afternoons in los angeles

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, Los Angeles CA, Travel, Fashion

Desert X: 6 must sees in Palm Springs

I love Palm Springs. I love that it's far enough from LA that it seems like a getaway while being close enough that you could go for a day if you wanted. I love the dry heat, the mountain views and the hot air blowing through the palm trees at night. I love the desert landscape, the modern architecture with its relaxed California lifestyle. Palm Springs enjoys a history of being both a past favorite for Hollywood's glamorous like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope back in the late 1930's yet is still relevant today.

I gave up on going to Coachella years ago, love the music but didn't love the crowds, dust and traffic. Now that I'm a parent, kid friendly adult activities are what I'm all about. When Desert X popped up on my radar, it seemed like the perfect combination of all things I enjoy most: art, nature, discovery and travel. I was not disappointed. I loved it and hope it becomes a yearly recurrence!

Jeffrey Gibson - Alive! Location: Palm Springs Art Museum

Desert X is a two month long, interactive outdoor art installation located throughout the Coachella Valley. Its like a modern day treasure hunt! Not only did it expose me to some new artist's work that I wasn't previously familiar with but it introduced me to some parts of the Coachella Valley I didn't know very well either. When I come to Palm Springs, I usually rent a house or stay in a hotel and spend the entire time poolside with drink in hand. Desert X encouraged me to venture out and explore Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and other cities that I had been so close to all these years but had never seen. Desert X is also free to the public, so there is no barrier to entry. It was great seeing entire families out with their kids enjoying and interacting with the art.

First stop on Desert X, checking in at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs. Grab a program guide here and get on your way! There were 16 installations in all, both from local and internationally acclaimed artists. Ideally we would have been able to see them all but we had our son with us, and only 24 hours to do it in, so realistically we knew we had to be strategic before burning out. We started with the Jeffrey Gibson wind turbine at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Any visitor to Palm Springs is familiar with the famous drive in surrounded by all the wind turbines. A ready made object, the turbine is covered with the words: I AM ALIVE! YOU ARE ALIVE! THEY ARE ALIVE! WE ARE LIVING! It also has opalescent paint that shimmers in the sun and looks quite pretty with the palm tree background.

Doug Aitken - Mirage        Location: 1111 West Racquet Club Road, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Zara bomber, Goyard St Louis purse

If you've seen an image of Desert X, it was most likely Doug Aitken's Mirage. It is the longest running of all the installations and the most permanent structure. It is a completely mirrored house, both interior and exterior.  You simultaneously see your reflection along with the surrounding mountains sky and desert landscape. It's pretty incredible. As you walk through the maze like interior you see yourself and the other visitors and surrounding landscape from all angles, which is both an exhilarating and disorienting experience. The home is a suburban ranch style without any doors or windows, providing a seamless transition between interior and exterior. I went when it first opened at opens at 3 pm and there was a line snaking through the door. Because it reflects the surrounding landscape, its appearance changes depending on what time of day it is. I would love to go back at night and see it in the dark with all the lights twinkling on the valley below. While the rest of Desert X closes April 30, Mirage will remain open until October 31, 2017 so go!!!!!

Next up, Swiss artist, Claudia Comte's Curves and Zigzags, is the third in a series of black and white optical painting walls. The lines start out angular and morph into a curvilinear pattern reminiscent of a Bridget Riley painting. As a kid, I was always drawn to black and white op art, getting lost in deciphering where the graphic pattern changed and evolved into something else entirely. The Homme Adams park is the perfect location for this undulating wall. It houses trails that lead to a vista where you can look down on the sculpture. Desert X also coordinated a walk with the artist herself, on the morning I was there. Dries had fun running around it and looking at the giant ants that were on the ground.

Desert X is such a unique experience because it completely turns on its head the traditional notion of how one views art. It allows complete interaction between the viewer and the subject. I marveled at the lack of security, for the most part there were no guards securing the pieces with the exception of Mirage. The Richard Prince house was vandalized and subsequently closed which is a shame but I suspect that had more to do with the animosity towards his appropriation of other artists work for his own profit rather than general vandalism.  I was impressed that there was no graffiti or trash surrounding the works. I did notice the influx of bloggers that were posing with the wall, some even by putting their feet up on the walls they leaned back on it.  I wonder, why shouldn't the same rules of decorum apply to an outdoor work as would a piece of art hanging in a museum? Just because someone isn't standing there to tell you not to do it doesn't mean you should. It made me think, is this the new way we interact with art?  I do see the value in as many people interacting with art in their daily lives but fear people ruining art installations with their own curiosity and desire to touch.

Aerial photo of I am by David Blank.

Last up for day 1 was Bahamian artist Tavares Strachan's piece I am. Unlike the other daytime installations, it's only open at night Weds-Sat from 7-10 pm. We visited at closing time and it was a surreal experience. You drive down a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere, turning into a dark field. You then wander down a longish path and see in the distance neon lights embedded in metal shapes cordoned off in a field. You have to sign a waiver to go in, since it is so dark you can hardly see anything except for the neon lights, adding to the element of anticipation and spookiness. The shapes spell out "I am" scattered throughout the desert floor spanning two American football fields.  Meandering through the cutouts in the dark night with only the glow of neon and the desert wind blowing was pretty incredible. It creates a spiritual experience that is truly unlike anything I've ever seen. 

