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The French American Fund for Contemporary MusicThe French American Fund for Contemporary Music supports contemporary music projects – commissions, residences, performances, tours, and master classes – that foster cultural exchange between France and the United States. The Fund awards grants to nonprofit institutions celebrating the work of living composers in both countries. Collaborations combining new French and American works are especially encouraged.

Created in 2004 by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy,
the Fund is operated by FACE.

Application deadline: February 1, 2008.
Information: http://www.facecouncil.org/music/music.html

Sonatas under the Spanish Sun;
Classical Music in the Canaries

Featuring Opera Stars Cecilia Bartoli, Riccardo Muti & Sir Neville Marriner

EspanaLike your Brahms with some balmy weather? Then head for Spain’s Canaries this winter. Sonatas and symphonies will fill the air of eight of the Canary Islands from January 10 through March 1, 2008 when the 24th Annual Music Festival of the Canaries – one of Europe’s only classical music festivals in the winter – kicks off on January 10. 

The first concert will take place at the spectacular Alfredo Kraus Auditorium in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with a program of Beethoven’s Concert No. 3 for piano and orchestra, directed by Pedro Halffter and performed by the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra with the Children’s Choir of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria (OFGC). The festival will end on March 1 with the final concert in Santa Cruz de Tenerife featuring the Orchestra of Cadaqués with Sir Neville Marriner conducting Mozart’s Concerto No. 23 and his Symphony No. 38.

During the eight-week festival, there will be 65 performances – 21 each in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Tenerife – and 22 performances on the smaller islands of Lanzarote, La Palma, Fuerteventura, La Gomera and El Hierro. Even the tiny La Graciosa – the smallest of the islands – will host a concert, a performance of Beethoven’s Quartets on January 12.   

Mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli, a four-time Grammy winner, will perform on January 31 and February 2, and the world-renowned Riccardo Muti will conduct the London Philarmonia Orchestra in four performances, February 25-28. Led by Sir Neville Marriner, the Orchestra of Cadaqués will perform on February 27 and 29 with the Women’s Choir of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria and well-known Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta. Other top orchestras from several European countries will perform including: The Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, directed by Yakov Kreizberg (January 17-20); the Budapest Festival Orchestra, with Ivan Fischer conducting (January 24-27); the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, led by Daniel Harding (January 28 - February 2), and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Sakari Oramo (February 12-15).       
Year round sunny weather with average temperatures in the 70’s has been drawing visitors to the Canary Islands since the 1960s.  Lying just 62 miles off the African coast in the Atlantic, these volcanic islands offer beautiful beaches, every water sport imaginable and a variety of striking landscapes.  The chain’s largest, Tenerife is crowned by the majestic dormant volcano of Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak at 12,195 feet.  Surrounding peaks are carpeted with thick forests.  Tenerife has miles of beaches to the south where many of the resort hotels can be found and small unspoiled villages surrounded by vineyards and banana plantations in the green north.  Backed by mountains and shaded by palms, Santa Cruz is an important regional deepwater port and boasts many historic buildings including a church dating from 1500, archaeological and fine arts museums and the bustling food market/bazaar Mercado de Nuesta Señora de África. In Puerto de la Cruz there is a wine museum, the Orotava Botanical Garden and Loro Parque, a subtropical garden with over 1000 parrots and the world’s largest penguin zoo.  The island offers plenty of shopping, sports and nightlife options

Gran Canaria has one of the archipelago’s most beautiful stretches of beach –  some five miles long – backed by towering sand dunes and an oasis of palms at its southern end.  At night this area of Maspalomas becomes “party central.”  To the north, the busy port of Las Palmas has a two-mile long beach lined with hotels, restaurants, bars.  Tourists flock here for the duty-free shopping and the lovely atmospheric Barrio Vegueta, while hikers head for the rural interior with its steep highland reaching almost 6,500 feet.  With scenery as diverse as the desert-like terrain in the south, impressive canyons in the west, pine groves on the central plateaus and strange volcanic monoliths on the summits, it’s no wonder the island is described as a continent in miniature.     

