Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Arts & Life

LAKEPORT – The Feb. 24 "Opera to Pops" concert presented by Clear Lake Performing Arts filled virtually all the seats at the newly-reopened Soper-Reese Theater, with hometown hero William "Bill" Pickersgill leading the way to the packed house.

Pickersgill, raised in Lake County and a graduate of Clear Lake High School, led his fellow San Francisco Opera members Andrew Truett and Suzanne Lustgarten in a program perfectly chosen to spotlight the considerable talents of all three.

The first half featured arias from eight operatic favorites starting with all three singing “Libiamo” from Verdi's heroic “La Traviata,” with the stage presence of each performer strong enough to lead the audience through the action.

Andrew "Andy" Truett and Suzanne Lustgarten who in real life are husband and wife shared the spotlight, amid obvious lovers differences, in a scene from Donizetti's “Elsir d'amore,” while Lustgarten followed with the flamboyant Magda's solo from Puccini's “La Rondine.”

Accompaniment was provided by Cesar Cancino, whose musical career is as extensive and varied as that of the singers, having toured North America, Europe and Mexico as pianist, conductor and accompanist to many of the greats of the music world. His hands on the keyboard of the grand piano produced some of the finest sounds yet heard in the redesigned venue.

Au Fond du Temple Saint” from Bizet's “The Pearl Fishers” featured Pickersgill as Zurga and Truett as his friend and follower Nadir as they pledge to renounce their common love interest and remain loyal to one another, while Pickersgill and Lustgarten were a perfectly charming twosome in singing “La ci Darem la Mano” from Mozart's “Don Giovanni.”

Pickersgill's remarkable baritone was featured at it's best in his solo “Pierrot's Tanz Lied” from “Die tote Stadt” by Korngold, while Lustgarten and Truett returned to share the leads in excerpts from “La Boheme” by Puccini, culminating with a stage left exit while completing the song. The audience responded with thunderous applause.

During the hour-long operatic portion of the program the singers switched languages effortlessly from Italian to Spanish to German. But after intermission they switched to all-English with selections mostly drawn from Broadway hits, including “South Pacific,” “West Side Story” and “Carousel.”

Pickersgill delivered a memorable Don Quixote with three songs from 'Man of La Mancha” while Lustgarten exhibited exuberant charm in her “I Could Have Danced All Night” solo from “My Fair Lady.” Truett also used his impeccable tenor voice to great effect in singing "Climb every Mountain" from the "Sound of Music" by Rodgers and Hammerstein. All three singers joined in the finale "Make our Garden Grow" from Leonard Bernstein's "Candide."

Continuing standing applause from the audience resulted in a curtain call in which the three singers delivered a comic routine of "O Solo Mio" while continually upstaging one another, much to the delight of the audience as well as to the performers who were clearly having as much fun as their fans.

This was the first pure musical presentation at the Soper-Reese since the theater reopened its doors a month ago.

Joan Holman, who served as Mistress of Ceremonies, reminded the audience that the play "The Solid Gold Cadillac" will open in the theater in two weeks. She is one of the stars of the show.

The next program of Clear Lake Performing Arts will be on Sunday, March 30, when world-renowned pianist Tien Hsieh returns to Lake County for a 3 p.m. concert at Galilee Lutheran Church on Soda Bay Road in Kelseyville. Concert information may be obtained by calling 279-0877.


Sandra Wade, Lake County's outgoing poet laureate, introduced her new CD, From There to Here, in a reading of poetry and prose at Watershed Books on Friday afternoon. Wide-ranging choices and conversation with the audience included the joys of gardening and a discussion of the Noetic Institute founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell.

Wade will introduce finalists in the selection of the county's new poet laureate in a Poetry and Music Interlude from three to 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Main Street Gallery, 325 N. Main St., Lakeport.

The finalists are Linda Drew, Tom Hardy, Pauline Denise Keil-Stocker and Mary McMillan. The new laureate will be introduced Sunday, March 2, in a 4 to 7 p.m. event, also at the Main Street Gallery.