Phillip K. Smith III - The Circle of Land and Sky

After a little time in the pool, we set off the next day for Phillip K Smith - The Circle of Land and Sky. Comprised of 300 polished stainless steel rods they are inserted into the sand at 10 degree angles in the shape of a circle. Reflecting the land and sky and the interplay of light and shadow, the resulting colors never look the same depending on the time of day and the angle of the sun. Like Mirage, it's fascinating to see the interaction of mirrored image with the Sonoran landscape. The reflectors bring the sky to the ground and the desert floor to the sky, creating a unique perspective.  The Los Angeles born artist began the installation with a 1/4 mile arc in Laguna Beach in this past November and then continued the theme for Desert X.

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Will Boone - Monument    Enter at your own risk!

Last stop before heading back to LA, was Will Boone - Monument. It was out in the middle of a field, again usually easy to spot the Desert X installations by a swarm of people milling around in the middle of nowhere. We parked and waited in a short line to go down the bunker where JFK was waiting for us. I was surprised at how many people I had overheard the day previously at the other Desert X sites and this one who didn't know who it was! What I liked about this work was that it was more of a private moment than the other pieces and that it was meant to be experienced alone. If you were the first one to arrive on site and it was closed, you texted or emailed for the pass code to the lock to the bunker, then swing open the hatch and down the stairs to a mini tunnel. JFK is a bronze statue painted in the style of a hobby kit. Hailing from Texas, Boone said he has always felt a connection to JFK being that was where he died. The bunker also touches upon the fear of nuclear attack and invasion of the other, something we as a society seem to be grappling with even in 2017.

Desert X was such a memorable event, I really hope that it will become a recurring exhibition.  Even if most of the installations close today, Doug Aitken's Mirage is open until the end of October so you still have time to have some of the Desert X experience!

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, Art, Food

An afternoon in Downtown Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the mural capital of the world! I love murals and think they are a great way for art to be shown on the streets of any city. Downtown LA especially has a lot of murals and graffiti, I notice new ones popping up all the time. Since they are out in the open, you can really interact with them in a different way than art in a museum. You can get close up and touch it or even take an obligatory selfie. Natural sunlight and shadow change how they look depending on the time of day and how they age with weathering. They are like living pieces interacting within their community. This was created by artist Teddy Kelly whose mantra is to "follow the bliss" which is something we can all try to live by. The bold colors, shapes and the use of line really mesh together to create something beautiful! To think this was tagged over! Thankfully it was recently restored to its original beauty.

Verve Coffee Roasters off of Spring Street.  @vervecoffee

Verve Coffee Roasters off of Spring Street. @vervecoffee

The outdoor space at  Verve Coffee Roasters .

The outdoor space at Verve Coffee Roasters.

Next stop: Verve Coffee Roasters for a little afternoon pick me up. I'm a coffee drinker through and through. I have to have it first thing in the morning; my husband can verify I'm a grouch without it! When I'm lagging in the afternoon, its aroma perks me right up. Verve originated in Santa Cruz before making its way to Los Angeles. The goal of their company is to bridge the gap from what they call "Farmlevel to Streetlevel," which provides open communication between growers and consumers. I love a hanging garden, so I especially enjoy their outdoor seating area. Besides being a cool space to hang out, they actually roast their own coffee!

Walking by the French band Wall of Death's album cover.

Walking by the French band Wall of Death's album cover.

I'm not familiar with Wall of Death, but the vibrant colors in the album cover definitely stand out to me. You can watch their video Loveland here.

The Wings by Colette Miller.   I'm wearing  Thierry Lasry  Sunglasses,  Frame Denim  jeans,  Mansur Gavriel  bucket bag,  Ba&sh  top

The Wings by Colette Miller.   I'm wearing Thierry Lasry Sunglasses, Frame Denim jeans, Mansur Gavriel bucket bag, Ba&sh top

Colette Miller created the Global Angel Wings Project in 2012 to "remind humanity that we are the Angels of this Earth."  She started painting her wings in downtown Los Angeles and has branched out to other parts of the world. This particular one was painted in 2013. I love the way the paint is cracking and beginning to show signs of age, giving it even more character. Miller has painted wings in locations including Africa, Australia, Turkey and Cuba. She even gave a TEDx talk to discuss how her Global Angel Wings Project expanded into a social phenomenon. Visit her website for more information.

One of three distinct lighting sculptures; this one really caught my eye. Love the massive arched windows!

One of three distinct lighting sculptures; this one really caught my eye. Love the massive arched windows!

Waiting for my food!

Waiting for my food!

The kitchen staging area. Love the chevron design in the wood!

The kitchen staging area. Love the chevron design in the wood!

Terroni was originally founded in Toronto, Canada, and Los Angeles houses their only American locations. The space was first used as the National City Bank in 1924 in the Historic Core District before becoming the restaurant in 2013. The building is actually 6,ooo square feet, which is huge! It was designed by Giannone Petricone Associates. They definitely embraced a more is more philosophy when building the space. There's a lot going on; chevron marble and wood cutouts, curvilinear chandeliers, varying furniture from table to table but somehow it just works. I especially love the white marble used throughout the restaurant and under the bar, cut and adhered in a chevron pattern. The play of light and shadow make the marble look like alternating bands of black and white. Same with the wood under the kitchen staging area, pictured above. It is a very contemporary Italian space full of wit and whimsy. Everything on the menu is so delicious, you can't go wrong. On this particular visit, I ordered the special which was duck ragu' pappardelle, quattro stagioni pizza, and the ricchia salad. Delish!