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Badabing Badaboom: Stolen Van Gogh paintings found in Mafia den

Badabing Badaboom

 Two Stolen Van Gogh paintings found in home of Naples Mafia boss

by Leticia Marie Sanchez


Two Vincent Van Gogh paintings that were stolen from a museum in Amsterdam fourteen years ago have been recovered in the house of a mafia lord at Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples.

The two paintings, Seafront at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, were stolen from the Van Gogh museum in 2002 by thieves who climbed to the roof of the museum using a ladder and then absconded by means of a rope. One of the agile art thieves earned the alias “The Monkey,” and the FBI Art Crime Team listed the brazen heist as one of the Top 10 Art Crimes.

What is murky is how the stolen Van Gogh paintings made their way from the hands of the original Dutch art thieves to the luxurious den of the Italian mobster where authorities found the paintings in decent condition.  According to an Italian prosecutor, the mobster runs “one of the most dangerous and active crime groups” in the region. The mafia boss, Rafaelle Imperiale, flew the coop and is believed to be currently running a construction business in Dubai. Italian authorities have requested his extradition from the United Arab Emirates. Investigators have also seized other loot belonging to Signor Imperiale, including apartments, villas and a plane worth an estimated total of $22.3 million. Quite a stash there, goodfella.

Painting Above: ”Seascape at Scheveningen” (The Van Gogh Museum)

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Music for the Soul..

Spectacular performance tonight at the Ambassador Auditorium by the Colburn Orchestrathe jazzy notes of Ravel, the stirring strings of Wagner & the passion of Shostakovich 

A very soulful Cultural Cocktail indeed!




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This week’s Top Pick: A peek into the Orchestra Pit

This week’s Cultural Cocktail recipe double includes: a double shot of Mozart, a chaser of Chausson, and a dose of Dohnanyi



First concert of their 2016/17 inaugural season

Sunday, October 9th  3 p.m.

Featuring: Members of the L.A. Opera Orchestra: Roberto Cani, Violin;  Jessica Guideri, Violin Ana Landauer, Violin;  Yi Zhou, Viola; John Walz, Cello; Rowena Hammill, Cello; Stuart Clark, Clarinet;  Steven Becknell, French Horn; Domingo Colburn Stein Young Artist Summer Hassan, Soprano; Paul Floyd, Piano

MOZART: Clarinet Quintet; MOZART: aria “L’amero saro costante;” CHAUSSON: Chanson Perpetuellel DOHNANYI: Sextet Op. 37

Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
135 North Grand Avenue, LA, CA 90012

For more information on tickets, please visit:

Photo Credit: Brenden-John Photography

From the Pittance Chamber Music Website:

“A Pittance/ Denizens of underworld/A cavern for a stage/Invisible to all but those Who peer into the cage/ And point and stare and wonder how/We fell into the trap/Of playing in an opera pit/Until they start to clap.

For then they rise for diva’s bow/ To see us there below. And now the truth is obvious/ Without us there’s no show/ Compared to grossest salaries/ A pittance is our fee/ But pit is where we make great art/ Where inspiration’s free.

–Rowena Hammill”

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Howard’s End or Venice Beach?

No doubt, the re-release of Howard’s End has inspired readers to pick up E.M. Forster’s brilliant novel only to discover amusing gems that never made the film.
In one such scene, protagonist Margaret Schlegel tells her soon-to-be fiancé Henry Wilcox about a place she recently visited where “it’s all proteins and body-building, and people come up to you and beg your pardon, but you have such a beautiful aura.”
Margaret then adds teasingly: “Never heard of an aura? I scrub at mine for hours!”
This dialogue seems more befitting to the juice fanatics and Kombucha-swillers of modern-day Santa Monica or Venice Beach rather than the tea-sipping denizens of Edwardian England.
Ah…Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!
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Review: Bacchanalia at the Getty Villa: A Haunted House Party

Bacchanalia at the Getty Villa

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Roman party god Bacchus would look down fondly at the revelry taking place this fall at the Getty Villa Theater. Wine, women, and song abound. Director Matt Walker and his engaging Troubador Theater Company have adapted the work of Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus, refreshing lines from 200 B.C. with contemporary, hilarious zingers. The age-old story involves a prodigal son, Philolaches, partying like a rock star while his unsuspecting father, Theopropiedes, travels abroad. Aptly entitled “The Haunted House Party,” the ambiance of the adaptation feels like a ninety-minute zany house party with characters rapping, breaking into dance routines, and even calling out late audience members. As Matt Walker declared to the audience, “there is no fourth wall.” The strength of this production lies in the talented cast, spontaneous ad libs, audience engagement, and the sassy verbal juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern.

 One of the play’s highlights occurred at the beginning during the witty riffing between the indefatigable Matt Walker (Tranio) and the uber-talented Beth Kennedy (Grumio) as she fell (ever so gently) on the marble floor of the Getty Villa Theater. With her sense of comedic timing and powerful charisma, Kennedy also stole the show as Mr. Moneygrub, a Roman banker who would have fit right in with the Goodfellas. As an ensemble, the Troubadors mastered various dimensions of entertaining including singing (especially Karole Foreman as Scapha and Misty Cotton as Delphium) and impressions (Rick Batalla’s spot on interpretation of a modern political figure had the audience roaring). Michael Faulkner (Theopropides), in his dulcet ballad at the play’s end, elicited sympathy as the duped father of a party animal.

