December, 2007

Three Wishes

Things come in threes at Christmas: Three ships, three kings from the orient. Even the lyricist to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” repeats the line three times before adding “and a Happy New Year.”

And so here are triple Christmas wishes from FineArtsLA. They are drawn from our childhood, and correspond, for convenience’s sake, to high, middle and lowbrow.

We spent our first few Christmases in Germany, where our parents acquired a record called “Helige Nacht” with poetry recited between traditional carols sung by a choir. Our parents got the brilliant idea of preserving this for all time on reel-to-reel tape.

So our first Christmas greeting is appropriately auf Deutsch, and is our favorite classic carol:

When it comes to popular vocalists, Jack Jones is the one we grew up on.

Finally, anyone who grew up in the ’70s knows that no Christmas is complete without claymation. And so we present our favorite number, from “The Year Without a Santa Claus”:

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The Counte$$

What’s the fastest way to increase the value of your painting, plus drum up some publicity for your sagging art career?

Answer: Cover it with 250 karats in diamonds, price it at $110 million, and have your PR firm declare it a “masterpiece.”

That’s what artist Rophar has done with the painting at left, entitled “The Countess,” which will be unveiled in Beverly Hills (where else?) next May. Unveiled to whom we can only imagine.

The following are highlights from the press release, which was found one fateful morning in the FineArtsLA inbox. We can’t vouch for the painting, but the press release is certainly a masterpiece of bloviated chest-thumping, not to mention English grammar:

After abdicating his reign many years ago, Rophar announces his return with one of the World’s Greatest Masterpieces of All Time “ Menagerie”. World Renowned Master Artist Rophar gives us a view into the Exceptional World of “The Countess”. Over 18 months in Creating this 48 X 60 Masterpiece Painting adorned with over 250 carats of “Genuine Diamonds”, “A First in the History of Art”, a 21st Century Masterpiece.

Only “The Countess” could convince Rophar to share again his God-given gift with the World!

Rophar – Commissioned by the Danbury mint and is rightfully acknowledged in Who’s Who in American art. Rophar – A rare Master Artist, his paintings were so prized by collectors, that they paid six figures in the late seventy’s and early eighty’s for a chance to own one of his Original Creations. Rophar – An Internationally Celebrated Artist collected by celebrities and art sophisticates all over the world. The unveiling will be held May 2008 in Beverly Hills, an Exclusive evening hosting the World’s Elite!

At, be sure to click on “Connoisseur’s Club” to sign up for news about Rophar’s oeuvre, which includes depictions of cats playing bridge and flute-playing gnomes, sure to hold a distinguished place above your gas-lit fireplace.

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Nuttin’ For Christmas

If you get nothing this Christmas, make sure you treat yourself to the L.A. Ballet’s delightful production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” The show opened at the Alex Theater last week and continues December 22 and 23 at Royce Hall, and the 29th and 30th at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center.

Pay no attention to the lackluster review in the L.A. Times. Instead, heed these words of FineArtsLA reader Sam M., who was so disappointed he didn’t win the Forty Unders ticket giveaway last week, he went out and bought tickets for his first night at the ballet.

“And it only cost me sixty dollars,” Sam wrote to us. “But seeing as how I had such a ball, you are forgiven. Also good was the lax security, meaning I got to sit in the orchestra section fifth row center without having paid for the tickets. I’d have felt like a fool if I’d paid $200 for the same tickets. Then again, I was so in love with the show, I felt bad that they didn’t have more money and perhaps if I could afford it I’d have given more. Oh, and naturally I’ve fallen in love with a ballerina. Or two or three. I don’t think my girlfriend approved.”

FineArtsLA recently spoke with L.A. Ballet cofounder and Denmark native Thordal Christensen, who choreographed the production with his wife Colleen Neary.

FALA: You inaugurated the Los Angeles Ballet with “The Nutcracker” last year. What have you learned since then?

TC: Once you choreograph a production and put it on the stage, it’s hard to go in and make too many changes. We’re trying to look at it with fresh eyes, because you always want to try to clean it up and make the story be the main thing. It can be anything from does it make more since for Drosselmeyer to go to the father instead of the children at this point, to anything that helps the story make sense.

FALA: Are the dancers more confident this time around?

TC: There’s no question they’re more confident. I could see that throughout last season: With every show we did, they got more and more comfortable and confident, and you need to be confident on stage. They’re looking fabulous. There are a few new dancers this year, some lovely girls and a new gentleman. It’s a really nice group.

FALA: How will the audience perceive this confidence? The dancing is sharper? The dancers are jumping higher? There’s more energy coming off the stage?

TC: Yes. Last year we had a group of 30 dancers who came from everywhere, and now they know what Colleen and I really want when they go on stage. That’s how you make a cohesive company, by working together. And not just doing one production together, but many, so they have a feeling of what it is we’re going for. It takes time.

FALA: And what is it you’re going for?

TC: Anything from musicality and phrasing to how they are on stage. We’re not a Russian company. We don’t necessarily act with gestures. We really try to become the people we are on stage.

FALA: A more natural approach.

TC: A much more natural approach, and I think a very Danish way of telling a story. There’s a long tradition in the August Bournonville tradition of how to tell a story, and I’m very much a child of that.

FALA: How would you characterize the production?

TC: It’s classically based; the costumes are fabulous. This was originally a production the Royal Danish Ballet did with an amusement park in Copenhagen. Because we had these two big institutions collaborating, we had a very good budget. When we started Los Angeles Ballet, I thought “Maybe we can get these costumes,” and they were very good with me. The costumes are fabulous: You’re talking about a $1.7 million production. But we did not get the sets, so we opted to set it here in Southern California in 1912, so the production has a local flair.

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