THE BEAUTY OF NATURE REALIZED: Artist Jenny Okunn's Floral Patterns 1, Yucatán, Mexico, 2011 — on view at the Craig Krull Gallery at Bergamot Station through July 6. (Courtesy of Jenny Okun and Craig Krull Gallery )

THE BEAUTY OF NATURE REALIZED: Artist Jenny Okunn’s Floral Patterns 1, Yucat√°n, Mexico, 2011 ‚Äî on view at the Craig Krull Gallery at Bergamot Station through July 6. (Courtesy of Jenny Okun and Craig Krull Gallery )

It’s not everyday that an opera conducted by a superstar premieres in your backyard, but that’s what took place at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica last Friday.

LA Opera Off Grand is a new series that will bring opera to venues beyond LA Opera‚Äôs Music Center homebase. “Dulce Rosa,” based on a short story by Isabel Allende, marks the series debut and the first time The Broad has hosted a fully-staged opera.

LA Opera General Director Placido Domingo conducts all but the June 6 performance, when Grant Gershon, LA Opera’s resident conductor, takes the baton.

Before the curtain rose on Friday, May 17, author Allende was onstage with Duff Murphy, classical radio station KUSC‚Äôs opera host, to discuss her influences, her writing and what inspired “Una Venganza,” the short story upon which the opera is based.

With a public profile as a journalist and translator and as a relative of Chile’s overthrown President Salvador Allende, Isabel Allende was threatened and forced to flee Chile under the brutal dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. While settling into California and without time to write novels, she began composing short stories.

She’d been following news of the event that made Stockholm Syndrome a common term; it’s the psychological phenomenon in which victims bond with their captors. Allende’s story transforms vengeance into love, and the opera turns it into tragedy, as operas are wont to do.

Raped by the man who kills her family, Rosa burns with desire for revenge. But when she discovers that her rapist’s conscience has been filled with shame for what he’s done to her and what it’s done to him, as he begs her forgiveness, she falls for him.

Jenny Okun’s images provide the most masterful and evocative projections onto the simple stage setting. Several half arches and a few arched windows with sliding doors transform seamlessly from a hacienda to a mountain forest to grandiose government offices to a church interior and finally into the ruins of battle.

See those projections at Bergamot Art Station‚Äôs Craig Krull Gallery from June 1 through July 6. There are just four more opportunities to see “Dulce Rosa” at The Broad Stage; May 28, June 3, June 6 and June 9. For more information visit or call (310) 434-3200.


The next generation? 


Opera singers have to start somewhere, and in the case of Santa Monica High School, the choir is a great place to begin.

The highly-lauded and much-awarded Santa Monica High School Choir is holding its Spring Concert on Friday, May 31, and ticket proceeds benefit the choir. With cuts to the arts in education, this concert goes a long way toward securing the choral department’s future.

Beautiful Barnum Hall is the setting for this end-of-the-year concert, which features all choirs from the Choral Music Department, and highlights an ambitious program of works including Morten Lauridsen‚Äôs “Lux Aeterna,” plus music by Brahms and Barber, along with multicultural selections.

Special awards are given and each graduating senior is honored. In a beloved tradition, alumni are invited to the stage to sing the “Duson” Irish blessing and the Samohi “Hymn of Praise.”

Judging from the wonderful video made about the choir, it’s a life-enriching experience for the young singers, who work together toward the goal of excellence. On an individual level, it teaches them responsibility and discipline, helps break down social barriers and even helps the shy members open up and shine. It will inspire you.

The Santa Monica High School Choir Spring Concert is on Friday, May 31 at 7 p.m. More info and video here:; for tickets call (310) 395-3204.


Music of a different kind 


To kick off its 40th anniversary, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum hosts a family-style benefit concert to support its operations.

Renowned actor John C. Reilly and friends (featuring Becky Stark and Tom Brosseau) help raise a little musical mayhem and some money on Friday, May 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the beautiful amphitheater, carved into a terraced hillside in the heart of Topanga Canyon.

Enjoy western swing, folk and old school country with this down-to-earth everyman, as the band serenades the sunset and celebrates this beloved institution. Call (310) 455-3723 or visit Bring a cushion and a jacket or blanket; it cools off after dark!


Artisanal veterans


Peter Fetterman Gallery at Bergamot Station provides the setting for Your Local Hive, a series of gatherings that bring together food, art, culture and craft while growing a community of sustainable food.

On June 2, at Fetterman‚Äôs extraordinary photography gallery, Your Local Hive presents a benefit screening of “Ground Operations: From Battlefields to Farmfields,” a moving documentary that champions a growing network of combat veterans who are transitioning to restorative and challenging new careers in organic farming, ranching and artisan food production.

The film has been making the rounds of Congress and festivals across America to raise money and awareness for returning vets who are building a sustainable future for themselves, our food systems and small local farms.

The event begins at 6 p.m. with small bites inspired by local farm offerings and biodynamic wines from Martian Ranch and Vineyard. Then L.A.-based Italian chef and performer Gino Campagna (“Gino‚Äôs Kitchen” on The Disney Channel and master chef at Piccolo Chef Culinary School in Culver City) creates his favorite spring risotto accompanied by local organic salad greens.

There’ll be a sampling of Golden Coast mead (honey wine) and organic heirloom tomato Kaught Up Ketchup, two newly launched products by veterans Frank Golbeck and Jerome Yoscovits.

Quinn non-GMO organic popcorn and Madagascar chocolates are the movie munchies; during the post-screening Q&A with the vets and filmmaker Dulanie Ellis, you’ll enjoy locally baked desserts, Cognoscenti coffee and Art of Tea infusions.

Tickets are $70 or two for $120; Sunday, June 2 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Ground Operations national campaign and featured veterans. Visit For additional info, contact


Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for

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