LAKE COUNTY – "Can't Stop the Beat" is the theme for the Lake County Arts Council's 27th annual Spring Dance Festival to be held on May 3 and 4 at the Marge Alakszay Center at Clear Lake High School in Lakeport.

Auditions for the event will be held on Saturday, March 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Antoinette's School of Dance studio, located at 93 Soda Bay Road in Lakeport.

Audition forms are available at the Lake County Arts Council's Main Street Gallery, 325 N. Main St. in Lakeport, you can have them mailed to you.

If you plan to audition, you must call and schedule an audition time by 5 p.m. Friday, March 9.

All types of dance will be considered for audition and can be solos, duets, trios or larger groups and time limitations for dances are listed on the audition forms.

For more information, please call 263-6658.


LAKEPORT – Perhaps you have attended one of the many functions during the phase one construction of the Soper-Reese Community Theater.

Possibly you or your organization has an interest in renting the theater for an event. Maybe you would just like to walk through and see the progress made toward the final phase of a restored downtown landmark into a working professional theater venue.

Whatever the category, House Manager Stephen Stetzer would like to show you around.

Stetzer and his crew are in and out of the theater almost on a daily basis. Albeit interim, the theater is open with events already in place.

If you would like to tour the theater, contact Stetzer at 527-5297.

The theater is located at 275 S. Main St.



Harkening back to the 2004 terrorist bombings on commuter trains in Madrid, one has to wonder what the Prime Minister of Spain thinks of Vantage Point, which puts the Spanish town of Salamanca in the crosshairs of a terrorist plot during a landmark summit on the global war on terror.

Gathering the heads of state in any one location runs a great security risk, and Vantage Point is only too willing to explore the possibility of a serious breakdown in the protective guard that surrounds high-profile events of this kind. For good measure, the film taps into sensible paranoia of the modern age.

The action-packed thriller owes much of its perspective to the classic Japanese film Rashomon. The innovative effort of legendary director Akira Kurosawa created an unusual narrative structure that attempted to arrive at the truth of a brutal crime by demonstrating the differing accounts of several witnesses.

While the Japanese classic was heavy on the psychological overtones, Vantage Point leans to the point of view of various players, from the innocent bystander to the active participants in the plot. Hence, the psychology is colored by the level of self-interest of the individual witness.

At the film’s opening, the audience relives the assassination attempt on the president of the United States (William Hurt) from so many angles that it is easy to lose count. The film’s advertising says that eight strangers with eight different points of view try to unlock the truth.

As the president’s motorcade works its way to the site of the summit in the town’s central square, the first view is from the American cable news network covering the historic event, mostly from the perspective of frenzied TV news producer Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver), who working from inside a trailer located on the perimeter has probably the least advantageous observation point.

Other than the actual perpetrators, two Secret Service agents assigned to President Ashton probably have the best view, since they are most attuned to this sort of danger. This is particularly true for agent Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid), who previously took a bullet about a year before while protecting the commander in chief.

Other agents have doubts that Barnes is ready to enter the fray once more, and even Barnes’ partner, agent Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox), is dubious. However, Barnes is the key player because he is more tenacious than a pit bull in doing his job. Under fire when the assassination attempt goes down, Barnes dispels any notion that his psyche is too wobbly for effective action.

There are other perspectives to the crime. In the crowd is ordinary American tourist Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker), who thinks he’s captured the shooter on his camcorder while videotaping the event for his kids back home. A Spanish police officer (Eduardo Noriega) suspects that his girlfriend is cheating on him and then stumbles on something far more insidious. Not to be left out of all this is the president himself, who has to cope with trusted aides while pondering whether to launch an air strike on a terrorist camp in Morocco.

As each vantage point is explored, it is incumbent on the audience to pay attention to the details, catching a glimpse here and there of potential clues, no matter how remote or obscure. In some ways, the storytelling is akin to peeling layers off an onion, and the mind races to figure out whether discovered tidbits lead to a grander revelation. But you can’t get too comfortable mulling over the various options, because then the movie cranks up the action in a series of gun shots and bomb blasts topped off by a terrific car chase.

