Why not Miami?

Published on July 2, 2013 by in Miami


By Sebastian Spreng, Visual Artist and Classical Music Writer

Good music refreshes body and soul. Two sequential events this torrid June confirmed the error of the equation “Miami + Beach + summer = Bye-bye, classical music.” Both the Baroque concert at the Iglesia-Museo Perú Nuestra Señora de la Merced and the finale of the 20th season of the Mainly Mozart Festival at the University of Miami’s Maurice Gusman Concert Hall exceeded all expectations. Both venues were packed – literally overflowing – with audiences hungry for good music.

The “excuse” for the Baroque concert was the retirement of venerable musicologist Frank Cooper from the Frost School of Music. It was held in a new, unexpected venue that should host more musical performances. The charming Iglesia-Museo Perú Nuestra Señora de la Merced church-museum displays a splendid collection of Spanish Colonial art in a neighborhood away from the cultural circuit, although just minutes from the Miami Design District and Wynwood.

The Mainly Mozart Festival, a good example of creative programming, combined chamber music and contemporary dance. The festival also featured three exceptional musicians (violinist Eli Matthews, cellist Joshua Roman and pianist Marina Radiushina, the new, extremely talented, artistic director of the traditional festival) playing an unusual repertoire that elicited enthusiastic audience response. The repertoire included works by Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt, Leos Janacek and Manuel de Falla, a Mozart trio and an encore by Astor Piazzolla in which the three musicians sparked off each other. Videos by Ali Habashi, passages read by Frank Cooper and Radiushina herself, plus the premiere of Adriana Pierce’s choreographed version of Paul Schoenfield’s Café Music with Miami City Ballet dancers brought to a spectacular close an effervescent Sunday afternoon, only slightly marred by an excess of introductions and expressions of gratitude.

Marian Radiushina

Marian Radiushina

The success of both programs brings up a question that arouses ever greater, well-justified interest: Why doesn’t Miami host a multidisciplinary summer festival to compete with the dozens of festivals that thrive throughout the country? Local organizations would do well to step up and plan a joint event, perhaps a casual and relaxed series that meets this obvious need. One or two weeks of good music would enjoy the unconditional support of an audience that faces an overload of events during the winter season, when sometimes several are scheduled on the same day. A good precedent is the success, years ago, of the series Beethoven by the Beach, organized by the fondly remembered Florida Philharmonic Orchestra under James Judd.

Opera, ballet, symphonic and chamber music, jazz and other genres would slake the musical thirst of the hefty segment of the audience that doesn’t travel or spend the summer up north, and would also draw European tourists and winter vacationers from South America. Even if they come here seeking beaches and shopping, many visitors would attend, and artists would sign up, enticed by the idea of making music while vacationing alone or with their families by the sea.

The Adrienne Arsht Center, the New World Symphony, Art Basel Miami Beach, Seraphic Fire, Miami City Ballet, MOCA, FIU’s Frost Art Museum, the revitalized Florida Grand Opera, the upcoming Pérez Art Miami Museum and the Frank Gehry-designed YoungArts Center at the Bacardi Building are only some of South Florida’s artistic assets that were unthinkable barely decades ago and confirm Miami’s status as a nascent cultural metropolis. Privileged in every way, the area has the facilities and the potential to make a summer festival a reality. All that’s needed is local organizations to launch a joint effort.

Needless to say, “there’s strength in numbers” and “where there’s a will there’s a way,” two clichés to keep in mind when envisioning a much-needed summer festival that cannot be should not be put off any longer. The die is cast and Miami’s loss will be another’s gain.

6 Responses to “Why not Miami?”

  1. Jeff Haller says:

    I always just think that the public outside of Miami is terrified of the weather in the summer. We know it is not so horrible but does the rest of the world? South America doesn’t care, they want to be away from the cold. And quite frankly when I have done summer festivals in places like
    Cooperstown, New York or Denver, the heat is every bit as severe as here. We would need something no one else has. It would be great if FGO offered something in the summer. Miami Lyric Opera does. Why not Miami City Ballet and New World. It would be a relief for those of us who live here and are so bored in the summer.

  2. Martin Bookspan says:

    A brilliant idea, which I hope will catch fire with some of the local institutions mentioned in the article.

  3. Lawrence Budmen says:

    This article is right on the money. The Mainly Mozart concert proved that there is a large, artistically intelligent audience that is hungry for first class artistry and performances during the summer. The days, decades ago, when Miami became quiet and devoid of much of its population during the summer are long gone. (Up the coast in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, it is still that way but not here.) I can easily see a two week, high quality summer festival here. It is a real shame that the New World Symphony’s beautiful and architecturally stunning, acoustically superb new hall sits vacant and unutilized during the summer months. (New World is actually losing revenue that they could plow back into their programs and academy when the hall is empty.) There are churches and other venues that could host more intimate events. We need someone who is artistically ambitious and adventurous and is savvy at marketing and raising funds to make this a reality. It is long time to forget the still too pervasive attitude that great art can not succeed here. The facts prove otherwise. A great summer festival will give Miami a real cache and great pr that can only enhance our community.

  4. marta says:

    Agreed! As Mr. SPRENG says ” only some of South Florida’s artistic assets that were unthinkable barely decades ago and confirm Miami’s status as a nascent cultural metropolis.” Thank you

  5. I completely agree with the great Sebastian Spreng. Miami in summer is ideal for a comprehensive festival of the arts. When I started Festival
    Miami 30 years ago, I was warned by everyone that it would not work
    unless it took place sometime December to March, when traditionally
    Miami hosts the visitors from the north. I wanted to poove otherwise,
    and did it in September-October. In the years when I was the artistic director, we did opera, jazz, ballet, lecyures by the most famous American composers, invited famous pianists like Rudolf Firkusny, the London Festival Opera, Philharmonia Orchestra from London, Pittsburgh Symphony, Ft. Worth Chamber Orchestra, American
    Symphony Orchestra, Latin American String Quartet, etc. We commissioned composers like Elliott Carter (String Quartet No. 4),
    and gave the US premiere of Liszt’s only opera and an early Wagner
    overture, and works by Miami-based composers. We also included
    faculty and students from UM, which sponsored the festival. UM
    continues to refresh the festival’s image and scope, and this coming
    October I will be coming back to help celebrate its 30th anniversary.
    On October 22 and 23 I will be conducting the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica including two recent works of my own: “Music for an Imaginary Film” (which has an unusual story behind its creation), and “Flute Concerto with Tango” with the amazing Israely flute virtusoso Sharon Bezaly. The concerts will feature Shelly Berg in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Shostakovich’s “The Gadfly”, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances with the UM Chorus, among other works.
    But summer is an ideal time for a festival, and Miami is perfect for it.
    Sebastian Spreng, one of the most extraordinary talents I have ever met,
    is aboslutely right.

  6. Lisa Merritt says:

    And the excellent Summer Shorts at the Arsht sold out this year! Summers are no longer the off season in Miami.

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