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Operalia 2014 winners include Mario Chang, Rachel Willis-Sørensen

The winners of the 2014 Operalia competition were announced Saturday evening at the conclusion of the finals competition held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Tenor Mario Chang from Guatemala and soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen of the U.S. took home the two first-place prizes.

Los Angeles native Joshua Guerrero, who is a tenor, was awarded a second-place prize, along with American soprano Amanda Woodbury. In a rare occurrence for the competition, the third-place prizes were awarded to four singers whom the judges said received identical scores.

Placido Domingo presided over the finals competition, serving as the emcee as well as conductor. The event featured the 13 finalists who each performed an aria accompanied by orchestra. Some of the finalists also performed zarzuela solos. 

Both Chang and Willis-Sørensen took home multiple awards, including prizes for zarzuela.

Operalia, which Domingo founded in 1993, is an annual competition for opera singers who are at the beginning of their...

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Seth MacFarlane is a family guy at the Bowl's John Williams tribute

Seth MacFarlane: Live at the Hollywood Bowl!

A sentence perhaps many thought or wished that they would never see. But there he was, the “Family Guy” creator, in the cool of a beautiful August evening, dressed in a formal white jacket and a black vest and bow tie, singing Cole Porter. 

For those of us who know MacFarlane from his ribald slate of Fox comedies, it was a bit of a shock. It’s not like those of us from TV-land were completely blindsided though. 

After all, we did witness the voice of “Stewie” host the Oscars in 2013, where he mostly conformed to the norms of the august occasion. Still even then, he did sing “We Saw Your Boobs.”

And maybe he would have eventually turned to his trusty tool box of boobs, body parts or functions as he so often has in his comedies, if only he would have had more time. But on Friday night MacFarlane was a special guest for John Williams: Maestro of the Movies, and as a result was on stage for only three songs. 

A veritable Bowl tradition, the spry...

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Play festival heralds impending revival of L.A.'s Vision Theatre

A decade and a half has passed since Los Angeles city officials first resolved to renovate and reinvigorate the Vaudeville-era Vision Theatre as an arts hub for Leimert Park, itself a historic hub of black culture in L.A.’s Crenshaw District.

To show that the long-envisioned new beginning is finally in sight after a long and, at $23 million, expensive gestation, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and three neighboring private arts venues are staging a weekend-long festival of play readings intended as an early glimpse of bigger things to come.

The festival fits into the big picture of turning Leimert Park into a cultural destination with the 750-seat Vision Theatre as its marquee attraction, said James V. Burks, whose job as special projects director for the Department of Cultural Affairs includes managing the theater.

The city began eyeing a purchase of the theater in 1998 and bought it two years later. An initial $6.3-million renovation phase has updated its utilities, Burks...

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O.C. classical society sees big spending hike in most recent season

Bucking a sense of retrenchment in the classical music world, including highly publicized recent cutbacks by New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County increased its spending 36% during its most recent season and, thanks to its donors, did not go broke.

The society is Orange County's leading presenter of touring orchestras, and sentiment was part of the reason for increasing spending to about $4.5 million, up from $3.3 million the previous season.

The 2013-14 season that ended last spring marked the organization’s 60th anniversary while serving as a farewell to its respected president and artistic director, Dean Corey, who retired after 21 years in charge. The bottom line was an unaudited budget surplus of $60,000, according to figures released recently by the Philharmonic Society.

But the organization still faces fiscal challenges. It had entered the 2013-14 season with a long-term debt of $797,000, which it has covered with bank lines of credit that cost...

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Operalia competition narrows field to 13 finalists

And then there were 13. The judges of the 2014 Operalia competition have announced the finalists who will compete for the big prizes on Saturday evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

The 13 finalists were chosen from a field of 40 contestants, all of whom are young opera singers at the beginning of their careers. The top honors come with monetary prizes as high as $30,000.

Operalia, which was founded in 1993 by Placido Domingo, is an annual competition held in a different city each year and intended to help discover new vocal talent. This year's competition marks the first time the event has been held in Los Angeles in a decade.

The jury typically selects 10 finalists but has leeway to include more names if scoring is close. Among this year's finalists are four American singers: countertenor John Holiday, soprano Rachel Willis-Sorenson, soprano Amanda Woodbury and tenor Joshua Guerrero, a member of L.A. Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program.

The finals...

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Internet has a hard time accepting that Hello Kitty isn't a cat
'Trying' and succeeding: International City revival soars

In "Trying," now in a beautifully acted revival at Long Beach's International City Theatre, the playwright Joanna McClelland Glass dramatizes the year she spent as secretary to Judge Francis Biddle in 1967-68.

When the two first meet, Glass, renamed Sarah Schorr here and played by Paige Lindsey White, is a 25-year-old newlywed eager for a job. Biddle (Tony Abatemarco), retired from a storied career as attorney general under FDR and chief judge at the Nuremberg Trials, is 81, ailing, set in his ways, petulant and, as Sarah has been warned offstage by his long-suffering wife, thoroughly trying. (The title echoes throughout the script in all of its meanings: exasperating, struggling, litigating.)

