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Backstage at LA Opera’s “Billy Budd”

Billy Budd collageCultural Cocktail Hour’s Editor-in-Chief Leticia Marie Sanchez had the opportunity to go backstage on the set of Benjamin Britten’s seafaring opera Billy Budd which opens at LA Opera on February 22nd.

Backstage at Billy Budd: 3 Fun Facts

1. Water and Britten

Conductor James Conlon explained, “Water is an enormous element in Britten’s music.” Born in the fishing port of Lowestoft, England, Britten was influenced by his childhood panorama; as an adult, he set many of his operas in locales surrounded by water. For instance, Peter Grimes takes place in a fishing village.Death in Venice takes place in the Italian city of canals, while Billy Budd takes place on a battleship, the HMS Indomitable.

2. The Odyssey of the Set

The set that you will see braved London storms, the Panama Canal, New York tempests- and (whew!) made it to Los Angeles safely.

3. Singing while stuttering

Backstage at LA Opera, CCH interviewed baritone Liam Bonner who plays Billy Budd, asking him about the hero’s stutter. In the opera (and Herman Melville’s novella, on which the opera is based) the idealistic, kind-hearted hero is depicted as having a stammer. In the narrative, the stutter plays a crucial role; when Billy is falsely accused of a crime, he is so aghast and flustered that he cannot verbally defend himself.

CCH: “Do you incorporate the stutter into your role?”

Liam Bonner: “Yes. It’s the hardest part of the piece to get in your body.” Mr. Bonner admitted. He described looking down at the prompter to see a plethora of stutters incorporated into the libretto. “There’s one. There’s another one.”

Photo Collage © 2014 by  Leticia Marie Sanchez

Clockwise: Interior Dorothy Chandler Pavillion during orchestra rehearsal, sheet music used by musicians during rehearsal, the set of Billy Budd, Liam Bonner speaking to the press.

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This Week’s Top Pick in LA

Hearsay of the Soul, Werner Herzog

Getty Center. 1200 Getty Center Drive. LA, CA. 90049. (310) 440-7300  www.getty.edu

Closing April 20th

This moving journey into interior worlds combines the landscape etchings of 16th century Dutch artist Hercules Segers with the music of cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger. For this pilgrim, sitting on the bench in front of the installation the experience felt intensely spiritual, a communion with haunting music and the powerful, evanescent flashes of nature.The experience called to mind William Wordsworth’s poem, the World Is Too Much With Us; Late and Soon”

The world is too much with us; late and soon/
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers/
Little we see in Nature that is ours

Thankfully, Herzog’s piece allows us to escape the white noise, the constant distractions of the modern world. To take a journey into nature. To take a jouney into the self. Emerging refreshed and renewed.

-CCH Editor Leticia Marie Sanchez

Here is an excerpt of the artist’s statement about this piece:

It is time that we make a pilgrimage to the work of Hercules Segers, the father of modernity in art. Sometimes great visionaries appear who seem to anticipate the course of our culture, like the pharaoh Akhenaten, who, in addition to creating a new style of art in ancient Egypt, was more than a thousand years ahead of his time as the first monotheist. Or like Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa, who, four hundred years ago in his Sixth Book of Madrigals, created music that leads straight to the twentieth century. This list is extendable: Hölderlin, who as a poet went to the outer limits of human language, or Turner, predecessor of the Impressionists.

Segers’s images are hearsay of the soul. They are like flashlights held in our uncertain hands, a frightened light that opens breaches into the recesses of a place that seems somewhat known to us: our selves…

—Werner Herzog

Photo Above: Installation of Hearsay of the Soul at the Getty Center. Hearsay of the Soul, 2012, Werner Herzog. © Werner Herzog.

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January 21- Happy Birthday Plácido Domingo!: Video Appearance on CCH

In honor of Plácido Domingos birthday today, here is a video clip where the Maestro made a cameo appearance, chatting briefly with Cultural Cocktail Hour Founder Leticia Marie Sanchez after his performance of Simon Boccanegra during an episode on the history of LA Opera.

