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Cultural Cocktail Hour heads to San Francisco

A splash of ballet and a dash of Marie Antoinette. Shaken, not stirred.

Your pre-Christmas Cultural Cocktail 

by Leticia Marie Sanchez


Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance. de Young Museum

Closes February 17,

You live as long as you dance,” declared Rudolf Nureyev. The exhibition at the De Young Museum is a testament to the vivacious spirit of one of ballet’s most blazing stars. The exhibit showcases intimate photographs of Nureyev rehearsing, video clips of him soaring, and even ballet slippers donned by the dancer and his legendary partner, Margot Fonteyn. A close look behind the glass case reveals slipper toes well worn, naturally. One can only imagine how many times Nureyev rehearsed in his zealous quest for perfection. This fearless dancer was no stranger to conflict, including having a KGB hit placed on his life. The world of ballet, including his eventual escape to Paris, provided a welcome refuge from a childhood of poverty and a coming-of-age in a politically repressive state. The exhibit contains more than eighty costumes, including those from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opera National de Paris, and Teatro Alla Scala. One of the most sensory and beautiful aspects of the exhibit is a blue scrim, behind which costumes seem to float, accompanied by the celestial music of La Bayadère. Reflecting on the life of Nureyev, the words of Dylan Thomas, embody the dancing supernova: “Do not go gentle into that good night.. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Photograph Above © Francette Levieux. Rudolf Nureyev in Apollon Musagète, choreographed by George Balanchine, 1974

de Young Museum. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. San Francisco, CA 94118 (415) 750-3600


Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette

Legion of Honor

Closes March 17, 2013

Entering the exhibit, one is greeted by a sixteenth-century red tapestry depicting Apollo, an obvious symbol for the Sun King, Louis XIV, he who so modestly declared L’Etat C’est Moi. This artistic visual cue- you are in the company of a divine being- would let a subject know his place. The exhibit contains royal treasures ranging from a diamond-set frame of the Sun King himself to snuff boxes, Sèvres Porcelain, a tea service, diplomatic gifts from the era of Louis XVI, tokens for mistresses, and a desk belonging to his wife, Marie Antoinette It is fitting that the Louvre’s treasures are now on display in the Legion of Honor, a building whose architecture was based on Le Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris. Ironically, however, the royal collection of the Louvre was started by Louis XVI, but subsequently confiscated when he was imprisoned. Thankfully, our price of admission involves no guillotines, but only a quick voyeuristic jaunt into the lives of the Real Housewives of Versailles County.

Above Photo: Portrait of Louis XIV;  © Jean-Gilles Berizzi. Legion of Honor, San Francisco.

California Palace of the Legion of Honor. 100 34th Avenue San Francisco, CA 94121 (415) 750-3600


Cultural Cocktail Hour Tips for San Francisco in the New Year!

#1. SFMOMA will be closed, beginning June 2013 and lasting until early 2016.

(However, SFMOMA promises to still showcase its art through traveling exhibitions and in neighborhood festivals throughout the Bay Area)

 #2 Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring Comes to the De Young  Museum

January 26, 2013 – June 2, 2013

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Exhibit Review: Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait,” 1889, at the Norton Simon, on Loan from the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Review: Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait,” 1889 at the Norton Simon

© 2012 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

A cool, distant gaze contrasts with the vibrating electric halo of blue brushstrokes surrounding the head of the artist. Van Gogh’s “Self Portrait, 1889” on loan from the National Gallery of Art and currently on view at the Norton Simon Museum of Art, contains a rare visual image in the lower left hand corner. Namely, the artist’s palette and paint brushes. During his lifetime, Van Gogh only depicted himself three times as an artist, including in the self-portrait now exhibited at the Norton Simon.

At left: Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853 – 1890) Self-Portrait, 1889 Oil on canvas Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney, National Gallery of Art, Washington 



Van Gogh endured an existence of crushing blows, both romantically and professionally. He failed as a clergyman and art dealer, before pursuing the career of artist. His final endeavor was akin to the metaphorical salmon swimming upstream. Despite painting more than nine hundred works, he sold only one in his lifetime.

Yet, somehow, Van Gogh found the strength and the hope in this portrait to identify himself as an artist. Walk up close to the painting so that you can observe the masterful use of Van Gogh’s impasto technique, in which a thick brushstroke adds texture to the canvas. This technique is most delightful in the thick pale pink swirl of color on the palette, which infuses it with a sense of joyful spontaneity. This luscious, lively detail seems to invite us to pick up a paintbrush and create our own worlds.

To the left of the self-portrait at the Norton Simon exhibit is the only etching that Van Gogh ever made in his lifetime, that of his homeopathic doctor Gachet. Ironically, it was Gachet who instructed the self-taught Van Gogh in the art of etchings. The doctor was a source of comfort for Van Gogh, encouraging him to continue painting, so it is only fitting that his image be viewed next to Van Gogh’s self-assertion as an artist.

