Opera returned to Orange County and the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Monday night, but it arrived in an unusual form at an unlikely setting.
A taped version of Saturday's performance of Los Angeles Opera's "Il Postino" was projected on the outside of Segerstrom Hall in front of an audience estimated by arts officials at about 2,500. Viewers sat on lawn chairs and picnicked on the arts center's 46,000-square foot plaza area.
The work, which had its world premiere in September at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion -- and received a similar taped showing Saturday at the California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles -- stars tenor Plácido Domingo as Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. It was written by Daniel Catán and inspired by the 1994 movie of the same name.
Domingo, who over the years has sung in three programs at OCPAC, received a rousing ovation from the audience when he addressed them in person before the screening, which was projected crisply at 30 feet high by 51 feet wide. He got straight to the point.
"I want you to have an opera company here again, very soon," he said.
Domingo's appearance and Monday's showing was a rare bit of sunshine for Orange County opera-goers. The abrupt bankruptcy of Opera Pacific in November 2008 left the county without a major opera presence of its own for the first time in 15 years. Since then, Long Beach Opera's visit to the Irvine Barclay Theatre in May, for a single-night staging of its chamber opera "The Diary of Anne Frank," had been about it.
And that's not good enough, according to Denise Oliver of Laguna Niguel, who was with friends in the plaza Monday night.
"I wasn't a big Opera Pacific fan, but it was shocking to me when they went … we had nothing," she said. "There must be opera for us [here], not driving to Los Angeles or San Diego for it."
In winning Sunday night's third leg of the “Amazing Race 17,” a capella collegiate singers Connor Diemand-Yauman and Jonathan Schwartz did everything right except when it came to delivering a victory ballad to host Phil Koeghan.
The musical duo beat eight other teams handily by perfectly employing the two precepts that usually pave the way to wins on the CBS competition:
1) Luck into a local cab driver who knows where he is going and who is not afraid to race past other contestants' taxis. In this episode, they were lucky enough to encounter the redoubtable cabbie Samson, whose prowess behind the wheel prompted them to break into harmonies of "We love Samson" from the back seat.
2) Pay attention to the written instructions that introduce the challenges. This seemingly obvious tactic has eluded contestants through all 17 of the show's races. In the Ghana countryside, the duo used the proper number of wheelbarrows to trundle the right tools to a designated spot, when other teams didn't pay attention to the simple directions and had to repeat the task under a withering sun.
Beyond that, the Princeton students also displayed aptitude in deciphering a hieroglyphic message among a maze of drawn characters. They were the only team that found the clues needed to successfully translate the puzzle -- other teams obliviously walked past a large sign on the side of a building that prominently posted the clues.
All in all, it was a triumph built not on singing, but on paying attention.
Connor and Jonathan each won a $5,000 bonus for placing first in the third leg. We'll see if they build on that success next week when the competition moves to the Arctic.
Meantime, in a video that wasn't aired on Sunday's episode, watch above their vocal missteps and, finally, the finished version of a musical salute to Keoghan, sung to the tune of "Silent Night," as they stood in the winner’s circle.
-- Christopher Smith
RECENT AND RELATED:
Culture Monster is keeping an eye on the new season of CBS' “Amazing Race,” enjoying the escapades of a harmonizing duo of Princeton students who sing in Nassoons, the school's a capella group. On Sunday's Episode 2 ,the race moved from England to Accra, the capital city of the west African nation of Ghana.
The team of Jonathan Schwartz and Connor Diemand-Yauman avoided elimination and finished the leg in the middle of the pack, their on-camera singing reduced to a rather fearful moment: After they were menaced by a random panhandler who had stuck his hands through the window of their cab, they harmoniously implored the driver -- in perfect pitch -- to “please drive faster!”
Cab rides were a source of animation throughout the episode for the pair. During a harrowing run through tight traffic to get to the episode’s check-in point, Diemand-Yauman confessed on camera to being "just proud I haven't soiled myself."
