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L.A. arts leaders gather at announcement of Ring Festival L.A.

November 3, 2008 |  1:49 pm


You know how when you're at a big parade or street fair and the LAPD is out in force and you can't help but think -- that's nice, but who's left to protect the rest of the city?

Well, you couldn't help but wonder who was steering the Los Angeles arts community Monday morning, because leaders of some 50 arts organizations -- including Center Theatre Group artistic director Michael Ritchie, LACMA president Melody Kanschat, Music Center president Stephen Rountree and Patrick Scott, artistic director of Santa Monica's Jacaranda music organization -- were seated in front of the media at the Grand Hall of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as part of a news conference to officially announce Ring Festival L.A. (Read our story by Reed Johnson.)

The 10-week, citywide event to be held April 15 through June 30, 2010, will have as its centerpiece Los Angeles Opera's production of Richard Wagner's epic four-cycle "Der Ring des Nibelungen" --the city's first presentation of "The Ring," which tends to draw groupies, often referred to as "Ringies" or "Ringheads," who troop to "Ring" productions around the world. 

The crowd of arts honchos -- which in this seating configuration really did look like some kind of executive branch of the Los Angeles Master Chorale -- were seated behind a dais of still more officials, the ones making the announcement: L.A. Opera general director Placido Domingo, company chairman and CEO Marc I. Stern, philanthropist Eli Broad (a $6-million gift from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation will fund "The Ring"), County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and L.A. Opera board president Carol Henry. 

L.A. Opera music director James Conlon, who will conduct "The Ring," was not present but eerily appeared on video screen to  weigh in on an event that he predicted would turn L.A. into "a hub of Wagnerian activity."

Some of that "Wagnerian activity" -- outlined by L.A. Opera board member Barry A. Sanders, leader of the mega-event he described as "not Wagnerian, but Brobdingnagian" -- will include a German food festival; we have not yet heard anything to suggest that the cuisine will reflect Wagner's own vegetarian diet (if not, Culture Monster fears the wurst).

Planned festival events will include California Art Club's "Wagner Paint-Out," featuring plein air paintings of mythic themes from "The Ring" in various locations in Los Angeles County; a screening of a Wagner-related film on the Fairbanks Lawn at Hollywood Forever Cemetery; a performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Helicopter Quartet"; the Griffith Observatory presentation of "Light of the Valkyries" at the Samuel Oschin Planetarium; and a new Wagner-inspired hip-hop work by L.A.'s daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra, led by Geoff "Double G" Gallegos.

The bow-tied Sanders -- who drew a laugh by beginning his remarks with a John McCain-style "My friends" -- was the only Ring Festival booster to point out that the festival will also address the negative aspects of Wagner, who was Hitler's favorite composer. To that end, the festival will include the seminar "Richard Wagner and the Jews: The Use of Wagner by the Nazis" at American Jewish University.

-- Diane Haithman

Photo: Placido Domingo, center, flanked by L.A. County Board Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, left, and philanthropist Eli Broad, at a news conference at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to announce Ring Festival L.A. Credit: Irfan Kahn / Los Angeles Times.