At left: Portrait of Dr. Gachet, 1890 Vincent van Gogh Dutch, 1853-1890 Etching on paper 7-3/16 x 6 in. (18.3 x 15.2 cm) The Norton Simon Foundation F.1976.11.G © 2012 The Norton Simon Foundation



Directly in front of the etching of Dr. Gachet are letters that Van Gogh wrote to his friends, the Ginoux family. Although these letters form part of the Norton Simon’s permanent collection, their fragile nature requires that they be rarely displayed. It is an added bonus to be able to view them during this exhibit. Again, walk up close to the letters in order to observe Van Gogh’s handwriting. His penmanship is Perfect. Controlled. Consistent.  The beauty of these letters is that they defy the well-worn cliché of the “mad artist,” one who chaotically throws down paint at random. Instead, his art reflects thoughtful vision coupled with inspiring tenacity;  Vincent Van Gogh knew exactly what he was doing.

Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait,” 1889, on Loan from the National Gallery of Art, Washington
Through March 04, 2013

Norton Simon Museum of Art. 411 W. Colorado Boulevard Pasadena, CA 91105 626.449.6840

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In the news: Italian art police track down copy of Da Vinci’s lost masterpiece

Italian art police have successfully tracked down a 400 hundred year-old-copy of a lost Da Vinci Masterpiece- an unfinished Fresco of the Battle of Anghiari.

After being stolen, the panel’s secret journey took it from Naples to Switzerland, Germany, New York, and, finally, Japan, making it rather like the Where’s Waldo of the art world.

Now, that the art detectives have triumphantly recovered the panel, it will be shown next year at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. 

For the full report, please read the BBC’s article:

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From Playboy to Priest: Franz Liszt

From Playboy to Priest: Franz Liszt


Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

Screaming Fainting. Fighting over a pair of handkerchiefs and gloves. A dystopian scene out of Black Friday? No, just a day in the life of Franz Liszt. His female fans grabbed fallen strands of his hair, articles of his clothing, and broken piano strings. One lady snatched an old cigar stump thrown away by the pianist and encased it in diamonds, proudly wearing it as a necklace, despite its malodorous scent. Doctors classified these fervent outbursts as Lisztomania . Some physicians warned that it was contagious.

One Munich newspaper announced in 1843, “Liszt fever: a contagion that breaks out in every city the pianist visits, and which neither age nor wisdom can protect against.”

Married aristocrats- including Countess Marie D’Agoult and Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein-left their husbands to live with Liszt. Madame D’Agoult had three children by the pianist, including Cosima Liszt. Unfortunately, Princess Carolyne did not have the same luck. Her powerful husband used his influence with the Pope to deny her request for an annulment and, subsequently, dashed her hopes to wed the dynamic pianist.

Liszt was so devastated that he became an Abbé, a secular priest, and turned to composing church music. Later, when his married daughter Cosima left her husband for Richard Wagner, a sober Liszt lectured her publicly (although he privately confessed to a friend that his ecclesiastical position, not his true feelings, required him to do so).

Inwardly, he must have understood the overwhelming power of Wagner.

Similarly, listening to Lizt’s music, one can understand the rapture of his fans.

Here is Liebestraum:

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Cultural Events LA: Thanksgiving Weekend

Forget Black Friday!  Thanksgiving Weekend is the perfect time to do some Cultural Shopping!

This week’s Cultural Cocktail includes a Dash of Caravaggio, a splash of Golden Renaissance and several ounces of Beethoven drama! Pumpkin Martini Optional.

Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination 1300-1350 Nov 13, 2012- Feb 10, 2013

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

Thanksgiving weekend hours: The Getty Closed Thursday but open Friday- Sunday

Image Left: “The Virgin Mary with Saints Thomas Aquinas and Paul” (detail), about 1330, Bernardo Daddi; Tempera and gold leaf on panel; The J. Paul Getty Museum.


A Late Quartet
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken, Mark Ivanir, and Imogen Poots Directed by Yaron Zilberman For trailer, tickets & showtimes, enter your Zip Code on the top left hand corner of this site:







Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy
November 11, 2012–February 10, 2013

LACMA. 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90036 323 857-6000

LACMA closed Wed and Thurs this week, but open Fri-Sunday

Image Left: Caravaggio, Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, 1604-1605, The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, William Rockhill Nelson Trust.


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Cultural Cocktail Hour wishes you a Spook-tacular Halloween!

Alfred Noyes’ poem “The Highwayman” embodies the Halloween spirit:

“The Moon was a Ghostly Galleon,

Tossed Upon Cloudy Seas”

Photography© 2012 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

To read the full thrilling poem, preferably in a dark room with candlelight, please visit:

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Cultural Cocktail Hour: Halloween in LA

CCH has two recommendations to celebrate this Halloween with an artistic twist!

LA Philharmonic presents the Cat and Canary: a night of organ and film

Oct 31. 8pm 

For tickets, visit


LACMA MUSE presents its Annual Costume Ball

Oct 31 8pm 

Preview LACMA’s exhibit on Stanley Kubrick. Performers include: Daedelus, Archimedes, and Astra Dance Company

Prizes will be awarded for Best Stanley Kubrick Character, Best Masquerade Attire, and Best Halloween Costume..

For information on tickets, see

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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:


*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:


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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


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

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.

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

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