Shakespeare at Equus Run was one of several events launched in the Summer of 2007 to fill the void left by the closing of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival. Herald-Leader/Kentucky.com photo by Matt Goins.
"This is a developing story . . . " is a fairly common phrase in the news biz, and it certainly applies to the arts in Lexington in 2007. When you start thinking back on the big stories of the past year, several of them were stories that carried over from 2006. And heck, some of them won't be resolved by the time this piece is being penned in 2008.
There's quite a bit of evolution and change taking place here, and that usually doesn't easily fit into a calendar year. But evolution and change are also exciting, so let's see what was going on.
Summer reboot: One of the late-breaking stories of 2006 was the dissolution of the Lexington Shakespeare Festival. The arts community responded big time, filling the summer with events including Actors Guild of Lexington's Shakespeare at Equus Run and another festival that swooped into the Arboretum to replace the Shakespeare Festival. The summer also saw the debut of new chamber music festivals at the beginning and end of the season: The Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass, featuring the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, at Shakertown and the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, featuring Lexington native and Chicago Symphony violinist Nathan Cole, at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion.
This story will continue to develop in 2008. Actors Guild has already decided to pass on presenting a indoor musical, as it did with Kiss Me Kate, this year, and SummerFest will likely look different in its 2008 offerings than it did this year. We'll keep you posted.
The search begins: George Zack is an indisputable institution in the Lexington arts community. So it meant a major change was afoot late last year when he announced he was stepping down as music director of the Lexington Philharmonic after 35 years on the job. This year, the change started happening. Though Zack's final concert isn't until September 2008, and his successor won't be announced until 2009, we got a look at the first two candidates for his job -- Phoenix Symphony Orchestra assistant conductor Kayoko Dan and Alexander Platt, who has several orchestras under his baton -- and an idea what the Phil will look like without Zack. In 2008, we should see at least five more candidates for the job.
Laura Bell takes the lead: No, this did not happen in Lexington. But if you ever wanted a statement that you can be born and raised in Lexington, go to school here, sharpen your skills in local arts entities and go on to top the marquee in a major cultural capitol, Laura Bell Bundy's star turn in Legally Blonde -- the Musical was a strong one. The Lexington native and Lexington Catholic graduate culminated years of working through stage and film to grab the leading role in one of Broadway's hottest shows, and a Tony nomination for the performance. Bundy's a performer with a lot of irons in the fire, so we'll see where 2008 leads her.
Zirkel's passing spotlights his cause: Ross Zirkle's death from cancer robbed the University of Kentucky of one of its beloved art professors and Lexington of a strong and active member of its visual arts community. It also revived a cause that Zirkle had fought passionately for: Getting the University of Kentucky administration to pay attention to the deplorable conditions at the Reynolds Building where the art department is housed. Despite problems that prompted an accreditation team to call the building, "a disaster waiting to happen," and previous problems including a collapsing staircase, the University of Kentucky administration has not made renovating the facility a top priority. We'll see if Zirkle's passing prompts any change of heart in '08.
The UK Symphony goes on the record and on the road: This year saw conductor John Nardolillo putting his orchestra on the national map with achievements including recording a CD for Naxos Records, the largest classical music label in the world, and playing Carnegie Hall with folk legend Arlo Guthrie. That CD of ballet music by George Frederick McKay should come out in 2008, and we'll see how else Nardolillo turns heads in the new year.
UK Opera joins forces with San Francisco Opera and composer: The University of Kentucky Opera Theatre increased its national profile joining with the San Francisco Opera's Merola Young Artist Program for the world premier of Thomas Pasatieri's comic opera Hotel Casablanca. It put the UK company in league with one of the nation's strongest opera companies, a prolific composer, and it stamped its name on a show that could wind up on stages around the world.
The Mayor issues a challenge: New Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry made the Lexington arts community nervous when he initially declined to declare a donation to the LexArts annual Campaign for the Arts as the effort got underway, breaking a tradition set by several of his predecessors. But he came back with an interesting proposal: He allocated $350,000 to the campaign and offered an additional $150,000, if LexArts could match the grant by coming up with new donors to pledge an additional $150,000, at no more than $1,000 each. LexArts rose to the challenge and acquired a new base of support, thanks to Newberry's visionary proposal that he hopes to apply to other concerns in the city. Now it's up to LexArts to build on the money and the new donor base.