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Autumn Gold

Photography© 2012 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

“There is a harmony in autumn,

And a luster in its sky-” Percy Bysshe Shelley


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Rare Van Gogh Self Portrait coming to Pasadena this December

 
“I wish they would only take me as I am”- Vincent Van Gogh

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

A rare self portrait of Vincent Van Gogh, on loan from the National Gallery of Artwill grace the Norton Simon on December 7.

Van Gogh created this intense portrait during a creative and prolific period of self-confinement at the mental asylum Saint-Paul-de-Mausole at Saint-Rémy.He painted the introspective self portrait only one year before his tragic and mysterious death*.

Although Van Gogh painted thirty six self-portraits during his lifetime, the one to be seen at the Norton Simon is unique: only three self-portraits depict him as an artist, holding his palette and brush.

For more on the upcoming exhibit, please see: 

http://www.nortonsimon.org/van-gogh-s-self-portrait-1889-on-loan-from-the-national-gallery-of-art-washington-2#

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*A past Cultural Cocktail Hour article explored the mysterious circumstances surrounding Van Gogh’s death. A CBS News report discussed a ground-breaking biography by two Pulitzer-Prize winning writers who argued that Vincent Van Gogh may not have committed suicide, as has long been surmised.Instead, their evidence pointed to his being shot by wealthy, rowdy teenage boys. The teens had taken previous pleasure in bullying Van Gogh by pouring salt in his coffee, snakes in his paint can, and having their girlfriends torment him. The authors argued that although these teens shot Van Gogh, as he lay dying, he protected them from police, asking investigators not to accuse anyone of the crime. For the full report on Van Gogh’s death, please see:

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7384904n&tag=re1.galleries

 

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LA’s Top Picks

 

LA’s Top Cultural picks

A dash of Mozart and a literal blast from the past make the recipe for this week’s explosive

Cultural Cocktail

by

Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

The scent-sational Don Giovanni at LA Opera

“I think I smell a woman,” Don Giovanni remarks in LA Opera’s hilarious interpretation of Mozart’s opera starring Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as the infamous ladies man. The clean lines and simplicity of Ferdinand Wogerbauer’s set allows Mozart’s music to reign supreme. A simple crescent moon adorns the curtain. A coincidence? Methinks not. The moon, or luna can be seen as a visual metaphor for lunacy, and women lose their minds for the dashing Don Juan. Finnish Soprano Soile Isokoski’s sensitive interpretation of the long suffering noble Elvira adds a layer of pathos that makes her the perfect foil to Don Giovanni’s light-hearted and mischievous servant Leoporello, played with effective and entertaining physical comedy by David Bizic.

Sun 9/30/12 2:00PM; Wed 10/3/12 7:30PM; Sat 10/6/12 7:30PM

Wed 10/10/12 7:30PM

Sun 10/14/12 2:00PM

http://www.laopera.com/

Photo Left: Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Don Giovanni, Courtesy of LA Opera

The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, Resurrection

At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Villa

September 12, 2012—January 7, 2013

The Getty Villa’s expansive exhibit on Pompeii includes a vast array of artists ranging from Salvador Dalí and Mark Rothko to Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Marcel Duchamp. Perhaps the most intriguing portrait belongs to the one painted by Irish artist Alfred Elmore in 1878. His painting depicts two young ladies in thoughtful repose, with the faint trace of Vesuvius smoldering behind them. The meaning behind this beautiful painting is ambiguous. Are the ladies blissfully unaware of their impending doom? Or have they calmly resigned themselves to their fate, choosing to spend their last Earthly moments in a comforting embrace? See the painting for yourself to decide.

http://www.getty.edu/

Left: Alfred Elmore. Pompeii, A.D. 79, 1878. Oil on canvas. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund.

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Photo: Sunset at LA Opera, Opening Night of Don Giovanni, Sept 22

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L.A. Opera’s “The Two Foscari”- A Must-See Production

           What Lies Beneath:

                         Probing the Shadows of Power in LA Opera’s I Due Foscari

by

              Leticia Marie Sanchez

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, rued Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Or, in the case of Giuseppe Verdi’s I Due Foscari, uneasy lies the head that wears the corno ducale, the gemmed, scarlet Doge-cap. This rarely produced opera about Venice’s fifteenth-century ruler, Doge Francesco Foscari (played eminently by Plácido Domingo), has not been seen in the United States in more than four decades. LA Opera’s interpretation of Verdi’s rare jewel is a Must-See production, due to not only the talent of its cast, but also to the cinematic, visually engaging direction by Thaddeus Strassberger and scenic designer Kevin Knight.

