Tuesday, February 02, 2010

pieces of eight

Music fills Mexico.

As I write, Beethoven's eighth in my living room is vying with a mariachi band in the rodeo arena.  I will give you a five goal spread that Villa Obregon beats Bonn.

Last Thursday there was no battle of the bands in Manzanillo.  Just one band: the illustrious Orquesta Sinfónica de San Luis Potosí. One of Mexico's finest symphonic orchestras.

I drove down to Manzanillo for the latest event on the Bella Artes del Pacifico's calendar.  The organization has worked hard to attract cultural events to the Pacific coast.  And they have been quite successful.

I missed December's Russian ballet.  But Thursday night's concert lived up to what could be expected of a project of this nature.

That may sound like I am praising with faint damns.  But I am not.

Anyone who came to the concert expecting to be challenged by the likes of George Benjamin or Philip Glass came to the wrong hall.  To spread the arts, producers need to put together programs that will attract audiences.  This is missionary work.

That means something lyrical.  Not too long.  No confusing pauses where applause can be embarrassing.  Nothing that requires catching subtle themes and figuring out where they fit into the piece.  Something pleasant.  Safely upper middle-brow.

The fine folks at Bella Artes must have found the correct mix because this event attracted an audience like cats to 2% milk.  It was mainly an expatriate and tourist audience -- with a small mixture of locals and assorted politicians.  The ballroom was packed.

What we got was a full evening (eight pieces) of pops music.  I do not say that disparagingly.  It is what people want to hear.  it is what they got.

The program was designed to celebrate Mexico's double centennial through music invoking the Mexican spirit -- from pre-Colombian times to the present.  and it did just that.  From the opening piece (Noche de los Mayas with its echoes of O Fortuna) to Arturo Márquez's Conga del Fuego Nuevo.

The most popular piece was Márquez's show-stopping Danzón No. 2 -- a piece most people know from the Tourist Board's clever 2009 video.  Shoulders and heads rotated and twitched enough to give the place the look of a grand reunion of Bob Fosse performers.

That piece should have ended the concert.  Instead, the artistic director, José Miramontes, chose a Montavani-laden arrangement of popular Mexican tunes.  But the audience ate it up like flan.  With a standing ovation -- I trust for the entire evening's performance and not merely the Karo tunes of the closing piece.

That, of course, occasioned an encore.  The orchestra served up a bumptious arrangement of "Over the Waves" -- Juvenito Rosas's most popular waltz.  It appears frequently as a theme in mariachi music, as if Strauss had come looking for one of his tubas.

Over all, it was a great evening.

This series proves that Manzanillo can support an on-going winter arts season.

We will see how the next event (The Saint Petersburg String Quartet) turns out.


Anonymous said...

My Teutonic roots makes me very suspicious of anything that too many other people enjoy.

As Nelson Algren once pointed out, "Why would I want to be part of a club that would allow me in as a member?"

Universal access to the arts, not unlike universal access to the Bible (or any other holy text for that matter), is the beginning of the end for social distinctions that make a difference.

I mean, where will it all end? With folks like myself sitting in the Opera House next to the Cadillac-driving elite of Walla Walla?

One simply shudders.

A. N. M.

Steve Cotton said...

ANM -- Your satire is showing.