CHECK OUT THE REFURBISHED GETTY VILLA

It’s May in Malibu, and a little early for the seasonal early morning fog known as June gloom, and also on PCH, a little early for the summer weekend traffic.

Therefore if wanting to get out of the house, I suggest this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites perhaps going to a museum. But not wanting to spend hours driving, perhaps consider staying a little closer to Malibu, and visiting the Getty Villa.

Our beaches may be famous, surfing legendary, but among the culturally curious, so is the villa, which located just east of the city line overlooking the PCH, is in effect our neighborhood museum.

And making it particularly attractive these days is its recent refurbishment. It not only seems to glisten a little more in the midday sun after the fog lifts, but also in its evocative and accessible interior, thanks to a new arrangement of the collection.

The fascinating sculpture, the intricate mosaics, intriguing ceramics and transfixing jewelry have all been placed in their respective cultural and historical context. The physical facilities also have been improved. There is more gallery space, upgraded display cases, and better lighting. Though I must add the graphics leading one through the Villa can be improved.

Of course, you can still wander around the galleries, diverted by glimpses of Cycladic figurines and stunning Greek sculptures. But if you look closely and follow the floor maps, revealed is a chronological path through the various ages of classical antiquity: from the Neolithic Period through the late Roman Empire — that’s 6,000 years plus.

But first upon entering under the atrium, to the right is a display labeled “the Classical World in Context,” which should be glimpsed before venturing into the reoriented Villa.

And immodestly also on first floor, are several galleries paying homage to J. Paul Getty. It was his vision that brought the remnants of the country Roman estate buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., piece by piece, to sunny Southern California, and incorporated with other ancient villas into the museum, which opened in 1974.

What can be missed is the Villa’s inaugural exhibit, “Plato in L.A.” which indulges the visions of several contemporary artists of the philosopher ‘s theories. I’ll just label it a flimflam and irrelevant.

Though having visited the villa many times, I still find it absolutely fascinating, to think of the intricacies of the art and craft of past civilizations placed as they are in a sympathetic setting and cultural context. And when the weather is Mediterranean mild and the sun shinning, the Villa sparkles.

 

 

 

 

STAGE REVIVALS STIR TICKET SALES

As I predicted a few weeks ago the revue, musical, or songfest, call it what you will, “Blues In the Night,” became a hot ticket,

But as I report on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, happily its run at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, has been extended another week. And as I have recommended, it shouldn’t be missed

The production may be a little dated, as I am, but it still dazzles, and makes for a delightful, nostalgic, evening. Nostalgic indeed,

the revival is directed by Sheldon Epps, who worked on the show when it was conceived off-off Broadway some 40 years ago. After several productions over the years, I think he’s finally nailed it.

The set in a smoky seedy hotel in Chicago is evocative of the late down and out 30s, and so are the 26 torch songs of Bessie Smith, and Duke Ellington, among notable others.

They are woven together into the sorrowful stories of three women, and the men who have done them wrong, and delivered appropriately draped and pitch perfect by a right-on, outstanding cast of four, Yvette Cason, Bryce Charles , Chester Gregory and Paulette Ivory.

Yes, there could be more dancing, but the production like the man it portrays, is a worrisome thing, in the memorable words of composers Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.

In addition to Blues in the Night, there are several other productions scheduled locally that I expect also will be hot tickets, revivals actually that were hits in their time.

At the Japanese Garden on the West L.A. VA campus, from June 5th to July 1st, there will be a rare production of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV,” staged by Tony Award winning director Daniel Sullivan. Of particular note featured will be screen actor Tom Hanks in stage debut as Shakespeare’s greatest comedic character Sir John Falstaff. For tickets you are going to have to link via email to the Shakespeare center.

 At the Wallis, June 8th through July 1, will be Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. This production will star the distinguished actors Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville.

June 20th to July 1st, the Freud Playhouse, on the UCLA campus, will host a Reprise production of the Broadway hit play, Sweet Charity. Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall.

Tickets for all should be a scramble. Go for it.

