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This week in LA: May 1-8

This week’s Cultural Cocktail recipe: a blast of Beethoven, a mixture of Masterpieces, and a blend of BaroqueEnjoy!


Stieler, Joseph Karl: Beethoven mit der Missa solemnis Ölgemälde, 1819Beethoven and Strauss

Fri May 1 8pm; Sat May 2 8:00 pm;

Walt Disney Concert Hall. 111 S. Grand Ave. LA, CA USA 90012 (323) 850-2000


DegasLACMA 50 for 50

Opened April 26

Works by Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edouard Vuillard, Claude Monet, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, & Andy Warhol.  5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90036. 323 857-6000.



VivaldiBaroque Conversations

Thursday, May 7th 7 pm

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Zipper Hall.  The Colburn School. 200 South Grand Ave. LA, CA 90012 Program: HAYDN; KOHAUT, & VIVALDI.

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Picasso: Quote of the Day

“My mother said to me,

If you are a soldier,

you will become a general.

If you are a monk,

you will become the Pope.’

Instead, I was a painter,

and I became Picasso”

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This weekend in LA: April 24-26

This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe: a dose of Duveen, a burst of Baroque, and a touch of Turner! Enjoy!

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

Duveen NS

Lock, Stock and Barrel: Norton Simon’s Purchase of Duveen Brothers Gallery

Closing April 27

Norton Simon. 411 W. Colorado Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91105 626.449.6840   Bust Portrait of a Courtesan, c. 1509 Giorgione




Vespers of 1610

Friday, April 24  8pm

English Baroque Soloists;The Monteverdi Choir; Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conductor;

Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. 600 Town Center Drive. Costa Mesa, CA 92626. (714) 556.ARTS. Monteverdi by Bernardo Strozzi, c.1630


turnerJ. M. W. Turner: Painting Set Free

Through May 24

Getty Center. 1200 Getty Center Drive. LA, CA. 90049. (310) 440-7300     Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834, exhibited 1835, J. M. W. Turner

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“Shakespeare in the Gardens” at the Huntington


Leticia M Huntington

This weekend, Cultural Cocktail Hour indulged in a scrumptious cultural recipe:

1 Part Gardens+ 3 Parts Shakespeare+ 2 Parts Wind Instruments

Merrie Olde England found its way to Los Angeles at the Huntington Gardens. Museum-goers wearing floral crowns frolicked amongst thespians who enacted scenes from the Bard. Under the refreshing shade of the Loggia, the Chamber Music ensemble Ceora Winds performed Shakespearean-inspired music, including Felix Mendelssohn’s ethereal “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  As the winds played, an April breeze wafted through the trees  in blissful harmony.

huntington golf cart

Leaving the grounds, Cultural Cocktail Hour spied a golf cart amusingly named “Pinkie”after Thomas Gainsborough’s painting in the Huntington Gallery.

This playful little chariot looked like it had been left there by the mischievous Puck himself!

Photos © 2015 by  Leticia Marie Sanchez

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Cultural Cocktail Hour Books: Italy and France


Cultural Cocktail Hour is proud to present two books in a series by author Leticia Marie Sanchez

Wonderful memorabilia for lovers of art and travel.

These two books are a passport to cultural landmarks, a window to iconic images of theater, opera, sculpture, and museums.



Cultural Cocktail ParisCultural Cocktail Hour: Paris

This hardcover book contains images of cultural landmarks in Paris, including: The Paris Opera, the Tuileries Garden, and the Louvre.


Hardcover Price: $75 



imageCultural Cocktail Hour: Italy

This hardcover book contains images of cultural landmarks in Venice, Florence, Spoleto, Assisi, and Siena.

Hardcover Price: $75






To order either of these books, please send an email to with “CCH Book Order” in the SUBJECT.

Happy Reading! 

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Review: LA Opera’s “Lucia di Lammermoor”- Standout Albina Shagimuratova- Do not miss

 Review: LA Opera’s “Lucia di Lammermoor”

Albina Shagimuratova delivers a

A Standout Performance- 

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

LA Opera’s “Lucia Di Lammermoor” epitomizes everything that an opera should be: scenes of unrequited passion, arias between star-crossed lovers, and most importantly- a stellar, unsurpassed voice that rouses the audience at every turn.

LuciaAlbina Shagimuratova is by far the most gifted female singer to have performed on the LA Opera stage in recent memory.

Photo, Left Albina Shagimuratova as Lucia di Lammermoor, Photo Credit: Robert Millard

Singing Bel Canto Opera, particularly in a role like Lucia, is like swimming in the ocean without a life vest- the singer is completely exposed. Thankfully, Albina Shagimuratova and the entire cast of Lucia have the vocal chops to carry out their roles.

A force of nature, Albina truly carried the opera with her undeniable talent. Range, Clarity, Coloratura, Stamina. Flawlessly and exquisitely, Albina performed the difficult twenty-minute mad scene with finesse, never appearing to tire as she drew on seemingly infinite reserves of vocal capacity.