Wishing the Maestro

health

bliss

and many more triumphs

in the coming year!   

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This weekend Top Picks in LA: Jan 17-19

This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe includes a splash of Brahms and more than a dash of Art:

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

AX BRAHMS PROJECT: Emanuel Ax & Robin Ticciati

Fri Jan 17 8:00PM; Sat Jan 18 2:00PM; Sun Jan 19 2:00 PM;

LIGETI: Melodien; BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Walt Disney Concert Hall. 111 S. Grand Ave. LA, CA USA 90012 (323) 850-2000

http://www.laphil.com/

 

LA Art Show

Jan16-19

LA Convention Center; South Hall J and K; 1201 South Figueroa St. LA, CA 90015

http://www.laartshow.com/

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Happy New Year to my readers!

 Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

In 2013, Cultural Cocktail Hour traveled through Andalusia, Umbria, Chianti, and Tuscany.

Wishing my readers around the globe a very HAPPY NEW YEAR replete with

Many Blessings,

Cultural Adventures,

and

Creative Inspiration!

Best Wishes,

Leticia Marie Sanchez, Editor-in-Chief, C.C.H.

 

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Meet the Duke of Osuna

Goya’s Portrait of Don Pedro, Duque de Osuna, at the Norton Simon

By

Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Cultural Cocktail Hour had the pleasure of meeting the Duke of Osuna at the Norton Simon last week. The Duke is currently wintering in sun-drenched Pasadena, on a vacation from his Upper East Side pied-à-terre, New York’s Frick Collection. Accompanied by his entourage, Senior Frick Curator Grace Galassi and Norton Simon Chief Curator Carol Tognieri, the Duke met members of the press on Thursday evening.

Allow me now to introduce you, fair readers, to the Duke.

Here are some tidibits to help you get to know this bigwig.(His literal perruque is quite subtle and ever-so-tasteful.)

3 Fun Facts about Goya’s Don Pedro, Duque de Osuna

#1 Check out the Letter

When you are standing in front of the portrait, you will see a letter. This unfolded missive is signed from the artist to the Duke. El Duque De Osuna, Por Goya. (The Duke of Osuna, By Goya).

The symbol of the letter reflects Goya’s intimacy with the Duke.This scroll is like a modern-day email, a friendly little tweet. 

If the Duke of Osuna and Goya were on Facebook, they would totally be friends.

#2 No bling

Observe the Duke’s clothing. No flashy medals. No honorific decorations. As one of the most powerful men in Spain, he decided to leave his status symbols at home. Similarly, Goya approached this painting with a less restricted, looser application of paint. The Duke’s informal appearance underscores the relaxed rapport between these two chums.

#3 Rebel With A Cause

The Duke and his wife, Maria Josefa Pimental, 15th Countess of Benavente, were intellectual rebels at heart; they hosted salons with forward thinking playwrights, scientists and artists. 

(They often held salons in their French-inspired country estate, entitled, “El Capricho de la Alameda de Osuna.” Which translates as “The Whim of the Poplar Groves of the Osuna.” A Whim! Who wouldn’t want to live in Whim? What does a whim look like?  I imagine there are inspiring breezes, balconies, and balustrades. But I digress.)

Thanks to their power and fortune, the lucky Duke and Countess-Duchess could bend the rules in their quest for the avant-garde. In fact, they were allowed to buy works (gasp!) banned by the Inquisition. Now that sounds just like a Cultural Cocktail Hour kind of party!

Lesson learned: Don’t judge a book (or a Duke) by his cover.

Painting Above: Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746–1828)
Don Pedro, Duque de Osuna, c.1790s
Oil on canvas
54 1/4 x 43 x 4 in. (137.8 x 109.2 x 10.2 cm)
The Frick Collection; photo: Michael Bodycomb

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Where Turtle Doves & Thunderstorms Collide: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Cultural Cocktail Hour adores arts-fusion. On Friday night, I listened to the “Four Seasons” performed by the Salastina Music Society and left with a new understanding of not only the music, but also the charming characters populating Vivaldi’s masterpiece.