 

 

WEST L.A. CULTURAL SCENE ALIVE AND DIVERSE

I might have been on hiatus for several weeks, but the very varied cultural scene in west Los Angeles certainly was not, and is not, as I observe on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere

At the Broad Stage, tomorrow is percussion personified, as the renowned TAO troupe performs its latest production, entitled Drum Heart. Expect the auditorium in Santa Monica to reverberate, with the unique Japanese sound and style.

Then on Sunday the Broad Stage will be the scene of a very different sound and presence, a classic music concert. Wrapping up its multiyear Beethoven String Quartet cycle, the acclaimed Calder Quartet will be playing a program including two of the master’s compositions.

And for a little variation, the program also will feature a string quintet, by Mozart, with a guest musician on the additional instrument of a viola. That no doubt is a reminder by the quartet that is should not to be remembered for just Beethoven.

Nor I should add should the Broad Stage should only be known for music, having last week hosted the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Revolutionary when founded 50 years ago as a home for Afro American ballet dancers then being shunned, the group continues to be, simply and boldly, outstanding.

It brought the Broad Stage to life, and the audience to its feet applauding, in a limited appearance that featured an inspired program of neo-classical and contemporary ballet. Particularly moving was the ballet “Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven”: subtitled Odes to Love and Loss. It was as the creator Ulysees Dove had hoped, “an experience in movement, a story without words” Beautiful.

Not to be, should I say, upstaged, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills continues with its rich tradition of diverse dance, music and theater offerings. On my must see list is “Blues In The Night,”

Conceived and directed by Sheldon Epps, the musical bears witness to sorrowful stories of three women, and the men who have done them wrong. Featuring 26, yes, that is two dozen plus two, for a very full evening of the sexy songs made famous by Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and a host of famed others.

It runs until May 20th. but it promises to be an evening that you just might want to see and hear several times.

 

And for something very different, at the Skirball Cultural Center, atop Brentwood, this Sunday, is a puppet festival. Featured in addition to live music and kid workshops, will be a performance by the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre’s famed Animal Cracker Conspiracy Puppet Company. We’re talking real art and entertainment here.

 

 

LACMA EXHIBIT CELEBRATES ART AND URBAN HISTORY

As I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select web sites, the exhibit “City and Cosmos” that just opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, uniquely embraces both art and urban history.

And let me state from the beginning of this review, modest as the exhibit may be in three galleries in the Resnick wing of sprawling LACMA, it is not to be missed.

Engagingly revealed are the finding of the lastest exhaustive excavations in the ancient city of TEOTIHUACAN of three pyramids. the sun, moon and feathered serpent, and the adjacent residential compounds.

The excavations have been ongoing by international teams of archeologists, for the city in central Mexico was for centuries, at the turn of the first millennium, from about 100 b.c. to 600 a.d , the largest urban center in the Americas, with an estimated population of 100,000.

For a context, they lived in single family, one story houses, off a well planned street system, focused on a major avenue anchored by the three impressive pyramids.

The city is considered the centerpiece of Mexico’s rich narrative, and its ruins draw about 4 million visitors a year.

The 200 or so objects displayed are fascinating, for me riveting, Included are both large and small scale impressive stone sculptures, beautfully crafted jewelery, and household items, principally pottery, decoratfed with scenes of everyday life. mothers and children, and animalsThe carved masks and polished faces mesmerize.

The craftsmanship is exquisite, the work obviously of a large and talented artisan class, though one questions whether they were slaves or critizens. And where did some of the materials come from, such as the varied shells?

Indeed, if anything, the exhibit raises more questions than it answers, and a well written and illustrated timeline would have been appreciated. The labeling was inadequate, atleast for the plebian public.

Whatever, the objects indicate a rich and vibrant cosmopolitan life, that hint at the city in its hey day attracting people from various tribes and cultures from across meso America. In this respect, I feel this speaks in a way to Los Angeles today, and its large immigrant and migrating population.

But I would have liked to learn more why this city was destroyed; was the devestating fire in the six hundreds deliberate or accidental, and were the city’s apparent egalitarian institutions that had welcome the city’s diversity eventually subverted by despotic rulers only hinted at in the exhibition catalogue? Questions.

