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CULTURE IN LOS ANGELES – TWICE IN A WEEK!

Most of us are familiar with Woody Allen’s quote (when comparing Manhattan to LA) that “the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.” Based on a couple of recent amazing experiences, I wholeheartedly disagree … 
 
Residents and visitors alike to the City of Angels are finding more options than ever before.  Our “grande dame” of venues is the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, home to the LA Opera and site of a recent fundraising event (for pancreatic cancer research) celebrating and remembering the great Luciano Pavarotti. The star attractions were none other than Renee Fleming and Andrea Bocelli, plus a special appearance by our opera company’s resident director (and sometime performer) Placido Domingo — not to mention the full opera orchestra.   I was fortunate to have seen Pavarotti late in his career and he was still mesmerizing, so the decision to attend and relive his career was exciting. Plus I had long wanted to see Ms. Fleming. Mr. Bocelli was not so much on my to-do list; somehow he seemed to me to be a bit too “commercial.” 
 
At the concert’s end, Mr. Domingo, Ms. Fleming, Mr. Bocelli 
To say the evening did not disappoint is a gross understatement, for it was simply magical.  The voices, the music (operatic highlights as well as “Maria” from Westside Story, and even Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”) were all amazing. Mr. Domingo even joined in at the end to sing. For me, the most incredible was Ms. Fleming singing “O mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi.   She said it is the most beloved aria she sings, no matter where she is in the world. (If you’re not familiar, you can click here.)
 
If you’re in downtown Los Angeles, I highly recommend the restaurant The Factory Kitchen in the Arts District where we dined after the concert.   The place was packed late on a Friday evening, and the food is inventive.  This is the brain-child of two industry pros and it shows that they know how to run a successful operation.  The aforementioned area has become quite “hot” with lots of quality restaurants, art galleries plus an amazing amount of building going on in this area east of downtown.
Top to bottom:  Ortalana salad; pasta with oxtail ragu,
home-made gelato; below is the open kitchen
Just down the street from the Dorothy Chandler, also on Grand Avenue, is the brand new Broad Museum showcasing and housing art from the personal collection of well-known philanthropists Eli & Edythe Broad.  The Broads have largely been spearheading the Grand Avenue redevelopment for about a decade. Museum tickets may be reserved on the website (there is no cost to attend) and many time slots — especially on weekends — are filled. But I snagged a weekday/midday time and went to explore. 
L-R on Grand Avenue:  The Broad, Disney Concert Hall, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
This venue has already been written about world-wide, so let me add my humble opinion to the mix.  I love that the tickets are free.  I love that you can take photographs ANYWHERE (no flash).  I love that you can see into the vault where the art is stored that is not currently on display or on loan to other museums. I love that the museum is “manageable” for viewing the art; i.e., most of the works are on one floor and there is great flow.  
 
The outside plaza is planted with 100-year-old olive trees.

 

 

Looking upward toward the roof while riding the cylindrical elevator —
which experience is 
 sort of like being in a full-body scanner 

 

Twenty Jackies by Andy Warhol

 

Ed Ruscha’s insightful observation

 

Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog

 

My friend Nancy is literally “Under the Table” as this Robert Therrien work is entitled
A photo taken though the glass, looking at the second floor vault. 
 Art not on display is stored here on massive racks.
What is so astonishing to me is that the Broads started collecting many of the artists when they were first emerging and no doubt have helped them become the well-known names they now are. Obviously they have had the advantage of endless resources, but it still takes a trained eye.  Or maybe it is just their taste — most of which I favor.  I mean, who wouldn’t want that giant Jeff Koons’ dog in their living room? That’s the other thought:  one must have an enormous home to accommodate these works … or maybe just one’s own museum. The Broad’s have both — click here to see the recent Architectural Digest coverage of their Los Angeles residence.
So stop all this nonsense about LA being a cultural wasteland and come see for yourself.  We’re just getting started!