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Opera

Forty Unders 2.0: 50% Off At Hollywood Bowl

FineArtsLA’s ticket giveaway and audience-development program moves into its second phase with a new feature we hope to expand this fall when the concert season begins anew.

The Hollywood Bowl has graciously extended an attractive 50-percent discount for Orff’s “Carmina Burana” on Tuesday the 8th and Bizet’s “Carmen” on Sunday the 13th.

That’s two tickets for about $25, and a priceless experience at this iconic outdoor theater.

Go to the ticket section here, choose the event you want, and when prompted, enter the discount code “BOWL.”

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Easy to Swallow

It’s always interesting to hear what operagoers say during intermission. “That’s not the Puccini I know and love,” said one woman Saturday night at the opening of LA Opera’s “La Rondine” [The Swallow].

Oddly enough, that’s precisely the Puccini I know and love, having discovered the underappreciated work after hearing the famous “Doretta” aria in the film “A Room with a View.”

For some 13 years I’ve enjoyed the recording of Lorin Maazel conducting the London Symphony Orchestra with Kiri Te Kanawa and Placido Domingo — to the point that I have every note of the work memorized (at least for the first two acts).

With so long a build up to seeing my first staged version — and with such a high bar set — disappointment was inevitable. Still, “La Rondine” proved a delight, at least for those like me with an unapologetic taste for light melodies in a Belle Epoque setting.

In advance of the opening, FineArtsLA spoke with Keri-Lynn Wilson, who makes her LA Opera debut conducting this seldom performed work.

FALA: Why is “La Rondine” a neglected work in Puccini’s oeuvre?

KLW: Even non-operagoers know “Boheme,” “Butterfly” and “Tosca.” These are the big works that really represent what he was so good at: the incredibly powerful emotional ride one goes on with his music. With “Rondine” he took a side step. He was commissioned to write an operetta by Vienna. It was something he’d never done before, and in a way he struggled with it. He’d written some comic dialog but, ultimately, he couldn’t help himself and added this really dramatic, tragic element. But the charm and elegance throughout is really very special. Today we’re trying to find as much repertoire as possible that’s been neglected over the decades, because it’s more interesting for performers and the audience. But it also has to be worthy of performance, and I think “Rondine” is having its chance now.

It’s difficult in that it’s very light, and so it has to be well done. It’s a challenge for me as a conductor because of the comedy, but also in making the drama felt.

FALA: What are the other challenges with this particular work?

KLW: Keeping it light, keeping the waltzes flowing, and keeping it always elegant, so it never becomes vulgar. It’s like a musical, in that it’s too easy just to play. But it has to be done with elegance, and that was the biggest challenge.

FALA: You’re a female conductor, which is quite rare. Why do you suppose that’s so?

KLW: I’m always asked this question, of course, and it’s always an issue for the media. But it’s not for the musicians after a few minutes of music making. But I’ve had really wonderful experiences with orchestras you wouldn’t think would be so open to my being a woman, such as the Vienna Philharmonic, the last orchestra in the world to only have men in it. Conducting is one of the last frontiers for women. But we’re more fortunate in the arts [than in the corporate world], because it’s about the art.

I went to Juilliard thinking I would be an orchestral musician, playing the flute. But upon graduating I changed to conducting and never touched the flute again.

CMC

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When Men Were Women

“Talk you of killing?” asks Shakespeare’s doomed Desdemona of her murderous Moor, Othello.

“Ay, I do!” her husband replies, as he smothers the life out of her.

The death scene of Shakespeare’s edge-of-your-seat thriller, Othello, is at the center of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Compleat Female Stage Beauty, in Rogue Machine Theatre’s inaugural production, onstage now through June 15 at Theatre Theater, 5041 West Pico Blvd.

Set in Restoration England, the play chronicles the demise of Edward Kynaston, the last and perhaps greatest male actor of Shakespeare’s women’s roles. Prior to the reign of Charles II, Shakespeare’s queens and courtesans — indeed, all women’s parts — were the exclusive property of an illustrious coterie of “boy players” trained from early childhood in the art of female impersonation. With the proscription against women on the stage lifted, the drag queens suddenly found themselves unemployed.

The court of King Charles II was a stark contrast to the 20 years of Puritan rule by the notorious Cromwell. Following the return of the monarchy from exile, England’s royal palace became a de facto international salon, attracting and supporting a kaleidoscopic array of working artists and scholars including Sir Isaac Newton, architect Christopher Wren, composer Henry Purcell, diarist Samuel Pepys, and actress-comedienne Nell Gwynn, the King’s own mistress.

Under founder and artistic director John Perrin Flynn, Rogue Machine Theatre’s sumptuous mounting of Hatcher’s bawdy comedy features a large ensemble cast, led by Michael Traynor as Edward Kynaston. “The part is so challenging, I got cold feet and left the theater before auditioning,” Traynor tells FineArtsLA. “But the director caught me when I came back to get my jacket.”

