Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Aug. 4)

Options include California Opera’s free production of “Cinderella.” Plus: “Hairspray” in Visalia; and “I Love You” in Oakhurst

Here’s a rundown on three promising arts picks for the weekend:

California Opera

California Opera Association’s annual arts and education festival ends with a fully staged production Friday evening and Sunday afternoon of “La Cenerentola (Cinderella),” an operatic version of the beloved fairy tale, at the Mercedes Edwards Theatre in Clovis. Under the artistic direction of Fresno’s own diva, Edna Garabedian, the festival brings together opera students, advanced singers and professional faculty in a month-long program. “Cinderella” is the festival’s big finale. And because it’s free (donations gladly accepted), it’s a great way to expose children to opera as an art form.

Gabriel and Alix
Fairy tale: Gabriel Manro and Alix Jerinic in the California Opera production of “La Cenerentola.” Photo / Owen Gailar

The production is stage directed by Richard Adamson, and the orchestra is conducted by Brian Asher Alhadeff, artistic director of Opera San Luis Obispo. Here’s the principal cast:

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Sunsets and Vivaldi

At Festival Mozaic, I get the chance to experience three beautiful concerts at three even more beautiful San Luis Obispo County locales

SHANDON — The folks at Festival Mozaic know a thing or two about good timing. As the last rays of the sun scrape over an adjacent ridge, the professional chamber orchestra before me begins the final movement of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Music spills out the open doors of the small and spectacular Serra Chapel, a Mission-style building situated high atop one of the rolling hills a few miles outside Paso Robles, and into the tiled courtyard where I’m sitting. By the time the music has ended and the 500 or so people squeezed into the space have risen to applaud, the sky has darkened to black, the stars emerged and the broiling temperature has dipped to goose-pimple cool.

Hilltop serenade: The audience at Festival Mozaic before the July 22 concert at Serra Chapel in Shandon begins. Photos / The Munro Review

It’s a glorious way to conclude a concert of classical music.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (July 28)

Options include Festival Mozaic in San Luis Obispo, the second weekend of California Opera’s summer festival and “Eurydice” at the Fourth Wall Theatre in Visalia.

Here’s a rundown on promising cultural events for the weekend:

Refreshing: San Luis Obispo’s Festival Mozaic continues for a second weekend through Sunday, July 30. Photo / Festival Mozaic

Festival Mozaic

Where was I last weekend? Not in boiling Fresno. A quick trip over to the cooler Central Coast for a first-time visit to San Luis Obispo County’s Festival Mozaic has turned me into a hardcore fan.

I already walked you through the nuts-and-bolts of the festival in advance of last week’s opening. And next week, I’ll share some detailed reflections on the three concerts I attended last weekend, including an unforgettable musical moment on the top of a Shandon hillside as the sun set.

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Hotoda puts her mark on Fresno Philharmonic season

New music director includes five living composers in the 2017-18 season

I just received my first press release from the Fresno Philharmonic with the words “Rei Hotoda, Music Director” in big, bold letters at the top. How exciting! It means a new era has begun.

The occasion is the official announcement of the orchestra’s 2017-18 season. We already knew the outline of the season a few months ago, including guest artists and major works to be performed, but the Fresno Philharmonic waited until now to give Hotoda the chance to put her own touches on the lineup.

Rei Hotoda Portraits

One of the most impressive developments: Works by five living composers will be featured, including Fresno State’s Kenneth Froelich.

Key quotation from Hotoda: “By combining exciting and innovative works by Aaron Jay Kernis, John Adams, Kenneth Froelich, Jennifer Higdon and Tan Dun with beloved pillars of the symphonic repertoire by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Debussy, we will demonstrate how the great orchestral tradition has evolved and been enhanced by new voices from the United States and around the world. We will embrace together these extraordinary works and champion them as new staples of the classical canon.”

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On the Central Coast, Festival Mozaic blends music and gorgeous locales

San Luis Obispo County provides the backdrop for a notable festival focusing on orchestral and chamber music

For nearly 50 years, Festival Mozaic has been one of the jewels of San Luis Obispo County’s cultural scene. Over a period of nearly two weeks, world-class musicians and enthusiastic audiences intersect in a series of chamber and orchestral concerts held in notable venues, from the venerable downtown San Luis Obispo mission to a ritzy private chapel in far-flung Shandon.

Shandon concert: The private Serra Chapel is the setting for one of Festival Mozaic’s most anticipated events. Photo / Festival Mozaic

I’ve always wanted to attend, and this year I’m going to check it off my To-Do Cultural List. The festival kicks off today (Wednesday, July 19) and runs through July 30. I’ll be there for the first weekend, on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are still available for most of the events on the schedule.

In the meantime, I talked by phone with music director Scott Yoo, who has been with the festival since 2005. (He brings impeccable musical credentials; in February 2016 he was named artistic director of the Mexico City Philharmonic.) With his help, here are Five Things to Know About Festival Mozaic:


There’s a lot in a name: Founded in 1971, it used to be known as the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival. The name change to Festival Mozaic came in 2008. In terms of programming you can expect a healthy dose of Mozart, but there’s so much more, including early music, period instrument concerts, jazz, contemporary music, opera, chamber music, solo recitals and world music. Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Charles Ives and Olivier Messiaen are all composers you’ll encounter.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (July 20)

Cambridge choir makes a stop at Fresno’s St. James Cathedral. Plus: It’s the kickoff of California Opera’s summer festival, “Angels in America” hits the big screen, and Inner Ear poetry does its thing at Bitwise.

There are two Thursday evening events this week I want to make sure you know about, so I’m offering this version of “Donald’s List” a little early. Here’s a rundown on promising cultural events for the weekend:

selwyn college
California tour: The Selwyn College Cambridge choir performs Thursday, July 20, in Fresno.

Cambridge choir

If you love choral music, you don’t want to miss the Thursday performance of the Selwyn College Cambridge choir visiting from England on a West Coast tour. The ensemble sings a concert titled “One Equal Light: A Celebration of European Choral Music” at St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Fresno.

Sarah MacDonald conducts the choir, which is made up 29 singers (16 female and 13 male), who are undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Cambridge. She is the first woman to hold the post of director of music in an Oxbridge Chapel. MacDonald is a longtime friend of Fresno State opera professor Anthony Radford — they were both in the Ontario Youth Choir when he was 20 — and when she knew she was coming on tour to California, she wanted to visit Fresno.

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Noteworthy concert

EJ Hinojosa, a local church choir director and New Music advocate, experiments with a new concert series that puts the spotlight on Fresno-area composers


EJ Hinojosa was on the treadmill one day when he got an idea: How about putting together a concert series highlighting the work of local classical composers? He was listening at the time, he remembers, to “Elgar’s magnificent orchestration of ‘Jerusalem’ ” by Hubert Parry.

“You know, standard gym listening,” he says with a laugh.


It takes a healthy amount of self-confidence and verve to sit down and organize from scratch a big event such as “Composer Showcase,” which debuts Saturday, July 15, at Community United Church of Christ. Especially one featuring a pick-up 16-piece choir. But those in the Fresno-area music community know that Hinojosa, music director at the church and a recent Fresno Pacific University graduate, has tremendous enthusiasm for the local music scene. He is passionate about turning the central San Joaquin Valley into a musical epicenter — and, in particular, encouraging younger musicians to stick around.

Plus, in addition to his day job and his new gig as concert promoter, he’s a new father. Did I mention he’s energetic?

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