There goes the Disney Hall stage.
Sunday night, as the grand finale of the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival, 100 cellists dug their endpins into the expensive stage floor of Walt Disney Concert Hall for a rare performance of Christopher Rouse’s “Rapturedux.”
The tender Alaskan yellow cedar now has a cluster of new pockmarks, and the universe has a remarkable new sound — 400 rich and rapt cello strings vibrating in a great acoustic space. This goes beyond music. Vibration is the essence of nature — everything vibrates. And in the opening F-major chord of “Rapturedux,” it was possible to believe in a palpable music of the spheres.
There goes the Disney Hall stage.
A young mezzo-soprano whose voice is darkly complex and mysteriously soulful and who adds intense emphasis to every word of text sang six songs by the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo on Thursday night at the AT&T Center Theatre. In one, a bee bites the lip of a sleeping shepherdess as if it were a rose, to the envy of a shy lover.
Laurie Rubin's rich, toffee-thick tones conveyed not just the sense of touch of puffy rosy lips but also their exceptional redness.
It would hardly occur to a listener that Rodrigo had been blind. Nor might someone hearing Rubin’s new recording of the Rodrigo songs, say on the radio, suspect the mezzo is without sight. In recital, of course, that is obvious. Whether this makes her a different sort of singer than one who sees was the question posed by this short recital and equally short colloquium, which was organized by the noted USC neuroscientist Antonio Damasio and presented by the university at the theater inside the AT&T Center highrise in downtown L.A.
Much of what is unique, relevant and delightful about the performance collective My Barbarian is contained in the title of its current exhibition at Human Resources: “Broke People’s Baroque Peoples’ Theater.”
Say it out loud a few times — it’s lovely on the tongue and only gets funnier the more you repeat it.
Note the ironic conceptual gulf (aesthetic, economic and ideological) between the nearly homophonic “broke” and “Baroque”; the clever dance of that syntactically pivotal apostrophe (“people’s,” “peoples’”); the understated nod to pressing political realities — namely, the dawning awareness brought on by the recession that we live in an age of egregious economic disparity, in which the Baroque — or those socio-political forces there engendered — have long since washed their hands of the broke and retreated to the comfort of their private home theaters.
It is much to our benefit that My Barbarian (the trio of Jade Gordon, Malik Gaines and Alexandro Segade) remains out here with the rest of us.
Mark Robson’s annual Piano Spheres recital Tuesday was true to form. The program was personal, full of surprises, insights and sensational pianism. Robson has an effortless, old-school, monster technique that he applies to the new school. He expresses pleasure in modern music that is progressive, and modern music that is charmingly not, just as long as it has something to say about the piano.
Also true to form, Robson lived up to his reputation as the best-kept keyboard secret in Los Angeles. Piano Spheres holds its concerts at Zipper Hall, for which there was a decent turnout of regulars on Tuesday. The hall is part of the Colburn School, at least physically. I can’t say for sure that no students attended, but from appearances, it didn’t look as though any did. About a third of the seats were empty.
Perhaps Colburn students are too careerist to care about a major pianist who is not glamorous (at least in the Lang Lang or Yuja Wang way). If so, Tuesday was a sad night. But it wasn’t sad for those of us in the audience.
Inner-City Arts is teaming up with the British-German theater company Gob Squad and L.A.'s Center Theatre Group to launch a two-year stage project. The initiative will involve a handful of Inner-City Arts students participating in a theater production about the process of aging.
The British Council, a non-government cultural organization, is investing $10,000 in the project. CTG will help to oversee the collaboration.
Diane Rodriguez, associate producer and director of new play production at CTG, said in an interview that she saw a version of Gob Squad's production in the Netherlands and thought it would be a good fit for Inner-City Arts. She said that the script will be translated into English.
The collaboration between Gob Squad and Inner-City Arts is scheduled to begin in September when the European company will be in town for an engagement at REDCAT. Students will be videotaped near the start of the workshop process. In the final stage production, the students will interact with their video images from two years earlier.
Joseph Collins, the head of Inner-City Arts, said CTG approached him about a month ago about the project. He said 12 students ranging in ages from 8 to 14 will participate in the stage production.
Inner-City Arts has been developing close ties with Britain in recent months. In July, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge paid a visit to the school's campus and participated in an art class and other activities.
-- David Ng
Photo: Students in front of Inner-City Arts in downtown L.A. Credit: Iwan Baan
When asked at a pre-concert talk Tuesday whether the two remarkable soloists in the evening’s U.S. premieres at Walt Disney Concert Hall of two fresh (in both senses of the term) works were his muses, Louis Andriessen dismissed the term as being a bit bourgeois. Of all the unconventional risks the Los Angeles Philharmonic has taken in recent years, embracing this profoundly significant anti-bourgeois 72-year-old Dutch composer –- who doesn’t have much truck with orchestras, nor they with him –- has been perhaps the most daring.
There is no question that violinist Monica Germino and the soprano Cristina Zavalloni were muses for a curious violin concerto, “La Girò,” and the theatrical “Anaïs Nin.” The dramatic as well as musical talents of these women clearly motivated Andriessen’s shockingly fanciful scores, which received riveting U.S. premieres Tuesday at a Green Umbrella concert by the L.A. Phil New Music Group. Each work, moreover, is about a muse.
