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Essential Arts: A cellist's royal wedding call, L.A.'s disappeared public art, 'Soft Power' debuts

Essential Arts: A cellist's royal wedding call, L.A.'s disappeared public art, 'Soft Power' debuts
Ellen Reid and Grant Gershon on stage as L.A. Master Chorale presents the premiere of Reid's "dreams of the new world." (Patrick Brown)

A musical that toys with Western views of Asia. Fresh compositions about booming cities. And a "scandalous" removal of public art on L.A.'s Bunker Hill. I'm Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, with lots of culture news and one busted Picasso:

NEW WORLD ORDER

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Composer Ellen Reid has been in demand recently, and her latest commission, the historically inspired "dreams of the new world," by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, made it clear why. "Reid's score is wildly inventive," writes Times classical music critic Mark Swed, "leaving little question about what all the fuss over her music is about." The libretto, however, is uneven, Swed says. At times, Sarah LaBrie's text can "sing," but at others, it got mired in "earnestness." Los Angeles Times

Grant Gershon conducts the Los Angeles Master Chorale in "dreams of the new world."
Grant Gershon conducts the Los Angeles Master Chorale in "dreams of the new world." (Patrick Brown)

Swed also took in the first night of the L.A. Phil's annual composer festival; this year it's a three-week-long "Schumann Focus." Of Robert Schumann, Swed says, "He drank. He wasn't very good with money." But he was also "one of the most influential composers of his time." Los Angeles Times

POWER TRIP

David Henry Hwang and Tony-winning composer Jeanine Tesori's "Soft Power," currently at the Ahmanson Theatre, is a play within a musical that takes every Asian trope presented on a Broadway stage and flings it right back at the West. This, writes Times theater critic Charles McNulty, gives the show a "radical originality." But it also makes for a story line that is "overloaded." What does work are the show's "phenomenal" leads: Conrad Ricamora and Alyse Ann Louis. Los Angeles Times

Conrad Ricamora, left, and Francis Jue star in "Soft Power."
Conrad Ricamora, left, and Francis Jue star in "Soft Power." (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Times' Jessica Gelt spent time with Conrad Ricamora, who is known for his role as Oliver Hampton on ABC's "How to Get Away With Murder." Of "Soft Power," which tweaks some of the most garish elements of American society, he says: "This is the most uncomfortable show that I've ever done. And I don't think that's a bad thing. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing for people to keep their brains turned on when they take their seats." Los Angeles Times

Conrad Ricamora, who plays Chinese executive Xua Xing in "Soft Power."
Conrad Ricamora, who plays Chinese executive Xua Xing in "Soft Power." (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

In case you missed it: Times contributor Lisa Fung's take on why a musical with an Asian cast is so important. Los Angeles Times

PUBLIC GOING PRIVATE

For three decades, public works by Joan Miró and Jean Dubuffet have stood at what is now the Wells Fargo building on Bunker Hill — part of a 1% for art program required by California's now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency. Now those works — along with a public atrium space designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin — are gone. The landscape was demolished, and the art was sold at auction this week by Brookfield Office Properties, which currently manages the building.

This is "scandalous," writes Times art critic Christopher Knight. "It has breached the moral responsibility embodied in the publicly mandated and subsidized percent-for-art requirement that brought the great Miró and Dubuffet to Los Angeles in the first place." Los Angeles Times

A detail of Miró's bronze sculpture "La caresse d'un oiseau."
A detail of Miró's bronze sculpture "La caresse d'un oiseau." (Christie's)

OLD SCHOOL

Charles McNulty was in New York recently to catch up on musicals, and after a tour of duty through "Mean Girls" and "Frozen" he found himself most inspired by two shows he had "mistakenly assumed were past their expiration dates, "Carousel" and "​​​​​​My Fair Lady," re-staged by directors Jack O'Brien and Bartlett Sher, respectively. The former is "the perfect marriage of story and song," while of the latter, he writes: "No version of 'My Fair Lady' has moved me more." Los Angeles Times

Lauren Ambrose, in white hat, plays Eliza in "My Fair Lady" at Lincoln Center.
Lauren Ambrose, in white hat, plays Eliza in "My Fair Lady" at Lincoln Center. (Joan Marcus)

In search of more theater? Times reviewer Philip Brandes describes Antaeus Theatre Company's Southern California premiere of "Native Son" as "electrifying." Nambi E. Kelley's new adaptation of Richard Wright's "groundbreaking" 1940 novel adds a new character and raises "unsettling" questions. Los Angeles Times

The Times' Daryl H. Miller also found the Southern California premiere of "red-hot playwright" Lucas Hnath's "Red Speedo" at North Hollywood's Road Theatre "strongly acted" but "off-kilter." Los Angeles Times

Miller also has the lowdown on everything happening at the city's 99-seat theaters, including a play inspired by L.A.'s old Bimini Baths (the hot springs once located at Vermont near 1st and 2nd Streets) and another that takes on the difficult topic of mass shootings. Los Angeles Times

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RIGOLETTO MORTIS

Mark Swed points out that, historically, the Los Angeles Opera hasn't had much luck staging Verdi's "Rigoletto." It's latest un-inspired go-around seems to be in keeping with that tradition. Despite an "agile" cast and some "honeyed" tones from soprano Lisette Oropesa, the old San Francisco Opera production with "its Di Chirico-like sets, commedia dell'arte courtier costumes and masks, oversaturated lighting," he writes, "look as dated as the 1990s wide lapels." Los Angeles Times