Least populated of the islands, Fuerteventura has endless strands of white sand, towering dunes and clear blue waters perfect for windsurfing.  Tourism is relatively new here and the interior is undeveloped.  The futuristic landscape of Lanzarote with its hardened lava and dark dunes suggests a scene from a science fiction movie.  The entire island is a UNESCO biosphere reserve and conservation and controlled development make it an attractive vacation choice.  Called the “Green Island,” La Palma was prosperous before tourism.  Now visitors come for its lush foliage, black sand beaches and the huge crater national park in its interior.  The capital, Santa Cruz is a beautifully preserved Spanish colonial city with elegant 16th century buildings.  La Gomera‘s rugged mountains – its forest was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site – attract hikers who want to get away from it all.  The smallest and least visited, El Hierro also draws travelers of a solitary bent with deserted black sand beaches and a quiet pine forest. About a mile north of Lanzarote lies La Graciosa with streets of unpaved sand and some of the best beaches in the island group.

While the Music Festival of the Canaries began in 1985 on the tercentenary of Bach, Haydn and Scarlatti, the Canary Islands have a long history of music appreciation.  The Philharmonic Society of Las Palmas was founded 150 years ago.  Later in the early 1900s, European opera companies stopped at the Canary Islands on their way to South America, and these early classical music performances created an important musical tradition. 

For complete information about the festival including dates, programs and venues, go to: www.festivaldecanarias.com.  All performances start at 8:30 PM.  Tickets range from about $17.70 to $140, or 12 to 95 euros.  To book tickets, go to:

And for further information about Spain, contact your travel provider or the Tourist Office of Spain in New York (212-265-8822); Miami (305-358-1992); Chicago (312-642-1992) or Los Angeles (323-658-7195) or go to www.spain.info.

2008 Driving for Fun
Whether Putt, Putt, Putt or Vroom, Vroom, Vroom
By Laurence Vittes

One of my favorite New Year's Resolutions, which I repeat annually and even follow through on occasionally as fortune smiles on us, is to replace one of our family cars with something new. Based on my drives during 2007, here are a few possibilities:

First, and perhaps most important given the election-year stresses likely in 2008, is having something practical to motor about town in, to chauffeur the family around, to visit Golden Bridge Yoga in Hollywood for gong meditations, or haul off to your favorite garden supply and home improvement suppliers. Tailor-made for these needs is Scion totally redesigned xB, an practical modern solution for anyone who wants the dual conveniences of a station wagon and a van.

ScionLike other members of the Scion family, the xB sports both a unique charm and a happy personality. Its new design is less boxy (or quirky, according to your taste) than its predecessor, probably because car makers are finding that, at least in Southern California, demographic lines easily blur. Easy-to-drive, unpretentious cars that were initially targeted for kids have increasingly turned out to broadly appeal to kids of all ages. Not to mention that, if the xB makes you feel young, go for it!

And while the all-new Scion xB is also longer, wider and faster, it still gives you a nice fabric interior and 60/40 rear seats that easily fold flat, creating an excellent cargo compartment behind the front seats. The seating position is high and, in a non-commandeering way, commanding (while tooling around town, my wife kept remarking on how wonderfully wide and open the view was). It's fun to drive because you feel that you have the ability to maneuver around the behemoths of the automotive world. And while the gas mileage is modest, the power you get in exchange allows you to efficiently haul those ironwork trestles you need for tomorrow’s garden party, plus some of the committee members as well!

The enormous back seats also mean that grandparents and grandchildren can be accommodated with ease (but watch out for the latter once they discover that the iPod connection is controllable from the steering wheel). Safety is good as curtain air bags and electronic stability control are standard, and reliability is excellent.

For something entirely different

Nissan 350ZIf your idea of combatting stress is a quick whoosh up the coast to that special sushi place in Malibu, or even to the empty dog-friendly beaches past San Luis Obispo (and your dog is not too, too big), then check out Volkswagen’s adorable Eos and Nissan’s macho 350Z. Each in its own way is so addicting that you might not stop at sushi, or in San Luis Obispo, for that matter (check out the Cayucos Beach Inn for a fabulous, dog-friendly, film noir-type experience).

Since there’s a pumpkin-colored original Z-car (then under the Datsun brand name) resting comfortably in faded glory a block from where I live (its only excitement being the twice-weekly pushes to the other side of the street on street-cleaning days), I was very excited to see how radically the new, 5th-generation Z-car would measure up.