PHOTOS: Green Umbrella concerts
But bourgeois the pieces are not. Instead, Andriessen reveals how meaningful musery, at least among artists who flout convention in search of insight, all but invites perversion. The violin concerto is a sad, funny and sharp chronicle of an older composer’s obsession with a young singer, Anna Girò. The inspiration for “Anaïs Nin” was a frank diarist’s erotically explicit delight in her incestuous relationship with her father, the Cuban-Catalan composer Joaquin Nin. Andriessen pulls no punches.
Los Angeles Opera’s production of Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring,” which opened at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Saturday night, is full of fun. The music making, highlighted by James Conlon’s vital conducting, is, for the most part, excellent. Will that make a comic opera that spoofs village life in Edwardian England any less a hard sell? Maybe.
The show, as it is, is worth seeing (unfortunately, a special on $25 seats that was a three-day deal last week has already come and gone). Still, Paul Curran’s farcical production, imported from Santa Fe Opera, is also a lost opportunity to explore a little more deeply a remarkable red “Herring.”
“‘Albert Herring’” is very funny, but it is not a farce,” Conlon notes in the L.A. Opera program book. The opera, which had its premiere in 1947, is the tale of a mama’s boy crowned May King when no girl in a small East Suffolk town (not unlike the one Britten himself grew up in) can be found who meets the puritanical standards of purity set by the impossibly autocratic Lady Billows.
That, along with the help of some spiked lemonade, is enough to send Albert on a bender, to the shock and horror of proper townsfolk. Was a coming-of-age opera written to feature Britten’s companion, tenor Peter Pears, also a subtext for a coming-out opera? Those who understand Britten’s operas best, particularly the critic Andrew Porter and the musicologist Philip Brett, have said it is.
Russell Brand, stage actor? The British comedian, performer and tabloid fixture will try his hand at a new medium when he stars in a stage play written by Eric Idle that will have a four-performance engagement at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown L.A. "What About Dick?" -- a period comedy that Idle has been working on for several years -- is set to run from April 26 to 29.
Brand will play the lead role of Dick, an Oxford student pursuing philosophy and gynecology. The all-star British cast will include Eddie Izzard as the inventor of the vibrator; Jane Leeves and Sophie Winkleman as Dick's cousins; Tracey Ullman as his alcoholic aunt; Tim Curry as a preacher; and Billy Connolly as a Scottish inspector.
The production will be staged as a radio play, with actors reading from scripts. A previous workshop version of the play was mounted at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in 2007 with many of the same cast members, but Brand is a new addition.
Idle said in a phone interview that he's been rewriting the script in the intervening years, and has added several new songs with composer John Du Prez, with whom he worked on "Spamalot."
About 60 of Ansel Adams’ stepchildren will spend the coming four weeks hanging out in a downtown art gallery.
They’re pictures the great photographer of natural landscapes took of urbanized Los Angeles around 1940 – and donated to the Los Angeles Public Library more than 20 years later, with apologies because he thought that “none of the pictures were very good.”
John Huckert, director of drkrm gallery, which on Saturday will open “Ansel Adams Los Angeles: Photographs From the Los Angeles Public Library Ansel Adams Collection,” says the idea is to prove that Adams underestimated himself, while showing a side of his work far removed from the majestic scenes of Yosemite and the Southwest that made him famous.
Adams took the pictures while on assignment for Fortune magazine, which was featuring the burgeoning city and its aviation industry. They include shots of a hot dog stand and the Ocean Park pier in Santa Monica, a view of downtown’s Hill Street from the heights of Bunker Hill, and pictures shot in a bar and a bowling alley. The exhibition will run through March 17, occupying both the drkrm space and the adjoining Edgar Varela Fine Arts gallery, both at 727 S. Spring St.
The Fortune article, “City of the Angels,” ran in March 1941 and included just a few of the 216 photos Adams had taken, Huckert said. Adams kept the negatives and apparently forgot about them until the early 1960s, when he looked through his files during a move from San Francisco to a new home in Carmel. He donated them to the library rather meekly, noting in a letter that when he shot them -- he guessed it was around 1939 -- “the weather was bad over a rather long period and none of the pictures were very good…. If they have no value whatsoever, please dispose of them in the incinerator…. At any event, I do not want them back.”
Walking into "Beneath the Valley of the Lowest Form of Music,” an ebullient survey of art, ephemera and artifacts charting the 30-year history of the Los Angeles Free Music Society, is like walking into the garage of a cool, eccentric uncle. In the cavernous main space of the Box’s new Traction Avenue location, one wall is plastered floor to the ceiling with concert posters advertising the many bands affiliated with this loose collective of experimental musicians (Le Forte Four, Doo-Dooettes, Smegma, Extended Organs and Airway, among others).
On another wall, an immense grid of black and white photographs introduces viewers to the musicians themselves: a gaggle of gangly, often goofy young men (and the occasional woman) — a dozen or so in the core group, many more, it would seem, in the extended circle — who came together in the pre-punk days of the early 1970s to explore the outer reaches of rock, using instruments, electronics and just about anything else they could find.