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Archive for September, 2011

Opera Review: The Visual Poetry of LA Opera’s “Eugene Onegin”

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” During LA Opera’s psychologically profound production of Piotr Illyich Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” red skies foreshadowed emotional storms, from the passion-red sky faced by Tatiana the morning after she wrote her feverish note to Onegin to the blazing landscape faced by Lensky on the morning of his fateful duel. LA Opera’s production masterfully captured the poetic spirit of Tchaikovsky’s opera, bringing the interior life of Alexander Pushkin’s characters to the foreground through sumptuous visual poetry. This beloved masterpiece has never before been performed at LA Opera. Its debut on Saturday night led by James Conlon was nothing short of world class. The visually stunning production was originally created in 2006 by the late director Steven Pimlott for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and was staged in Los Angeles by Francesca Gilpin. The production treated audiences to a dynamic tableau vivant, an invitation to step inside a living work of art.

It is fitting that LA Opera’s striking production is rich in visual metaphors, considering that Tchaikovsky’s opera was based on poetry, a novel-in-verse first published by Alexander Pushkin in 1833. In this work, the innovative Pushkin invented an unusual verse-form, one which has come to be known as the Onegin Stanza. Respectful of the literary source, Tchaikovsky did not refer to Eugene Onegin as an opera, but rather, as “lyrical scenes.” Tchaikovsky’s emphasis on the word lyric corresponds with LA Opera’s visually poetic interpretation, one that unearths the essence of the characters and brings them forth on stage.Peter Mumford’s lighting design evoked the vibrations of the soul, from peaceful palettes to blood-red intensity, shifting with the characters’ turbulent emotions and heightening Tchaikovsky’s expressionistic score.

In one beautifully choreographed lyrical scene in Act I,  Tatiana (Oksana Dyka) gleefully basks in a translucent pond, after pouring out her heart to Onegin in a love letter.  This visual image provoked a visceral understanding of her interior exhilaration.

Similarly, the starkly barren trees enhanced Lensky’s (Vsevolod Grinov) powerful rendition of “Kuda Kuda” in Act II. The symbiosis of set and vocals intensified the misery of Lensky’s alienation. Furthermore, dramatic paintings of Pietàlike human expression on the scrim heralded the beginning of each act, giving the audience visual clues to the chilling moments ahead.

In addition to the striking set, the cast of talented singers, including Slovakian baritone Dalibor Jenis as the eponymous hero, delivered an emotionally impacting performance. Oksana Dyka’s physical gestures as the girlish Tatiana were spot on. The Ukranian soprano embodied the perfect blend of innocence, conviction, and dignity as Pushkin’s noble heroine. In one of the longest arias in opera history, the letter scene, Dyka poignantly expressed the lovelorn girl’s turmoil through her pure voice. Keith Jameson’s Monsieur Triquet added a sensitivity and tenderness to the Tatiana Couplets in Act II that caused time to stand still with his interpretation.

LA Opera’s interpretation of Eugene Onegin takes audiences through the heart of Pushkin’s poetry, allowing us to hear, see, and feel its splendor all at once.

LA Opera’s performances of Eugene Onegin will take place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90012, on the following dates:

Wednesday, September 21, at 7:30pm

Sunday, September 25, at 2pm

Saturday, October 1, at 7:30pm

Thursday, October 6, at 7:30pm

Sunday, October 9, at 2pm

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ARIA’s Opening Night Festivities at LA Opera: From Russia With Love

All text and Photography © 2011

By Leticia Marie Sanchez

At LA Opera’s ARIA’s White Night party, chaired by actress and singer-songwriter Emmy Rossum a vivacious fur-capped hostess floated around the dance floor bearing divine desserts. As James Bond would say, from Russia With Love.


The Maestro himself, Placido Domingo, appeared at the ARIA party to introduce the talented artists

behind the production of Eugene Onegin including:conductor James Conlon,Stage Director Francesca Gilpin, and Lighting Designer Peter Mumford. Additionally, the party goers met the stars of Eugene Onegin including: Dalibor Jenis (Eugene Onegin), Oksana Dyka (Tatiana), Vsevolod Grinov (Lensky), Ekaterina Semenchuk (Olga), James Creswell (Prince Germin), Ronnita Nicole Miller (Filipievna), and Keith Jameson (Monsieur Triquet).

The Über-talented Oksana Dyka (third from Left, belowwhose performance as Tatiana brought down the opera house with multiple standing ovations earlier in the evening, spontaneously jumped on stage during the Aria afterparty and began to groove to 70’s rock.

One did not want the magical night to end. Never fear,Aria Nights at the Opera will continue this season with Roméo et Juliette on November 12, Simon Boccanegra on February 11, and La Bohème on May 12th.

For more information on ARIA, please visit:

http://www.losangelesopera.com/community/youngpro.aspx

Until then, keep your cultural cocktail glasses filled with bel canto, vibrati, and coloratura!

