ArtBeat: Opera star Genaux returns to Fairbanks for 'L'Italiana'

Mike Dunham

Vivica Genaux, the Fairbanksan mezzo who achieved international fame with bel canto and baroque repertoire, is back in her hometown this week in the title role of Opera Fairbanks' production of Rossini's comedy "L'Italiana in Algeri."

The cast includes Anchorage singers Anastasia Jamieson and Kyle Gantz along with several Fairbanks performers. Gregory Buchalter, a conductor with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, will lead the orchestra.

Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. on July 3 and 5 in Hering Auditorium in Lathrop High School. Tickets are available at

Music lovers traveling to Fairbanks may wish to note that the Alaska International Piano-e-Competition will be underway at the University of Alaska Fairbanks during the same period. In fact it's already started and will run through July 12.

Double-bill: West High and Anchorage Opera

Speaking of opera, Anchorage Opera has announced that it will collaborate with West High School music and drama students in a double-bill of "Brundibar" and "Comedy on the Bridge" next year. We don't know anything about the latter opera, but "Brundibar," a one-act tale for children, was famously produced in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, the notorious irony of which is probably the reason why it still sees the light of day. It received what was billed as its North American premiere with the Alaska Children's Choir at the Anchorage Museum in 1994. The opera company and the school joined forces for "Amahl and the Night Visitors" last year. The double-bill will be presented January 23-24.

Woodward shows in Anchorage

Prominent Alaska artist and art historian Kesler Woodward of Fairbanks will have a rare solo show in Anchorage next month. Woodward says he painted abstracts for years before shifting into representational images of Alaska scenery -- sort of an occupational hazard for artists in Alaska. The work on display at blue.hollomon gallery, in the Olympic Center at Arctic Boulevard and 36th Avenue, will feature his well-known birch tree "portraits" and landscapes as viewed over the seasons. Because Independence Day falls on a Friday this year, the opening reception will take place on Thursday, July 3, from 4 to 7 p.m. If you've never been to a blue.hollomon opening, be advised that it's a first-class event.

Fairbanks artist noted

Speaking of Fairbanks artists, Sarah Webb of that city is a winner in the international illustration contest sponsored by the anthology L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future. Her work appears in volume 30, which is now available. The West Valley High School graduate won a National Gold Medal in the 2013 Scholastic Art & Writing Competition, and her work has been published in Exposé 11 and ImagineFX magazine. She is currently majoring in illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art. She picked up her award at the Writers of the Future Achievement Awards event at the Wilshire Ebelle Theatre in Los Angeles, a gala staged with the glamor of the Oscar ceremonies, on April 13.

Contino biography published

Conductor Fiora Contino, who made numerous Anchorage appearances with the Anchorage Festival of Music, Anchorage Opera and the Basically Bach festival from 1971 to 1991, is the subject of a new biography by Joan Whittemore of Webster Groves, Missouri. "Maestra - The Legacy of Fiora Corradetti Contino" follows her career from her roots in verismo to founding her own company and pursuing a career as a conductor and educator. The Anchorage stuff is just one piece of the action.

Why did Cook Inlet become 'The' Cook Inlet?

In the past few years I've noticed names of bodies of water increasingly introduced by an article, specifically "the." I'm not sure when it happened, but up until the last decade I don't remember hearing anyone mention "The Prince William Sound" or "The Knik Arm." It was always just "Prince William Sound" or "Knik Arm." More and more television announcers and weathercasters are using this form. "High winds in the Turnagain Arm." "New gas find in The Cook Inlet."


Hydronyms -- words describing waterly bodies -- don't seem to have defined rules regarding articles, but I've had the sense that if a bunch of H2O has some sort of flow or passage in and out, English speakers tend to use "the," as in "The Pacific Ocean" or "The Kenai River." If the body in question is in part or in whole enclosed, "the" is not used, as in "Kenai Lake" or "Bristol Bay."

And yet I've caught some people talking about "The Kachemak Bay." What's next? "The Dutch Harbor?" "The Halibut Cove?"

The above rubric regarding flow-through doesn't always hold. No one says "The Johnson Creek," which is certainly flowing; maybe creeks and streams are too small to matter. Genuine inland seas get "the'ed," even though they are mostly surrounded by land. For that matter, so's The Mediterranean Sea. Maybe saltwater seas are big enough to be an exception.

But size isn't a factor in land forms. We don't say "The Asia" or "The Cuba" or "The Mount Susitna." But we do say "The Kenai Peninsula" and "The Isthmus of Panama." And it's "The Hawaiian Islands" plural, but not "The Hawaiian Island" for the place where you find Kona and Hilo, although the same place is known as "The Big Island."

Perhaps an educated reader will tell me about some kind of grammatical rule. Until then, I say we ridicule those who add superfluous articles. Snicker at them when they say "The Cook Inlet." Mock them on their own pages on The Facebook.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.