What a difference a year makes.
In the fall of 2011, the organizers of Festival of the Arts Boca unveiled their 2012 lineup at a festive media gathering at the Center for the Arts in Mizner Park, complete with a video slideshow, speech from Festival Chairman Charles Siemon and more than enough nosh to eat, drink, and be merry.
This year, the announcement for the 2013 Festival of the Arts came quietly at the end of October, arriving with no fanfare and with a couple of major talent slots still open. The subdued response is perhaps appropriate for a lineup that boasts just one – maybe two – familiar marquee headliners. Here’s hoping fireworks await for the festival’s two remaining literature slots; in the meantime, here’s a look at the schedule so far, whose mix of controversial young talent and Asian concert-hall staples constitutes more than initially meets the eye.
March 7, 2013: The Preservation Hall Jazz Band kicks off the festival on an upbeat note, performing the timeless blend of Dixieland and traditional New Orleans jazz that it has been playing for the past 50 years.
March 8: Hailing from Japan’s Sado Island, the taiko drummers in Kodo have brought their country’s percussive rhythms to international audiences for more than 30 years. In addition to the flagship drums, the group dances, sings and performs on traditional Japanese instruments.
March 9: Conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos, the festival’s music director, welcomes the Boca Raton Symphonia as well as provocative violinist Amadeus Leopold, a 25-year-old Korean-American phenom with the gender-bending looks of a Tim Burton protagonist and a style that merges classical music with performance art. This is my most anticipated event at the festival.
March 10 (afternoon): Hispanic-American writer Patricia Engel turned countless heads with the publication of her 2010 short-story collection “Vida,” which communicated her recurring narrator’s search for identity as a daughter of the Colombian diaspora. The book has won numerous accolades, and one reviewer compared reading it to admiring pop art by Lichtenstein.
March 10 (evening): Defying gravity since 1986, China’s Peking Acrobats are internationally renowned for their fusion of traditional instrumentation, special effects and feats of gymnastic wonder. Their productions showcase somersaulting, contortionism, balancing skills, juggling dexterity and other jaw-dropping carnival benchmarks.
March 13: In what promises to engender the headiest discussion at the festival, Harvard professor extraordinaire Michael Sandel will discuss his political philosophy of communitarianism. He is best known for his college course “Justice,” one of the most highly attended courses at Harvard for the past two decades, and whose discussion-oriented format was broadcast by the BBC in 2011.
March 14: Virtuoso organist Cameron Carpenter has drawn praise and controversy in equal measure, both for his extraordinary, Grammy-nominated renditions of difficult etudes and for his endorsement of virtual/digital pipe organs. Describing his sexuality as “radically inclusive,” Cameron is also known for his flamboyant performance attire. He will perform with the Boca Symphonia under Kitsopoulos’ conduction.
March 15: Miami’s nationally recognized New World Symphony will perform alongside a returning favorite from last year’s festival: Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa. Known for her composer-specific “projects” celebrating the music of Rachmaninoff, Liszt and Beethoven, Lisitsa launched her career on social media, and her videos now have more than 49 million hits on YouTube.
March 16: Probably the biggest-name draw at the 2013 festival, Audra McDonald has one of the best voices of her generation and remains one of the brightest stars on Broadway and the opera circuit. As comfortable crooning hymns as she is Songbook favorites and contemporary musical numbers, McDonald has won five Tony Awards and two Grammys, in addition to starring on four seasons of ABC’s medical drama “Private Practice.”