Biddle's office, a delicious set by JR Bruce, has been overtaken by piles of books, walling him into a cul-de-sac. Radio broadcasts between the scenes (by sound designer Dave Mickey) convey rapid changes in the outside world, but here, the inbox overflows with unanswered letters, the checkbook is...

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L.A. theater openings, Aug. 31-Sept. 7: 'The Tempest' and more

Shakespeare's "The Tempest" blows into South Coast Rep, it's Greeks vs. "Persians" at the Getty Villa, and a Louisa May Alcott classic gets a makeover in "Women" at Theatre Asylum.

Giddy Up, Lil’ Sunday! All-new sketch comedy show. The Groundlings Theatre, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A. Sun., next Sun., 7:30 p.m.; ends Oct. 26. $16. (323) 934-4747.

OkStupid, A Burlesque Tribute to Dating The Hollywood Jane Revue sends up modern romance. Rockwell: Table & Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. Tue., 8 p.m. $10-$15. (323) 669-1550.

Disney Dreams: Broadway Sings Disney An evening of songs and stories. Rockwell: Table & Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. Thu., 8 p.m.; ends Sept. 25. $5-$30. (323) 669-1550.

Don’t Tell My Mother! Joanna Kerns (“Growing Pains”) joins in a back-to-school edition of the storytelling series. Busby’s East, 5364 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. Thu., 8 p.m. $15, $18. (323) 525-2615.

Persians New York-based SITI Company stages Aeschylus’ classic drama about the aftermath of the Greeks’...

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When John Cassavetes staged 'Love Streams' in Los Angeles

Before John Cassavetes shot his 1984 movie "Love Streams," he took the rather strange route of staging the original play on which the movie was based. The Los Angeles stage production, starring Jon Voight and Gena Rowlands, ran in repertory with two others Cassavetes-directed plays in 1981 at a small theater space on North Citrus Avenue.

"Love Streams," which the Criterion Collection released this month on DVD and Blu-ray, is widely regarded as Cassavetes' final "personal" film. The movie is adapted from Ted Allan's stage drama, which underwent a number of changes before reaching the big screen.

The story follows a middle-aged lothario's intense relationship with his sister, a divorcee with emotional problems. Voight played the role of the brother on stage, but Cassavetes played him in the movie.

A Times review of the stage production noted that the play was derived from a previous drama Allan had written called "I've Seen You Cut Lemons." That play was revised and expanded with the...

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L.A. Opera to host screening of 'La Traviata' at Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier will be transformed into an outdoor opera house for one evening in September when Los Angeles Opera hosts a free, high-definition screening of "La Traviata."

The live screening is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17 and is open to the public, though tickets for entry are required. L.A. Opera said it encourages audiences to bring folding chairs or blankets for seating.

"La Traviata" will be simulcast live from the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where the production is scheduled to run from Sept. 13 to 28. The opera, conducted by James Conlon, stars Placido Domingo and Nino Machaidze. Marta Domingo, wife of the famed singer, directed the Art Deco-inspired revival staging. The screening will be the first in a new biannual series of free live video broadcasts sponsored by L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

In 2010, L.A. Opera hosted free outdoor screenings of its production of "Il Postino," which also starred Domingo. The 73-year-old singer is also the general...

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Tortoises in controversial iPad exhibition are relocated

Three tortoises that were part of a controversial exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado have been relocated to a conservation facility, a museum spokeswoman announced. She said the animals were moved Monday to a facility that has requested anonymity.

Artist Cai Guo-Qiang's outdoor installation, "Moving Ghost Town," generated controversy this summer for featuring African desert tortoises with iPads affixed to their shells. Animal-rights activists criticized the work of art and demanded that the iPads be removed. An online petition decrying the exhibition gathered more than 6,500 signatures.

The museum responded to the criticism by saying that the tortoises were being properly cared for and that the iPads added negligible weight to the animals' shells.

On Tuesday, the museum spokeswoman said the tortoises were relocated because "it has been unseasonably cold and rainy in Aspen." As a result, "the museum's consulting veterinarian, who was retained by the [museum] to monitor the...

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Brothers Jerome and Joel-Peter Witkin and their 'Twin Visions'

If you didn't know the artists were identical twins, you might not suspect it.

Painter Jerome Witkin and surrealist photographer Joel-Peter Witkin have spent the better part of their 74 years apart. Sure, there was the occasional family gathering, and the men would read about each other in papers and periodicals, but a closeness was lacking.

That changed over the summer with the opening of their first joint show at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts in Los Angeles. Titled "Twin Visions: Jerome Witkin & Joel-Peter Witkin," the show is a three-room collection of some of the artists' best known works.

The show proved so popular that Rutberg extended its run for an extra month, he says -- a run that now ends Saturday. He recently released a book featuring both artists' work under the same title as the show.

"People have flown in from all over the world specifically for this," Rutberg says.

Indeed, Joel has achieved cult status. His photographs are dark and often nightmarish. They show disfigured...

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