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Lisette Oropesa as Gilda and Juan Jesús Rodríguez in the title role of Los Angeles Opera's production of "Rigoletto."
Lisette Oropesa as Gilda and Juan Jesús Rodríguez in the title role of Los Angeles Opera's production of "Rigoletto." (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

LEGENDARY LOVERS

Worthwhile is the Long Beach Opera's production of "The Love Potion," based on the legend of Tristan and Isolde, in a musically "elegant" version composed by Frank Martin. (There is one more show Saturday.) Times reviewer Rick Schultz says the opera provides "a powerfully affecting alternative to Wagner's more epic and revolutionary 1865 opera, 'Tristan und Isolde.'" Plus, it's only two hours long — shorter than an action movie. Los Angeles Times

Bernard Holcomb as Tristan and Jamie Chamberlin as Isolde in "The Love Potion."
Bernard Holcomb as Tristan and Jamie Chamberlin as Isolde in "The Love Potion." (Keith Ian Polakoff)

CELLIST OUT

British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason was all set to play as a guest soloist with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at the Alex Theatre in Glendale this weekend — then Prince Harry and Megan Markle came calling. Star American cellist Joshua Roman will take his place, playing a program that includes Shostakovich and Vivaldi — and which will be repeated at UCLA's Royce Hall on Sunday. The Times' Deborah Vankin has the details. Los Angeles Times

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason: Tapped to play at the royal wedding.
Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason: Tapped to play at the royal wedding. (Lars Borges)

JUMPING THE SHARK

Apparently Damien Hirst is alive and well and headlining in Vegas. Or at least one of his sharks is. One of his formaldehyde sculptures is now decorating a new bar at the Palms Casino Resort, which also features work by a dude-list of artists, including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Takashi Murakami. Deborah Vankin takes a tour. Los Angeles Times

Damien Hirst's “The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded)” at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Damien Hirst's “The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded)” at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. (Isaac Brekken / For The Times)

AMERICA IN PICTURES

Steve Appleford talks with celebrated photography curator Anne Wilkes Tucker about her deep dive into the collection of 14 million images at the Library of Congress for the multimedia exhibition "Not an Ostrich: And Other Images From America's Library," now on view through Sept. 9 at L.A.'s Annenberg Space for Photography. Her edited view of America's story came down to 440 images, from the earliest known photograph of Abraham Lincoln and a portrait of Harriet Tubman to a picture of an initiation meeting of the Ku Klux Klan. Other images: scenes of New York City by a teenage Stanley Kubrick, Southern California bathing beauties and a house cat dressed heroically like the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, with breastplate and tiny winged helmet. Said Tucker: "It just made me laugh." Los Angeles Times

Anne Wilkes Tucker at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.
Anne Wilkes Tucker at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

IN THE GALLERIES

Times contributing reviewer David Pagel has been making the rounds. This includes a visit to Mindy Shapero's "convulsing" installation at the Pit II in Glendale — which will "make you feel as if you're in a boat on the sea in a storm."

An installation view of Mindy Shapero's "Second Sleep" at the Pit II in Glendale.
An installation view of Mindy Shapero's "Second Sleep" at the Pit II in Glendale. (Jeff McLane)

Plus, he reports on Laurie Nye's "exhuberant exhibition" of paintings at the main gallery at the Pit, and Charles Christopher Hill's "wildly weathered art" at Leslie Sacks Gallery.

For more art exhibitions and events, check out my Datebook this week, which includes new video from Marilyn Minter at Regen Projects and the artifacts of Soviet hippies at the Wende Museum. Los Angeles Times

IN OTHER NEWS…

— Amid heated debate, the Chicago Plan Commission voted to approve Obama's Presidential Center. The design now moves on to zoning. Chicago Tribune

— "L.A. needs to rent, not buy." Critic Alexandra Lange makes the case for a "cheap" Olympics. Curbed

— At Shakespeare's Globe, an egalitarian production where everyone has a say. The Guardian

— The story of Margarita Xirgu, the radical Catalan actor and director who staged Federico García Lorca's plays. New York Times

"Frozen" the musical will launch its national tour from the Hollywood Pantages in 2019. Los Angeles Times

— Illicit Iraqi artifacts acquired by Hobby Lobby are returned to Iraq. Washington Post

— Casino mogul Steve Wynn doesn't have a whole lot of luck with the Picassos in his care. Bloomberg

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— Artists are denied entrance into Cuba and an alternative biennial in Havana. Artnet

— A Dutch art dealer thinks he may have found a previously unknown painting by Rembrandt. New York Times

— Critic Mary Louise Schumacher is tired of biopics featuring genius men artists. So she came up with a list of genius women (which includes a suggestion by yours truly). Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sam Nzima, the South African photographer who captured a watershed image of an activist boy who was shot dead by the apartheid regime in Soweto in 1976, has died. The Guardian

South African photographer Sam Nzima poses with his iconic photo in 2011.
South African photographer Sam Nzima poses with his iconic photo in 2011. (Denis Farrell / AP)

— The five winners of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts were announced this week, and they are Okwui Okpokwasili, Arthur Jafa, Courtney Bryan, Robert O'Hara and Michael Rakowitz. Los Angeles Times

— That awkward phenomenon of the auction house painting with woman placed nearby for scale. Not like a car show with bikini babes (er, "brand ambassadors") at all. Artnet

Ballet with sports-style commentary is a thing. San Jose Mercury News

— And since we can't stop talking about Childish Gambino's "This Is America" video, Lynsey Chutel breaks down the African influences in the choreography. Quartz

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

"I will do anything to end homelessness, except build more homes." It stings because it's true. McSweeney's

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