Last October, when the Festival of the Arts Boca geared up to screen the 1964 comedy caper “The Pink Panther” with a live orchestra, organizers discovered the 53-year-old movie score had gone missing. Monica Mancini, daughter of “The Pink Panther” composer Henry Mancini, told the festival that without her father’s original handwritten sheet music, any live performance would be impossible. So the Mancini family, with help from Schirmer Theatrical, a New York-based company that stages concerts using Hollywood film scores, embarked on a search-and-rescue mission. One month later, the Mancinis found the score: Mancini’s original pages had been gathering dust in a research library at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Turns out we didn’t have to call Inspector Clouseau on the case. We were Inspector Clouseau,” says Robert Thompson, president of the New York-based Schirmer Theatrical, referring to the film’s bumbling French detective. “It was kind of a historic moment, seeing it there in the library next to Renaissance-era manuscripts. But [the music] was right there on the first page, the iconic duh-duh-duh-duh.”
Mancini’s breezy, saxophone-punched “Pink Panther” score, newly digitally remastered by Thompson and the orchestra, will be performed for the first time by the University of Miami’s Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra on March 11 as part of the Festival of the Arts Boca, running March 2-12 at Mizner Park in Boca Raton. While the Blake Edwards-directed classic is projected above the stage minus its soundtrack, the Henry Mancini Institute will re-create the iconic music from the orchestra pit.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t recognize Mancini’s genius theme, even if you haven’t seen the movie,” Thompson says of the film, about a comically inept inspector (Peter Sellers) sent to catch a legendary jewel thief (David Niven) before he steals the Pink Panther diamond.
Along with the “Pink Panther” premiere, the 11th edition of the festival will debut a full slate of classical music, authors and ideas, led by bossa nova king Sergio Mendes and his rechristened band Brasil 2017 (7 p.m. March 12). The 76-year-old Mendes, an epitome of 1960s cool who pioneered a brand of bossa-nova-jazz fusion, is touring behind the 50th anniversary release of "Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66." (Alpert, along with Brasil ’66 lead singer and wife Lani Hall, performed at the festival in 2016.)
Kicking off the festival is a talk from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan (7 p.m. March 2 at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center), whose new novel, “Manhattan Beach,” is due out later this year. Other authors appearing include New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff (4 p.m. March 4), Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian Jon Meacham (7 p.m. March 6) and theoretical physicist Brian Greene (7 p.m. March 7).
But Festival of the Arts Boca’s big draw remains its classically minded concerts, festival organizer Charlie Siemon says. The most affordable among them: a $9.99 performance of “La Boheme,” a stripped-down version of Giacomo Puccini’s opera with full costumes and fewer onstage set pieces. Last summer, conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos raised $18,000 via Kickstarter to offset ticket prices for the opera, which will be performed with the Symphonia, Boca Raton.
“We’ve been trying to steer more of the masses to opera,” Siemon says. “Price point is always a major issue in attracting new audiences, so we raised the money to offer those tickets.”
Kitsopoulos and the Symphonia will also join Grammy-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis (7 p.m. March 3) for a program celebrating the soundtracks of movie composer John Williams ("Jaws"), with an emphasis on “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter” and “Catch Me if You Can.” Also on Marsalis’ film-inspired program is Elmer Bernstein’s “Theme From Magnificent Seven.”
“It’s going to be terrific,” says Marsalis, reached by phone from his hotel room in Portland, Ore. “John Williams’ music influenced me a lot in my younger days. So has Steven Spielberg, for that matter, so this should be fun.”
Also a standout at the 2016 festival, Indonesian jazz prodigy Joey Alexander (7 p.m. March 5), now 13, will come bearing a program featuring Felix Mendelssohn’s “Piano Concerto No. 1,” Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Overture to Die Fledermaus” and his own jazz piano arrangements. He’ll be accompanied by rising Mexican classical pianist Daniela Liebman, who’s 14. Classical violinist Sarah Chang and pianist Daniel Hsu (7:30 p.m. March 10) will also perform selections from Tchaikovsky and Bruch.
“I think that we’re really lucky to have Joey back again,” Siemon says. “It’ll be one of those concerts that will inspire lots of music students, teenagers and the young audiences we’re after.”
The Festival of the Arts Boca will take place March 2-12 at Mizner Park Amphitheater, 590 Plaza Real, and Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, 201 Plaza Real, in Boca Raton. Tickets cost $9.99-$125. For the full schedule, call 866-571-2787 or go to FestivalBoca.org.
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