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Los Angeles CA, Jewelry, Fashion

A Day at the Los Angeles Opera with Carmen

My first memories of opera, take me back to grammar school.  My mother had briefly trained to be an opera singer before abandoning it in pursuit of becoming a doctor. Of the two, she found medicine to be the lesser difficult discipline even though she was one of only three women in her USC medical school class. Whenever she picked me up from school I was greeted with Die Zauberflüte or another one of her favorites blasting out of her car, announcing her arrival in the carpool lane.  Despite enjoying opera, I'd actually never been to see one before.  Truth be told I think I was a little intimidated. Going to the opera was for aficionados, people who knew every aria and composer by heart.  Nevertheless, I was excited when my mom asked me to join her to see Carmen at the LA Opera.

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On the left, the original Carmen, Célestine Galli-Marié in Carmen, by Henri Lucien Doucet (1884), musée de Marseille.

Above illustration of Carmen by Luc for Journal Amusant 1875, a french satirical weekly magazine.

 

Before every performance, the conductor, James Conlon, gives an hour long introduction. He is also the music director and has quite an impressive career, conducting at La Scala in Milan and over 270 times at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in addition to serving as the director of the Paris National Opera.  He's a great speaker, very informative and I appreciated the backstory of Carmen that he gave while dropping little fun facts and juicy tidbits about its inception. The orchestra is below the stage so you can't see the musicians during the performance but you can see Conlon with his hair whipping back and forth as he waves his baton energetically.  Mozart in the Jungle was in the back of my mind as I watched him conduct.

Ana Maria Martinez  as Carmen. Photo by Ken Howard / LA Opera

Ana Maria Martinez as Carmen. Photo by Ken Howard / LA Opera

I had always thought of Carmen as a Spanish opera. I was partially right, it takes place in Spain, but is sung in French (Bizet was French). Since I speak French, it was fun trying to decipher some of the arias as they were sung and not solely relying on the subtitle teleprompter that hangs above the stage. It was adapted from the novella by Prosper Mérimée, that came out in 1845.  Georges Bizet adapted the story of Carmen into his opera and died three months after it debuted in march of 1875,  at the age of only 36! Similar to Mozart who died at 35. It's remarkable to think what both of them could have achieved if they had only lived longer.

In the 19th century, Spain seemed like an exotic and distant backdrop for the story of a Roma femme fatale whose magnetic charisma and sultriness captivated every man she encountered. Carmen is on her work break from the local factory when she meets Don José, a naive soldier who is the only man in the square oblivious to her charms. She is intrigued by this challenge and sets her sights on acquiring his affections. After a factory dispute ensues, Don José is ordered to question and imprison her but she escapes with his help, he is then put in jail and reconnects with her upon his release. After a scuffle with his commanding officer, Don José is forced to desert the military and his mother and her wishes for him to marry the girl next door. He joins Carmen's gang of smugglers but becomes jealous that meanwhile Carmen's feelings have shifted to a well known matador named Escamillo. Incensed, Don José kills Carmen in a fit of rage outside the arena.

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With all this melodrama, I was surprised to learn that Carmen is considered Opéra Comique. Essentially that means to separate musical numbers with dialogue. Carmen is a feminist prototype, she is unapologetically in control of her own destiny. She is completely transparent about her motives both to do what she wants and to love freely. "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" She does what she wants when she wants, sometimes rather capriciously. The opera's depiction of lawlessness, immorality, and the murder of the main character made for a bold subject matter both at the time of its writing and even today. Carmen has become one of the most popular operas thanks in part to its many well known arias such as Habanera and Toreador.

Flamenco in Carmen. Photo by Ken Howard / LA Opera

Flamenco in Carmen. Photo by Ken Howard / LA Opera

Not only are there wonderful singers in Carmen,  there are also talented flamenco dancers. They give a physical expression to Bizet's dialogue and assist in the telling of Carmen's story. They are led by Spanish choreographer Nuria Castejón,  a dancer with the Ballet Nacional de España and choreographer for Pénelope Cruz in Pedro Almadovor's Volver.  Their costumes are magical as they stomp, heels clicking with fringe flying. The toreador's costumes were also fantastic with satisfying detail all the way down to the pink socks!

