June, 2007

Gianni Come Lately

allenThe LA Opera announced today that 71-year-old Woody Allen will direct Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” for the opening of the 2008/9 season. “I have no idea what I am doing,” said Allen in a press release, “but incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.”

More from the release:

“I am delighted to announce that LA Opera will open its 2008/09 Season with a new production of Giacomo Puccini’s Il Trittico, to be staged by two Academy Award-winning film directors,” announced Plácido Domingo, who holds the title of Broad General Director of Los Angeles Opera. “The three operas that make up Puccini’s unique ‘triptych’ will be split between Woody Allen, who will make his operatic debut directing Gianni Schicchi, and William Friedkin, who will return to LA Opera to direct Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica. Music Director James Conlon will conduct, and the production will be designed by Tony Award winner Santo Loquasto, with lighting designed by Mark Jonathan.” The production will open on September 6, 2008, to be followed on September 7 by LA Opera’s U.S. premiere of Howard Shore’s The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg and conducted by Plácido Domingo. Performances will take place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles.

“I’ve seduced many a film director into directing opera, starting with John Schlesinger and The Tales of Hoffmann at London’s Covent Garden,” Mr. Domingo continued. “I will admit that my pursuit of Woody takes the prize of the longest pursuit, because LA Opera Chairman and CEO Marc Stern and I first started talking to him some four years ago. I’m especially thrilled that this new Trittico will have the collaboration of both Woody and Billy, because Billy already gave us his take on Puccini’s comic masterpiece five years ago in connection with Bartók’s brooding Duke Bluebeard’s Castle.”

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Call for Scribes

This enterprise is too much for one man to handle. If you’re an arts aficionado interested in penning an occasional dispatch for this site in exchange for concert tickets, press previews of art exhibits, etc., send me an e-pistle.

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Quelle Folie

Is Manet’s “Bar at the Folies-Bergere” the work of a genius or an ailing fool?

Unveiled at the Getty last week in its first appearance on the West Coast, Manet’s celebrated painting uses a sense of perspective that is best understood after several shots of absinthe.

Getty curators explained the latest scientific theories on the canvas, while myself and other reporters at the press preview shook our heads with the skepticism that marks our breed.

Frankly, it just doesn’t make sense.

Assistant curator Scott Allen wrote a compelling article in a brochure accompanying the exhibit, which includes recent photographic recreations of the barmaid and the mirror behind her, and charts showing that the seeming impossible perspective is based on sound logic. Most fascinating is that the man in the upper right is actually not looking at our central barmaid, as the reflection in the mirror suggests, but at presumably another barmaid out of frame, making for a clever illusion that the two are actually interacting.

On my way out I had a hearty guffaw at Tim Hawkinson’s “Uberorgan,” a massive contraption straight out of Dr. Seuss. Every hour it moans for five minutes, much to the irritation of museum staff.

“There are offices upstairs,” said a Getty employee. “They say it sounds like whales mating.”

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Visual Aid

My companion to the ballet last week was longtime friend Michael Mattis, a professional blogger for Yahoo! who writes “The Sophistocrat” column at Dandyism.net, my other site. His latest project is called Vinapedia.net and is aimed at aspiring oenophiles.

During intermission I remarked how the audience for the ballet and opera is noticeably younger than for music. The crowd for small chamber concerts like Pacific Serenades or Jacaranda is almost entirely geriatric.

I speculated that the younger audience likely has a lot to do with the fact that ballet and opera are visual art forms as well as auditory, and that we live in a visual age in which our dominant art form is cinema.

Mattis then suggested that perhaps a way to attract younger audiences to classical music concerts is to incorporate more technology-aided multimedia elements, as in the LA Philharmonic’s recent “Tristan Project.”

Sure enough, a couple of days later Mattis sent me a link to the video below, which became a surprise hit on YouTube last week. It’s a fine example of using modern technology to enchance our experience of centuries-old music and art.

 

I e-mailed the filmmaker and here’s his reply:

The video sat on YouTube for a month with only about a dozen hits a day. Last week at this time it had about 800 views. I assumed it was destined to become nothing more than an underground film that would only be appreciated by a very few. A week later it is on virtually every video website on the planet. Last night it was on the front page of YouTube and MySpace at the same time and I was getting hundreds of messages.

Picasso” was my first film specifically involving paintings. I knew there had to be some way to make an interesting film out of classic art. I toyed around with a few ideas for about a week until I finally came up with the morph idea. I found it to be the perfect way to capture all the styles Picasso employed in a relatively short time. It also focused on the face which is probably the most recognizable image that we, as humans, see.

After doing the Picasso film I started messing around with creating morphs from the works of Raphael. The first thing I noticed was that the eyes looked almost human as it moved from one painting to the next. Soon a thought occured to me: Why not explore all of Western art from the Renaissance to the Modern in one film? I decided to focus on the female form, perhaps the quintessential motif in Western art.

That’s the basic story. As to who I am, I’d prefer to remain anonymous. You can call me Eggman. Quite frankly, given some of the racially charged comments on YouTube, I’m not sure if I want to be known. It was never my intention to upset anyone.

It’s high time we got a good discussion going in the forum, so here’s a chance to share your thoughts about technology and art.

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