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Sat08242019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Everyone is doing it. Well, all the coolest people are, at least.

Of course, we’re talking about opera.

What did you think we were talking about? In Quantum of Solace, James Bond was climbing around the backstage area during a performance of Tosca at the Bregenz Festival in Austria. Not cool enough for you? Well, Bugs Bunny even did it, in the classic 1957 cartoon short “What’s Opera, Doc?”

This means there will be plenty of cool people at Palm Springs’ Sunrise Park on Sunday, April 8, for the annual, free extravaganza that is Opera in the Park.

It all began 20 years ago with a piano and just a couple singers, thanks to Arlene Rosenthal, now of Well in the Desert. Today, the event attracts more than 5,000 attendees. This year, eight singers will perform different arias, including selections from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and Candide.

Bruce Johansen, president of the board directors of the Palm Springs Opera Guild, vouched for the quality of the performers. “These are not people who are thinking maybe they might try opera—but people who are committed and have their master’s degrees already,” he said. “They come from Southern California, in particular; most come from USC, UCLA and Pepperdine. … These individuals are starting and breaking into their careers now.

“Liv Redpath, who will be here, is currently performing in LA Opera’s Orpheus and Eurydice. A Mexican tenor, who is a huge star in Europe, Jesús León, is coming back to the valley. He sang for Opera in the Park many years ago … and as a gift will be performing in Opera in the Park this year. We have the chance to watch these singers grow up over the years and become major names in the operatic world. Our guild has had quite a bit to do with their success.”

Johansen’s background is in television; after walking by the Opera in the Park by chance, he discovered the Palm Springs Opera Guild. This chance encounter turned an interest in opera into a passion.

“The people in group cover the full gamut of being extremely passionate to others who enjoy it, but maybe don’t know all the nuances,” he said about the guild. “Everybody has a story about opera—either as kid who had been forced to see an opera and hated it, or as in my case: I had a brilliant music teacher who took us all to see a dress rehearsal of Carmen when I was 13 years old. It just changed my life.”

What does the Palm Springs Guild do beyond Opera in the Park? “We’ve held an annual Palm Springs vocal competition since 1983. The participants compete for various prizes, including scholarships. We also offer Opera in the Schools: Every year, we go into schools in the Palm Springs Unified School District and introduce them to opera. We do a half-hour assembly. With our introduction of opera to them in school, we are trying to take away the stigma that opera might have. … There have even been times when we can take a bus of students to see a performance at the LA Opera. In addition, we have the Prime Time Outreach series at the Rancho Mirage Public Library, which includes lectures and performances.”

The 20th Annual Opera in the Park takes place on Sunday, April 8, at Sunrise Park, located off Sunrise Way, between Ramon and Baristo roads, in Palm Springs. Rehearsals start at 9 a.m., while the actual program runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, including tented-seating information and details on pre-order lunches from TRIO Restaurant, visit palmspringsoperaguild.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

San Bernardino police recently made national news thanks to a creative operation.

Cops, dressed in plain clothes or as homeless people, walked up to cars stopped at an intersection. The officers held signs, but instead of saying something to the effect of “need food,” the signs said something to the effect of “S.B. Police. I am not homeless. Looking for seatbelt and cell phone violations.”

Of course, many drivers didn’t pay attention—they were busy texting, talking on a phone or even eating.

Those drivers received citations.

The Palm Springs Police Department also recently conducted a creative operation, of sorts, to combat a common Palm Springs crime: bike theft.

In broad daylight, a marked police department bike was placed as bait, in Sunrise Park and in other areas of the city frequented by homeless people and the less fortunate. Of course, plain-clothes cops were on the watch.

During the operation, three people, all Palm Springs residents, were arrested for grand theft: Gilbert Langford, 43; Marcos Gonzalez, 29; and Charles Wunderlich, 30. Langford was also cited for violating parole; Gonzalez was on probation at the time of his arrest; and Wunderlich allegedly had drugs on him.

Bike theft is a growing problem in Palm Springs, according to the police.

“In 2014, 303 bicycles were stolen in the city,” Sgt. Harvey Reed said. “From Jan. 1, 2015, to July 31, 2015, 191 bicycles were stolen in Palm Springs.”

Lt. Mike Kovaleff declined to discuss details of the Bait Bike operation, because “it would jeopardize future details.” So I headed to Sunrise Park, where there are always plenty of folks who use bikes as their only means of transportation. Everyone I spoke to told me they’d heard of the Bait Bike operation. Kenny, a young fellow with a nice bike (who only wanted to use his first name), said he even served time due to Bait Bike.

“Yep, the cops nabbed me at the Circle K, midday, about eight months ago,” he said. “Got six months for a felony, had priors, served about a month and a half.”

Kenny recalls how it went down. “The bike (had) a carbon fiber frame, cost about $1,300. The cops were in a van, watching it all. They got me on the bike.”

Kenny stopped, scratched his head and reluctantly continued. “I was duped! A lady asked me if I wanna buy the bike. I fell for it. It was entrapment!”

Evidently, the judge didn’t buy Kenny’s explanation. As far as entrapment claims regarding Bait Bike, John Hall, the information specialist for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, was not able to comment.

Jose, another young fellow with a cool bike, explained what usually happens to stolen bikes.

“They go on bricks, man! No fool’s selling them to pawn shops; the owners work with cops,” he said. “A ‘hot’ bike is taken apart, and those parts are used to repair other bikes. Bikes are all we got, man!”

Sgt. Reed offered some useful tips on how to protect a bicycle from being stolen. Beyond having a photo of and the serial number for your bike, always lock the rear and front wheels to the frame—as well as the seat.

Most importantly, Sgt. Reed warned: “Never leave your bike unattended or unlocked, even if it's just for a minute.”

Published in Local Issues