Newsletter: Essential Arts: The L.A. Phil and a crew of female artists pay tribute to Yoko Ono

Miya Folick performs Yoko Ono’s “Soul Got Out of the Box” in a program curated by Anna Bulbrook at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Hooray for the fine weather! I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, with the week’s essential culture headlines and beaver design news:

Ono love

Yoko Ono is well-known for her art and her marriage to John Lennon. But her work as a musician, writes Times classical music critic Mark Swed, doesn’t get nearly as much recognition. That has been corrected: The L.A. Phil and 75 female performers paid tribute to Ono as part of the season-long Fluxus Festival. “The lesson we learned long ago about Ono is that as soon as you try to pigeonhole her, you are in trouble,” writes Swed. “Her greatness is the big picture.”

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Francisca Valenzuela sings Yoko Ono’s “Sister, O Sister.”
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Classical notes

Jeffrey Kahane, who stepped down as musical director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra two years ago, was back in the conductor’s seat for a concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall that also featured some dazzling violin playing by Gabriella Smith.

Mark Swed also hit a pair of experimental concerts by Israeli composer Chaya Czernowin and Alvin Lucier, at Zipper Concert Hall and REDCAT, respectively. Heard of slow food? This was about slow listening. “The first really good thing to be said about these demanding concerts — which required near meditation on slow, mainly quiet scores with very slight changes — was that they did an excellent job of undermining stereotypes of an antsy new generation addicted to constant stimulus and screens.”

Alvin Lucier, 87, a pioneer in strange sounds, performs his famous piece “I Am Sitting in a Room.”
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Plus, French conductor Lionel Bringuier was back in L.A. to lead the L.A. Phil in a program that included Gershwin and Ravel. The show, notes contributor Richard S. Ginnell, had a “canny” way of introducing “cross-references between the composers and the performers.”

LACMA’s shrinking design

With the release of the county’s final environmental impact report, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has cleared an important hurdle for construction on its new building — and the Los Angeles Times’ Deborah Vankin has all the deets. The report, which was released with three new renderings of Peter Zumthor’s building, reveal a structure that will be 10% smaller in scale — and that will mean a net loss of gallery space for the museum.

I have a piece that considers the revised design (which looks an awful lot, from overhead, like Bullwinkle’s antler). The new renderings show “a structure that has shrunk from its original ambitions — both in scale and form.” Moreover, many details, such as how the galleries will be laid out, remain a mystery.

An architectural rendering shows the exterior of the proposed LACMA redesign by Peter Zumthor straddling Wilshire Boulevard.
(Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner / LACMA)

Film meets classical

Contributor Tim Greiving profiles a couple of musicians known for their film work. The first is Vangelis, the Oscar-winning composer of “Chariots of Fire,” who rarely grants interviews — “I have to try to say things that I don’t need to say,” he tells Greiving.

And he reports on Danny Elfman, the Oingo Boingo frontman turned Oscar-nominated film composer who is now turning his musical attention to the classical concert hall with a new concerto, “Eleven Eleven,” debuting at the Soraya in Northridge next week. Of crashing the classical world, he says, “I’m just not going to stop.”

Composer Danny Elfman in his Los Angeles studio.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The lives of others

Times theater critic Charles McNulty reviews Jackie Sibblies Jury’s “lyrically cathartic” new play “Marys Seacole” at New York’s Lincoln Center. About a 19th century Jamaican-born Scottish-Creole nurse, the play “explores the sanctity and sacrifices, along with the seething resentments, of caregivers in a drama that moves with the rippling relentlessness of a pond after a violent storm.”

“Marys Seacole” at Lincoln Center, with Quincy Tyler Bernstine, at left in foreground, and Karen Kandel.
(Julieta Cervantes)

‘Vietgone’ is back

Playwright Qui Nguyen is back with a new play that picks up where the last one — “Vietgone” — left off. “Poor Yella Rednecks” is inspired by the story of the playwright’s parents, Vietnamese immigrants who met in a refugee camp in the United States. Of the new work, which he has affectionately dubbed “Vietgone 2,” he says: “I’m making the Asian actors superheroes, but I want to make sure they have all the nuances and complexities a poor, white character would have.”