“Michael wasn’t the Kynaston I had originally imagined,” says Flynn. “But he blew me away during his reading. I had wanted a comedian, of course. That, he was, and so much more.”

A former dancer, Traynor worked “from the outside in,” he says, experimenting with postures and gestures to find his character’s grace and femininity. His tour-de-force Kynaston is rarely off stage, running the gamut from hilarious to heart-breaking.

The set and costumes by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz are a show in themselves, combining elements of Restoration and modern couture. A live musical ensemble – led by Music Director and FineArtsLA.com managing editor Penny Orloff -underscores the action with authentic Dowland and Purcell.

Originally scheduled to run through June 1, the production has been extended for two weeks. Information and tickets are available online at http://www.roguemachinetheatre.com/.

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Grumpy Old Man

It was inevitable: FineArtsLA’s Forty Unders program, which was created to get more young people into the audience of performing arts events, has been accused of discrminating against people over 40.

The following is a recent e-mail exchange with a disgruntled reader, who wrote:

I saw a friend had joined your group on FB. Then I saw that you give free tickets to your 40 unders club. What a turn off. That’s one of the things that makes LA such a shitty place to live. Everyone is so age obsessed here. Who cares how old someone is when it comes to the fine arts? Just wait till you’re over 40 and you’ll see how stupid it sounds to promote such a ridiculous idea. Why would you discriminate against anyone because of their age or race or sexual preference or anything else? Hey, what about a whites only club. That sounds like a good idea. ( I hope you realize that was a sarcastic comment).

Forty Unders manager Sam Mendizabal responded:

Ageism is indeed a problem in Los Angeles. But I’ve felt its effects strongest in the pop cultural framework. We do not deal in that. I understand your plight completely, but I believe you misunderstand the nature of our program. The aim of 40 Unders is not to merely “score” free tickets. It is an educational program of sorts aimed at enlightening younger people who otherwise would not have the financial resources or, if they do, the cultural impetus needed to seek out classical performances in Los Angeles.

We at FineArtsLA.com enjoy many of the arts showcases in Los Angeles and are finding it distressing that so many are attended by so few young people. From what many of the artistic directors and performers, as well as my own eyes, have told me, it is indeed a sad state of affairs when you attend a performance of great caliber and find that you are one of only two or three faces among hundreds that are under 40. Where will the audience of tomorrow come from?

The majority of our participants are college students who are more used to top 40 radio than to Beethoven or Liszt. We hope to make regular theater and concert goers of them someday. I can attest that as a young man myself it has done the same for me.

Grumpy Old Man then responded:

I appreciate your response however I’m not impressed with your reasoning. Of course I realize you are trying to attract a younger crowd to your performances, however that does not erase the fact that your program discriminates against people over 40. (the very ones, according to you, that currently support your performances). Your program is in very bad taste and I for one will not support any programs affiliated with www.fineartsla.com from now on.

I would challenge you to come up with another idea to attract a younger audience without alienating people based on their age. Additionally, all age groups suffer financial burdens especially with the current economy, gas prices, etc. Think about it. Your program indeed supports ageism. Until you come up with another way to attract a younger audience by making free tickets available to all age groups I intend to spread the word of your blatant act of discrimination starting with Facebook.

Moral of the story: No good deed goes unpunished.

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Grant Writing Workshop

Funding is the most challenging fact of life for most of the smaller – and a number of the larger – arts organizations represented on this site. Though it beats working in a factory or – egad – a corporation, a career in the arts must still pay for little luxuries like food, clothes, and a place to live.

The task of Getting The Money often falls to the organization’s executive director, or a volunteer from the board of directors. These hapless individuals are charged with soliciting dollars from virtually everyone, virtually all the time, to cover costs of bringing professional arts to an audience.

The good news is that, frequently, large wads of cash are available from foundation, corporate, and government sources in the form of grants. The bad news: the fundraising person has to write a grant application. A tax return is a day at the beach, compared with one of these babies.

Help is here. Professional Education Development Group offers a two-day grant writing workshop in Los Angeles on May 1 and 2. “Successful grant writing involves the coordination of several specific activities,” says DJ Bonner, who heads the nationally-recognized program. “We take our participants step-by-step through the process, and they become competent, professional grant writers during two very intensive days.”

Bonner’s instructors are all proven grant writing experts, with impressive grant award track records. Classes are small, to provide individual, hands-on assistance with proposals. A limited number of seats remain for this workshop. Partial scholarships are available to 501-c-3 arts organizations and individual artists.

Go to www.pedgrants.com for more info/registration.

Professional Education Development is the only company of its kind to also offer workshops in Spanish.

- Penny Orloff

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Forty Unders Special Bonus: LA Phil!

In addition to this week’s ticket giveaway (see right column), we also have one pair of seats for this Saturday’s Mozart and Bruckner concert at Disney Hall. The first reader to e-mail us gets ‘em.

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LA Ballet Commences Summer Season

summer08pic“It is everything I know about classical ballet, in 13 minutes,” said George Balanchine of his “Allegro Brillante,” set to music of Tchaikovsky.