Even before the opera begins, a screen displays shifting, blue waves. The Republic of Venice was formally known as La Serenissima: the most serene. These waves, however, are anything but tranquil. No light reflects through the water on the La Opera screen, hinting at the dark, tumultuous mysteries that lie beneath. Black smoke juxtaposes with the haunting strains of the overture. The dramatic impact is enhanced by visually arresting calligraphy adorning the screen. The clever cinematic touch of calligraphy is suggestive of epic film, with its majestic introductions and entre-actes, like antique pages out of a history book. The hypnotic repetition of the words mistero and silenzo in antique calligraphy further intensifies the ominous mood.

“I wear the mask of a Doge, but have the heart of a father,” sings Plácido Domingo, expertly portraying the inner turmoil and anguish of Francesco Foscari. The juxtaposition between public power and private vulnerability extends to the lyrical costumes designed by Mattie Ulrich. For instance, the Doge wears a rich red robe that exudes authority, yet also dons a white nightdress that illustrates his frailty as an aging grandfather.

Left: Plácido Domingo as Francesco Foscari, Photo by Robert Millard, LA Opera

The bright Venetian carnival scenes are like Roman bread and circuses, entertainment that distracts from the ominous political situation. Enchanted by the fire-thrower, the crowds are indifferent to the dark machinations of power that surround them.

Kevin Knight’s expressive set transports the audience to the macabre secret torture chambers in the Doge Palace.

Jacopo Foscari sings, as he hangs morbidly from a box: the literal caging of a virtuous soul. The purity of Italian tenor Francesco Meli’s tone resonates with the integrity of his character, the honorable son of a Doge pleading for justice.

Left: Francesco Meli as Jacopo Foscari, Photo by Robert Millard, LA Opera

Russian Soprano Marina Poplavskaya triumphantly interprets Jacopo Foscari’s wife Lucrezia Contarini, not only because of her moving duets with Domingo (where she more than vocally holds her own) but also due to her impressive acting chops. Polavskaya’s regal posture and bearing in the first act, lends itself to a significant character arc in the third act, in which she descends into a downward spiral of madness.

The stark rubble in the set of the third act calls to mind Rossellini’s Germania Anno Zero. The debris epitomizes the emotional wreckage at the heart of Verdi’s tragedy. Francesco Foscari was a man who lost everything that gave his life meaning: his son and his Dogeship. How the mighty have fallen. The personal inferno of losing a family member had particular meaning for Verdi who lost his wife and two children in a period of less than two years, becoming a grieving widow in his thirties.

Left: Marina Poplavskaya as Lucrezia Contarini,  Photo by Robert Millard, LA Opera

In the final act, Lucrezia emerges as a mourning widow, not in the expected black, but in a flowing white gown and unkempt hair, like a mad Ophelia, to commit, like Shakespeare’s tragic heroine, one final heinous act of drowning (you will have to watch the production to see who dies an aquatic death).

Amidst the dark rickety shadows of the Doge Palace, there was a moment when the strains of Verdi’s 19th century score of power, corruption, and violence evoked a musical moment in Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather. This is surely not a coincidence. Nino Rota, the composer of the Godfather score had orchestrated Verdi’s work and was surely influenced by I Due Foscari, a creative work as timeless as a father’s love.

Angelenos, don’t miss this production before it heads to Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, Valencia’ s Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, and London’s Royal House Covent Garden. You don’t want to wait another forty years to see this gem.  As with the Endeavor shuttle, this momentous experience comes only once in a generation.

Remaining Performances of “The Two Foscari” at LA Opera:

Sunday September 23, 2012 02:00 PM
Saturday September 29, 2012 07:30 PM
Sunday October 07, 2012 02:00 PM
Tuesday October 09, 2012 07:30 PM

For more information, please visit:

 http://www.laopera.com

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ARIA: Ignite: LA Opera’s Season Opening Gala

ARIA: Ignite: LA Opera’s Season Opening Gala

A Party So Hot…It Sizzled..

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Photography and text © 2012 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

As Marilyn Monroe would say, Some Like it Hot.

ARIA’s Ignite Opening Gala was so hot that it sizzled. And I’m not just talking about the over 100 degree heat wave that just so happened to hit LA that night. Leave it to Plácido. When Maestro Domingo sings, the temperature rises. Literally.

The gala’s Hot Factor also came from the vibrant red decor and striking images of sizzling fire all around LA Opera. Even Jacques Lipchitz’s sculpture took on a sexy red-hot hue for the Ignite party. The fire motif proved a clever allusion to the carnivalesque fire thrower in the dramatic last act of Verdi’s “The Two Foscari, ” an opera received with rousing standing ovations earlier that evening.