In addition to her fierce vocal talent, Albina proved a consummate actress eliciting the range of emotions particular to her character- girlish hope, defiant resistance, heartbreak, and then, chillingly, madness- a psychological break that she portrayed with beautiful sensitivity, without histrionics, but baring her heart and soul, plainly and purely.

In the first act, tenor Saimir Pirgu as Lucia’s lover Edgardo, seemed tentative in comparison to the sheer power of Albina’s voice. However, in the second act, Pirgu’s voice flourished, particularly in the poignant and dramatic last scenes. He seemed to thrive in the angst-ridden portions of the score, showcasing his considerable talent. Despite Pirgu’s initial timidity, he and Shagimuratova make a couple for whom the audience roots.

Bass James Creswell as Chaplain Raimondo delivered a particularly noteworthy performance, as the interfering religious figure who manipulates Lucia’s guilt.

The sparse set allowed the Bel Canto music to reign at the forefront. The simple, non-distracting design elements employed visuals only when absolutely central to the narrative- such as the effective use of foreshadowing in the drowning image of Lucia at the well: a haunting, Pre-Raphaelite pictorial reminiscent of Lady of Shallot. Another effective visual was the image of the moon, derived from the Latin word “Luna,” an ancient symbol of lunacy, and again, a fitting foreshadowing of Lucia’s eventual madness.

Just as the set allowed the singers to shine, so did the orchestra. As Conductor James Conlon revealed during a dress rehearsal, “With Bel Canto opera, if the orchestra is perfect, you don’t notice them. If they’re off, it’s a disaster.” His conducting was impeccable. The orchestra showcased the long lyrical lines of the singers, keeping pace with them at every turn; even the Glass Harmonica blended hauntingly and eerily with Shagimuratova during the mad scene. During passages with the Glass Harmonica, members of the audience craned their necks to peer into the Orchestra Pit, staring at the unusual instrument that emanated a supernatural sound.

Do not miss this one.

Albina Shagimuratova’s standout performance in LA Opera’s “Lucia Di Lammermoor” makes this production one that audiences will remember for years to come.

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Review: Le Salon de Musiques- A Must See!

Traveling through time without leaving your seat-

Le Salon de Musiques


Leticia Marie Sanchez


Photo Left: View of Downtown LA from Le Salon De Musiques, Dorothy Chandler Pavillion

Imagine being able to step into an intimate nineteenth-century musical salon, hear a piece for the very first time, and then engage in spontaneous dialogue with the musicians.

Fortunately, Angelenos now have the opportunity to time travel without leaving Los Angeles, thanks to Le Salon De Musiques, an original salon series created by French pianist and melodist Francois Chouchan.

Chouchan is somewhat of a musical detective, searching for and unearthing brilliant compositions and bringing them to the light of day, much to everyone’s delight.

For instance, at this month’s Salon, Chouchan discovered not one, but two pieces by Xaver Scharwenka, a German composer and pianist famous in his time, but whose works are not often performed often for contemporary audiences. In fact, Chouchan had to wait for one year to obtain the music for Scharwenka’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Minor as the score did not exist anymore. Thanks to Chouchan’s tenacity, the audience at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion was able to hear the U.S. Premiere of this beautiful piece as well as the U.S Premiere of Sharwenka’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in E. Minor, Op. 46 A.

The entire afternoon was a revelation of innovative programming.

Although many audiences may have heard the works of Liszt, how many have had the chance to experience this quintessential Romantic composer with vocal accompaniment? At the March salon, Soprano Elissa Johnston performed with equal mastery the Italian Bel Canto of Liszt’s arrangement of the sonnets of Petrarch as well as the German Lieder, culminating in a poignant interpretation of Liebestraum that took this moving piece to new heights. Johnston evinced incredible vocal control, as she balanced the powerful register of her voice with tender, diminuendo moments through her impressive Messa di Voce technique. Pianist Steven Vanhauwaert was the anchor that held together the evening’s programming, skillfully revealing his own lyrical expressionism while allowing the other musicians to shine.  Virtuoso Violinist Guillaume Sutre dominated the Sonata in D Major, creating a mood of melancholy intensity and pathos. Cellist Timothy Landauer demonstrated the raw emotionality inherent in the work of Clara Schumann, at times becoming one with his instrument. Yet, at the same time, Landauer demonstrated seamless precision, particularly with Sutre; another advantage of the intimate salon setting was being allowed to see the rapport and musical dialogue between the musicians, who seemed as though they had been performing together for years, when in fact, each has their own busy, often global concertizing schedule.

Finally, the initial lecture portion of the evening left the audience with amusing musical gems, including the fact that as the world’s “first pop star,” Liszt destroyed pianos regularly, as they had no metal frames. The audience also learned that Liszt invented the idea of sitting in profile; prior to him musicians played with their backs to the audience.

Due to its creative programming, world-class musicians, and intimate salon setting, Le Salon De Musiques is an experience that you do not want to miss!

