Category: Scott Sandell

In opera and in hockey, it's not over till ...

April 21, 2010 |  9:00 am

Baileyopera If it's possible to go to a fight and see a hockey game break out, then surely it must be conceivable to go to a hockey game and see an opera unfold.

The current Los Angeles Kings-Vancouver Canucks Stanley Cup playoff series, which resumes Wednesday night, is a case in point.

Yes, there are plenty of bearded, helmet- and armor-clad Nordic types doing battle for the chance to possess a coveted piece of precious metal, albeit a silver cup rather than a ring of Rhinegold. But more important, we've noticed there's a literal connection between the two seemingly disparate worlds of hockey and opera, and specifically the Kings and Ring Festival LA.

To wit: Before Monday night's Game 3, bass-baritone Alan Held sang the Canadian and U.S. national anthems -- certainly a change of pace from his recent role as Gunther in Los Angeles Opera's production of "Götterdämmerung." Held got a wild ovation from the towel-twirling, standing-room-only crowd. And he might even be considered a good-luck charm now, after the Kings went on to win the game 5-3.

Held is not the first opera singer to perform before a Kings game. In fact, Benjamin Salisbury, the supervisor of game presentation and events for the team, says that the Kings and Los Angeles Opera (and its Young Artist Program) have long worked together to present singers such as Joseph Kaiser, Agostino Castagnola, Kyle Ketelsen, Angel Blue and Valerie Vinzant.

But perhaps the most celebrated opera-related performance of the bunch came back in a regular-season game on April 1, when the Kings routed the Canucks, coincidentally enough, by a score of 8-3. With the match all but over, the L.A. mascot, Bailey (pictured), donned a Brünnhilde outfit -- complete with gold tresses and silver bustier -- while an aria was piped over the arena's loudspeakers.

With the Kings now up 2 games to 1 in their best-of-seven series -- and another three rounds to go before the ultimate prize is awarded -- L.A. hockey fans would no doubt be happy to see Brünnhilde Bailey make several encores.

-- Scott Sandell


L.A. Times' Ring Festival LA page

Photo: Kings mascot Bailey dons a Brünnhilde costume near the conclusion of the Kings' 8-3 victory over Vancouver on April 1. Credit: Fox Sports West

Michael Jackson will get the Cirque du Soleil treatment

April 20, 2010 | 10:28 am

Jackson Michael Jackson, always a kid at heart, surely would have appreciated this news.

Cirque du Soleil said Tuesday that it will create a brand new traveling show that will honor the music and the spirit of the King of Pop.

Jackson’s estate and Cirque du Soleil will collaborate on a concert-like production that will tour sports arenas starting in the fall of 2011.

The traveling production will be followed in 2012 with a permanent show in Las Vegas, similar to existing Cirque du Soleil productions built around the music of the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

“Having attended Cirque du Soleil performances with Michael, I know he was a huge fan,” John Branca, co-executor of Jackson’s estate, said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“This will not just be a tribute to Michael’s musical genius, but a live entertainment experience that uses the most advanced technology to push every creative boundary as Michael always did.”

The venue of the permanent show has not been announced. The late pop star’s estate and Cirque du Soleil will split the costs and profits of their collaborative ventures equally, while intellectual property royalties will go to the estate.

In March, administrators of Jackson's estate and his longtime record label, Sony Music Entertainment, announced a seven-year-distribution deal for as many as 10 new Jackson projects, including unreleased recordings and DVDs.

Read the full story on the Jackson-Cirque du Soleil collaboration at the Pop & Hiss blog.

-- David Ng and Scott Sandell

Photo: Michael Jackson. Credit: Reuters


Why Michael Jackson danced like no one else

Take my picture, Leonard Nimoy

October 30, 2009 |  1:00 pm


Over at the Hero Complex blog, Geoff Boucher talks with Leonard Nimoy about his lifelong passion for photography, which is coming into focus Saturday night at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

Nimoy, an avid art collector along with his wife, Susan, is unveiling his latest project, called "Who Do You Think You Are?," at a Halloween fundraiser the couple is hosting for the museum. The event will include installations by Miriam Wosk, music by DJ Eddie Ruscha (son of Ed) and a prize drawing.

Tickets for the costume party start at $350. For $5,000 and up (and one lucky drawing winner), Nimoy will take a portrait of you at the event in the theme of his project, which Boucher explains thusly:

Last year, Nimoy spent two 16-hour days shooting portraits of total strangers in Northampton, Mass., who had answered a public invitation to share a glimpse of their hidden selves. He photographed 95 people and chose 25 of them for the exhibit that will go on display next summer at MASS MoCA.

"The idea was to invite people to reveal their secret selves, the self they wish to be or the self they hide from the world," said Nimoy, 78, who has been an avid photographer since his youth. "There was a measure of bravery in this by everyone involved. I had no idea what to expect. Some of the people walked in with these amazing stories, stories you couldn't anticipate or make up."

To find out what some of those stories are, click here.

