San Diego Weekend Arts Events: Music Of Vietnam, Black Opera, HRW Film Festival And ‘Experiments On Stone’

This weekend in the arts, the experimental Vietnamese music of Vân-Ánh Võ, 1960’s women’s lithography, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and the Met Opera’s ‘Ariadne Auf Naxos.’

Ruth Asawa's

Credit: Courtesy of the Estate of Ruth Asawa/MCASD

Above: Ruth Asawa’s “Desert Plant (TAM.1460), 1965,” color lithograph in on view in a digital exhibition beginning Feb. 8, 2021 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

As we move further into February, our social media accounts will start reminding us of all the fun and enriching things we did in February 2020. For many of us, that means we’ll soon start stumbling upon “the last time we did things,” like go to the symphony, go to a movie theater, indulge in a bustling art opening or see live music, bellying up to strangers at bars or concession stands or ticket windows. The nostalgia is a mixture of inconceivable and melancholic.

Almost exactly a year ago was the last big museum art event I went to, the opening of “Illumination” at San Diego Art Institute. We were packed in like sardines! But good news: If you missed it (or maybe if you’re like me and want to reframe these memories) you can check out SDAI’s excellent 360 degree virtual exhibition, featuring an up-close look at each work, the science behind it, and immersive, interactive tours.

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Here are more picks for the arts this weekend to help you make new memories. You can catch a special performance and discussion with Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist Vân-Ánh Võ, revisit the Met Opera’s iconic, vintage opera performances with notable Black singers, binge-watch five films covering human rights issues worldwide, or get to know the 1960s lithography work of four American women.

The Met Opera’s Two Weeks Of Black Opera Performances: ‘Ariadne Auf Naxos’ By Strauss


Soprano Jessye Norman, who passed away in 2019, was a legend in American opera — and also a recipient of a National Medal of the Arts, a Kennedy Center Honor, five Grammys and more. The Metropolitan Opera in New York is dedicating two weeks of its nightly performance stream to honoring Black performers in opera. On Saturday, catch The Met’s acclaimed 1988 production of Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos,” with Norman in the titular role of Ariadne. Black soprano Kathleen Battle is also featured in the role of Zerbinetta — this is known as one of the finest examples of her coloratura vocal style, which features trills, runs and other virtuosic fancies.

And if you’re busy Saturday, you can catch Battle in Friday night’s 1985 production of “le Nozze di Figaro” by Mozart, or Sunday’s 1978 Puccini “Tosca” performance, featuring Black soprano Shirley Verrett alongside Luciano Pavarotti.

Details: “Ariadne Auf Naxos” by Strauss, performed by the Metropolitan Opera, streams Saturday beginning at 4:30 p.m. through Sunday at 3:30 p.m. PST. Free.

The Traditional Music Of Vietnam: Roots And Resilience


Composer and performer Vân-Ánh Võ is renowned for her experimental takes on traditional Vietnamese music, as well as her arrangement of works from around the world for Vietnamese folk instruments. Võ joins the San Diego Center for World Music on Sunday afternoon for a livestreamed event, including a discussion with scholar Alexander M. Cannon. They’ll dig into Vietnamese folk music and its ties to resilience in the Vietnamese diaspora, and Võ will perform several works — including new pieces inspired by the pandemic.

Check out Võ’s 2014 NPR Tiny Desk Concert — particularly the powerful opening number, her composition “Three-Mountain Pass,” features her gorgeous and genre-bending vocals with the melodic Hang drum. It’s a work she based on 18th century female poet Hồ Xuân Hương.

Details: Sunday at 2 p.m. Online. Free, but registration is required.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival


The opening line of the film “A Reckoning in Boston” is attributed to Socrates: “If you’re willing, let’s first find out what justice is in cities, and afterward, look for it in the individual to see if the larger entity is similar in form to the smaller one.” One of the plotlines is the story of Kafi Dixon, a woman trying to build a community garden, struggling against bias, racism, gentrification and more. For the filmmaker, James Rutenbeck, it was as much a story of recognizing his own participation in systemic racism, too. Rutenbeck and Dixon will take part in a panel discussion with HRW’s Lena Simet Saturday evening at 7 p.m.

The festival’s lineup also includes the incredible “Through The Night,” about three working mothers and the way their lives intersect at a 24-hour childcare center. You can read our feature on “Through The Night” here.

There’s a total of five films, each viewable on demand so you can binge the festival all weekend. Rounding out the lineup are, “Talking About Trees,” a beautiful look at a set of filmmakers in Sudan, where cinema has been banned for the last three decades. “Missing In Brooks County” centers on the dangerous migrant routes on the border of Texas and the way immigration policies are designed to push migrants into life-threatening terrain. And “I Am Samuel” explores the lives of the LGBTQ+ community in Kenya.

Details: On-demand virtual viewing of all films, through Tuesday. The closing night discussion — “A Reckoning In Boston” virtual panel — is 7 p.m. on Saturday. Individual film tickets are $6-9, or festival passes are $25-40.

Experiments On Stone: Four Women Artists From The Tamarind Lithography Workshop

Visual Art

Ease into your Monday by pulling up the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s website to view their new exhibition. “Experiments on Stone” is a collection of prints made during four different artists’ residencies at Tamarind, which was a fellowship-based lithography program in the 1960s — it was intended as a way to revive lithography and printmaking by American artists. It features the work of late iconic American artists Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, Gego, and Louise Nevelson. This exhibition and the affiliated events are all part of the nationwide Feminist Art Coalition.

And mark your calendar for next Thursday, the first of the monthly “charlas,” which are art talks between curator Alana Hernandez and a variety of contemporary artists about museum exhibitions. For “Experiments on Stone,” they’re starting with Chilean artist, printmaker, sculptor and performance artist María Verónica San Martín.

Details: On view digitally beginning Monday, Feb. 8. Monthly “charlas” take place the second Thursday of each month through May at 11 a.m. Free.

For more arts events, visit the KPBS/Arts calendar. And be sure to sign up for the weekly KPBS/Arts newsletter.


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Photo of Julia Dixon Evans

Julia Dixon Evans

Arts Calendar Editor and Producer

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI write the weekly KPBS Arts newsletter and edit and produce the KPBS Arts calendar. I am interested in getting San Diegans engaged with the diversity of art and culture made by the creative people who live here.

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