Festival of the Arts Boca returns — live – with concerts, lectures at Mizner Amphitheater

The 16th Annual Festival of the Arts Boca begins Friday evening with a series of live concerts, lectures and other performances at the Mizner Park Amphitheater.

The event that normally draws thousands of spectators had to go virtual last year, live streaming events due to the COVID pandemic, said Joanna Marie Kaye, the executive director. 

This year, all performances will be in the amphitheater, a covered, but otherwise wide-open venue. Kaye said socially distanced seating will be set up on the grounds, though people attending as part of groups can move the chairs closer together. 

Trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard.

The Festival welcomes two-time Oscar nominee and five-time Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard on opening night, Friday at 7:30 p.m.  Blanchard replaces Bobby McFerrin, who had to withdraw for health reasons. Tickets purchased for McFerrin’s performance will be honored for this performance. 

“Terence Blanchard is an icon and truly ‘jazz royalty,’” said Kaye. “We are thrilled to have him kick off our 16th annual event with the Florida premiere of this show.” 

Best known for scoring Spike Lee films, Blanchard made history in October by becoming the first Black composer presented by the Metropolitan Opera in its 138-year history.  He comes to Boca Raton with his internationally acclaimed band, the E-Collective, and the double Grammy-winning Turtle Island Quartet, in a program from his new album, “Absence,” a tribute to the legendary jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter.  

Kaye said the Festival will pay tribute Saturday night to its co-founder, Charles Siemon, who died in September 2020. “We’re going to present Charlie’s favorite piece of music, Aaron Copland’s ‘Fanfare for the Common Man.’” Dick Schmidt, head of the Schmidt Family Foundation which funds the annual festival, will also speak about Siemon’s contributions to the arts in Boca Raton.

Larisa Martinez.

Other Festival highlights include an Opera Gala Concert Saturday featuring Larisa Martinez, who has appeared with famed vocalist Andrea Bocelli, and with her husband, Joshua Bell. Martinez, along with some special guests, will appear in an evening of opera favorites with Festival Orchestra Boca (Boca Raton Symphonia) under the baton of Constantine Kitsopoulos. 

“A Night at the Ballet” on Sunday will feature stars from American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, and more, performing excerpts from shows such as “Don Quixote,” “Swan Lake” and “Romeo & Juliet,” as well as contemporary works, including “She’s a Rainbow” by the Rolling Stones.  

The group, “Time for Three,” known for straddling Americana, modern pop and classical music, returns to the Festival Saturday, March 12, as does Grammy Award-winning South Florida favorite, jazz flutist Nestor Torres and his band, who close out the schedule on March 13. 

Flutist Nestor Torres.

The Authors & Ideas lecture series features Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy” and “Crisis of the Old Order,” and James Stavrides, author and retired four-star U.S. Naval officer. The two will join in a discussion about global events on Monday, March 7. 

Astronaut Donald Pettit. (Photo by Lauren Desberg)

The series will also feature award-winning and internationally acclaimed global warming expert and author, Bill McKibben, who will talk about “Our Changing Climate” March 8; NASA Astronaut Donald Pettit on March 9 and novelist Luis Alberto Urrea March 10. 

Tickets for the Festival range from $15 to $150 per person and are available at festivalboca.org or by calling 561-757-4762 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

For more information visit festivalboca.org or call 561-571-5270.

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