-- Scott Sandell

Photo: Leonard Nimoy at home with two of his works. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

Mona Lisa speaks! And it's in Mandarin

August 19, 2009 |  9:47 am

MonaFor five centuries, Mona Lisa has gazed upon her admirers in silence, her faint smile inspiring endless speculation as to what secrets she holds. Now, she's dishing about her personal life -- and it's in Mandarin.

"Hello, I am Mona Lisa. It's nice to meet you," she says in a Chinese Central Television video (click here to watch) taken at a show called the World Classic Multimedia Interactive Arts Exhibition in Beijing. Of course, it is not the real Mona Lisa, which is at the Louvre in Paris and firmly tucked away behind a bullet-proof screen that recently came in handy when an irate Russian woman threw a ceramic cup at it.

Instead, this Mona Lisa is a digital re-creation courtesy of the Alive Gallery in Seoul, South Korea, and is traveling to China on a three-city tour, along with a collection of other walking, talking masterworks from throughout the ages. In all, Chinese media reports say, there are 61 items on display, including digital renditions of "The Last Supper," the Egyptian Book of the Dead (a.k.a. the Papyrus of Ani) and Venus, as well as works by more modern artists, such as Wassily Kandinsky.

But the piece de resistance is Mona Lisa, who not only has a mastery of Mandarin -- and, in a previous incarnation, Korean -- but also waves to visitors. And in Beijing, it would seem, the only things being hurled at the artwork are softball questions.

"Are you married? Do you lead a happy life?" asks one woman on the CCTV video. "Yes, I am married, and my husband loves me so much," the painting answers -- reportedly with the help of "sound identification technology," though it is unclear exactly how the response is generated.

Apparently, Mona Lisa still has a few secrets left to tell.

-- Scott Sandell

Photo: Frame grab from CCTV

Bob Peak’s movie posters get top billing at Gallery Nucleus

June 6, 2009 |  3:00 pm

Peak Bob Peak was called the father of the modern movie poster, but he got his start when his mother handed him a set of watercolors and a drawing board at age 12. Within a year she had died, but he carried on to attend Art Center College of Design in L.A.

After working in advertising, Peak eventually created covers for Time, Sports Illustrated and TV Guide, as well as the movie posters with which he became synonymous. He also designed U.S. stamps to commemorate the 1984 Olympics.

Now, as Susan King writes in today's Calendar:

Seventeen years after his death at age 65, Peak is receiving his first one-man show in the L.A. area at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, running today through June 25.

“My dad once told me when he worked on a film, he got hired to think,” son Tom Peak says. “They would bring him in and he would talk to the director, the actors. He looked at dailies, and sometimes he would be on the set of a movie and do sketching.”

Read the full story here, and see a gallery of his work here.

-- Scott Sandell

Above: Bob Peak hit his stride with 1964’s “My Fair Lady” poster. Credit: Gallery Nucleus

Welcome to Salonen central: A farewell to the maestro

April 12, 2009 |  8:00 am

Salbeach Here at Culture Monster, we are not into spreading unfounded rumors, but we do keep hearing chatter that a certain music director for a major orchestra in the Southern California area will soon be stepping down. Rather than name names, here are some hints as to his identity:

-- He was born in Helsinki, Finland, in 1958.

-- He once composed a piece called "Floof."

-- He likes long walks on the beach and is known to have done so at least one time in Armani coattails and flip-flops.

-- His name is in the headline of this post, and his photo is at right. At the beach. In coattails and flip-flops. With his daughter Ella.

OK, we as might well break down and tell you that it's Esa-Pekka Salonen. (And admit that we put him up to do the photo shoot at the beach -- but that's another story for another time.)

With Salonen set to conduct his last concert as the Los Angeles Philharmonic music director next Sunday afternoon, we're paying tribute to L.A.'s most famous Finnish Angeleno (Finnangeleno?) with a package of stories and photographs.

Mark Swed leads off with a Critic's Notebook, in which he writes:

Salonen has put a spring in L.A.’s step that is likely to last. He has changed us meaningfully, and we have changed him meaningfully. A catalyst in the classic sense, he came to California as a foreign agent — a European Modernist from a country with one of the world’s most homogenous populations dropped down on Tinseltown, one the most diverse places anywhere. People magazine thought him one of the 50 most beautiful people on the planet, but he resisted cheap celebrity. Instead, he made classical music sexy — and very important. But first he had to find himself. 

You can read Swed's full assessment here.

In Sunday's Arts & Books section, Reed Johnson continues the thread:

Salonen’s Los Angeles legacy can’t be summed up in one concert, or a series of them. During his tenure he hired 54 members of the orchestra. Under his leadership, the Phil earned international recognition both for its performances and its risk-taking programming.

And together with Borda and the Phil’s board members and staff, he repositioned the institution to take advantage of its cutting-edge new home when the Phil moved across the street from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to the Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003.

Salmemories Then, there are the memories of friends and colleagues (including former Philharmonic executive Ernest Fleischmann, architect Frank Gehry, artist Bill Viola, director Peter Sellars, pianist Emanuel Ax and many more), excerpts of past reviews of key Salonen concerts (the good and the bad), a career retrospective in photos and a photo gallery of Salonen rehearsing for his final Green Umbrella concert last week, his "farewell tour," as well as reviews of the Green Umbrella concert and Thursday's premiere of his Violin Concerto.

