A festival atmosphere definitely pervaded the grounds of the Ringling Center for the Arts on the second day of the Ringling International Arts Festival, as attendees mingled, chatting about that they had seen and were going to see. At one point, it looked as if the center’s parking lot would overflow and traffic would back up for quite a stretch of U.S. 41—a testament to the excitement the festival is bringing to Sarasota in what’s usually considered the pre-season time of year.
What I saw yesterday was also a testament to the wide-ranging mix of performers and styles, some of which we do not usually have the opportunity to see here. My afternoon started off with violinist Tim Fain’s final performance of the festival: a premiere of three movements from what will eventually be an eight-piece violin solo by Philip Glass, followed by J.S. Bach’s Partita in D. Minor. Fain, an engaging presence on the bare stage of the Cook Theatre, provided some education along with his entertainment, describing a little of both works played and their musical connection. The Glass piece, to my ears, definitely sounded more of a look backward than what we may think of as typical Glass minimalism; one movement gave off an air of gypsy melancholy to me, another, a chaconne, seemed the most technically demanding, but Fain successfully negotiated it. And the acoustics of the Cook worked in his favor; I felt I could hear the violin breathe, like a living thing.
Speaking of gypsy melancholy…as it happened, my second experience of the day was with Sanda & the Takeishis, featuring gypsy diva Sanda Weigl. Weigl comes out on the stage (of the Historic Asolo Theater) and sings, at first unaccompanied, at the microphone in spotlight. She’s Romanian, and so are her songs. But it’s easy to feel the sense a song is conveying without understanding the language; some (many, perhaps) are about longing and loss; some more of revolution; and some bear a distinctly French, Piaf-like air. You might not think you’d enjoy an evening of Romanian gypsy music, but, as backed by the piano and accordion of Shoko Nagai, the electric bass of Stomu Takeishi, and the percussion of Satoshi Takeishi, who performs sitting on a low platform, Japanese style, Gypsy in a Tree was actually frequently compelling.
That was the case, too, with the evening’s last entry for me, The Boys by the Theatre Art Studio. Presenting chapters from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (in the original Russian, with English surtitles), the Moscow-based theater company focused on the parts of the novel related to young Ilyusha Snegiryov and his family. At the outset, Ilyusha is taunted by a group of schoolboys; the monklike Alexey Karamazov comes to his rescue, but soon finds himself attacked by the victim himself. In later scenes we meet the boy’s family and learn their sad story; we also meet a precocious young man named Krasotkin and, most memorably perhaps, a dog named Perezvon.
It’s been some time since I’ve read the original (try 30 years), but it wasn’t hard to follow the performance, thanks to the surtitles. And the cast performed with great passion for the work, which is dark and earnest but leavened with welcome flashes of humor and hope.
But at two hours and 15 minutes long (with no intermission), the editor in me cried out for some cuts; long scenes dense with conversation work better on the page than the stage, and I especially felt that for a festival, this was too long an example of the company’s work.
More shows to come today and Saturday for me; if you’re wondering if any tickets remain to shows you’d like to see, call 360-7399 or visit ringlingartsfestival.org.