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Top Picks this week in LA

This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe: an apéritif of Carmen, 1 Oz. California History, and 2 Doses of Czech music. Enjoy!

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LA Opera Performs Arias from Carmen


September 12 7-8:30 pm

 One Colorado Courtyard, Pasadena. 24 E Union St  Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 564-1066

Two 30-minute performances at 7pm & 8pm

For more information please see:

Photo Credit:  Robert Millard, LA Opera’s 2009 production of “Carmen”

Junipero Serra and the Legacies of the California Missions

Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens 1151 Oxford Road. San Marino, CA  91108.

Czech Mates at the Hollywood Bowl

September 12 8:00 p.m

Los Angeles Philharmonic; Jakub Hrůša, conductor; Simon Trpčeski, piano

SMETANA: Šárka from Má vlast;  PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 Program Notes;  DVOŘÁK: Symphony No. 6

2301 North Highland Avenue. Hollywood, CA 90068.

For more information see:


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In the news: “Fake” Van Gogh determined to be real

In an unusual twist, the very same museum that declared a Van Gogh painting to be fake in 1991 now declares it to be an authenticated work by the Dutch master.

The 1888 landscape painting “Sunset at Montmajour,” has now been hailed by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam as a “high point” of Van Gogh’s “artistic achievement.”

“A discovery of this magnitude has never before occurred in the history of the Van Gogh Museum,” declared Axel Ruger, the museum’s director, 

The painting has been stashed in an attic for four decades, as two of its previous collectors were told that it was a fake.

Questions abound.

1. If it were not for the tenacity of the collector who absolutely insisted on taking it back to the Van Gogh museum (that had declared it a fake) for a second time, this painting may have lived in an attic in perpetuity.

What went wrong during the authentication process in 1991?

2. The painting originally came from the collection of Van Gogh’s brother, Theo Van Gogh. What better provenance than that of the painter’s closest relative (and artistic patron)?

3. After being discarded to the attic again in 1991, did the painting’s quality decline in those two decades?

Art sleuths, this case is far from over. 

I think that heads (or ears) may roll at the Van Gogh Museum after this mess is sorted.

At least the painting can now see the light of day!

For more information, please read:;_ylt=A2KLOzGwcS9SuAwAWj7QtDMD

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Cultural Events LA September 6-7

This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe includes a Wagnerian Love Letter and Medieval Saints

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

KUSC’s Brian Lauritzen hosts an in-depth look at Wagner’s private,

musical love letter to his wife in Salastina Society’s season-opening


Sat. Sept 7th. 8 pm Thayer Hall. Colburn School 200 South Grand Avenue, LA, CA 90012

The concert opens with composer-in-residence Jeremy Cavaterra’s arrangement of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5. Post-concert reception and silent auction. For information on tickets, please visit:

Miracles and Martyrs: Saints in the Middle Ages

Getty Center.

1200 Getty Center Drive. LA, CA. 90049.

(310) 440-7300

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Stendhal Syndrome in Florence

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Visiting Florence in 1817, the French novelist Stendhal found himself overwhelmed inside Santa Croce. The proximity to Giotto frescoes and Michelangelo’s tomb drove him to a state of delicious delirium.

“I was in a sort of ecstasy…Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty … I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations … Everything spoke so vividly to my soul… I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call ‘nerves.’”

Florentine psychiatrist Dr. Graziella Magherini coined the term Stendhal Syndrome in 1989. Through her work at the Santa Maria Nuova hospital, she has recorded more than 106 cases of patients exhibiting an intense reaction to art with symptoms ranging from rapid heartbeat and dizziness to extreme cases of hallucinations.

Stendhal was not alone. Dr. Iain Bamforth claims that Marcel Proust suffered from the syndrome and Brazilian neurosurgeon Edson Amâncio postulates that Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky exhibited Stendhal Syndrome upon viewing Hans Holbein’s masterpiece, Dead Christ in a Basel museum.

Can Stendhal Syndrome also apply to a reaction towards Living Art?

Florentine Poet Dante Alighieri was overcome when contemplating his muse, Beatrice Portinari, a woman he unbelievably saw only twice in his life. The first as a child, the second time, as an adult when he approached Florence’s Santa Trinita bridge. On their second chance encounter, Beatrice spoke for the first and only time to Dante. Her simple greeting triggered Stendhal-like symptoms, as he recorded in Vita Nuova:

“As this was the first time she had ever spoken to me, I was filled with such joy that,my senses reeling, I had to withdraw from the sight of others.”

Painting Above: Dante meets Beatrice at Ponte Santa Trinità, by Henry Holiday, 1883.

The few-seconds transportive meeting on the bridge bequeathed a lifetime of inspiration for Dante. He poured the sensations that he felt from her brief salutation into a fertile decade of writing, and that moment of intensity on the bridge resulted in forty-two chapters of love poetry, La Vita Nuova.

Perhaps the sensations of Stendhal Syndrome are not that far from those of falling in love.

In any case, Italian scientists have been recently tracking the reactions of tourists to Benozzo Gozzoli’s “Journey of the Magi” in Florence’s Palazzo Medici Riccardi, taking tourists’ blood pressure and heart rate.