And keep coming back to Culture Monster for more. As you can probably tell, we're gonna miss the guy.

-- Scott Sandell

Above: Esa-Pekka Salonen and daughter Ella at Will Rogers State Beach for a Times photo shoot in 2008. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times. Bottom: Salonen with L.A. Phil exec Ernest Fleischmann in 1989. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Step into 'The Ring' and get ready to rumble

March 29, 2009 |  2:00 pm

Sherwin Sloan Readers of Culture Monster know that if you've seen the first installment of Achim Freyer's staging of the "Ring" cycle at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, you definitely have an opinion about it. Don't believe us? Look at the comments here.

Speaking for the thumbs-down majority, various posts from readers have described "Das Rheingold" as "incomprehensible, pretentious, idiotic, undramatic
"; something akin to a "Monty Python scene"; "Eddie Murphy playing Gumby comes to mind, and this is Wotan, the top God"; or the succinct "lame." On the thumbs-up side, one reader wrote: "Are they still using horned helmets in Seattle? Is that really what you want to see in 2009? Good grief people!"

However you spin "The Ring," there's one group of opera-goers who feel particularly passionate: the "Wagnerites," a.k.a. " 'Ring' nuts," a.k.a. those who travel from one production to the next, rooting for Wagner's works no matter how wildly envisioned.

In today's Arts & Books section, David Mermelstein takes a look at several Wagnerites, including Sherwin Sloan, a retired eye surgeon who has seen 87 "Ring" cycles and heads the Wagner Society of Southern California.

Read the full story here.

And keep checking Culture Monster for more reaction (or give us your own), considering the next installment of the Los Angeles Opera production, "Die Walküre," opens Saturday.

-- Scott Sandell

Above: Sherwin Sloan of the Wagner Society of Southern California. Credit: Christine Cotter/Los Angeles Times

Developmentally disabled performers take center stage

March 19, 2009 |  5:45 pm

Performing Arts Studio West

John Paizis once acted in summer theater in Connecticut, performed in rock 'n' roll bands and trained with Jim Henson and Frank Oz, as Susan Brink wrote last year in a pair of stories (here and here) for The Times' Health section. He also relied on day jobs to pay the rent, often working with people with disabilities.

So in 1998, he combined two passions in opening Performing Arts Studio West, an Inglewood acting, music, dance and production studio for people with developmental disabilities. Since then, the studio has seen its students land various gigs, including Luke Zimmerman's role as Tom Bowman on ABC's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," which has its season finale Monday night on ABC. (For more about the studio and Zimmerman, see the video below from our brethren at KTLA.)

And on April 30, Performing Arts Studio West will hold its first awards gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, with tickets going for $100 apiece.

-- Scott Sandell

Photo: Students perform in a dance class at Performing Arts Studio West. Credit: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times

A long, strange trip for Alan Aldridge

March 8, 2009 |  9:00 am

Aldridge_3 Over at Jacket Copy, our sister blog about all things literary, Carolyn Kellogg writes about the new book "The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes: The Art of Alan Aldridge," which presents a history of the artist's elaborate, psychedelic illustrations.

"Unlike most retrospectives," Kellogg writes, "this book doesn't set up a clear chronology or thesis -- instead, it leads visually, letting the art and design create the narrative. In it, text and illustration have traded roles."

Though you may not know the name, you know his work -- whether album covers for Elton John ("Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy") or corporate logos for House of Blues and the Hard Rock Cafe. Aldridge also illustrated the 1973 children's book "The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast," which won a Whitbread award.

By the way, Aldridge will be at Book Soup in West Hollywood at 7 p.m. Wednesday to sign copies.

And for a photo gallery of his work, click here.

-- Scott Sandell

Illustration: "The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast." Credit: Alan Aldridge/Abrams

Reinventing the rock poster

February 21, 2009 |  2:00 pm


In Sunday's Arts & Books section, Scott Timberg writes about a group of artists and designers who are going beyond the tropes of classic rock posters to craft ads that incorporate a fascination with the past but with more creative twists.

Take, for example, the work of Bay Area graphic artist Jason Munn, who owns the design firm the Small Stakes and has made posters for the bands Built to Spill and, above, the Decemberists.

Postergallery Timberg writes:

Unlike designers who extend the rock tradition of subversion and boundary pushing, Munn's work exudes a Zen-like serenity, a love of negative space and an almost religious reverence for typeface. "I try to pick up on little random bits of a band," said Munn, "and go from there."

Rather than being mass-produced, the images are printed in limited runs and are attracting some art-world attention.

Darrin Alfred acquired several Small Stakes posters for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Denver Art Museum, where he is now a graphic arts curator. "With the waning of album art because of the disappearance of CDs," he said, "these posters are taking on a bigger role than they had before the digital revolution." In a virtual world, "People like me are looking for something tangible."

Read the full story here.

— Scott Sandell

Above: Jason Munn's poster for the Decemberists. Credit: Jason Munn


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