Category: Reed Johnson

L.A. Phil 2012-13: John Adams, 'Wild Things,' 'Angels in America'

February 6, 2012 |  3:00 pm

This post has been updated. See below.

After sating itself with super-sized helpings of Gustav Mahler this winter, the Los Angeles Philharmonic won't be curbing its appetite for large-scale undertakings next year.

The Phil's 2012-13 season, which will be officially announced later Monday, is a combination of large- and medium-size projects (some new, some evolving from its current season), along with the return of several familiar faces (Esa-Pekka Salonen, Zubin Mehta).

And although there'll be nothing like this season's nine-course banquet of Mahler symphonies, the composer's Symphony No. 5 will be performed in October under guest conductor Daniel Harding. 

The season also will have a distinctly operatic flavor, featuring several staged or semi-staged works. They include the second of a planned trilogy of Mozart/Da Ponte operas, "The Marriage of Figaro," conducted by the Phil's music director, Gustavo Dudamel, with sets designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel and costumes by couturier Azzedine Alaïa.

Deborah Borda, the Phil's president, said in an interview that the Mozart project, which the Phil conceived with architect Frank Gehry, grew out of Dudamel's belief that "an orchestra needs to play Mozart, for purity of sound, and they also need to play opera once in a while, to be nimble."

The project is allowing the Phil to continue to explore the spatial and staging possibilities of Gehry's iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall. Rather than opera sets, Borda described the planned Mozart designs as "installations."

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Frank Gehry sketches out 'Don Giovanni' for L.A. Phil

January 31, 2012 |  9:00 am

DonGiovanni Gehry
The ideas that Frank Gehry sketches out on paper have a way of turning into big, ambitious projects. Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, keeps one such drawing on her office wall, of a cluster of enigmatic shapes at odd angles. That was an early rendering of Gehry's plan for what became his landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall.

It's hard to know exactly what to make of a sketch Gehry has made for the Phil's upcoming production of Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni" in May (pictured). What is known is that Mariusz Kwiecien will play the hell-bound anti-hero, and Rodarte sibling designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy will style the costumes for the production, which Gehry will design.

In an unusual mash-up of classical music and architecture, the production will be the first of a planned trilogy of operas that Mozart composed with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. Gehry will select the other two architects who will design productions of "The Marriage of Figaro" and "Cosi fan tutte" in subsequent seasons.

We're still awaiting word on what Gehry's sketch represents. Meanwhile, anybody want to hazard a guess, or maybe a Rorschach analysis?


Rodarte pair will design first opera costumes for L.A. Phil

L.A. Philharmonic lands premiere of a long-lost Shostakovich opera

Architecture review: Frank Gehry's New World Center in Miami Beach

-- Reed Johnson

Photo credit: Sketch courtesy of Frank O. Gehry

Hollywood Bowl 2012: 'The Producers,' Juanes, 'Rigoletto,' Liza

January 23, 2012 |  3:00 pm

Hollywood Bowl
It will require a lot of people to put together this year's Hollywood Bowl season, including a number of FOGs, FOHs and FOJs. Namely, friends of Gustavo Dudamel, friends of Herbie Hancock and friends of John Williams.

Among the highlights of this year's Bowl lineup, to be announced Tuesday, will be performances of Mel Brooks' record-setting hit musical "The Producers," a musical and visual tribute to Pixar, a Fourth of July program headlined by Barry Manilow, and a production of Verdi's opera "Rigoletto" starring baritone Zeljko Lucic and conducted by Dudamel, the Los Angeles Philharmonic's music director. 

Several of the Bowl's other attractions this season can be credited, in part, to the extensive network of personal and professional relationships maintained by Dudamel, Hancock, who is the Phil's creative chair for jazz, and Williams, the prolific Hollywood composer who makes frequent appearances at the Bowl and the Phil's other home, the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

PHOTOS: 2012 Hollywood Bowl highlights

"We find a lot of artists do things for us at the Bowl with their friends in a special-event category, because it’s the Bowl," said Arvind Manocha, the Phil's chief operating officer. "One of the things we feel very proud of is, 90% of our season are concerts that don’t tour, that are not going anywhere else, that are created for us, that will be done here, and they won’t be part of a 20-city engagement."

