Monday, December 17, 2007

Singing and Strangers at the Mondavi Center

This weekend, in pursuit of some holiday spirit, Andrew and I went to the Mondavi Center, a wonderful performing arts venue in Davis, to see the a capella ensemble Chanticleer. Owned by the Mondavis of wine fame, the center hosts performances in theatre, dance, and music as well as film screenings and lectures. It was our first time there, and we were duly impressed: the venue itself is modern and airy, with a large auditorium and pleasant, window-encased lobby atrium, and the lineup from 2007 and for 2008 almost (almost) rivals what we would have found at the (much-missed) BAM. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company is among the upcoming dance entries; Azar Nafisi and Seymour Hersh spoke in 2007. I’m not sure if the Mondavi Center is up to hosting a performance from, say, the Ballet Preljocaj, led by the French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, which Andrew and I saw at BAM a couple of years ago and which featured, among much other strangeness, dancers with wine glasses affixed to their limbs; but perhaps I’m wrong. We shall see.

At intermission, as Andrew and I stood in the lobby and assessed the venue and the people around us, Andrew remarked, “This might be the only time we’ve ever been to a performance where there is no chance of our knowing anyone else inside.” It was true; in New York, in Barcelona, chances were good that we’d know someone else watching the program, even if our paths did not cross. But at the Mondavi Center, we knew, with close to absolute certainty, that we could look at every face in the theater and recognize not a one. It was a very strange feeling of having stepped outside of our lives.

Out of our lives, indeed, and straight into California: "Listening to this is like having an auditory massage," we overheard a woman remark.

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