I’m thrilled today’s the first day of voiceofsandiego.org’s arts coverage. Thanks for coming by. If you’ve never read an arts story in your life, I hope you’ll stick around and give us a chance. If you’re the symphony’s concertmaster, you belong here, too.

Best way I know to introduce myself and this section is with a story from my travels to Hungary last fall:

Rather than go on the touristy experience of a walk-through of Budapest’s famous Operahaz, my friend and I got tickets (balcony seats for the equivalent of $5 U.S.!) for Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser, a German opera.

The night before the performance, we Googled and tried to cram as much of the plotline in our brains. But a day of exploring the city, eating Hungarian funnel cakes and riding down the Danube River shook many of those details from our memory.

We got to the hall only to realize with a start: The opera was in German and the subtitles would be in Hungarian. We watched the first act, trying to remember and imagine what was happening.

The singers had lovely voices. The hall was gorgeous. The costumes were dazzling. But we got bored after a while. A key piece of opera is arias, similar to long monologues in a play, where composers can cover a lot of a character’s response or thought process. But if you don’t know what they’re saying, it just looks like a guy standing on the stage singing for a long time.

Without a guide to what was happening in our own language, our experience was solely a surface aesthetic response. We were lost.

So in the intermission between the first act and the second, we begged an usher to let us peek at a program that had a plot summary in English. It was like hearing a sound blindfolded and then having the blindfold ripped off so you can see what is creating that sound.

Here I am, trying to figure out what was happening in a German opera with Hungarian subtitles
Here I am, trying to figure out what was
happening in a German opera with Hungarian

We were suddenly connected to the story of redemption and love in that opera — and just imagine if we’d been able to meet or know more about the people performing!

To me, this beat is a chance for all of us to take off those blindfolds and peek behind the scenes.

We won’t give you just the previews and reviews of finished products, but we’ll tell you about the people and storylines that went into those performances and pieces.

A famous name (of a soprano, a sculptor, a set designer, a chef) is not a story in itself. I am drawn to stories of complexity and connection to a bigger picture, told in unpretentious language.

This isn’t a solo performance. Besides my coverage, you’ll find stories here from other professional journalists. We’ll write full-length stories, quick links to what’s happening, and test out some fun features. We’ll take you in someone’s apartment or private collection to take a peek at what’s on their wall. We’ll catch performers in usual venues and get them to give us a plainclothes sneak preview of what we can expect in an upcoming show. We’ll do a weekly roundup of the best in local arts coverage, which you can sign up to have e-mailed to you. We’ll connect the stories you’ve read in voiceofsandiego.org — education budgets and questions of civic pride among them — to this important conversation.

And the third major contributor: You.

Your eyes, ears and senses will be the best guide to this vast world. As this conversation unfolds, we’ll be finding the best and the brightest, the novice revelers and the weathered directors, and getting them involved in contributing to the blog. Together we can build this into a well-rounded, wide representation of the utterly fascinating arts scene in San Diego. I can’t do it without you.

I want to know about your arts experiences: What do you have tickets for this weekend? What’s on your wall? Is your neighbor the oboist for the symphony? Is your kids’ nanny a ballerina? Do you make beats on your computer? Does your brother-in-law design sets for a theatre? Do you attend every opera performance in the season? Do you have a strong opinion on a performance? Do you want to get into the local arts scene but don’t know where to start?

We want to be a place for conversations on the issues driving arts community, with a special focus on the performing and visual arts community. I’ll ask you questions and try to answer yours.

We won’t cover everything. We’ll focus our sights on what’s being made in San Diego, and on the local people and institutions that make arts happenings possible. We won’t do a book review of a book written by someone in Duluth. We won’t drop everything to interview Michael Bolton if he comes to town. We will find and tell great stories about the art and drama of making art here.

We know we’re only one of many places for you to go for arts news. But we know it can be daunting to make sure you’re catching important news and reviews from all sorts of outlets. We hope you’ll sign up for our weekly newsletter, where we’ll share our best work and the don’t-miss coverage from other publications. If you see a story we should know about, make sure to share it.

So, how can you stay in the loop?

This is all just a start. What do you want to see here? Let the creativity begin!

Please contact Kelly Bennett directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531 and follow her on Twitter: @kellyrbennett.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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