A central point of this season's tailor-made, site-specific programming will be the "Americas and Americans" festival (Aug. 14-19), an exploration of music from across the hemisphere, spearheaded by Dudamel. The Venezuela-born conductor has enlisted several Latin American colleagues, including Colombian rocker Juanes, Panamanian salsa singer-songwriter Rubén Blades and Dominican pop-merengue artist Juan Luis Guerra, to take part in various concerts.

"Juan Luis Guerra was somebody that actually we were trying to book to be a jazz headliner at the Bowl," said Deborah Borda, the Phil's president. "But Gustavo wrote to him or called him -- he knows everybody."

Also participating for one concert of the festival will be one of Dudamel's hometown acquaintances, Plácido Domingo, the superstar Spanish tenor and general director of L.A. Opera.

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L.A. City Council terminates lease for Latino Theater Company

January 20, 2012 |  2:53 pm


The Los Angeles City Council voted this week to terminate the lease for the Latino Theater Company and the Latino Museum of History, Art and Culture at the downtown L.A. Theatre Center. The city owns the LATC, which is located on Spring Street, and has been leasing the premises to the two companies since 2006.

Both companies were given 45 days before they face eviction, according to council documents.

The council was able to terminate the agreement early on the grounds that the “quality or quantity of services” that the tenants offer fails to meet the expectations of the city, according to documents.

Councilmember Tony Cardenas presented the motion for termination at a council meeting. A representative in Cardenas' office said Friday that the theater company and museum failed to meet a number of fiscal, programmatic and maintenance goals set out in the their agreement with the city.

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LACMA curator Ilona Katzew helps museum bridge ancient, modern cultures

December 10, 2011 |  5:34 pm

Ilona Katzew

Ilona Katzew, the Mexico City-born overseer of LACMA's department of Latin American art, has illustrated through several exhibitions that ancient and contemporary art often are a lot closer in sensibility than the centuries separating them would suggest.

Her latest exhibition, "Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World," running through Jan. 29 at LACMA, is a case in point. Several of the show's 200 objects, representing the art of the Aztec and Inca empires as well as that produced under the Spanish viceroyalties, illustrates the cultural give-and-take that occurred between indigenous artisans and their colonial masters.

But as Times art critic Christopher Knight noted in his review of what he described as the "large and engrossing new show," a number of the exhibition's works reveal strange affinities between the strategies and concerns of ancient and modern art. 

That seems appropriate, given the desire of Michael Govan, LACMA's director, for the museum to treat pre-Columbian and colonial-era Latin American art as part of a broad continuum that extends to L.A.'s Chicano art movement and the work produced by contemporary Latino artists.

Read the full Sunday Calendar story here.


Its art is in the right place

The new Chicano movement

Art review: 'Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World,' LACMA

-- Reed Johnson 

Photo: LACMA curator Ilona Katzew, photographed with "Folding Screen With the Genealogy of the Incas" 1837, by Marcos Chillitupa Chavez, Cuzco, Peru, oil on canvas, in the exhibition "Contested Visions." Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


Chat with Danny Elfman, film and 'Iris' composer, on Dec. 16

December 9, 2011 |  3:30 pm

Danny elfman

Danny Elfman, one of Hollywood's most successful and prolific film composers, will take part in a live Web chat, hosted by Culture Monster, at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 16.

Elfman, former frontman and guiding force of the alt-rock band Oingo Boingo, will be chatting and taking questions for one hour. You can expect him to offer more insights about the score he composed for Cirque du Soleil's "Iris," its movie-themed show running at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

So line up the questions you've been dying to ask Elfman about what it's like to work with Tim Burton, and the real inspiration behind "Dead Man's Party." Sign up below for a reminder.



Creative minds behind Cirque du Soleil's 'Iris'

Cirque du Soleil loves movies more than it loves Hollywood

Cirque du Soleil's 'Iris' begins previews at the Kodak Theatre

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Danny Elfman in his L.A. studio. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

L.A. Phil, Salonen to premiere 'lost' Shostakovich opera 'Orango'

November 26, 2011 |  8:00 am

The story of how the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its emeritus conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, landed next week's world premiere of "Orango," a long-lost opera by Dmitri Shostakovich is -- to quote Winston Churchill's famous line about Russia -- a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

It's a detective story, in which the Russian musicologist Olga Digonskaya discovered a fragment of the 1930s opera buried in a Moscow archive, in 2004, and brought it to the attention of the late composer's widow.

