to stretch the season out a bit longer.”

All of these things carry a good deal of risk. Russian art, especially the classical stuff, isn’t necessarily music for the masses. And a good deal of the performances are chamber music concerts that have a limited base of ticket buyers. A lack of familiarity with the works will probably keep some folks away.

And certainly, the fact that the whole thing happens a month after Easter, which has typically marked the end of season in Southwest Florida, brings the very real possibility that the
ticket-buying pool will shrink too much.

But the organizers are playing it smart. First, compared to a lot of offerings, tickets are cheap. Few top $25, even for the big showpieces, such as Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin. And you can catch every performance for about $400. (Noll says that with a little careful planning, you can attend one showing of every piece in the festival.)

Even better, the festival has buy-in from most of the major arts groups in town, including the Phil, which will host the opera in conjunction with Opera Naples. This is nothing short of a miracle and represents a 180-degree turn from just a year ago. Initially, the organizers planned on constructing a large tent somewhere in town to host the symphony events and the opera. But new Phil CEO Kathleen van Bergen stepped up and said her organization would gladly be a partner.

“We were a little late to the game,” van Bergen says. “But I can say how happy I am to be involved. This embodies the creative philosophy … creative forces work together for great change.”

Other venues and organizations involved include the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, Silverspot Cinema, the Sugden Theatre, The von Liebig Arts Center and The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.

Noting that so many of these groups are in it together, Collier County Commissioner Fred Coyle calls ArtsNaples an “extraordinary collaboration.”

It’s a welcome new prospect for the Naples arts scene.

Classical hits: Expect to hear plenty of heavy-hitting composers from Maestro William Noll, left, and the players from the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra.

Calendar of Events

May 12: 8 p.m. The Naples Philharmonic with conductor Mei-An Chen and violinist Augustin Hedelich performing Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and Brahms Violin Concerto at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts.

May 13: 2 p.m. “The Declassified” instrumental ensemble plays Stravinsky’s l’Historie du Soldat at The von Liebig Art Center.
7 p.m. Russian Imperial Dinner at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.

May 14: 2 p.m. Pianist Pavel Nersessian plays Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons.

May 15: 2 p.m. “The Declassified” string quartet plays a chamber music program at The von Liebig Art Center.
8 p.m. The Three Pianists—Philipp Kopachevsky, Michael Berkovsky and Pavel Nersessian—play works by Rachmaninoff, Bach and Poulenc.

May 16: 2 p.m. Michael Berkovsky plays Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Stravinsky’s Pertroushka at The von Liebig Art Center.
8 p.m. The Government Inspector, a satirical play by Nikolai Gogol, performed by the MFA graduates of Regent University’s theater department at the Sugden Community Theatre.

May 17: 2 p.m. “The Declassified” string quartet with pianist Pavel Nersessian performs a chamber music program featuring Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet.
3:30 p.m. The Government Inspector at the Sugden Community Theatre.
8 p.m. Opera Naples and the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra present Eugene Onegin, an opera by Tchaikovsky.

May 18: 2 p.m. Philipp Kopachevsky performs selected works from Rachmaninoff at The von Liebig Art Center.
8 p.m. The Government Inspector at the Sugden Community Theatre.

Ongoing Events
May 12-19
Jazz a la Russe, daily in the Lobby Lounge of The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.
Louise Nevelson A Retrospective at Naples Museum of Art.
Leonid Semeiko exhibition at The von Liebig Art Center.
Russian-themed children’s exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Naples.
Russian-themed programs at various Collier County libraries.

May 14-17
A selection of Russian cinema from the Naples International Film Festival at the Silverspot Cinema. Go to naplesfilmfest.com for full schedule.