During summertime, as Ira Gershwin’s popular lyrics remind us, “the living is easy” and the season is a ripe time to enjoy the arts.
But if your summer plans don’t include trips to Cedar City for Utah’s best Shakespeare productions, to Logan for musical theater and opera shows, to Park City for live classical music or to West Valley for pop music — PBS has the ticket with a culturally diverse lineup during its Summer Arts Festival.
And continuing tradition, KUED will surround the national broadcasts on Friday evenings at 9 p.m. with local programming that will highlight Salt Lake City-area performers.
“Mariachi High,” June 29
As a native Southern Californian, I know there’s nothing quite like the vivid musicality of emotion-packed mariachi music. In the Rio Grande area of Texas is a highly competitive mariachi academy at Zapata High School, and “Mariachi High” is an entertaining profile of one year of the teenagers’ training. It is a gem of a documentary, and viewers will feel the passion and intense devotion of the students profiled. Some of the accounts from the young people are truly gripping. The documentary begins with all the nerve-racking tension of auditions and ends with the Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza competition in San Antonio. It’s an inspiring show, and the students just might be the most driven and talented teenagers you’ve seen in a long time.
The local segment will profile a popular group of mariachi performers founded by Rolando Lopez. A native of Guatemala, the pioneer of Spanish and Latin music in the state moved to Utah to attend BYU, and his group has been playing from St. George to Ogden for more than 40 years.
“Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World,” July 6
As executive producer Alex Kronemer explains, this documentary explores “the way Islamic art influenced art and architecture globally and how it responded to the world around it.” Focusing on the themes of word, space, ornament, color and water and encompassing the architectural marvel that is the Taj Mahal and the symmetry of calligraphy, the art featured is breathtaking.
In connection with “Islamic Art” is a KUED program on "Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture" at the BYU Museum of Fine Arts. The museum’s largest project, the exhibit runs through late September before traveling to museums in Indiana, New Jersey and Oregon. According to Middle Eastern art historian Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir, who worked on the exhibit, visitors will recognize the spirituality of the 250 objects from nine countries in Europe and the Middle East, many of which have never been displayed in the United States.
“John Leguizamo’s Tales from a Ghetto Klown,” July 13
Actor John Leguizamo, who the New York Times reports has “the energy of a 12-year-old who has just downed a Red Bull and a jumbo package of Twinkies,” is profiled as he creates his latest Broadway show, “Ghetto Klown,” over the three years he spent writing and producing his solo performance. The full “Tales from a Ghetto Klown” was not immediately available to TV writers, but will be reviewed in the Deseret News closer to the broadcast.
Along with the Leguizamo documentary, KUED introduces viewers to local actor Charles Lynn Frost as he transforms into the satirical character of Dottie S. Dixon he portrayed in a one-man show at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
“Homecoming: The Kansas City Symphony Presents Joyce DiDonato,” July 20
The celebrated soloist Joyce DiDonato has a clear, bright, stunningly beautiful mezzo-soprano like few others, and after her triumphant appearance with PlÁcido Domingo at the Metropolitan Opera, her skills to interpret operatic roles are unparalleled. DiDonato returns to her hometown for a performance at the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in this performance-documentary with the Grammy-winning symphony.
KUED’s segment features the Utah Youth Symphony Orchestra, whose conductor, Barbara Scowcroft, has mentored young musicians for 20 years. “For me it's a personal, reverent and spiritual responsibility," Scowcroft told the Desert News.
“Havana, Havana!” July 27
This music documentary features expat musicians who return to their Cuban city hometown. Raul Paz, who has a unique approach to music that ranges from salsa to jazz and electro pop, assembles Descemer Bueno, Kelvis Ochoa and David Torrens for a concert of guajira, or Cuban country music. The film captures the poignancy of their homecoming and the triumph of their concert in Havana — and it provides entertaining viewing of this spirited music.
The Utah-produced section interviews Utah radio station KRCL's Chiedu Megwalu, host of “Global Village,” a weekly program of music from around the world.
“The Barnes Collection,” Aug. 3
In an attempt of redemption following the popular “The Art of the Steel” documentary — which concludes that Philadelphia elitists literally ripped the massive art collection from the independent collector’s grave — “The Barnes Collection” showcases Albert Barnes' purchases of 69 CÉzannes, more than in all the museums in Paris, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos and 181 Renoirs that are now housed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Good paintings are more satisfying companions than the best of books, and infinitely more so than very nice people,” as the show quotes a letter from Barnes. Without addressing the hard-fought move of post-Impressionist and early Modernist works from Barnes’ own museum, the PBS program reviews the period before Barnes created his foundation in1922, as he began to amass his collection. It’s fascinating viewing, but “The Art of the Steel” remains an essential primer, which reviews broken contracts, challenged wills and the dismantling of Barnes’ legacy.
The KUED segment covers collectors who have donated works to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.