We dug up an entertaining video of Schwartz and Diemand-Yauman that has not aired on CBS: The duo's a capella version of "Amazing Grace," transposing the standard into "Amazing Race" with some tongue-in-cheek lyrics that reflect the team’s ambitions for the show. Watch it above.
-- Christopher Smith
Onstage as much as any other character in the play, Hyde's Captain Hook reeks paranoia at every turn. His fear of his enemies is real and palpable -- there's dread and disdain for kids, ("let's obliterate the children"), the ominously ticking crocodile ("Why is that crocodile the only female who has ever shown any interest in me?") and, ultimately, his arch-enemy, Peter Pan ("I want him dead!").
Hyde, 62, has performed this role about 350 times in London, San Francisco and now Orange County. He is not unfamiliar with working in Southern California -- in addition to playing the Earl of Kent in the Ian McKellen "King Lear," which had a sold-out run at UCLA in 2007, the actor spent time at the Arboretum in Arcadia filming the 1997 movie "Anaconda."
Around that same period he shuttled back and forth on the 405 Freeway from Los Angeles to Rosarito Beach in Baja for the filming of "Titanic." In James Cameron's blockbuster, Hyde played the role of J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman and managing director of the White Star line, owner and operator of the ill-fated luxury liner.
When asked about the fiery temperament of Cameron, and whether Hyde is channeling any of the movie's director into his personification of Hook, the actor laughed and demurred, though he did acknowledge that "on set, Jim was fairly furious and fearless, and he served up some pretty fabulous pyrotechnics when things weren't going right. Which, I suppose, is also something Captain Hook's nature."
Click here for an interactive graphic of the Neverland tent.
-- Christopher Smith
Photo: Jonathan Hyde as Captain Hook. Credit: David Allen.
"Amazing Race 17" made its debut Sunday night, and sticking out like nerdy thumbs in the 12-team field was a male twosome of self-professed a capella fanatics immediately dubbed by fellow contestants as "Team Glee."
Princeton students and best friends Connor Diemand-Yauman and Jonathan Schwartz got off to a slow start, being the last of 12 teams to catch a flight from Boston to London on leg one of the race.
But the 22-year-olds, who sang in tenor harmony as they drove around the English countryside, ended Episode 1 a strong third. Additionally, they were unfailingly polite to other teams, stopping to try to assist one team with an overheating engine and another with a flat tire. (It should be noted that, fitting the reality show typecast, they demonstrated no mechanical skills with either car problem.)
Diemand-Yauman claimed to draw strength for the around-the-globe competition from their singing-oriented skills.
"Tenors in the a capella world are known for being bad-asses, manly, it's the manliest of parts," opined Diemand-Yauman. Schwartz, whose resemblance to Harry Potter was immediately noted by another rival team, underscored their unabashedly uber-nerd background by noting in an online bio that one of his favorite hobbies is "filling out surveys."
"The Amazing Race" got off to a good start in the ratings Sunday night, according to early figures from the Nielsen Co., attracting about 11.1 million viewers, a 7% increase from last fall's premiere.
— Christopher Smith
Among its virtues, the world premiere production of “Il Postino” Thursday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion unveiled a number of visual surprises.
First, this is surely the first opera in history to include a game of Foosball (final score 3-0, but we won’t ruin it by telling you who won). There was also a very adroit multimedia use of projected visuals in the third act that coalesced wonderfully with Daniel Catán’s pliant score.
But the biggest visual talker is probably the unexpected sighting early in the first act that can be deduced by looking at the adjacent, fit-for-print photo. Especially riveting was that this moment unfolded slowly, and quite literally, in the hands of the world’s most celebrated living tenor.
First, a couple notes:
Wednesday morning in Costa Mesa saw the raising of a 100-foot-high white performance tent that later this month will house the traveling multimedia production of a new “Peter Pan,” making its Southern California debut. Dubbed "The threesixty Theatre," the tent was installed at the Orange County Performing Arts Center complex, on a grassy area behind Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
Emanating from England, this is not Mary Martin or Cathy Rigby's take on the children's classic. Peter, for instance, is played by a male actor. And instead of a flashlight winking on and off, Tinker Bell is played by a harness-clad actress who swoops in and out of the action.