Qui Nguyen at South Coast Repertory.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

‘Charlie’ on stage

The stage version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is on view at the Hollywood Pantages, and The Times’ Daryl H. Miller was not that into it. Likening it to a candy bar wrapped in shining paper, he writes that “the product inside is neither terrific nor terrible, merely bland.”

Miller also reviews Mary Zimmerman’s “Argonautika” at A Noise Within in Pasadena, a work inspired by the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. First produced in 2006, the play, he notes, is “lively, funny and easy to follow, spoken in conversational, present-day language.”

Hylas (Richy Storrs) encounters a water nymph (Angela Gulner) in “Argonautika.”
(Craig Schwartz)

Inspired quilts

The California African American Museum has a show of mixed media works by artist Adia Millet that features textiles, collages, quilts and installations that touch on issues of identity and transformation. The works, writes The Times’ Jessica Gelt, often “evoke a sense of memory and loss” and “explore the deeply personal experiences that define us as we age and grow.”

A deatil from “Transmogrify” by Adia Millett, 2018.
(Shaun Roberts)

In the galleries

Times art critic Christopher Knight has been hitting the white boxes and is very intrigued by the abstract paintings of Dianna Molzan at Kristina Kite Gallery, “clever and considered” works that have been carefully pulled apart and put back together.

He also checks out a “handsome” traveling show of painter Richard Diebenkorn’s early works at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University. The show features only a handful of paintings, he notes, “but the abundance of works on paper makes it well worth seeing, since drawings are where Diebenkorn trained his hand and worked out his pictorial ideas.”

A detail from Richard Diebenkorn’s “Untitled (Horse and Rider),” 1954.
(Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art)

Opera at dawn

The Bombay Beach Biennale, the scrappy arts festival held on the shores of the Salton Sea in the spring, was back with a raft of performance, music and installation last weekend. I got up really early and attended a dawn performance by Ariana Vafadari on the last day that paid operatic tribute to an Iranian water deity. It was ethereal.

Mezzo soprano Ariana Vafadari, in red, performs at the Bombay Beach Biennale.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

Ready for the weekend

Matt Cooper has the week ahead in dance, art, theater and classical music — as well as his weekend picks, including a dance performance by Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company.

And Daryl H. Miller rounds up the 99-seat beat, including “The Mother of Henry,” a play about the intersection of the Vietnam War and life in Boyle Heights.

In other news ...

Agnès Varda, the innovative filmmaker closely identified with the French New Wave, and the subject of a gleeful survey at LACMA in 2013, has died at 90. Times film critic Justin Chang pens a tribute.

Jon Voight and Mike Huckabee have been appointed to the Kennedy Center board through 2024.

— The Highland Park building of L.A.’s Southwest Museum is up for grabs.

Bethany Montagano of the Skirball Cultural Center has been named the new director of the USC Pacific Asia Museum.

— “It’s trying to find always the reality of being a human being as opposed to being a character in a play.” Glenda Jackson talks about taking on King Lear.

Rita Moreno can now add the Peabody Award to her long list of accolades.

— The drama club that is all about teaching 6-year-olds about the Bard.

— No fewer than three documentaries are in the works about the forgery scandal at New York’s Knoedler gallery.

— When architecture is bad, the writing gets good: Thomas Heatherwick’s Vessel installation in NYC is drawing plenty of blazing critiques. Karrie Jacobs notes its antisocial qualities, but Kate Wagner finds it profoundly cynical [warning: profanity], and Mark Lamster offers no fewer than 21 mini hot takes on the matter. 🔥🔥

Frank Gehry has a new house in Santa Monica.

— And critic John King has an opinionated guide to San Francisco architecture.

And last but not least …

Headlines from the Onion I live for: “Brutalist Beaver Constructs Paul Rudolph-Inspired Dam.” Priceless. | Twitter: @cmonstah