If I were dressing Carmen, I would pair my Hazel tassel earrings in Onyx and this embroidered tulle dress by Needle and Thread

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Taking a bow at the end of Carmen

Taking a bow at the end of Carmen

Such a revered opera calls for an impressive setting and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles Music Center does not disappoint. It's hard to believe that once upon a time, this center did not exist. In fact, it's only 53 years old. Dorothy, the wife of the former LA Times publisher Norman Chandler, spearheaded the fundraising efforts to get the center made. At the time, the Philharmonic was sharing a performance space with a local church since the early 20's, and Dorothy Buffum Chandler thought that Los Angeles deserved something a little more dignified in stature. The center was built by Seattle transplant architect Welton Becket and Associates, responsible for iconic Angeleno buildings such as the Capitol Building, the Beverly Hilton (the home of the Golden Globes), Pan Pacific Auditorium, Cinerama dome and LAX Theme building to name a few. Built from 1964-1967, becoming at the time the nation's second biggest music center after Lincoln Center in New York.

Photos from Top to Bottom, Dorothy Chandler at the opening in 1964.  Zubin Mehta, left, Dorothy Buffum Chandler and architect Welton Becket. Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall with lattice windows. One of many chandeliers in the grand staircase.

Gustavo Dudamel isn't the only young music director that the Los Angeles Philharmonic has had. Bombay, India born Zubin Mehta, was only 28 when he became the music director at the time of the opening! He was known as Zubie Baby and the Swinging Symphonist. The ushers were dressed in raspberry and orange red Nehru collared jackets in tribute to his heritage.

Architectural drawing of the orchestra foyer by Welton Becket and Associates. The foyer today.

The philharmonic played at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion until 2003 when it moved down the street to Disney Hall. The building while not overly impressive from the outside is quite grand on the inside. It houses large lattice like windows and countless chandeliers from the sixties.  Upstairs where the talk is given prior to the opera, there is a bar with a large Frank Stella painting and an adjoining nook with Chinese wood screens that make you want to curl up with a whisky cocktail and a cozy conversation. It's like entering a time warp but in the very best way. All the decor appears to be original, from the pea green carpet and dark paneled walls to the ornate chandeliers. This is an impressive feat in a city like Los Angeles that loves to tear down or remodel anything that is remotely past its prime.

Frank Stella Irregular Polygons, 1966. Champs baby! One must have champers at the Opera. Pictured in front of one of many gold mosaic tiled columns. Gilded swallows swoop around the mezzanine bar, Chinoiserie in the mezzanine.

You can see Carmen this Saturday, September 23rd as it's simulcast live in Santa Monica (for more SM info click here) and Exposition Park. Admission is free, doors open at 5 pm and show starts at 7 with a running time of 3 hours 25 minutes with 2 intermissions. Bring your chairs and blankets and picnic under the stars. Los Angeles magazine is even hosting a Wine Terrace on the pier. Sadly, no alcohol is permitted at Exposition Park. For more info on Exposition Park, click here.

Opera under the stars in Santa Monica . Photo by Craig T. Matthew

Opera under the stars in Santa Monica. Photo by Craig T. Matthew

Art, Fashion, Los Angeles CA

FIDM Museum Visit

Mood boards for some of the shows featured like Wallander, Man in the HIgh Castle and Mercy Street.

Mood boards for some of the shows featured like Wallander, Man in the HIgh Castle and Mercy Street.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the LA campus of Fashion Institute Design and Merchandising (FIDM for short) to talk to their Honor society, Phi Theta Kappa. We chatted about the pleasures and pitfalls of owning your own business, the importance of social media, trend forecasting and networking with other like minded entrepreneurs. I love meeting young people, interacting with them helps me to stay current with today's trends and tomorrow's customers. After my talk,  I checked out the TV costume design exhibit next door at the FIDM Museum, which to my delight had costumes from many of the shows that I love to watch. Costumes range from period to contemporary and include Wallander, Downtown Abbey, Roots, Sherlock Holmes, Mercy Street, The Man in the High Castle, Game of Thrones, Empire, Veep, American Horror Story, Transparent, Jane the Virgin, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Scream Queens. This exhibit is free to the public and open Tuesday-Saturday 10 am -5 pm until October 15.