Additionally, this “Peter Pan” is not the musical version, but is derived from the original J.M. Barrie play that debuted in London in 1904. The acting is decidedly British, with a 22-actor cast along with some Julie Taymor-esque puppets mixed into the two hours-plus of action.
The talker, however, is that this “Peter Pan” arrives with a gee-whiz-technology first: The live action onstage is surrounded by computer generated imagery projected via 15,000 square feet of high-resolution video onto the inside of the tent. It’s the same root CGI technology used in dozens of movies, most famously by Pixar, starting with “Toy Story.”
“Modern Family’s” Ty Burrell is up for an Emmy on Sunday for his nuanced performance as a spacey dad in the critically raved-about sitcom. The strength of his performance rests, in part, on a motivating quality that Burrell picked up in the 15 years he spent training for and then acting on the stage.
“Fear,” Burrell said during a recent interview (click here to read the Sunday Calendar story).
“To this day, when I encounter a part for the first time, if my reaction is fearful, that’s a signal to me [that the work is] something that is worthwhile, commanding my respect to really pay attention, and to grapple it to the ground.”
Burrell spent 8 ½ years at three colleges -- the University of Oregon, Southern Oregon and Penn State -- and acquired two MFA degrees before grappling the daunting reality to the ground that if he was going to be an actor, he’d better go to New York and just act.
Apparently, he managed to conquer his fears. The list of Burrell’s Broadway and off-Broadway credits during the last decade is extensive. His credits range from Shakespeare -- “Richard III” and “Macbeth” -- to contemporary offerings, including Paul Wietz’s 2006 “Show People,” in which Burrell pleased New York Times critic Ben Brantley, who said Burrell’s “entertainingly sinister performance” conjured up the image of “Norman Bates made over into a young executive.” Among other highlights was work in a 2002 revival of “Burn This,“ the Lanford Wilson tale in which Burrell appeared opposite Edward Norton and Catherine Keener.
A new musical opening Friday at the Old Globe theater in San Diego arrives with an old name.
As a story in Sunday’s Arts & Books section explains, 19 songs from the celebrated Oscar-winning songwriting team of Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen -- including such Rat Pack anthems as "Come Fly With Me," "The Tender Trap," "High Hopes" and "All The Way"-- have been used to provide the backbone of "Robin and the 7 Hoods."
The title itself comes from the 1964 Frank/Dino/Sammy comedy about feuding gangsters in '30s Chicago, but the new story, written by Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes, is set in the early '60s, around the time period that the songs were written in.
Find out more about the work and the man driving the creative process, director Casey Nicholaw, by reading the story here.
-- Christopher Smith
Photo: Jeffrey Schecter (center, as Willie Scarlatti) and the "Robin and 7 Hoods" cast perform "Walkin' Happy." Credit: Craig Schwartz
Donald's McKayle's history as a dancer and choreographer stretches back to the late 1940s, and as he turns 80 Tuesday, his dance-making efforts continue. In my story about his life and work, here and in the Calendar section, one of the themes that emerges is the range of entertainment fields in which he has worked -- in addition to modern dance, he has choreographed for Broadway, movies and television, as well as being a dance educator.
Critical consensus, including McKayle's own estimation, is that his biggest impact piece of choreography is the stirring “Rainbow Round My Shoulder” from 1959. The 10-minute excerpt above from near the time of the piece's creation conveys its emotional wallop.
After retiring as a dancer, McKayle transitioned to Hollywood in the late 1960s to choreograph for movies and television. In 1969, at the behest of Diana Ross, the 39-year McKayle again donned dancer's togs to briefly return and partner Ross in a number he choreographed to "Soulful Strut." This clip, from the "Hollywood Palace" broadcast, has an extensive lead-in sequence from comedian Soupy Sales; McKayle and Ross' number begins about 5 minutes and 45 seconds into the video:
-- Christopher Smith