 

 

 

 

 

SOME GLITTERING DIVERSIONS AT THE GETTY

Needed some diversion from my concerns for Malibu’s public schools and my contempt for the Santa Monica school board bullies, and so it was off to the Getty, to do my weekly arts commentary, on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere.
 
Crowning Brentwood above the 405, when the weather is benign the Getty cultural center is I feel an abiding sanctuary, graced with accessible art and reasonable fare.
 
Also personally attractive is that being so close to my Malibu,, makes me think of the Getty as my local museum.
 
And if there ever was a pair of glittering small gems epitomizing the Getty it is the current exhibits, Michelangelo to Degas, and Rembrandt and the Inspiration of India.
 
Michelangelo to Degas is hailed by the Getty as one of its most spectacular acquisitions of a private collection in its history, consisting of 16 drawings of a cadre of celebrated draftsman. Ii is a roster that includes Michelangelo, Tiepolo, Reubens, Degas, and my favorite Goya.
 
Of interest is that a pen and brown ink, opaque watercolor drawing of a figure in mourning credited to Michelangelo was discovered some 20 years ago, pasted into an album in the small library of an English castle. Then the Getty did what it does so well, and pursued it, and the obvious others.
 
All the art works fascinate, certainly when you consider how they were drawn in such exquisite detail, and with the limited raw materials and sketching tools available at the time. In viewing them closely, I suggest if possible do it with a hand held magnifying glass provided by Getty.
 
Included also in the exhibit, running to April 22, is a superb painting by Antoine Watteau,.
 
What makes the exhibit of Rembrandts particularly interesting is that his drawings of the Mughal court are very much in the popular Indian style, definitely not what Rembrandt was known for. They could be considered copies.
 
Also included for some perspective are his studies of 15th and 16th century Italian drawings, which unlike the Mughal paintings apparently influenced his art.
 
But the Indian sources remain unique in the master’s magnificent body of work. The exhibit runs until June 24th, and given that it will soon be Spring, consider that after viewing may I suggest contemplating it while having a coffee sitting on one of the cultural center’s inviting terraces.
 
To me that is a perfect day.

JASPER JOHNS AT THE BROAD

If post modern and conceptual art leaves you wondering just what was the artist thinking when he or she conceived a particular piece, the Jasper Johns exhibit at the Broad Museum downtown might just provide some answers.

Indeed, if you are at all interested, or think you should be, in the constantly shifting and ever-challenging modes and methodology of the art world, the exhibit, entitled “Something Resembling Truth.”

As I comment on public radcio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere, it is a must, and runs for several more months through May 13th, and worth the $25 entry fee. The Broad is usually happily free.

This is an exception, but so is Johns, who at 88 is considered our greatest living artist, as someone once described him, an iconic iconoclast, the father of Pop and Conceptual art. Certainly he is revered among the multi-media avant garde in art, music and dance.

And specifically, if you have been entranced by Johns as I have been for six decades. the exhibit is a most welcomed well organized and explained comprehensive survey, for Johns in his constant experimentations has arguably influenced nearly every artistic movement from the 1950s to the present day.

Beginning with no less a rejection of the Modernist isims of Dada and Abstract Expressionism that isolated one’s aesthetic experience from any cultural context , Johns conversely explored what we actually see.

The curators state in a gallery introduction that “by approaching widely recognizable signs and symbols, Johns sought to make the familiar unfamiliar, inviting viewers to look more closely at what he calls, things the mind already knows.”

Thus displayed, and explained, are Johns widely recognized images of the American flag in a parade of subtle permutations. Also displayed are targets, numbers, maps, light bulbs, and several collages that feature broken school rulers. All of this may be commonplace, but it also cryptic. And Johns is not saying, and is quote suggesting “the meanings may just be that the painting exists.”

But the cultural critic Marc Haefele. says it is sometimes apparent, as in a painting called “In Memory of my feelings.” With a gloomy finish and pathetically dangling fork and spoon, Haefele suggest it evokes Johns’ sorrow over the loss of his longtime lover, the artist Robert Rauschenberg. You get it.

 

A REVIEW AND PREVIEW

Wishing in a whisper a very happy centennial birthday to Leonard Bernstein, I listened last week with pure pleasure to his tonal distinctive overture to “Candide.”

