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As you rake the leaves, turn on the lights, and look at the beauty untouched that is all around us-

Enjoy!

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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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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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According to Katerine Bakeless, in her book “Story Lives of Great Composers,” Jean Sibelius received minor ducats for one of his most famous compositions, Valse Triste. The payment for his work? A small sum and a box of cigars. Meanwhile, Valse Triste went on to be performed internationally, over and over. Yet, Sibelius did not receive one dime of royalties on the work he had composed. Bakeless revealed, “Years afterward, when Sibelius visited America, he remarked to his hostess, with tears in his eyes, that he could have used that money when his family of daughters began to grow up. “(39)

The payment of a box of cigars for the beautiful, dream-like waltz, is, in fact, tres triste.

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Since so many of my readers enjoyed reading about Richard Strauss’s unusual engagement to the libretto-throwing singer Pauline De AhnaStrange Love: the berserk engagement of Richard Strauss 

we will now continue onto his roller coaster marriage.

Due to a letter mix-up, his wife Pauline de Ahna filed for divorce.

In his book, Richard Strauss, Tim Ashley reports that while Strauss was working in England, his wife opened a letter from a female opera fan. The fan mentioned looking for a composer at Union Bar and asked for opera tickets. The harmless letter caused Mrs. Strauss to foam at the mouth. She contacted an attorney, telegraphed Strauss (who was working in England) to let him know that she was filing for divorce, demanded to draw their life savings from a bank, and prepared to vacate their apartment.

 Strauss telegraphed his wife that he had no clue as to the identity of the opera fan nor had he ever been to Union Bar.

It turned out the confused woman had asked an Italian tenor for the name of Czech composer Josef Stransky. Tim Ashley revealed that the Italian had mispronounced Stransky as “Strausky,” and hence, the confusion began.When the mix-up was revealed, Pauline eventually withdrew her plans for divorce.                                                                                                                                                                                    Photo, Left- Richard Strauss and the eye-scratching Pauline De Ahna!

Although the event left Strauss with a headache, it also left him with an opera: “Intermezzo” which he composed about his wife’s accusation.

Mrs. Strauss’ jealous streak continued into her eighties. In his biography, Richard Strauss, An Intimate Portrait, Kurt Wilhem revealed that an elderly Pauline exclaimed, “I would scratch the eyes out of any hussy who was after my Richard.” 

Fräuleins beware! 

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by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Some men plan a midnight stroll by the beach. Others a calm picnic under stars…

Richard Strauss‘ engagement to temperamental soprano Pauline de Ahna involved: 1. being shrieked at by a soprano, having a musical score thrown at his head, and ducking flying objects

Elizabeth Lundy, in her book, Secret Lives of Great Composers, reports that after being conducted by Strauss in an opera rehearsal, Miss Diva Pauline went ballistic over a difference of opinion over tempo.

“Pauline threw her score at Strauss’s head…the entire orchestra tiptoed.. so they could listen to the screaming, shrieking, and occasional thuds as objects flew around the room… The musicians announced that in respect for their conductor and in protest of Pauline’s outrageous behavior, they would refuse to participate in any further production in which Fraulein de Ahna had a role.

“That distresses me,” said Strauss, “as I have just become engaged to Fraulein de Ahna.”

[The Secret Lives of Great Composers, 183]

I hope that Strauss threw Miss Pauline a nice derangement, I mean, engagement party.

To the left, Pauline de Ahna, who rather resembles a Viking warrior                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

“Fear my wrath, Strauss If you mess up my tempo, I will kill you.No, I will MARRY You.”

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“Why Can’t you Sit Still?

“Because I’m Mozart”

In his delightful tome, The Book of Musical Anecdotes, Norman Lebrecht reveals that the perpetually inspired Mozart led his Barber on a hair-cutting chase:

“Every moment an idea would occur to him…he would run to the clavier, the barber after him, hair-ribbon in hand.”

Luckily for Mozart, the barber had a steady hand.

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