San Diego County Arts Writer

The San Diego Symphony may be at the end of its financial rope, but artistically the ensemble is playing on the cutting edge of excellence.

After last week's announcement of the orchestra's impending bankruptcy should it not raise $2 million by Monday, the symphony announced a programming change for this week's concerts. With less than a week's notice, concertmaster Andres Cardenes volunteered to play the mighty Beethoven Violin Concerto in what could be the orchestra's final four concerts. The violin concerto is part of an all-Beethoven concert, including the overture to the ballet, "Die Geschoepfe des Prometheus" ("The Creatures of Prometheus") and the Symphony No. 5.

That Music Director David Atherton would even consider allowing a member--rather than a visiting soloist--to play this work with his colleagues testifies to the exceptional quality of the orchestra's musicians. The concerto demands the utmost in concentration, technical skill and musicality.

In other symphony news, it's ironic that the first major league donation to come in after the announcement of the symphony's financial plight came not from a native San Diegan but from a Beverly Hills dowager who hap

pens to maintain a residence in San Diego.

For several years Muriel Gluck's patronage has benefited the arts in San Diego, especially the San Diego Museum of Art, to which she has donated paintings and, in 1985, $250,000 for a gallery named in honor of Gluck and her late husband, Maxwell. Gluck seems to value the cultural amenities of the country's eighth-largest city more than local, yet-unheard-from, philanthropists do.

CONTEMPO ART: The La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art has a chance to bring to San Diego about 50 pieces of some exceptional art produced in the 1960s and '70s. Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo has agreed to offer the museum the opportunity to exhibit the works through 1988. A successful temporary exposition could lead to the museum's acquiring Panza's entire collection of contemporary art.

Panza's "is the leading collection of art from the late 1960s and early '70s," museum director Hugh Davies said. "There are very few places where you can see even one piece by the people in his collection, let alone so many together. Having these works here would draw international attention and go a long way to establish San Diego as a city that is standing up for excellence."

Should Davies get the go-ahead from his board of directors, the museum must first find space--probably a warehouse, preferably downtown. A building of about 15,000 square feet with at least 15- or 16-foot ceilings is required. Some of the works are major installations dealing with light and space that will require a custom-built room. Some of the artworks by artists such as James Turrell, Robert Irwin and Doug Wheeler may be built from plans, rather than shipped from the count's home in northern Italy.

Obviously, that's going to cost money. Rental of a warehouse at 50 cents a square foot could run $85,000 a year. Davies estimates that the installation expenses could approach $100,000, with an additional $200,000 to rehabilitate the building. Then there are costs for overhead and additional salaries. Security and insurance, however, will be less costly. The artworks are not paintings; if they are damaged, they can just be rebuilt.

Davies estimates conservatively that 20,000 visitors a year would attend, generating $40,000 in yearly admission fees. He anticipates that, should the temporary exposition be extended two years, as Panza indicated is possible, much of the cost could be recouped.

The question, though, is whether the La Jolla museum's Board of Trustees, which meets next week, wants to bring this kind of art to San Diego badly enough to raise the money for it.

MEXICAN OSCAR: San Diegans get a chance to see "Frida," the winner of Mexico's best film award for 1985, at 7 p.m. Friday at San Diego State University. Directed by Paul Leduc and starring Ofelia Medina, the film is a dramatization of the life of Frida Kahlo, artist, political activist and wife of Mexican painter Diego Rivera. It won four Ariels, the Mexican version of the Oscar, for best movie, screenplay, actress and director.

The film, which tells of Kahlo's relationships with her husband and with Russian revolutionist Leon Trotsky, is in Spanish, without subtitles. However, David Maciel, a Fulbright scholar from the University of New Mexico studying at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, will discuss the film briefly before its screening in Room 130 of Hepner Hall. Admission is free.

OPERA NEWS: Attendance at this season's San Diego Opera productions is the highest since the 1980-81 season, when Joan Sutherland and Beverly Sills appeared together in "Die Fledermaus." This season "Die Fledermaus," "Les Contes d'Hoffman," "Eugene Onegin," "Le Nozze de Figaro," "Otello" and the Anna Russell recitals sold 93% of the available seats. Opera general director Ian Campbell reports that the two Renata Scotto recitals in May at the Old Globe Theatre are sold out and that tickets for the May staging of "The Lighthouse" at the Globe are selling well.

STAGE LUBBERS: Seagoing aficionados of George Bernard Shaw's works can revel in the impish charm of the witty Irish playwright while simultaneously savoring the misty delights of a romantic sea voyage.

The Old Globe Theatre is offering "theater at sea," a weeklong Baja California cruise aboard the Pacific Princess, March 29 to April 5. The host is Globe Executive Producer Craig Noel. Selections from Jerome Kilty's "Dear Liar," a play based on correspondence between Shaw and his favorite leading actress, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, will be rehearsed and performed for those signing up for the nautical adventure. Globe regulars Jonathan McMurtry and Katherine McGrath will reprise their roles from the Globe's 1981 staging of the play.

ARTBEATS: Tickets to the American Ballet Theatre's concerts at the Civic Theatre March 25-30 are moving well. The Saturday-evening concert has sold out, and Friday's is approaching a sellout, the San Diego Arts Foundation's Suzanne Townsend reports. . . . A $75 reward--"no questions asked"--has been offered for the return of three small, colorful "functional containers," created by artist Ron Carlson, that disappeared from the Grossmont College Art Gallery Thursday. Contact David Beck Brown at 462-1302. . . . Funds for scholarships for SDSU music students will be generated by a concert by the SDSU Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. Friday at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art's Sherwood Hall. The concert is sponsored by the downtown and La Jolla Kiwanis clubs. . . . The Bowery Theatre's production of "Gaslight" has been extended a second time, through Sunday.

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