Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

In The Papers

May 27, 2010

David Sefton
Photo: David Miezal 2008

I was saddened to hear the news today that David Sefton, the long time artistic director of UCLA Live, the university’s public performing arts series, has suddenly resigned. According to the Los Angeles Times, Sefton submitted his resignation to take effect immediately when he felt he could not abide a “restructuring” of the program dictated by the university and its own declining economic fortunes. Apparently the first change in the restructuring will be an end to the International Theater Festival Sefton championed since 2002 and which will not be a part of the upcoming season. It’s just tragic since the series has undoubtedly been the source of the most important programming UCLA Live has presented over the last decade. Sefton notes in the report that without this kind of programming, there is little interest for him in what the entire program has to offer in the future. I know how he feels. And without a replacement in the wings at a time of “restructuring”, it appears that the series risks entering a free fall in the not-to-distant future even though Sefton has reportedly finished booking the 2010-2011 season that is to be announced shortly. They might as well start booking that Steel Magnolias revival with Kathy Rigby as we speak. At least I’ll get to save some money by not renewing my subscription.

Meanwhile, people can’t stop writing about Gustavo Dudamel and his recently completed national tour with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. (So why should I?) Apparently feeling that Mark Swed’s damage control over the copious negative reviews of the recent tours was insufficient, the Los Angeles Times rolled out James Rainey (I know - who??) on the 26th to raise the inherent East Coast bias of those who dared to question the maestro's skills. His most shining moment in the piece, though, was his none-to-subtle implication that racism was a factor in these negative critiques as well. And who knows, maybe that garbage struck a nerve after all when you consider the further musings of Anne Midgette on the topic in today’s Washington Post. Midgette was one of the few critics who were enthusiastically supportive of Dudamel on the tour, but still she felt the need to write more in what is essentially a defense of her view in the follow-up. Yes, she admits, she still thought the concert in Washington was magnificent. But rest assured, she explains, she by no means thinks that Dudamel is the future of classical music. Though, on the other hand she is now certain he is not "falling into [the] trained-monkey syndrome.” Well there's some fair and balanced commentary for you if nothing else. Sometimes I worry that I’m not really qualified to write about the things I do on my blog. Then I read what passes for arts journalism and criticism in the legitimate press.

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