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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,


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


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


                                                             Leticia Marie Sanchez

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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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Top Picks Nov 16th & 17th in LA

This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe: a burst of Beethoven and a shot of 12th Century Music- enjoy!

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Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Nov 16th and 17th

Hans Graf, conductor Alessio Bax, piano

DUTILLEUX:  Mystère de l’instant; MOZART:  Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor

BEETHOVEN:  Symphony No. 6 in F major, “Pastoral”

Sat. Nov. 16, 8 pm Alex Theatre, Glendale

216 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale CA 91203

November 17, 7 pm. Royce Hall, UCLA 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90095. 213 622 7001

Gordon Getty Concerts

Music Inspired by St. Thomas of Canterbury & other 12th-Century Marvels

Sat. Nov 16th 7:00 p.m

Members of Los Angeles Master Chorale led by Grant Gershon.

Harold M. Williams Auditorium

Getty Center

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




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Top Picks this weekend in LA

This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe: a Shot of a suspenseful jury nail-biter, a Swizzle of Shakespearian opera, and a fusion of dance and painting- enjoy!

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Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men

November 5 – December 1

The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena CA 91101



Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff

Opening Night

Saturday Nov 9th 7:30

LA Opera

135 North Grand Ave. LA, CA 90012 (213) 972-8001


Art in Motion at the Norton Simon

Nov. 9th; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Family Festival. Live Performances.

Theater | Free with admission. | No reservations needed

411 W. Colorado Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91105 626.449.6840


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Backstage at LA Opera’s Falstaff: “Let them Eat Parkin!”

                    Let them Eat Parkin!

                (It ain’t over till Falstaff sings)

                 Behind-the-scenes at LA Opera’s Falstaff


Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

It ain’t over till Falstaff sings.

The chubby British knight is opera’s favorite foodie.

During a backstage tour at LA Opera, director Lee Blakeley revealed that Verdi’s opera about Shakespeare’s mischievous knight centers on appetite. Lust for food, money, and carnal pleasures. The feasts on Blakely’s stage illustrate the portly knight’s gusto for gastronomy, from plump turkey to Parkin cake. This sticky, traditional British dessert made of oatmeal and treacle dates back to the precise era when Falstaff would have cavorted with his merry wives of Windsor.

The Parkin cake prop highlights Blakeley’s attention to historical detail. This isn’t opera re-set during the Vietnam War, and the food props highlight the production’s meticulous accuracy. The food masks, designed by Hallie Dufresne, derive inspiration from fruit portraits created by sixteenth century Italian painter, Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Left, Hallie Dufresne with Food Mask, Backstage LA Opera

Left, Guiseppe Arcimboldo, Spring, 1563






And how do the singers cope with singing whilst devouring turkey and Parkin?

Very carefully.

We test to see “what will choke them, what will not choke them,” explained Blakeley.


As if hitting those falsettos isn’t hard enough.

Mezzo-Soprano Ronnita Nicole Miller (Mistress Quickly) described eating cookies during much of Act Two Scene Two.

She sticks to oat flavored.

“They’re more period than Chocolate Chip.”


Cookie Monster Falstaff believes that extra body fat bolsters his libido. Ha actually takes the time to thank his portly frame for attracting the ladies. In the aria “Va Vecchio John” (Go for it Old John), Falstaff sings

“All the women in revolt together risk damnation for me/

Good body of Sir John/ which I nourish and indulge/ I thank you.”

LA Opera’s production revels in the exuberance of Falstaff.

Bawdy and Soul.

Left Dorothy Chandler Pavillion

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Theater Review: Macbeth at Lincoln Center Theater starring Ethan Hawke and Anne-Marie Duff– a Must See Production


Photography and text © 2013 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark



By Leticia Marie Sanchez

No gimmicks. No tricks. Just pure unadulterated Shakespeare. Jack O’Brien’s poetic interpretation of Macbeth at Lincoln Center Theater reveals the essence of Shakespere’s text. This is where the magic happens.

The dark, sparse sets by Scott Pask enhanced the aura of mysticism provided by Mark Bennett’s musical score. The minimalist set design proved especially evocative when a single black vase of red roses graced the center stage during Duncan’s murder. The red underscored the passion between Macbeth and his wife, a lust that propelled bloody deeds. As Macbeth stabbed Duncan off-stage, the red petals floated to the floor one by one in poetic fashion, leaving a hauntingly empty vase in its wake.

The costumes by Catherine Zuber reflected the timelessness of Shakespeare’s play. The costumes occasionally alluded to more than one epoch: Edwardian, film noir, yet were successfully seamless because they immediately defined the interior world of the characters inhabiting them. For instance, with her black gloves, platinum tresses, and crimson lips, Anne-Marie Duff‘s Lady Macbeth looked every inch a Femme Fatale, her sylphlike frame belying steely ambition. Anne-Marie Duff embodied the full range of emotions necessary in a powerful Lady Macbeth: edgy, ruthless, seductive, and vulnerable. Furthermore, the palpable chemistry between Duff and Ethan Hawke provided the necessary fuel for the subsequent murder.

As Macbeth, Hawke delivered a naturalistic, charming interpretation. When a blood stained lackey appears at Macbeth’s dinner to reveal his attack on Banquo, Hawke asked, “Is he dispatched?” with such a light-hearted emphasis on the last word, the audience sees his chilling capacity to murder with ease. Hawke’s humor is an effective acting choice, a defensive shield demonstrating why, post-murder Macbeth does not descend (unlike his wife) into sleepwalking madness. Glib until the very end, Hawke muses, “I have almost forgot the taste of fears.” His humor corresponds with his hubris, as he rushes to battle blissfully unaware of his oncoming demise.

The entire cast effectively depicts the full palette of personalities in Macbeth’s orbit. Richard Easton personified the benevolence and gravitas of King Duncan with shades of charismatic playfulness as he tries to elicit a kiss from Lady Macbeth. Daniel Sunjata’s Macduff captures the passionate righteousness necessary to combat Macbeth. Particularly noteworthy was the performance of John Glover who portrayed both the Porter and a witch, stealing the show. In Act II, Scene 3, Glover as the Porter pointed to select members of the audience as though he were a stand up comedian, transforming the monologue into a hilarious, interactive piece. A live wire, Glover exposed the dynamic electricity possible in the theater. Finally, Glover, and the cast of witches (Byron Jennings, Malcolm Gets) illustrated the provocative gender-bending themes inherent in Shakespeare’s play by appearing as elderly men dressed in scanty black lingerie. This unorthodox vision is spot on with the Bard’s description. After all, when looking at the witches, Banquo remarked, “You should be women/And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/That you are so.” In other words, once again, Jack O’Brien’s Macbeth remained faithful to the text.

During the performance, a member of the audience sitting behind me gasped, whispering to her companion, “What a beautiful line.” Ultimately, this performance of Macbeth triumphed. Not only did it humanize the darker side of humanity, it illuminated the words of Shakespeare, through its stellar cast and poetic vision.

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