Launched in 1969, the 240Z was the first of a series that became wildly popular in Japan and abroad, particularly in the U.S. Partly it’s been their at times amazing performance and stunning good looks which, coupled with Nissan’s fabled reliability, made them remarkably affordable and has resulted in sales around 1,685,000, making it the best-selling sports car of all time.

But while it does offer dazzling sports car performance at an attainable price, it doesn’t mind being driven at the back of the pack, just waiting for an opportunity to slip through holes in the traffic and catch up gracefully with the next pack; in other words, you can get where you’re going very quickly without having to advertise your progress to the watchful eye of the law. It’s got all the good stuff you need: a new V6 putting out more than 300 horsepower, read-lining at 7500 rpm, controlled by a 6-speed manual or 5-speed auto, and all under the watchful eye of really good brakes. It’s got so much style and class that just watching the 350Z at rest is an experience. Surprisingly, although it is obviously is a much bulkier, more ferocious animal than its 34-year old sibling, it doesn’t really seem much bigger when seen side by side.

Volkswagen ErosWhereas you cannot miss the 350Z, it’s kind of hard, at least at first, to spot Volkswagen’s Eos. Simply put, it’s a high-tech hardtop convertible, sort of like a cross between a Passat and an Audi TT, that rules its unique niche in the __market. The Eos essentially replaces the well-worn soft-top VW Cabrio, its crowning glory a folding steel roof that, as one UK writer described, “makes a Rubik's Cube look as simple as a two-year-old's wooden puzzle.” And it’s not just a hardtop convertible; the miraculous top provides an integrated electric sunroof (so you don’t have to put down the top to let the sun in!), an adjustable sunshade and front and rear wind deflectors. Split into five pieces, the roof works by means of a variety of hydraulics, levers and flaps (no humans required except to push a button). The half a minute or os it takes to go up or down seems longer, especially when compared to the 15 seconds it takes Mazda’s delightful M5, but then the Eos is a different type of automotive animal altogether.

Eos ChariotNamed after one of the more obscure Greek mythological figures, the Titanic goddess of the dawn, who rises each day from her home at the edge of Oceanus, the Ocean that surrounds the world, to herald her brother Helios, the sun, the Volkswagen Eos may have less exterior charm than your everyday Grecian urn, but once inside it has an endearing look and feel that tells you this is going to be a great place to be.

Driving the Eos is a dream, and that ain’t no myth. The seats embrace you with an enlightened sense of purpose and cool passion. The controls all fall easily to hand and foot, and the sound system is an absolute miracle of operational ease and sonic perfection. Equipped with a purring V6 engine and unusually responsive automatic transmission, the Eos makes its way silently, whisking you away as effortlessly and pleasurably to the Music Center as it does to a unexpected, impulsive rendezvous in La Jolla.

Oh yes, the Eos seats four comfortably, but better scope out the trunk, especially with the top down. If you’re into heavy leather, the kind you find on luggage, you may need a support vehicle to follow you on your travels.

Caveats: As always, prices will vary depending on dealers and prevailing market forces. Value varies depending on whether you want to buy or lease, and for how long. Visit Michael Karesh’s astounding TrueDelta.com website for current information and insights about what constitutes value these days, and which manufacturers offer it. Ascertaining value in an automobile is never as straightforward as we would like it to be. So, don’t be afraid to make some preliminary choices, and then let your heart influence your head. After all, for most of us in Southern California, driving is a large and important part of the emotional side of our lives.

The Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will be open on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve this holiday Holiday Monday program.  On each of those days, the Museum will be open 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Many special exhibitions are now on view – including the immensely popular Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and New Galleries for 19th- and Early 20th-Century European Paintings and Sculpture – as well as the Met’s famous collections, which span 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present, and from around the world.

The Christmas tree and 18th-century Neapolitan baroque crèche, a holiday tradition for New Yorkers and visitors from around the world, will be on display through January 6.  Lighting ceremonies take place each day at 4:30 and additionally at 5:30 and 6:30 on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Met will also be open on its regular schedule of Tuesday-Thursday & Sunday, 9:30-5:30, and Friday-Saturday 9:30-9.  It is located at Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street in Manhattan.

Jasper Johns's Shades of GrayJasper Johns’s Shades of Gray Revealed in Major Metropolitan Museum Exhibition Opening February 5

Exhibition Dates: February 5 – May 4, 2008
Exhibition Location: Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, 2nd floor

© 2008 Bonnie Carroll, All Rights Reserved