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Wagner, Robber,and the Flying Dutchman

                                                        Wagner, Robber, and the Flying Dutchman

By Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

He not have been an actual thief, but Richard Wagner’s Newfoundland dog Robber successfully stole the composer’s heart. In Wagner Without Fear, author William Berger regales us with colorful tales from Wagner’s life, including his tumultuous journey from Riga to Paris. When the debt-ridden Wagner and his wife Minna decided to escape from present-day Latvia, the composer insisted that Robber join them, despite the great risk. Cossack patrols guarded the Prussian border, with orders to shoot and kill the unlucky fugitives who caught their attention. Miraculously, the pooch did not make a peep as they dashed across the border. One little bark would have meant Sayonara Wagner. Welcome to Valhalla.Wagner then decided that the trio would henceforth travel by sea, avoiding land voyages that would tucker out the legs of his beloved canine.  Unfortunately, turbulence reigned during their voyage on the merchant ship Thetis. This tempest-filled odyssey endured for more than a month, with the sounds of sailors’ shrieks terrifying Wagner.Thankfully, the Wagners arrived safely in London and eventually, Paris. The traumatized composer refused to step foot on a ship for the rest of his days.

His angst-filled voyage, however, inspired the music for the Flying Dutchman. Thus, Robber’s influence on Wagner’s sailing itinerary had its rewards. A dog really can be a Man’s Best Friend and, in some cases, his Best Muse. 

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Schoenberg to Strauss– Thanks but No Thanks


If you don’t have anything nice to say….

Richard Strauss’ caustic jabs about Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg came back to haunt him.

In his delightful Book of Musical Anecdotes, Norman Lebrecht reveals that when Schoenberg was asked to compose a piece for his sharp tongued critic, he wrote back as follows:

Dear Sir,

I regret that I am unable to accept your invitation to write something for Richard Strauss’s fiftieth birthday.

In a letter to Frau Mahler…Herr Strauss wrote about me as follows:

The only person who can help poor Schoenberg now is a psychiatrist…. I think he’d do better to shovel snow instead of scribbling on music paper.

It seems to me that the opinion I myself and indeed everyone else who knows these remarks is bound to have of Herr Strauss as a man (for here is envy of a ‘competitor’) and as an artist (for the expressions he uses are as banal as a cheap song) is not suitable for general publication in honour of his fiftieth birthday.” [Lebrecht, 290-291]

In other words– Strauss, go jump in the DANUBE  (Different Strauss, but you get the picture)

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Review: Pittance Chamber Music

Pittance Chamber Music and the Chambers of the Heart


Leticia Marie Sanchez

All photography ©2017 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Founder's LA Opera

Chamber Music comprises music that can be played in a large room or chamber, or as denoted by the French “chambre.”

This week’s concert by Pittance Chamber Music suggests a second meaning: music that penetrates the chamber of the heart.

The ensemble evoked a raw immediacy and poignancy through their talented performance and moving repertoire. Particularly moving were the pieces set to verse. Ralph Vaughan William’s “On Wenlock Edge” was set to “A Shropshire Lad” by A.E. Housman while Benjamin Britten’s “Folk Songs,” included the verses of 18th century Irish Poet Thomas Moore. Tenor Arnold Livingtson Geis sublimely captured the nuanced shades of love, death, loss, and humor in the verses which were simultaneously rooted in nature and soaring in spirit. The intimate setting allows the audience to witness first hand the the rapport between the musicians, a dimension and unquantifiable variable of palpable electric energy which enhances the appreciation of performance. A second benefit of the setting is the inescapability of the music itself. A few feet away from the performers, one more intensely absorbs the music and the layers of meaning in the program.

As Housman wrote: “Here of a Sunday morning/My love and I would lie/and see the coloured counties/and hear the lark so high/about us in the sky.”

What a privilege to listen to an an ensemble that can make the spirit soar like the lark in Shropshire.

All Photography: Founder’s Room. The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  Pittance Chamber Music. March 26, 2017

Founders LA Opera 3Founders Day 2

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Beethoven: In a Stew Over Beef?

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

According to Norman Lebrecht, author of “The Book of Musical Anectodes” (Simon & Schuster, 1985), Beethoven flew off the handle when a waiter at the Viennese restaurant “The Swan,” brought him the wrong meat dish. Some artists are particular about their piano benches (Gould) while others are particular about their beef.  An outraged Beethoven hurled the dish, gravy and all, over the waiter’s head.