The gala’s atmosphere evoked a Venetian carnival with bodice-clad fire throwers, jubilant band, and baristas whose whimsical pink tutus called to mind the hats of mischievous harlequins. Gala guests mingled not only with the opera’s talented crew and stars, including Mr. Domingo (the Doge of Venice himself!) but also with Aria Gala Chair Stana Katic, star of the show “Castle.” Even the dance floor emanated an artistic-red hue as guests danced the night away, leaving no doubt that ARIA’s Ignite Gala was the hottest ticket in town.

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Cultural Cocktail Hour in the Tropics the first week of September..

Cultural Cocktail Hour has spent September exploring the Tropics of Ecuador, a vibrant spot for arts and culture. 

This month, none other than actor John Malkovich presented he “Giacomo Variations,”

a chamber opera about the life of famed ladies man, Giacomo Casanova at the Teatro Sanchez Aguilar in Samborondón. Mr. Malkovich was accompanied by the Orchestra of the Vienna Academy. The work was previously presented at the Château de Versailles Spectacles in France.

Photo Below: Teatro Sanchez Aguilar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cultural Cocktail Hour also explored Guayaquil’s Parque Historico which displays the architecture of early 20th century Guayaquil, as well as exhibiting almost 50 species of birds, animals, and reptiles.

Left: Parque Historico

 

All Ecuador Photography © 2012 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

 

 

 

 

Cultural Cocktail Hour returns to California the second week of September,

just in time for the September 15th opening night of LA Opera’s “The Two Foscari” starring Placido Domingo.

Be sure to check on CCH next week for the full review!

Left: Costume Design by Mattie Ulrich

Photo Courtesy of LA Opera.

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Cultural Cocktail Hour’s- Top 3 picks for August in LA

This month’s Cultural Cocktail Hour is 2 oz Audible Feast, 1 oz. Klimt, and a Splash of Zhenya Gershman. Shaken, Not Stirred.

 

Salastina Society Presents

An Audible Feast

August 12 5:30 P.M

Downtown LA

(Exact location will be shared exclusively with ticket buyers forty-eight hours prior to the event)

Program: Ernst/Irish Traditional: The Last Rose of Summer for Two Violins; Piazzolla: Verano Porteño from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires

Gershwin: Summertime from Porgy and Bess; Vivaldi: Summer from The Four Seasons

For tickets and a link to the four-course menu, please visit:

http://thelastroseofsummer.eventbrite.com/

Photo© Copyright Salastina Society



Gustav Klimt: 
The Magic of Line

July 3- September 23

The Getty Center1200 Getty Center Drive.LA, CA. 90049. (310) 440-7300

http://www.getty.edu/

 

 

Gallerati Society: End of Summer Soirée

Saturday Aug 18th

7:00-9:30 p.m.

Brentwood

In addition to meeting Rembrandt scholar Zhenya Gershman, guests will have the opportunity to tour her home studio, hear about her artistic process, and meet fellow art lovers over wine, hors d’oeuvres, and dessert at the always-scintillating soireés hosted by the fabulous Gallerati Society!

http://gallerati-society.com/

Photo© Copyright Gallerati Society

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Review: Keeping an Audience on its Toes: “Framework” at MOCA- A Must See Production

Review:

Keeping an Audience on Its Toes:

“Framework” at MOCA

A Must-See Production

 by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Text © 2012 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Jean Cocteau once remarked, “The Louvre is a morgue. You go there to identify your friends.” Unlike Cocteau’s bleak categorization of museums, L.A Dance Project illustrated the vibrant possibilities of a living museum through their energetically innovative performance at MOCA on Thursday evening. 

FRAMEWORK at MOCA Grand Avenue, July 19, 2012, photo by Christina Edwards, courtesy of MOCA.

 

The poignant sounds of the violin emanated from the gallery walls. Benjamin Millepied, former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet and choreographer of the hit film “Black Swan,” danced with Amanda Wells as 17-year old Colburn violinist Mayumi Kanagawa performed movements from Bach’s B Minor Partita and A Minor Sonata.

The aptly named Millepied (his surname translates into “a thousand feet” in French) created a palpable sense of interaction with both the conceptual artwork and the audience. Millepied cleverly staged each movement in a different gallery so that the viewers had to reposition themselves to keep up with the dancers.

FRAMEWORK at MOCA Grand Avenue, July 19, 2012, photo by Christina Edwards, courtesy of MOCA.

 

The audience moved from an Andy Warhol backdrop to a Rudolf Stingel painting to the finale in front of Mark Bradford’s “Ghosts and Stooges.” Darting from gallery to gallery, the audience was indirectly swept up in the choreography like a modern chorus. The charismatic Millepied further broke down barriers by boldly directing the audience which way to move through the current exhibit (The Painting Factory: Abstraction After Warhol), often with a humorous wave.  The interplay resulted in a unique sensation: we’re all in this together. Thursday evening’s performance brought together teenagers, seniors, schoolchildren, people of all ethnicities, and everyone from John Baldessari to Paul Schimmel and Jeffrey Deitch.

