ArtsNaples World Festival is still assessing its debut in the cultural and tourism milieu of Naples. Its principals will be making a thorough analysis of where ticket buyers came from and get anecdotal and experiential feedback from its chairs and officers this week.
But it's safe to say the idea — and the decision to inaugurate a cultural festival with a Russian theme — was inspired.
President Merlin Lickhalter recalls the rationale during its founding 2 1/2 years ago — the identification of the Russian region as a treasure trove of cultures. But he's come away excited about regional exchanges and local collaborations in making it happen. Among them: the first visit of Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, who effused about Naples' cultural amenities; the teamwork of Opera Naples, the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra and Fort Myers Symphonic Mastersingers to produce a Russian opera masterpiece; and clever programs at both Collier County Public Libraries and the Golisano Children's Museum of Naples.
This festival was even able to rescue another one. When a guest artist of the neighboring Miami International Piano Festival fell ill, ArtsNaples artistic director William Noll conferred with one of the stars here, and Phiipp Kopachevsky volunteered to be whisked over to Miami on his free night to fill in.
It was a strong, solid premiere with the help of the Naples Philharmonic Center, Sugden Community Theatre and the von Liebig Art Center, all of which opened their doors for ArtsNaples events.
But a good deal of its strength was also in the help of volunteers who kept the events running smoothly, and supporters who came to experience a new culture amid their own.
We can't wait to see what the festival can create with its Latin American theme next May.
And we think American Style magazine, which this month rated Naples ninth among the best small arts cities in the nation, is a little off.
By about eight places.