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the operetta, show musical, call it what you will, Candide is in its last weeks to a most successful revival at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center downtown.

\Indeed, the musical has been through several revivals in the half century since it initially flopped on Broadway in 1956, despite Bernstein already then being hailed as a young genius. It certainly didn’t faze his Music and Art High school fan club fan I hung with at the time back in New York City.

And sixty years later I frankly was not going to be fazed by the flaws in the story line that has been rewritten countless times, and is based on a comic novella by the philosopher Voltaire recounting a youth’s tribulations as he optimistically searches for “the best of all possible worlds.” The flaws persist.

But to my delight, and apparently the audiences’, the music survives and succeeds, with thanks to a cast of opera singers, and two show biz veterans, Kelsey Grammar and Christine Ebersole and a shout out here to sound designer Kai Harada, set designer James Noone, and conductor James Conlon

I also was relieved, for I heralded the production in advance of its opening and in anticipation that it would be a hot ticket.

This may be off course for a critic, but I feel does perhaps better serves my audience, especially when pressed by a tight calendar. That’s why I occasionally trumpet productions or exhibits I have not seen yet, though am reasonably confident of their being noteworthy.

So, with that in mind and alert to a limited two week engagement, tonight through Sunday March 11th, I am giving a heads up to “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, “ at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, in Beverly Hills.

It is a love story of the artist Marc Chagall and his wife Bella, a two character play that promises to be a most engaging production by Bristol, England’s Old Vic and the always inventive Kneehigh troupe.

According to the advance hype, it should dazzle, combining the visuals of Chagall’s paintings with the music and dance of the Russian-Jewish tradition. Talk about a theatrical bowl of borscht. My soul awaits.

 

ART WORTH THE TRIP

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, I’m a culture vulture, ever on alert, primarily, for what appeals to me, personally, and, secondarily, possible grist for my multi-media mill.

To be sure, many of my selections are arbitrary, and, yes, capricious. How else can explain my recent review of Doggie Hamlet in Will Rogers Park?

Then in deference to my presumed audience there is the consideration of location. I have to weigh whether access to a particular venue is worth, say, suffering traffic, especially to Downtown from my perch on Malibu..

Frankly, it really has to be promising before I decide to drive there. And while I embrace the concept of mass transit, the light rail to Santa Monica, and the bus beyond to Malibu, is not very convenient .

The car in L.A. is still clearly the preferred mode of transportation. You just got to time your trips.

But then there is the production or project you just have to see, and all rational considerations are out the window. That’s the way I feel about several events I’m penciling into my culture calendar, and suggest you might do too.

In Pasadena, on display at the Norton Simon Museum, is one of the rarest and certainly one of the more distinctive of Rembrandt’s many self portraits .

He painted it at the age of 34, and unlike the many that followed, shows the artist comfortable and confident, in his skill and in his self.

Worth a special visit to the museum for it alone, the mesmerizing painting is in the United States for the first time, on special loan from London’s National Gallery, on display until March 5th.

And for all the aggravation driving to an increasingly congested downtown, high on my list is a visit to the Broad Museum, for a blockbuster Jasper Johns exhibit.

On view are more than 120 of his varied paintings, sketches, sculptures, and prints, drawn from a wealth of public and private collections, including, of course, from the Broad collection.

Johns is considered of one of the most inventive and influential artists of the 20th century, making this exhibit a must for anyone interested in art. It runs until May 13th, with reservations strongly advised. I’ve made mine, and suggest you do too.

Now if you are really into art, and Rembrandt, as I am, and really don’t mind traveling, this month in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, you can view up close conservators restoring two masterpieces, (Portrait of a Woman Wearing a Gold Chain and Portrait of a Man Wearing a Black Hat.) It should be fascinating, if you can manage the commute.

 

 

 

“DOGGIE HAMLET”

This week for public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, observed somewhat wide eyed and curious was a production of “Doggie Hamlet,” staged under a sunny southern California sky at Will Roger State Historic Park by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance.

Admittedly, I don’t know exactly how to describe the event conceived, choreographed and directed by Ann Carlson: Whether it was a dance concert, a dog show, or a happening?