Leticia Marie Sanchez

Editor-in-Chief 

Cultural Cocktail Hour  

Reporting from LA Opera’s Opening Night: Saturday September 17th

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This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail involves the opening weekend of opera season! Two doses of Russian romance and 1 dose of Mozart Mischief- enjoy!

PIOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY’S EUGENE ONEGIN

Opens Sat. Sept. 17. 7:30 p.m. 

LA Opera. 135 North Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 972-8001 http://www.laopera.com/

ARIA WHITE NIGHT CELEBRATION with Emmy Rossum- Honorary ARIA Chair- Eugene Onegin After Party- Sat Sept 17th

ARIA is LA Opera’s group for young professionals in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s with an interest in opera.

ARIA tickets include a ticket to the opera performance and access to the After-Party, with Russian-inspired hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, entertainment, and dancing.

For more on ARIA, including information on how to purchase tickets to Saturday’s party, please visit: http://www.losangelesopera.com/community/youngpro.aspx

 

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART’S COSI FAN TUTTE

Opens Sun. Sept. 18. 2:00 p.m.

LA Opera.

135 North Grand Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 972-8001

http://www.laopera.com/

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By Leticia Marie Sanchez

The program notes for Tuesday’s concert at the Hollywood Bowl included a 1920 quotation from Italian musician and conductor Ferrucio Busoni, “With Beethoven humanity enters into music for the first time.” Busoni’s postulate also holds true for the humanistic performance of violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman who led the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s in an all-Beethoven program including Romance No. 1 in G Major, Romance No. 2 in F. Major, Symphony No. 8 in F Major, and Symphony No. 5.

The indefatigable Mr. Perlman had the dual role of violist and conductor at Tuesday’s magnificent performance. Mr. Perlman’s sensitive interpretation of Beethoven had guts, soul, and heart.

As a conductor, Maestro Perlman is easily the best one to have graced the stage of the Hollywood Bowl for his talent in bringing out the best in each individual member of the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra. Instead of turning Beethoven’s pieces into loud, showy works, as other conductors are apt to do, Mr. Perlman wisely elicited the nuance and texture brought about by each individual instrument, probing the depth and rich emotions of each piece. To the Hollywood Bowl’s credit, its video projection screens complemented the nuanced performance by providing close-ups of the individual members of the string, brass, woodwind, and percussion sections coming to the forefront at any given moment of the Beethoven Program. The perfect rhythms elicited by Mr. Perlman made the L.A. Philharmonic soar seamlessly as one, as they did during the Fourth Movement (Allegro) of the 5th Symphony.

Perhaps, none said it better than E.T.A. Hoffman: “the soul of each thoughtful listener is assuredly stirred, deeply and intimately, by a feeling that is none other than that unutterable portentous longing, and until the final chord — indeed, even in the moments that follow it — he will be powerless to step out of that wondrous spirit realm where grief and joy embrace him in the form of sound.”

The audience was electrified after such a soulful interpretation of Beethoven, rendering a once-familiar composer a newfound treasure. After the finale, I, and those near me, sat in our seats, stunned, tears flowing down our cheeks.

Thank you, Maestro Perlman for a life-changing experience and a memory that I will never forget.

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The Magical World of Peter Lai 

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Stepping into the shop of San Marino designer Peter Lai is a step into a magical world. The visitor slips into a realm of Venetian masks, Chinese costumes imbued with symbolism from the Qing Dynasty, and contemporary Californian designs. A Hong Kong native, Mr. Lai was born into a family of costume designers for Hong Kong’s opera, television, and film industry.

Mr. Lai’s shop has been a fixture on Mission Street in San Marino for decades, and his exquisitely detailed gowns add glamour to museum galas and social events like the Save Venice ball.

Left: Design by Peter Lai.

Right: Rose Detail, Peter Lai designs

In 2004, Mr. Lai won the Golden Needle designer award in a competition whose industry judges included Mr. Blackwell, creator of the infamous Best and Worst Dressed list.Mr. Lai’s creative and richly-crafted designs fuse cultures.

For instance, he uses Venetian masks as a base and infuses them with Asian-inspired motifs. Mr. Lai himself takes part in the theatrically mysterious, donning his own costumes, mask included, at dinner parties.

Photo: Mask by Peter Lai

Photo Left: Designer Peter Lai next to his own design.

’Bob Mackie didn’t recognize me’, Lai revealed, “’he asked, ‘Who are you?’” Ever full of surprises, Mr. Lai has also been a student of Kabuki for the past ten years and performed the Japanese art form in full costume this summer at the Hollywood Bowl.

This Thursday, September 8th, the Pacific Asia Museum will be hosting a fashion event with Peter Lai from 5:30-7:30 p.m. as part of the Festival of the Autumn Moon. For more information, please visit:

http://pacificasiamuseum.org/

Peter Lai. 2571 Mission St. San Marino, 91108. (626) 799-4645

From left: Vest by Peter Lai

Right: Detail from Vest

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