By: Dale King Contributing Writer
Thousands of people flocked to Boca Raton in early March to attend any or all of the special events conducted in Mizner Park as part of the 13th Annual Festival of the Arts Boca.
While organizers presented a dozen events, including a plethora of musicians, ballet dancers, singers, lecturers, a documentary and a blockbuster sci-fi film, the guest who enticed the largest audience didn’t play an instrument, sing or dance, and made the trip to Boca from Concord, Mass., not from a galaxy far, far away.
Best-selling author, presidential historian and TV commentator Doris Kearns Goodwin opened the festivities at the Mizner Park Amphitheater on Feb. 28. The 76-year-old writer alluded to her newest book, “Leadership in Turbulent Times,” an account of four presidents who served during wartime – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
Goodwin has spoken at several previous Festivals and spent a few winters in South Florida with her late husband. Richard Goodwin was a speechwriter for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. She said he started a book that she plans to complete. Richard Goodwin died in May 2018 at age 86.
After the annual experience closed out March 10 with an appearance by Arturo Sandoval and the blazing brass sounds from his sextet, Festival Director Joanna Marie Kaye commented: “We were really thrilled” with the outcome.
Kaye said the concert that racked up the most watchers was by Pink Martini, an assemblage of 12 instrumentalists and vocalists who drew from their multilingual repertoire. Pink Martini has performed in 25 languages on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa, North and South America.
The group made its debut in the late 1990s and, since then, has gone on to play with more than 70 orchestras around the world.
Nu Deco Ensemble, a Miami-based group with a roster of 21st century classical orchestra tunes, also filled the night air with music. “This was their first time out of Miami,” said Kaye. “Hopefully, they’ll be back. The audience loved them.”
She said performers from the Russian National Orchestra also returned for a performance augmented by local musicians. The RNO provided songs for three members of the Bolshoi Ballet: Pavel Galkun, Yan Godovsky and Tatyana Lazareva, who performed to music from Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, among other compositions.
The Symphonia Boca Raton was featured a couple of times, both under the direction of Constantine Kitsopoulos. On March 1, the iconic film, Star Wars: A New Hope, the 1977 George Lucas epic that began a string of nearly a dozen movies pitting the Rebellion against the Empire, was shown at the amphitheater. The music track was snipped off and replaced with the Symphonia’s live performance of John Williams’ booming, trumpet and violin-heavy, march-style songs.
The film, featuring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill in their first appearances as Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker, offered the audience a look at the alien-filled cantina scene, the chilling lightsaber fight between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader and Solo’s bragging about his ship, the Millennium Falcon: “It made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs,” he boasted.
The same musicians returned the next night to delight the crowd with “Rhapsody in Blue,” a selection of Gershwin orchestral favorites, featuring pianist Shelly Berg.
The director also praised other lecturers for their audience-pleasing presentations:
Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate, who read his verses, accompanied by a small jazz ensemble.
David Sanger, Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times senior writer, discussing “Cyber Conflict: A New Era of War, Sabotage and Fear.”
Jeffrey Rosen, author, journalist and president of the National Constitution Center, speaking about “The Constitution in the 21st Century.”
Director Kaye officially opened the festival with Boca Mayor Scott Singer on the stage, along with former mayors Susan Whelchel and Steven Abrams.
She presented awards to festival founders, board chairman Charles Siemon and treasurer Wendy Larsen for raising the city’s cultural profile.