Or perhaps even something more, as Carlson writes in the program, that Doggie Hamlet “dares the preposterous, the absurd, the simple, even silly “ asking us, literally, “to sit together at the edge of the mystery and sameness that joins all living things.”

However explained, the event was diverting and delightful, featuring milling sheep, trying as ever to snap up a few blades of green grass, several cavorting humans in and out of floppy sheep skins, and a very focused, no nonsense, beautiful herding Border Collie doing his thing, while two others impatiently looked on with their distinctive gaze.

A more coherent dance narrative would have been appreciated, whether the humans were trying to mimic or divert the principal herding dog. Whatever their intent, they were frankly awkward, purposely or not. Forget Shakespeare. I missed the connection.

And as someone who has witnessed these dogs actually herding sheep in New Zealand, I feel it would have added to the drama seeing them work in concert. It is impressive. I also have to confess that I was partial to the principal dog Monk, being a dedicated dog person, and not incidentally the master and admirer of a herding Corgi.

Our dog known as Bobby the Bad is very much a working dog who instead of corralling cattle for which he was bred must now be content herding other dogs and humans. For those curious, Bobby can be seen and heard at the Trancas Canyon Dog Park most days at 4 PM. doing his thing, despite the coarse gravel there that cuts his and his buddies’ feet. So much for the city’s promise of replacing it last year. We the persevering pet owners I guess should be just glad the park is occasionally maintained.

Back to a more pristine Will Roger’s Park, where seated on a hay bale overlooking the polo grounds, I was very much predisposed for Doggie Hamlet.

To be sure, in my enjoyable pursuit of arts and entertainment attractions to review, I have come to expect the unexpected from UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance. Its main venue is the landmark campus centerpiece Royce Hall, but in recent years has branched out to the more intimate UCLA Freud Playhouse and Little theater, and downtown to the Theatre at Ace Hotel.

And now, of course, there is Will Roger’s Park. previously known for its polo matches and fabeled private rope twirling performance . But as its mission statement proclaims, the center is not a place, it’s “a state of mind that embraces experimentation, encourages a culture of the curious, champions disruptors and dreamers and supports the commitment and courage of artists.” I like that.

Just now · 7 neighborhoods in General

CANDIDE COMES TO TOWN

 

This week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, some suggestions for theatre goers ever on the search for a unique experience that the live stage promises.

For me, it is no wonder that theatre as a human endeavor has been around ever since ancient Greece, surviving our capricious civilizations, with its periodic deranged autocrats.

If you read into that an allusion to our present times, it is. Excuse me, but as a patriotic American, to be sure first generation, I cannot pass up an opportunity to take a swipe at the unpresidential Trump and his complicit Republican entourage that I feel is damaging our frail democracy.

That said, my arts and entertainment observation for this week is to forget trying to get tickets to Hamilton. We have, resolving ourselves to wait with some trepidation for the movie version, or perhaps a revival by the show biz bound students at Malibu or Uni high schools.

For something that promises to soar as Hamilton, and because it is just here for a limited engagement, check out the production of Candide, being presented with all its trimmings by the L.A. Opera at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler.

I frankly haven’t seen a preview. It opens tomorrow and runs until the February 18th. But the advance hype of the revitalized production resonate a must see, and so I will be going, albeit near the end of the run.

But I did see it several decades ago, and remember the music by Leonard Bernstein to hit just the right tone, and the book based on Voltaire’s classic satire to be timely then, and I expect after several reported rewrites it will be again.

If you are into literature, you might recall that the philosopher Voltaire’s story is the naïve search of the character Pangloss for the best of all possible worlds, only to constantly fall victim to an avalanche of unfortunate events, but somehow to survive

Bringing it to life will be Emmy Award winner Kelsey Grammer known of course as TV’s Frasier, and two-time Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole. They and a large cast will be under the baton of conductor James Condon, in this send up of a Broadway show and Opera

For me the real star of the evening is Bernstein, whose score melds the popular and classic into something distinct. The revival of his Candide is indeed a fitting celebration of what happens this year to be his centennial birthday.

But again, get your tickets, now, for like Hamilton, this show, opera, call it what you will, has all the makings of a hit.