Major NEA Grants to San Diego Opera & Carlsbad Music Festival

The National Endowment for the Arts has selected two San Diego County music organizations for major grants for the coming year. NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman announced Tuesday (Nov. 27) that San Diego Opera is slated to receive a $50,000 grant in support of its new production in the spring of 2013 of 20th-century Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral.

The other grant will be awarded to the Carlsbad Music Festival in the amount of $10,000 to support the contemporary music festival’s 10th Anniversary Festival, which will take place in Carlsbad in September 2013.

These two organizations are clearly the David and Goliath of the San Diego classical music community. San Diego Opera has

2012 Carlsbad Music Festiva in Magee Park

 2012 Carlsbad Music Festival in Magee Park

been producing major operas in the 3,000-seat San Diego Civic Theatre since the late 1960s, and—in terms of its annual budget—it is one of the top ten opera companies in the U.S. Founded a mere 10 years ago by Carlsbad composer and impressario Matt McBane, the Carlsbad Music Festival offers its programs of new music in an old, converted movie theater, a church sanctuary, and the outdoor gazebo in Carlsbad’s Magee Park.

San Diego Opera's 2012 MOBY-DICK (photo by Ken Howard)

 San Diego Opera’s 2012 MOBY-DICK (photo by Ken Howard)

Both NEA grants are given in support of music outside of the standard repertory. Last spring, San Diego Opera’s surprise hit was Jake Heggie’s “Moby-Dick,” a newly commissioned opera that combined an imaginative set enlivened with bold computer graphics and a compelling vocal score that captured the both drama and intimacy of the Melville novel. In the late fall, the production continued on to San Francisco Opera, one of the other companies that participated in the joint commission, where it received an equally enthusiastic public and critical reception.

San Diego Opera General Director and Artistic Director Ian Campbell hopes to score an equal success with Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral. Although the opera was written and first performed in Milan, Italy, 1958, it has never been professionally produced in the United States. The company is constructing a new set for the opera, designed by Ralph Funicello, which is currently being built at San Diego Opera’s Scenic Studio, and Campbell has contracted renowned Italian basso Ferruccio Furlanetto to sing the opera’s lead role of Thomas Becket, the 12th-century Archbishop of Canterbury.

The 2013 Carlsbad Music Festival will offer some 30 performances of new music, featuring its founding ensemble in residence,[php snippet=1] the Calder Quartet. Although the cutting-edge string quartet was formed at the University of Southern California and is based in Los Angeles, it has a clear Carlsbad connection. Violinist and founding quartet member Benjamin Jacobson is a Carlsbad native. On the festival roster, the Calder Quartet will be joined by a number of young composers and performers who will offer what Director McBane calls “adventurous music by the beach.”

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