This unique musical exploration, hosted by Brian Lauritzen, translated each note and instrument into a vivid character in the Sonnets of “The Four Seasons.”

Who knew that in the Allegro non molto section of Summer, you are actually hearing a Cuckoo bird? The diverse birds in that whole passage make it an orinthologist’s delight! In Autumn there’s a chase-scene (not telling you how it ends), and in the adagio section in summer- violins play the role of gnats. Yes, Gnats! (Next time someone suggests that classical music is too rarefied, just combat that with the fact that a measure in the lofty Four Seasons may have been at least partially inspired by a mosquito-itch).

The whimsical cast of characters in this musical narrative include a dulcet turtle dove, dancing nymphs, Bacchus-imbibing peasants, a trembling shepherd, and of course, those thrilling thunderstorms.

Isolating specific instruments and passages allows one to listen to Vivaldi in a refreshing new way. Experiencing this concert beneath the warm hues of stained glass at the Church of the Angels only enhanced an already illuminating evening.

Photo Above: Church of the Angels, Pasadena

                         Site of Dec 6th Salastina Concert

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Happy Birthday, Maria Callas!

This week, Maria Callas would have been 90 years old

She was an opera singer famous for her coloratura- expertise in adding texture and color to each note with her agile voice.

Many critics have classified her as Soprano Sfogato - the unlimited soprano.

Another classification for her voice was Soprano Assoluta.”

The Absolute Soprano.

Yes she was.

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Cultural Cocktail Hour‘s musical favorites on Thanksgiving include:

Simple Gifts” from Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,”

Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,”

and anything by George Winston.

How about you?

Wishing all my readers a beautiful Thanksgiving!!

Photograph Above: Autumn in Cambridge © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

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Backstage at LA Opera’s “Magic Flute”- 5 Fun Facts

                                                               Mozart & Movie *Magic* 

                                               Behind-the-scenes at LA Opera’s Magic Flute

                                                                              By

                                                             Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Cultural Cocktail Hour went backstage to check out the animation at LA Opera’s Magic Flute a production that became a cult hit at the Komische Oper in Berlin.

Created by the British theater group 1927 (in collaboration with Barrie Kosky), the production combines animated film and live performers. CCH interviewed 1927′s director Suzanne Andrade and animator Paul Barritt.

 

Left: 1927 director Suzanne Andrade 

5 Fun Facts About  LA Opera’s Magic Flute

1. 1927

Theater Group 1927 derived their name from the year that the film “Jazz Singer” was released. Although this was the first “talkie” film (ie a film with sound) 1927 derives much of its inspiration from the silent film era.

2. No Theater Lights

No Theater Lights will be used in this production.Any reflection on the singers emanates from the animated films themselves.

3. Weimar Cabaret and German Expressionism

What was the Weimar Cabaret? Think German Gatsby-esque flappers.

Q: CCH:Did the era of the Weimar Cabaret and German Expressionist film influence 1927’s vision of the Magic Flute?”

A: Suzanne Andrade: “This time period did impact our style. For instance, the melodramatic forms used in German Expressionist film influenced the shapes of the bodies of our animated Magic Flute characters.”

4. Masonic Symbols

Much has been made of the esoteric Masonic Symbols in Mozart’s opera (For instance, the number 3 is a Masonic number: In the Magic Flute, there are 3 ladies, 3 boys, the 3 flats of E Flat Major).

Q: CCH: ”Did you intentionally  incorporate any Masonic symbols into your animation?”

 A: Suzanne Andrade: “While sitting in a pub Barritt and I debated adding Masonic leitmotifs. But we decided for the most part against it. However, Sarastro’s “all-seeing eye” (a Masonic symbol) will appear on screen. “

 5. Monostatos has a dog

I tested out this whimsical animation on the LA Opera Stage. Imagine the blocking for the cast, who are not only singing intense arias (like the Queen of the Night with her ferocious F6s) but interacting with fantastical creatures at the same time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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