The tour de force for five couples enters the repertory of The Los Angeles Ballet as part of the LAB Summer Repertoire 2008, for five performances from April 25 through May 24, in various venues around greater Los Angeles.

The program also marks the LAB premiere of “The Evangelist” to music by Charles Ives. The dramatic pas de deux, choreographed in 1992 for LAB artistic directors Colleen Neary and Thordal Christensen by visionary American choreographer Lar Lubovitch, was inspired by the three-ring media circus that was Aimee Semple McPherson. Between founding the Foursquare Church and preaching to millions of devoted followers on the radio, McPherson rose to notoriety in 1920’s Los Angeles through sex scandals and power struggles, at one point staging her own bogus ‘kidnapping’ which provoked a month-long, nation-wide hysteria.

A pair of dances from Bournonville’s Napoli, “Pas de Six” and “Tarantella” return from last year. “I grew up in the Bournonville repertory in Denmark,” Christensen tells FineArtsLA. “The company danced these two excerpts very well last year, and the work has really become theirs, now.”

In keeping with the company’s ongoing project of presenting new works from local artists, Summer Rep 2008 offers a world premiere by Jennifer Backhaus, of Backhaus Dance. “Jennifer is a very dynamic choreographer,” Christensen says. “She uses a different dance vocabulary, which allows our dancers to broaden their horizons.” The dance, utilizing the entire company, is LAB’s second commissioned work to premiere this season.

LAB performs on April 25 and 26 at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse; May 3 at Glendales’s Alex Theatre; May 17 at Irvine’s Barclay Theatre; and May 24 at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. On the May 17 program, Balanchine’s Gershwin tribute, “Who Cares?” replaces “Pas de Six” and “Tarantella.”

For more information, visit www.losangelesballet.org, or call 310-998-7782.

- Penny Orloff

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Forty Unders Ticket Giveaway: Italian Baroque

This week’s giveaway includes a generous donation from Musica Angelica for their concerts this coming weekend. On the program are:

Pergolesi Stabat Mater
Corelli Concerto grosso in F major Op. 6, No. 9
Sammartini Organ Concerto in G major Op. 9, No. 3
Geminiani Concerto Grosso in E minor, Op. 3, No. 3

You have your choice of Saturday night at Zipper Hall Downtown, or Sunday afternoon at UCLA in Westwood.

If you’re under forty and would like to attend, e-mail us your full name and which day you prefer. This post will self-destruct when all tickets are gone.

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Monster’s Balls

my-34r“This company has cojones,” says Michael York. “The great thing about Long Beach Opera is that they are so alternative. And they have the sheer audacity to pull it off.”

York — the star of “Cabaret,” “Logan’s Run,” and dozens of other films — is speaking of “Frankenstein!!” coming March 14, 15 and 16 to the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Described as a “’pan-demonium’ for chansonnier and orchestra,” the theater piece by H. K. Gruber assembles macabre nursery rhymes about John Wayne, Superman, and Dr. Frankenstein with assorted vampires and werewolves.

“Andreas Mitisek had approached me about doing the West Coast premiere of my ‘Enoch Arden’ for the first half of a double bill,” York tells FineArtsLA. ”We began looking for a piece for the second half. I was on the road with Camelot, and this CD of ‘Frankenstein!!’ arrived. It’s full of comic book characters, which Gruber sets on their head. I thought, well, why not?”

Mitisek, artistic director of Long Beach Opera, says, “The nursery rhymes are rather child-like, but nightmarish — definitely not for children.”

Of mounting Gruber’s virtually uncatagorizable theater piece, Mitisek explains, “There is a lot of craziness there – it’s a highly entertaining work. I had a vision of puppetry with an edge. Asking around I found the Rogue Artists Ensemble, right here in Long Beach. They were doing some really twisted stuff.”

The Rogue Artists Ensemble is a collective of multi-disciplinary artists, most of whom met at UC Irvine, who create Hyper-theater, an innovative hybrid of theater traditions, puppetry, mask work, dance, music, and modern technology. Through an integrative development process, emphasizing design and storytelling, the Rogues create original performance art.

“We were given a blank canvas,” says Tyler Stamets, associate artistic director of the Rogue Artists. “Andreas sent us a CD and said, ‘Imagine what you’d like to see.’”

The resulting collaboration means that this weekend, singer-actor Michael York steps into an alternate universe peopled by assorted life-sized puppets, surprises, special effects and projections.

The first half of the unique double bill presents Mr. York in his internationally lauded performance of Tennyson’s story of love and loss, “Enoch Arden,” set to music of Richard Strauss. York will sign copies of his CD following the performance. — PO

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Bard of Directors

The Globe Theater is in search of qualified members for the Board of Directors for The Los Angeles Shakepeare Company. It is also looking for volunteers and personnel.

Interested parties should send an email to:

Elisabeth Howard: lizhoward@vocalpowerinc.com
Geoffrey Forward: geofforward@shakespeare-usa.com

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