Das Rheingold and the Oscars

In my earlier post on Das Rheingold I didn't discuss the music. The orchestra was completely hidden underneath the stage, to the extent that even the conductor couldn't be seen at all from the orchestra level. The acoustics of the Dorothy Chandler aren't great to begin with, and the orchestra wasn't well served by the way the pit was obscured. At one point during the Vorspiel, I thought someone had turned on something mechanical that was creating a buzz somewhere, and I was dismayed to figure out it was originating from the pit. The orchestra sometimes had a lackluster sound to it and I can't tell if it was from the way the stage was configured. There are so many sublime moments to Rheingold's score, yet only in moments did its full power emerge. Even the anvils were not the thrill they should be, nor was Donner's hammer blow.

In a live performance one always notices things in a score for the first time, yet everything I noticed seemed to be a mistake. This was a surprise to me because I've read that Conlon really wants to turn L.A. into a Wagner powerhouse. Perhaps it was where we were seated (orchestra Row M, just under the balcony). It's not that the orchestra was bad- they just accompanied a magnificent production rather than helped make it.

Having said that, compared to the superbly conducted and well-sung performance I saw this past summer in San Francisco, this production was in a completely different league due to the sheer brilliance and execution of what was happening on stage and it made the SFO production look provincial and old-fashioned (even though it was excellent). Kudos to Freyer, Conlon and Domingo- L.A. Opera is the most exciting opera company in the country west of Manhattan.

Since we were in L.A., we went to Hollywood to watch the Oscars and to look for celebrities. Now, admittedly, this was not my idea, but I'm a good sport and a certain gorgeous Colombian lady wanted to see movie stars if she was going to be in L.A. on Oscar weekend, so off we went. We actually did see one in the gauntlet the police had set up on Hollywood Blvd (transformed into the world's biggest driveway for the ceremony). At least I'm pretty sure that was Jeremy Irons getting his Jaguar swept by the cops.

Since that was as close as we were going to get to the Kodak Theater, we looked for a suitable place to watch the show, have a few drinks and get some food. We ended up at Broadmer's on Cherokee just off the boulevard. I could make this place an Oscar tradition. The bar has a 30's-40's vibe, horseshoe-shaped booths, a fireplace, a patio with a fountain out back and the only modern touches were the employee with a Mohawk (a different kind of retro which amuses me in 2009) and a huge tv above the fireplace. The crowd was low-key and seemed to be mostly locals, the bartender pleasant and attentive and the food was good. What more could one want? It was perfect.

As for the show, well, I was disappointed in the winnerss except for Heath Ledger, whose performance was iconic and indelible. I was rooting for Mickey Rourke over Penn, though Penn was great in Milk. And come on people, Slumdog Millionaire is this decade's Life is Beautiful- a well-made movie with one gut-busting, laugh-out loud funny scene, but it's manipulative and sentimental in the worst way. It didn't deserve to win all those Ocars. But the music rocked so I agree with those 2 awards- I like the film's soundtrack a lot. My preference was Frost/Nixon, only because it was so much better than I thought it could be.

We thought the show went quickly for how long it actually was and we liked the new format for the acting awards. Hell, anytime you get Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman and Halle Barry onstage at the same time I don't care what you're doing, I'm going to enjoy it. Yes, Shirley Maclaine and Adrian Brody were lame, but I thought most of the rest came through with class contributions.

And speaking of comments, thankfully there were no excessive thanking of agents, lawyers and the rest that make the acceptance speeches boring and banal. Sean Penn and Penelope Cruz were relevant and sincere, Leger's family was touching, and at least Winslet had on a great dress. As for Danny "I'll hold my hands to my face in feigned amazement" Boyle, please go back to making movies about zombies or junkies (though not at the same time, please). Please.

All in all, the only disappointment for the weekend was that we didn't make it to Pink's or Brent's Deli.