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Essential Arts: A political debate critique, freeways in free-fall and a streaming tutorial

I’m Kelly Scott, and last week the arts staff took on everything from inferior classical music streaming to the dramaturgy of political debate, with a few French horns added for good measure.

Places, everyone

It takes a theater critic to look at the 10 Republican presidential candidates lined up on stage in Cleveland and think “Rent.” That’s only one of the pleasures of Charles McNulty’s breakdown of the Thursday debate as political theater. Motivation? The three Fox hosts were “looking to stir controversy at every opportunity to keep viewers from tuning out.” Back story? An exchange about Trump and bankruptcy was “a point of contention he had long ago with [Rosie] O’Donnell during her first stint on “The View.” Directorial focus? “The cameras kept coming back to [Bush’s] genial visage, anointing it with airtime.”

Donald Trump fields a question during the first Republican presidential debate. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

If we could just get off this L.A. Freeway

Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne took a step back and explained why he recently reviewed the newly widened 405 Freeway, and said that he’s got a lot more to say. “I’ll be writing several more articles in the coming months looking at the Los Angeles freeway,” he writes. The series “will ask whether we can approach the task of reimagining our freeways with the same energy, ambition and expertise that we brought to the task of building them in the first place.”

Traffic streams into the Sepulveda Pass below the Getty Center on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Streaming without going down the drain

You’re familiar with Watergate-era directive “follow the money?” In the case of streaming music, Mark Swed counsels “follow the musicians." Never one to sugarcoat things, Mark rattles off a host of reasons to loathe the status quo. But he is also a realist: Streaming, unfortunately, rules. But there is hope. By not accepting what is offered, and paying attention to the ways artists have begun adapting and bending it to their wishes, there is better listening ahead.

More French horn, please

Last week brought an influx of French horn players to downtown Los Angeles, as the Colburn School hosted an annual symposium of visiting dignitaries, master classes, a horn concert at the Hollywood Bowl, and the ongoing conversation about how to make a living playing the lustrous, plummy sounding, orbicular instrument of the gods. (Sorry. French horns bring out the Margaret Dumont in me.) The consensus on the making-a-living thing, David Ng reported, was building a career that blends Wagner and Strauss with studio engagements, especially movie scores. Stefan Dohr, principle horn with the Berlin Philharmonic, advised, “You have to make a really wide career path for yourself. It's important to seek variety and to be flexible.”

Pictured are Timothy Jones, Sarah Willis, Stefan Dohr and Andrew Bain. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Steve Jobs — tenor, baritone or bass?

Poor Tim Cook. I mean, Tim Cook is anything but poor, but will anyone ever make a movie of his life? Much less write an opera? Our voracious appetite for larger-than-life characters – and the deeds that make them so – has led to multiple biographies, several films (the latest arrives in theaters this October)  and now an opera about Steve Jobs, founder and all-around creative genius/empire builder of Apple. Santa Fe Opera announced that Mason Bates' new opera, “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” will have its world premiere during its 2017 season. (The libretto is by Mark Campbell, a 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner for the opera “Silent Night.”) Bates told David Ng that “Steve Jobs touches on the creative, technological and human side of things.”

Steve Jobs is pictured introducing the Macbook Air in San Francisco in 2008. (Los Angeles Times)

In short

Tan Dun leads the LA Phil in a Hollywood Bowl concert of his film music (including “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) ... Small show, big impact: check out Charles McNulty’s review of “Citizen,” an ambitious adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s book of poetry by the Fountain Theatre’s Stephen Sachs, directed by Shirley Jo Finney ... We remember the late Lynn Manning, founder of the Watts Village Theatre Company.

What we’re reading

Schadenfreude, insensitivity, or just a mean streak – what explains the guilty pleasure in a screw-up by another city's museum? (Hey -- some of us lived through Jeffrey Deitch’s proposed disco exhibition at MOCA and the ensuing derision.) So it was when I read that the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, part of the Smithsonian Institution, would hold its 40th anniversary gala in New York rather than the city where the museum is, you know, located: Washington. First, the New York Times dropped it as the barbed last item of a briefs column. Then DC art world observers and the Twittersphere (for starters, @TylerGreenDC) stepped up. Here’s the Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott on Hirshhorn director Melissa Chiu's blunder. – Kelly Scott, LAT arts and culture editor.

Times Theater Critic Charles McNulty read a New Yorker article on stage fright and one particular sentence compelled him to respond on Facebook.

... and listening to

There is intense curiosity about Kirill Petrenko, recently appointed to succeed Simon Rattle at the Berlin Philharmonic in three years. He has made few recordings and has little media profile. His one-time conducting at the Hollywood Bowl in 2007 left little impression. However, he is apparently wowing Wagnerites at Bayreuth Festival, where he is leading this summer's “Ring” cycle. Those performances are being broadcast and streamed by Bavarian Radio. The first two of the “Ring” operas, “Das Rheingold” and “Die Walküre” have already been aired, but “Siegfried,” is Tuesday and “Götterdämmerung,” Aug. 15. All begin at 11:05 am, PST. –Mark Swed, Times music critic.

Follow me on Twitter at @kscottLATarts.

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