Just as the wrong meat could turn him into a raging bull, the right one could turn him into a loving lamb.  When his friend Ferdinand Ries sent him a particular type of roast veal, Beethoven kissed and embraced him, telling him “never had anything given him such pleasure as the roast veal, coming at the very moment when he so greatly longed for it.” (Lebrehct, 81)

Beethoven also adored bread soup, which he ate religiously on Thursdays. Woe to the chef who did not prepare it properly. He or she would have to duck from Beethoven-hurled Eggs Bombs. Yolks on the Cook!

Beethoven obviously felt all of his senses, including his gastronomical ones, intensely. Perhaps that is why the wrong cut of beef could put him into a stew.

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March Highlight- Pittance Chamber Music- Free-Music Center Founder’s Room

A delightful Cultural Cocktail recipe: An infusion of R. Vaughan Williams+ a shot of Britten+ a dose of Korngold= a TOP PICK!

And, it’s free!

Sunday, March 26th 3 pm

Pittance Chamber Music

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Presents Members of the L.A. OPERA ORCHESTRA with ARNOLD LIVINGSTON GEIS, tenor and PAUL FLOYD, piano

Program: On Wenlock Edge,  R. Vaughan Williams; Selected Folk Songs, Benjamin Britten; Sextet, Op. 10, E.W. Korngold

Admission is FREE

Seating is first-come, first-serve

Founders Room Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. 135 North Grand Avenue, LA, CA, 90012

During LA Opera’s Open House

Above left: Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams

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At the Descanso Gardens

All photography ©2017 Leticia Marie Sanchez

“Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

CCH Tulips 3

CCH Tulips 2


CCH Tulips 1



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Outside of the Broad Museum…

All photography ©2017 Leticia Marie Sanchez

 “It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”- Rainer Maria Rilke

Spring Broad


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Sibelius and the Cigar Royalty

According to Katerine Bakeless, in her book “Story Lives of Great Composers,” Jean Sibelius received minor ducats for one of his most famous compositions, Valse Triste. The payment for his work? A small sum and a box of cigars. Meanwhile, Valse Triste went on to be performed internationally, over and over. Yet, Sibelius did not receive one dime of royalties on the work he had composed. Bakeless revealed, “Years afterward, when Sibelius visited America, he remarked to his hostess, with tears in his eyes, that he could have used that money when his family of daughters began to grow up. “(39)

The payment of a box of cigars for the beautiful, dream-like waltz, is, in fact, tres triste.

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Salvador Dalí and the Scuba Diving Fiasco



by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Salvador Dalí, surrealist extraordinaire, decided to lecture at the 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition dressed to the nines in scuba gear.

He commenced giving his speech, Fantomes paranoiaques authentiques (authentic, paranoid, phantoms) when suddenly, he could not breathe.

As Dalí waved his hands for help, the audience laughed uproariously. The more he suffocated and gesticulated, the louder they laughed. The audience mistook what could have been a tragedy for slapstick comedy. Luckily, Dalí was able to unscrew his scuba helmet without losing consciousness.

As he gasped for air, Dalí exclaimed,” I just wanted to show that I was ‘plunging deeply’ into the human mind.”  

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Massenet and the crossed phone line: Dial M for Murder

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

French opera composer Jules Massenet once experienced an untimely mix-up in phone lines at the precise moment he was dashing off the finishing lines to an opera.  Stuck on the last scene of his opera Thérèse he called up his collaborator from a hotel phone to brainstorm together. Unfortunately, the lines got crossed, and a terrified eavesdropper listened in on their conversation. Katherine Bakeless related the anecdote in her book, Story-Lives of Great Composers:

“The last scene didn’t come out right. He called up his collaborator who had written the words, and said:

‘Cut Therese’s throat and it will all be all right.”

The wires had crossed, and some total stranger heard him. The strange voice said,

 ”Oh, if I only knew who you were, you scoundrel, I would denounce you to the police.”

The collaborator answered Massenet: “Once her throat is cut she will be put in the cart with her husband. I prefer that to poison.”

The strange voice shouted, “Oh that’s too much! Now the rascals want to poison her.”

[Bakeless, 138]

Unfortunately for Massenet, SKYPE had not yet been created.Or else the suspicious citizen could have seen with his own eyes that the “murderer”on the other line was, in fact, famous French composer Jules Massenet who was having a bit of trouble with his opera and that newly invented machine: the telephone.

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