architecture

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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Carmen_-_illustration_by_Luc_for_Journal_Amusant_1875.jpg

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

Travel, Art

The Broad

The  Broad Museum   - Downtown Los Angeles

The Broad Museum - Downtown Los Angeles

Detail of the honeycomb lattice exterior.

Detail of the honeycomb lattice exterior.

The newest addition to the burgeoning LA art scene is the Broad Museum. It truly is an impressive site to behold! I love passing by it and Disney Hall every day on my commute. It's such a welcome addition to the neighborhood. It's across from MOCA, now making it a mini museum row of two impressive collections. The Broad was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, it's a 120,000 square feet example of the "veil and vault' concept. Home to almost 2,000 works of art, there are two stories of gallery space combining public exhibition space with collection storage. The vault which houses the art storage defines the user experience throughout the museum.  It's heavy mass is visible from underneath on the ground floor and on the top level when you are walking on it.

Arriving at  The Broad , going up the elevator through the vault to the top level..

Arriving at The Broad, going up the elevator through the vault to the top level..

 John Baldessari -  Tips for Artists Who Want To Sell, 1966-68  Getting tips to make some money!   

 John Baldessari - Tips for Artists Who Want To Sell, 1966-68

Getting tips to make some money!

 

Jeff Koons   - Tulips, 1999-2004. Background:   Christopher Wool   - Untitled, 1990

Jeff Koons - Tulips, 1999-2004. Background: Christopher Wool - Untitled, 1990

I never thought I was that much of a Jeff Koons fan but there are several works of his on display at the Broad. He's apparently one of their favorite artists to collect. The way the Tulips are displayed is pretty incredible. Light floods in from every angle from the honeycomb "veil" which forms the ceiling. On a sunny day, (of which there are no shortage of in LA) it's breathtaking. With all the light, the colors are brighter, and the reflections of the metal really standout.  There is another Koons Tulips, at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas. See here what a difference light can make! Behind the Tulips, is a work by Christoper Wool, an artist I wasn't that familiar with but have since come to enjoy. i love how the two works of art complement each other in the space.

Julie Mehretu     -  Cairo,2013

Julie Mehretu - Cairo,2013

Just on the side of the Tulips is another giant piece by Julie Mehretu.  Her painting juxtaposes precise technical architectural drawing with the chaos of a windstorm blowing through the city of Cairo. It's a subtle yet impactful piece. I love the little pops of neon color peppered throughout the delicate drawings.  Mehretu, born in Ethiopia,  is one of the many female and various ethnicities represented throughout the Broad. I appreciate the cultural diversity of its collection. Touring through the space I felt that they tried and succeeded in the effort to represent male and female artists from all over the world. Sure, there are the usual who's who of contemporary art like Koons, Hirst, Burden but there is also Kara Walker, Yayoi Kusama, Glenn Ligon, and Barbara Kruger to name a few.

The Vault

The Vault

If you take the elevator down from the top level, you will miss one of the most interesting parts of the Broad. The vault, where they store all of the art that is either not in use or on loan, can be seen from the small stairway that leads down to the ground floor.  The Broad Art Foundation purchases fifty works of art annually, that's almost one a week! With all that art, not all can be on display at once so they have to rotate. This is the case in most museums just you never get to see behind the curtain into how or where they store all the unused artwork. The viewing windows are a clever addition to the building, offering this permanent behind the scenes view.

Yayoi Kusama  -  Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013

Yayoi Kusama - Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013

A trip to the Broad would not be complete without a visit to the Infinity Mirrored Room. The wait can run hours long for the room, an experience that only lasts approximately three minutes. My recommendation is to sign up on the queue immediately upon entering the museum. The day I went the wait was two hours but I went and toured the museum and had lunch and by the time I was done, I received my text to line up. At that point, I only had to wait 10 minutes in line. Once allowed in, the room is quite small with a central bridge that juts out over water. There are hanging lights everywhere and they are reflected on the mirrors surrounding you. Unlike with LACMA's Rain Room (which is awesome by the way) you get to enter with only your party so you can take photos with abandon and not have random people in your shot. Something I wished they did a better job of at the Rain Room but that's another story...

Ragnar Kjartansson  - The Visitors 2012

Ragnar Kjartansson - The Visitors 2012

One of my very favorite pieces at the Broad is The Visitors by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. It's an hour long video shot featuring nine musicians playing the same song in several rooms of a decrepit house in upstate New York. The viewer is omnipresent, being able to view the musicians walk from one room to the next, and engage with each other or remain solitary in their chosen room. Kjartansson himself plays the guitar in a bathtub throughout the piece. The musicians are playing the same piece of music over and over for the entire hour. What seems like would become maddeningly repetitive, is actually quite beautiful.  The Visitors explores how the same lyrics performed by different musicians transform from poignant to transcendent. I've seen this piece on several visits to the museum, and since it is an hour long, it's understandable that it can be challenging to see the entire piece from start to finish.  I've noticed that for people to really get it, it's helpful to see it from the beginning to see them setup in each room, interact with each other and then check back in at the end when they unplug and all leave the house together. Hurry and go see this piece before it and other pieces from the inaugural collection are taken down Sunday, May 1.  In order to prepare for a special exhibit with Cindy Sherman, opening June 12, The Visitors and other pieces on the ground floor innaugural collection will be taken down.  Hurry up and go already!

The bar. Interior shot by  Otium .

The bar. Interior shot by Otium.

You might be hungry after seeing all those amazing works of art. You're in luck, because Otium, the new restaurant from French Laundry alum Timothy Hollingsworth and restaurateur Bill Chait ( of Bestia, Petty Cash, République and Sotto) is now open.  Hollingsworth, only 36, is a James Beard Rising Star Chef of the year recipient. A recent downtown Angeleno transplant, he describes his cuisine at Otium as "sophisticated rusticity with approachable elegance".  Otium makes the most of local talent with the vertical gardens that it cooks with by LA Urban Farms, furniture by LA furniture designer Chris Earl, staff aprons by Hedley & Bennett,  outdoor design by South Pasadena's House of Honey, and ceramics by Heath and Irving Place Studio.

Stefan Sagmeister  - Inside Out and Outside in. photo by Cassia C. Borges.

Stefan Sagmeister - Inside Out and Outside in. photo by Cassia C. Borges.

I love this hand painted wall of thicket of branches spelling "Inside Out and Outside In" by Stefan Sagmeister. He's an Austrian born, New York based graphic designer and typographer, renowned for album covers for Lou Reed, David Byrne and the Rolling Stones.

Courtyard by House of Honey

Courtyard by House of Honey

Damien Hirst Isolated Elements. Large scale photographic mural on the exterior wall of Otium.

Damien Hirst Isolated Elements. Large scale photographic mural on the exterior wall of Otium.

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!