It's also a political cautionary tale. "Orango," a brutal satire of bourgeois manners centered on a grotesque half-man, half-ape newspaper magnate, was written by Shostakovich during the heady, experimental days of the early Bolshevik state. Irreverent in tone, "Orango" is a mash-up of Modernist stylings that express the exuberant spirit of early 1930s Soviet culture.

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Latino Theater Company's 'Virgen' may not play at L.A. cathedral [Updated]

November 21, 2011 | 10:00 am

La Virgen

Since 2002, the Latino Theater Company has offered a free holiday gift to the community: its annual production of the pageant "La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin" at Our Lady of the Angels cathedral in downtown Los Angeles. More than 7,000 people attended last year's production of the show, which celebrates the Mexican Roman Catholic story of how the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, in 1531, in what was then colonial Spanish territory.

But this year a financial shortfall may require the company to break its tradition and cancel the production at the cathedral, José Luis Valenzuela, the company's artistic director and a UCLA theater professor, told Culture Monster this week. Despite vigorous fundraising efforts, Valenzuela said, the current economic downturn has made it difficult for the company to raise the necessary $50,000 to produce the free show Dec. 8 and 9 at the cathedral.

"I've been on the phone calling my friends saying, 'This is the time to help,' " Valenzuela said. "But I don't have 1,000 friends to give $50 each."

About 130 actors, dancers and musicians take part in the musical pageant. A handful are professionals, including Suzanna Guzman, an East L.A. native and internationally renowned mezzo-soprano, who performs the role of the Virgin, and Sal Lopez, a film and TV actor ("ER"), who plays Juan Diego. But the vast majority of performers are community volunteers, many of them Latinos, including some recent immigrants to the United States.

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La Jolla's 'Superstar' cast same as Stratford's, minus Brent Carver

November 14, 2011 |  2:42 pm

Jesus Christ Superstar

The actors playing Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene all will be onstage again, but Broadway veteran Brent Carver will be AWOL as Pontius Pilate when the La Jolla Playhouse reprises the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's hit production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" later this month.

The playhouse has announced casting for Des McAnuff's critically praised, Broadway-bound version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical, which gave the world its first rock 'n' roll Messiah. Paul Nolan will be Jesus, Chilina Kennedy once more will portray Mary Magdalene and Josh Young will again take on the part of what Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones described as a "sexy, well-made-up Judas" with "a dangerous, if somewhat campy, air."

But Carver, a longtime Stratford regular who also starred on Broadway in the musical "Kiss of the Spider Woman," has washed his hands of the role of Pontius Pilate, at least for the time being. In an e-mail Monday afternoon, a La Jolla publicist told Culture Monster: "Brent Carver will not be part of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar at La Jolla Playhouse because he requires vocal rest."

The La Jolla production will mark the latest homecoming for McAnuff, who served as the playhouse's artistic director for several years until leaving in the early 1990s to pursue other film and theater projects.


Quick Takes: Losing 'Neverland'

Des McAnuff to vacate La Jolla Playhouse post

'Jesus Christ Superstar' opening on Broadway in March 

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Paul Nolan portrays Jesus in the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's musical "Jesus Christ Superstar," opening this month at the La Jolla Playhouse. Credit: Associated Press / Stratford Shakespeare Festival / David Hou

Geffen's Frank Mancuso will replace Gil Cates during interim

November 11, 2011 |  6:00 pm

Gil cates

Nine days after the passing of Gil Cates, Geffen Playhouse founder and producing director, the theater  has named its board chairman, Frank Mancuso, to assume the role of interim producing director, effective immediately.

“I am assuming this position to preserve the spirit, passion and unparalleled work that my dear friend Gil put into the Geffen Playhouse,” Mancuso said in a statement. “It is an honor to help keep Gil’s vision alive while the committee works to discover the best leadership structure for the theater moving forward.”

As his bio on the Geffen's website elaborates, Mancuso has had a four-decade career in the entertainment industry, culminating with his leadership of Paramount Pictures Corp. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. He most recently served as Chairman and Chief Executive of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

Mancuso's appointment apparently was made during the board's special executive session Thursday, at which board members also formed a committee to conduct a study that will shape future decisions about the theater’s executive structure and leadership. A seat on the board was extended to film and television producer Gil Cates, Jr., the youngest son of Gil Cates.


Gil Cates: an appreciation

Gil Cates: the Wizard of Oscars

Gil Cates dies at 77; producer, director and showman

-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Longtime Oscar telecast producer and former Geffen Playhouse producing director Gil Cates arrives at the 77th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in February 2005. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


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