For more information on tests for Stendhal Syndrome at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, please see:

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Seek and You Shall the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Photography and text © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

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Photo, Left: Giorgio Vasari, The battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Inside the Palazzo Vecchio, one can stroll through the Salone dei Cinquecento. This imposing hall for the five hundred members of Florence’s Grand Council can inspire Stendhal-like syndrome in those who view the daunting, dazing Vasari frescoes lining its walls. One can only imagine the moment a visiting ambassador stepped into the hall for the first time. The look in the ambassador’s eyes as he absorbed the massive, vivid scenes of Siena being conquered, of Pisa attacked by Florentine troops, bodies trampled by muscular horses. Do not cross us, the images seem to warn.  Surrounded by such immense intensity, the ambassador suddenly feels very small. Perhaps, he wishes that his boots were an inch taller, or that he worn a larger plume in his velvet cap. Looking upon the ambassador’s ashen face, Cosimo de Medici smiles. Mission Accomplished. The negotiation is over, long before it ever began.

Embedded in Vasari’s The battle of Marciano in Val di Chiana on a green flag are the words, Cerca Trova. Seek and You Shall Find. This phrase can be interpreted as Cosimo’s sarcastic dagger to the Republic of Siena, vanquished by the Duchy of Florence. Seeking independence, the Sienese rebels instead found defeat.

But those words may have a second meaning, one linked to a mysterious, missing Leonardo Da Vinci painting.

For the scoop on the missing Leonardo, please read Cultural Cocktail Hour’s report last year, revealing clues on the mystery.

Click on the grey link below:

In the news: Art detectives possibly discover lost mural by…Leonardo Da Vinci?
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Moonwalking at the Piccolomini Library, Siena

Photography and text © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Scruffy tennis shoes tread on crescents more than five centuries old. Half-moons fade under the weight of so many soles. Has no one thought of plexiglass? The 16th century ceramic crescents on which tourists so casually trample represent the emblem of a powerful Sienese family, the Piccolomini.

The Piccolomini Library honors 15th century humanist and scholar, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, also known as Pope Pius II.

The ceiling and walls, with their luscious scarlets and blues, remain vibrant as ever, shockingly, when one discovers that they have neither been cleaned nor retouched.

Bernardino di Betto, more commonly known as Pinturicchio, created the glorious frescoes depicting the life of Pope Pius II. If you walk closely enough, you will observe glittering textures of gold emanating from the robes, collars, and belts of Pinturicchio’s subjects, a window to Renaissance splendor. The sculpture of the Three Graces, its effective juxtaposition of sacred and profane, underscores the secular Humanistic spirit of the age,

Piccolomini or “Piccoli uomini” means “Little Men” and Pinturicchio translates as “the Little Painter.”

Once you enter the library doors and begin your moonwalk, you will instantly forget these misnomers. Greatness abounds.


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St. Francis and the Cappuccino

Photography and text © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Okay, so this photo isn’t a cappuccino. But an espresso macchiato from Badia a Coltibuono, Gaiole In Chianti (where I had the most scrumptious Aubergine Terrine on the planet, but I digress...)

After years of living as a fashionista playboy, St. Francis took a vow of poverty. Of celibacy. Of Abstinence. He even poured ashes on his food so as not to taste its flavor.

But did you know that the Franciscan saint unwittingly influenced the frothy concoction imbibed by so many coffee lovers today?

The Capuchin order of friars emerged in the 16th century as a reformist group devoted to following the original ideals of Saint Francis. The Capuchin hood, or Cappuccino, symbolized this spartan order of hermits.

Legend has it that the coffee derives its name from the rich brown color of their hoods (although some will argue that the foam itself forms a hood-like peak).  

In fact, this year, Capuchin monks in Poland decided to use the famous drink named after their order for the greater good. “Cappuccinos for Africa” raised money for children in Chad and the Central African Republic.

So next time you have a Cappuccino, raise your cup to Saint Francis.

(And please don’t tell him about that delectable eggplant terrine, thanks!)

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Assisi, Night and Day, August 2013 by Leticia Marie Sanchez

All Photography © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

 Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

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Greetings from Umbria!

Photography and text © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Greetings from Umbria! Artists including Cimabue, Giotto, Perugino, Fillipo Lippi, and Piero della Francesca spent time in this verdant oasis. How could they not be inspired? Even the crickets in Umbria are creative types, performing a rigorous daily and nightly symphony. Insomniacs needing a quick fix in the US actually pay to hear this chirping sound on their Sound Soothing machine. 

Leave the sound soothers at home.

The Crickets and everything else in Umbria (the divine Bufala mozzarella, for instance!) are all real. All natural. Alleluia.  

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Cultural Cocktail Hour heads to Umbria

Cultural Cocktail Hour heads this summer to Umbria, which is known as Il cuore verde d’Italia‘, “The Green Heart of Italy.”

Check back in September for photography from Umbria, including the Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi, seen in the photo at the left.

In the meantime, please enjoy this excerpt of a prayer attributed to Saint Francis.

“Make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.”

Similarly, Cultural Cocktail Hour believes that the highest goal of art and culture is to



create joy, and

forge human understanding. 

Wishing my readers a glorious summer!

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