Year One of the promised New Cultural Age bleeds into Year Two this week, and South Florida still looks much as it did in B.C. -- Before Carnival.
As did the Tampa and Broward centers, the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts stumbled out of the gate (even the Kravis took time to consolidate its success).
The Carnival's Knight Concert Hall lived up to its promise both acoustically and physically, giving the classical music scene a first-class showcase. But after a year of unexpectedly high deficits and inconsistent attendance, the center must realize in some ways painfully a practical role not as the mecca but as one of three important spokes in a tri-county artistic metropolis.
As the 2007-'08 season approaches, the region's best opera orchestra for some is, arguably, the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra.
In a technical sense, all of our opera orchestras are based in the Palm Beaches. The Florida Classical Orchestra, which plays for the Florida Grand Opera, and the Gold Coast Opera's orchestra are contracted by Joseph Ferrer's Delray Beach-based Sunset Entertainment, a powerful musical presenter.
For the foreseeable future, Miami-Dade's best orchestra is the New World Symphony, the exuberant training ensemble based at the Lincoln Theatre on Miami Beach. The NWS can play only so many concerts elsewhere without vexing the American Federation of Musicians union. There are three events at the Carnival this season, including the 20th-anniversary program on May 3 and a Dec. 16 runout to the Kravis Center.
Miami-Dade's other orchestral anchor is the Cleveland Orchestra residency. Though neatly plugged into the educational system, the Cleveland's presence is built around a modest half-dozen concerts across three weekends.
Meanwhile, South Florida musicians spread their commutes among the Boca Raton Philharmonic Symphonia, Fort Lauderdale's Symphony of the Americas, the Miami Symphony Orchestra and various other pops and chamber ensembles.
Elsewhere, look to the growth and development of indigenous performing-arts groups that are setting benchmarks, such as Patrick Dupre Quigley's Seraphic Fire choir, with programs in Miami-Dade and Broward. And if there's any point of light in a certain darkness, it's that the Master Chorale of South Florida is still here long after the demise of the Florida Philharmonic that birthed it.
The chorale will perform Orff's Carmina Burana in April at the Carnival Center with the Boca Symphonia, using an instrumental septet for follow-ups in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton.
The Florida Grand Opera set box-office and attendance records in its first year at the Carnival, mostly via the lavish sold-out opening production of Aida and the expansion to six productions. The 2007-'08 lineup shrinks back to five, all of which will appear at both the Broward and Carnival centers. The titles reflect a more conservative programming strategy, including Puccini's Tosca and La bohème, Mozart's Cosi fan tutte and Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers). The season will wrap up with a revival of Handel's Julius Caesar.
Soprano Leah Partridge, an FGO alum, returns as Cleopatra to John Gaston's Caesar in Julius Caesar. Ana Maria Martinez sings Fiordiligi in Cosi, with Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs and Angela Brown in Tosca, and Elizabeth Caballero and James Valenti in La bohème.
In West Palm Beach, artistic director Bruno Aprea will conduct three of the Palm Beach Opera's four productions: Puccini's Turandot, Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore and the closing La Traviata by Verdi.
The January production of Beethoven's Fidelio is a new one, with sets, costumes and directions by John Pascoe, conducted by Gèrard Korsten.
Surprising to many, the debut of the Festival of the Arts/Boca went off with few hitches and several impressive performances, for which few will begrudge producer IMG Artists for the prepackaged format copying its fests in Italy and California's Napa Valley. Festival two in March looks at least equally promising, highlighted by soprano Renée Fleming and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky with the fest's resident Russian National Orchestra and conductor Teodor Currentzis.