Cultural Cocktail Hour caught up with the MOCA director at Framework. Deitch explained that the collaboration between dance and the visual arts is an endeavor with which he has personally been involved for a long time. He revealed that as soon as Millepied called up him with his vision for L.A Dance Project, the idea took off.

Also in the audience was artist Mark Bradford, whose paintings inspired the choreography. Like a musical brushstroke, a voiceover of Bradford accompanied the dancers, announcing: “Every artist has a tone to his work, just as a musician has a tone.” Moreover, the inherent structure of Bradford’s work, replete with layers and fluid form, wed itself perfectly to Millepied’s choreography as an ideal landscape for the ballet’s finale. A central theme of Bradford’s paintings revolves around the connection between diverse parts and their ever-changing relationship. Similarly, the concept of the Framework involved the dynamic connection between audience and artist. Was the Framework the ever-shifting border of the audience? Was it the classical architecture of Bach’s music or the unraveling, explosive energy of Bradford’s paintings? Was it the dancers themselves?

As L.A Dance Project has two upcoming performances, Angelenos will have the chance to step inside a literal mixed medium and decide for themselves what is the true Framework. 

Free.

August 2. August 9.

MOCA GRAND AVENUE 250 SOUTH GRAND AVENUE, LOS ANGELES, CA 90012

213/626-6222

http://www.moca.org/

Photo Below: FRAMEWORK at MOCA Grand Avenue, July 19, 2012, photo by Christina Edwards, courtesy of MOCA.

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Escape from the Doge Palace: Casanova and the buttered Gnocchi

 

Cultural Cocktail Hour reports from the Secret Passageways of the Doge Palace, Venice.

Escape from Doge Palace: Casanova and the Buttered Gnocchi

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Photography and text © 2012 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

In typical prison escapes, inmates rely on wires, jackhammers, or drills to plan their bold getaways. Not so for Casanova. The eighteenth century’s infamous Venetian ladies man successfully fled from the Doge Palace thanks to….. a heaping plate of buttered Gnocchi.

Cultural Cocktail Hour visited the Doge Palace’s secret passageways, torture chambers, and gloomy inquisition spaces set up by the Doge’s spies. Our tour guide revealed that although Casanova’s cell was fully furnished (which is how he was able to cook up a plate of Gnocchi), the terror of being sequestered in a space by volatile rulers (who never even told him why he had been dragged to prison in the first place) drove the young womanizer to devise an escape.

Casanova’s first prison break scheme, to merely carve a hole in his cell floor, proved a complete fiasco. So the mischievous schemer began dreaming of a more creative plot involving saucy potato dumplings.

Casanova joined forces with Father Mario Balbi, the prisoner in the cell next door. The Venetian government had imprisoned the aristocratic priest for refusing to disown his illegitimate children. Casanova apparently told his jailer that he wished to offer his priestly neighbor the gift of a homemade dinner. If Casanova put as much attention into hand rolling the potato paste as he did into his notorious lovemaking, the pasta pillows should have come out light and delicious, without a trace of the bland doughiness so typical of amateur chefs.

The key to the Gnocchi scheme was that the huffing-and puffing jailer, who was hunched over as he carried the Super-sized plate of Gnocchi to the priest’s cell, did not bother to inspect the second gift underneath the pasta plate: a Bible containing a metal spike.

Father Balbi received a carb-o-licious dinner and a tool to help him break out of the Doge Palace.

Unfortunately, as Father Balbi was hammering away in the cell next door, a minor glitch in Casanova’s plan developed. The jailer brought Casanova a new cell mate, an intensely religious man named Soradaci to potentially spy on the impish libertine.

Casanova, after observing Soradaci relentlessly pray to the Virgin Mary, declared that-good gracious!- they would soon be witnessing a divine miracle. Casanova tricked Soradaci into believing that the Virgin would be sending the inmates an “angel” to escape the walls of the Doge Palace. Sure enough, an angel, in the form of Father Balbi, appeared in Casanova’s room with the spike, ready to break free. When Casanova asked Soradaci to trim his and Father Babi’s long beards (which had grown like weeds during their time in the slammer) Soradaci became dubious. Grizzled beards did not fit in with Soradaci’s vision of fresh faced cherubim. Although Soradaci did not report Balbi or Casanova (Casanova threatened to strangle him if he squealed), he did not join their brazen escape, either.

So Casanova, with the portly priest hanging from his belt, let himself out of the Doge Palace, thrilled to finally say good-bye to prison life.

Hasta La Pasta!

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