 Upcoming Salon:

“La Belle Epoque”

Le Salon de Musiques

 April 6th 2014, 4.00 pm

Dorothy Chandler Pavillion

Pantoum Trio

Tereza Stanislav; Violin Cecilia Tsan; Cello, Steven Vanhauwert, Piano, Hae Ji Chang,

Colderidge Taylor; Ballade for Violin and Piano in C Minor Op 73; Benjamin Godard: Two Pieces for Cello and Piano Op 61 (Aubade & Scherzo); Reynaldo Hahn: Violin Sonata in C Minor; Reynaldo Hahn: Songs for Soprano and Piano; Chausson: Piano Trio in G Minor Op 3;

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Backstage at LA Opera’s “Lucia di Lammermoor”- Madness, Police, and Daft Punk, Oh My!

Cultural Cocktail Hour had the opportunity to go backstage at LA Opera and explore the upcoming production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

There, French musician and composer Thomas Bloch, a worldwide specialist in the Glass Harmonica, introduced the press to this rare instrument, which adds a pivotal, haunting sound to the famous “Mad Scene” in Lucia.

Glass Harmonica

Bloch performed this instrument, even giving Maestro James Conlon an impromptu lesson.

Photo Left: Thomas Bloch teaching James Conlon the finer points of the Glass Harmonica. LA Opera. Photo © 2014 by Leticia Marie Sanchez

 10 Facts About the Glass Harmonica 

  1. Donizetti originally wrote a Glass Harmonica into the score for the 1st performance of Lucia. The musician who was supposed to perform the Glass Harmonica on opening night had not been paid and refused to perform. At the last minute, Donizetti had to rewrite the Glass Harmonica part for the flute.At LA Opera’s upcoming production of Lucia, audiences will have the opportunity to hear the music as it was originally intended- with a Glass Harmonica!
  1. A list of composers who have written for this instrument includes: Mozart, Beethoven, Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach, Donizetti, and Strauss.
  1. The spelling of this instrument varies, with some calling it an “Armonica” and others a “Harmonica”
  1. Mozart was introduced to the Glass Harmonica by Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer, who used to “mesmerize” his patients with the sound (the word mesmerize derives from the doctor’s last name).
  1. German police banned the Glass Harmonica in the 19th century as it was thought to cause madness and premature birth.
  1. According to Thomas Bloch, someone once said, “The Glass Harmonica will break your nerves in less than one hour.” (Good thing it’s used in Lucia for less than 30 minutes!).
  1. The paint in older Glass Harmonicas was rich in lead, and the repeated exposure may have led to the resulting “madness.”
  1. Despite its dangerous rap, Paganini called it “An Angelic Organ.”
  1. Marie Antoinette played the Glass Harmonica. 
  1.  The Glass Harmonica is popular with modern rock bands; Musician Thomas Bloch has performed with the Gorillaz, Radiohead, Tom Waits, and even on the latest Daft Punk album!
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Review: “Billy Budd” at LA Opera


Onto the Edge of Your Seat

  LA Opera’s Billy Budd

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

 BBdd4098pLA Opera’s Billy Budd in a word?


Three standing ovations. The opening night of Billy Budd provoked rousing enthusiasm from the crowd. When even the villain elicits fanatical cheers, you know that something has gone incredibly right.

Liam Bonner as Billy Budd. (Photo: Robert Millard)

Firstly, the set. The formidable chorus of sailors resembles a powerful tableau vivant. Producer Francesca Zambella stipulated that the set not include a ship, and yet the oceanic allusions, through Alison Chitty’s simple yet evocative bold blue motif correspond with the subtle, nuanced undercurrents in Benjamin Britten‘s score.

It is no secret that James Conlon has championed the twentieth- century British composer by leading the centennial tribute, Britten 100/LA. Conlon’s deep love for the music was evident on Billy Budd’s opening night when the orchestra was in superlative form, clearly articulating the opera’s haunting musical themes, from the plaintive “heave ho” of weary sailors which recapitulated into the ominous mutiny motive.

In addition to the vivid set and Conlon’s passionate conducting, the opera was well cast on all counts. As Billy Budd, the charming baritone Liam Bonner exuded innocent exuberance and elicited pathos from the audience. In one pivotal scene, Budd is falsely accused of a crime and begins stammering.  The woman sitting in front of me audibly gasped “Oh no,” squirming in her seat with each successive stammer, pained to watch the good-natured Billy suffer. In contrast to the pure, uncorrupted Billy is nefarious villain John Claggart, whose role was sung by bass-baritone Greer Grimsley; the richness of Grimsley’s voice conveyed the inner turbulence of his character. Singing “There I established an order such as reigns in Hell,” he genuflected on the stage in his own devilishly twisted form of prayer.


Equally notable on opening night was tenor Richard Croft in the role of Captain Vere.

Richard Croft as Captain Vere (Photo: Robert Millard)

Croft’s dulcet voice changed in accord with the shades of his character, becoming strained and heavy during the final scene, an emotional outpour of bitterness and guilt. As he made his final confession, the audience sat on the edge of their seats. Inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, you could heard a pin drop. And then, multiple standing ovations for a moving production that riveted the audience from beginning to end.

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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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