Another strength of the production involved the juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern, particularly in the dance routines. The Police’s “Roxanne” is transformed to “Philomatia, You Don’t Have to Put on the Red Dress Tonight.” Later, Gloria Gaynor’s “I will Survive” contains references to the Colosseum and the Acropolis. “We are Topical,” sang the Troubies and indeed, with fast-paced allusions to Uber, Lyft, the 2016 Presidential Election, the pop culture references made the play a delight.

One aspect of the play that felt unnecessary was the excessive bawdiness. No, we did not really need to get (several) glimpses of the Slave Boy’s nether regions. The play also hit us over the head with the sexual proclivities and positions of Phoenicium and Erotium (the talented Leah Sprecher and Suzanne Narbonne). PSA: This play is not for children. In that aspect, the house party felt a bit Greek, and by Greek, I mean like a Fraternity party. The production was strong and hilarious enough on its own merit and did not need to attempt to elicit extra laughs with ribald gags.

Plautus, whose work influenced Shakespeare and Molière wrote in verse. At the Haunted House Party, the Troubadors creatively use verse- weaving classical allusions into rap, 70’s songs, and contemporary songs- to keep their audience on their toes. Or at least, chuckling on their seat cushions.

Photo Below:

Beth Kennedy as Grumio and Matt Walker as Tranio in The Troubies’ Haunted House Party at the Getty Villa. Photo by Craig Schwartz


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Must see- Restoration of “Howard’s End”

Playing at selected Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles until Thursday September 8th-

The beautifully restored 1992 Merchant Ivory film, “Howard’s End” embodies

the recipe

for the perfect end-of-summer Cultural Cocktail film:

  • Non plus ultra cast (Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter at their peak)
  • Sublime Cinematography (The dreamy rainy umbrella scene evoked a Caillebotte painting)
  • Stirring Music (Beethoven’s 5th!)
  • Glorious glorious nature (ahh those bluebells)

Here’s a dose: “Ankle deep, he waded through the bluebells. His spirit rose and exalted as he breathed in the sun-drenched air. The glorious day was in its last decline. Long shadows lay on the sward and from above the leaves dripped their shimmering drops of gold-green light.


howards end_blue 2howardsend-1600x900-c-defaulthowards-endcaillebotte

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Flying Horses and Mythical Beasts: The Magical World of Carousel Animals.

Carousel 4By Leticia Marie Sanchez

 An Ounce of Carousel animals, a Splash of Crafts, and a Dash of Croquet= a Magical Summer Cultural Cocktail!

Art is not simply a work hanging on a gallery wall. It can be a conversation, a recreation, or even a party.

CCH had the pleasure of attending the last day of Flying Horses and Mythical Beasts: The Magical World of Carousel Animals. This exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of History was curated by local conservator and collector Lourinda Bray.

On Carousel Family Day on August 28th, the museum treated guests to dazzling creatures, ice cream sundaes, and a craft room where children and their parents created colorful bejeweled carousel animals, inspired by the creatures in the exhibit.

To top it off, guests played croquet in the summer sun.

Now that’s a Cultural Cocktail (kid-tested, mother approved) worth imbibing!

Carousel 1Carousel 2Carousel 5

Carousel 9Carousel 6Museum 4Julian Museum

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Invisible Chess Players

In the Sculpture Garden of the Norton Simon Museum during “Checkmate”

August 27, 2016

Invisible Chess Players 2

All Photography© 2016 Leticia Marie Sanchez

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This week’s Top Pick: Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Beach

Painting +Music+ Dance + History= An entertaining Cultural Cocktail

Top Pick!

All Photography© 2016 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Laguna Arts Festival

Pageant Masters LB

Laguna Festival of Arts

Pageant LB

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Sneak Peak: Haunted House Party, A Roman Comedy at the Getty Villa

by Leticia Marie Sanchez                  

Getty Villa Press luncheon 1

This week’s Cultural Cocktail preview:

1 shot of Antiquity, a Highball of Hijinks, and A Splash of Stilts.

Stepping onto the sumptuous grounds of the Getty Villa feels like being transported via time machine to antiquity. After all, the architectural design was inspired by the Villa dei Papiri, the treasure trove of Julius Caesar’s father-in law. 

Even Caesar (when he wasn’t being stabbed in the back) enjoyed a chuckle or two.


And chuckles are on the menu at the Getty Villa in a few weeks. 

This fall, director Matt Walker and the Troubadour Theater Company will provide a colorful facelift to material from 2oo B.C,  ”A Haunted House Party,” based on Mostellaria by Roman playwright Plautus.

Getty Villa Haunted House Party

CCH spoke with Costume designer, Sharon McGunigle on her designs.

Madcap troubadours will be singing, dancing, and possibly walking on stilts.

The costumes need to be “Troubie-proof.” Moreover, the actors during Plautus’ time were an itinerant, motley crew hailing from across the Empire- not necessarily Roman- so don’t expect a sea of white togas. 

Mc Gunigle used the silhouette of the era, while looking at the Etruscan Era and the Byzantine Era for nuance and embellishment.

Look out for dazzling costumes in the dance sequences!



On the set, wagons to transport traveling troubies to their next production.

Roman Stilt-walkers: break a leg!

G v stage


Tune in to Cultural Cocktail Hour in September for a review of the production.


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