Dennis Quaid’s secret service agent shines not just for his nervous, tortured effort to pull himself back into the game. His agent Thomas Barnes is the film’s real action hero, particularly when he commandeers a car to give a nail-biting high speed chase to a fleeing terrorist through the narrow streets of Salamanca.

But for all of its energy and pumped-up action scenes, Vantage Point doesn’t rise above the ordinary as a thriller. Indeed, too many coincidences and contrivances undermine the overall specter of credible action, which for the most part is a jumbled mess of plot twists.


Three estranged brothers plan a trip through India to rediscover their familial bond a year after their father’s death. This sounds like a high-brow art film to be avoided, but that would be a mistake.

The Darjeeling Limited features an amazing cast for the siblings, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman. This offbeat movie is a comedic gem, offering up all sorts of unexpected twists and turns for these travelers on a spiritual journey through a mysterious foreign land.

While the brothers may have expected their “spiritual quest” to produce satisfactory results, instead they find themselves stranded in the middle of the desert with 11 suitcases, a printer and a laminating machine. The journey gets even weirder after that.

The Darjeeling Limited DVD includes an odd featurette, Hotel Chevalier, where Natalie Portman plays Schwartzman’s unhappy girlfriend.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


LAKEPORT – Lake County's favorite operatic baritone and bass, William "Bill" Pickersgill, returns to his home county of Lake on Sunday, Feb. 24, with a performance at Lakeport's Soper-Reese Community Theater.

The concert, consisting of a program ranging from opera to pop music, will also feature tenor Andrew Truett and soprano Suzanne Lustgarten. All three are veterans of the San Francisco opera scene, as well as many other distinguished music companies. It's a chance for opera lovers to indulge themselves, since the performances of this art form are rare in Lake County.

The concert is the first in the spring series sponsored by Clear Lake Performing Arts (CLPA), the group organized 30 years ago to bring fine music to Lake County.

Pickersgill's mother, Mildred was one of the founding members of CLPA and still plays an active role, serving on its board of directors. Bill, meanwhile, says he's happy to come back as a paid performer to the same theater that charged him 35 cents admission during his childhood.

Andrew Truett's voice has been called "ravishing" by some critics, and his impeccable phrasing and steady stage presence has made him increasingly in demand by west coast impresarios. He was a member of the San Diego Opera Ensemble, and in 2001 made his European debut with Spazio Musica de Orvieto, Italy.

After further performances with the San Francisco Opera Center and two tours of the Western Opera Theater, he spent six months as resident artist with the Cincinnati Opera Ensemble, before returning to the Bay Area as a tenured member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus. He has sung and played scores of roles in dozens of west coast venues.

Suzanne Lustgarten has a master's of music in vocal performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, as well as bachelor's degrees in both Italian and French. Her clear soprano voice and arresting stage presence has made her a regional winner in the MacAllister awards and a district winner in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Lustgarten She has performed with the San Diego Opera, the Des Moines Metro Opera, the Berkeley Opera and the San Francisco Opera Guild, among many others. She is the wife of tenor Andrew "Andy" Truett.

"Bill" Pickersgill is well-known to Lake County opera fans, having appeared in many past CLPA-sponsored performances. A graduate of Lakeport's Clear Lake High School, he moved to San Francisco and then New York where he was chosen as a Metropolitan Opera Regional finalist, which led to a grant to Graz, Austria, for further studies.

He then joined the Hagen Opera House in Germany where he performed leading roles for two years. He has been a member of the San Francisco Opera Chorus since the early 1980s, and is proud to be a tenured member of that prestigious organization.

The Feb. 24 concert starts at 3 p.m. and admission is $15 for CLPA members and $20 for the general public, with youths under 18 admitted free.

Tickets may be obtained in advance at the Lake County Arts Council's Main Street Gallery, 325 N. Main Street in downtown Lakeport, or at Catfish Books, 1013 11th St., also in Lakeport. Tickets at the concert will be sold from the Soper-Reese box office.

Those interested in obtaining member discounts may join CLPA by calling CLPA membership chair Ed Bublitz at 277-8172.

The Soper-Reese Community Theater is located at 275 S. Main St., Lakeport.


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