Love Downtown Abbey, so of course I made a beeline for these dresses, immediately upon entering the exhibit. Love the signature twenties era stying of the drop waists for Lady Rose on the front rightand flapper sequin beading and long necklace for Lady Mary in the back. I remember her wearing this dress!

Winter is coming! I look forward to watching G.O.T. every season for the amazing sets and locations. It was fun to get a chance to witness the elaborate beading, incredible attention to detail and substantial costumes up close in person. 

I was late to the game on Veep but once I checked it out, it quickly became one of my favorites. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a comic genius and the rest of the cast is equally talented. I like that it's similar to House of Cards in that you feel like you are getting an accurate portrayal of what life in politics entails but it does it with humor instead of shock value. There are so many heavy dramas out there right now that it's refreshing to watch a light one without all the angst and turmoil.

I'm a bit of a scaredy cat so I will admit that I don't personally watch American Horror Story but my husband does so I will see snippets here and there. I love that the most recent season was filmed at Cicada in downtown Los Angeles, in the historic 1928 Oviatt building which I walk by every time I'm running errands in dtla. My best friend got married there so every time I would see episodes of AMHS, it would bring back happy memories. In my opinion, the costumes, and locations are the best part of AMHS. I love the dark moody vibe of the show, and in particular Lady Gaga's wardrobe. Divine!

Love the color of this pink faux fur jacket, it would go great with my rose gold hair! Haven't seen either Scream Queens or Empire but liked what I saw costume-wise!

Love me some Benedict Cumberbatch, and love even more that his fans are called Cumberbitches. (I will neither confirm nor deny that I might be one). I wish Benedict would give the movies a rest (I did like Imitation Game though) and return to filming this great show.

Talking at FIDM

Talking at FIDM

That's me!

That's me!

Los Angeles CA, Jewelry, Fashion

A Current Affair

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Last weekend I visited A Current Affair, Pop Up Vintage Marketplace in the Cooper building in downtown Los Angeles.  What a great idea, tons of vintage clothing and jewelry shops under one roof! This event takes place triennially in Los Angeles and biannually New York. This particular one was hosted by Jane Aldridge of Sea of Shoes and jewelry blogger extraordinaire Danielle Miele of Gem Gossip. Some of the stores featured were Desert Vintage in Tuscon, Arizona, Charm School Vintage in Austin, Texas, and Arrow and Anchor in Nashville, Tennessee. For future events, visit A Current Affair.

Ba&ash  top,  Thierry Lasry  sunglasses,  Mansur Gavriel  bag.

Ba&ash top, Thierry Lasry sunglasses, Mansur Gavriel bag.

Browsing through some great pieces. Some dating back to 1860! Vintage is a major source of inspiration for most designers. Decades that inspire me are the 70s and 80s for the heavy use of yellow gold and over the top opulence. I grew up with an affinity for French brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Charles Jourdan from spending afternoons shopping with my mom. I remember after school outings at Chanel in Beverly Hills sipping mini glass bottles of Coca-Cola while my mom tried on suits paired with jewelry. I definitely gained my love of fashion from my mother; she even wore Chanel haute couture to my wedding in Paris!

Shot of the Cooper Building in downtown LA. What a great space! The open floor plan and high ceilings allow for a unique viewing experience. With over sixty vendors, it was a nice way to incorporate so many boutiques under one roof.

Danielle Miele and I have been Instagram friends for so long, it was so great to finally meet her in person! She runs the jewelry blog Gem Gossip which is based in Nashville, Tennessee. Check out the interview we did at gemgossip.com

My office!

I can see my office from the window of the Cooper Building! I love all the historic buildings of downtown la. My office building is definitely a quirky style of architecturewith turrets on top, dating back to 1924.

Since Danielle is famous for her tagline #showmeyourrings, I was excited at the opportunity to pose with her! She specializes in blogging about jewelry trends, vintage and period jewelry and also has a fine jewelry line of her own. I love the large opal ring she is wearing with its ombré hues. I am wearing the Pearl Corrie Ring, the Diamond Bar Ring, and the Petite Cubist Ring in white topaz.