Patti Labelle

ROCKER GONE SOFT?

I mean, LA Opera’s “Hansel & Gretel” for pete’s sake, the children’s tale, now a holiday staple? And all that other classical stuff?

Well, “H&G“ rocks, baby. The first opera based entirely on a fairy tale, German composer Engelbert Humperdinck picked a Grimm one, and the brothers were indeed grim, I learned at the pre-concert lecture from LA Opera conductor James Conlon. Two of nine Grimm children (three died in childhood), they knew quite well the pain of hunger, and that is an important opening and backdrop to this story. And at the LA Opera community outreach lecture that afternoon at our main library here, I learned and saw how different the H&G interpretations can be.

You can have a really ugly witch (like in the film we saw), or one like this production’s Susan Graham who brought great comedic skills with her superb voice. (All the singers were outstanding, especially H & G and their father, there are only five, plus two minor parts).

The sets and the forest characters were magical, and I was completely entertained, in an adult way. You shouldn’t miss this one. See below.

Also at our main library last week, I caught another performance of their outstanding, always provocative and high quality Soundwaves concert series, which, as usual, was a shorter preview of a later performance at Disney Hall’s Zipper Hall, next Tuesday (not free). Outstanding pianist Gloria Cheng presented “Garlands for Steven Stucky,” the LA Phil’s composer in residence for decades who was greatly skilled and loved as a mentor.

And Sunday morning I was treated to a marvelous Ted talk-like program upstairs at the Laemmle Theatre downtown, mixing data mining with music interpretation by a marvelous string quartet, in a most intriguing way. What a great town.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

LA OPERA: Hansel & Gretel (Engelbert Humperdinck ain’t no Puccini, Verdi or Strauss but H&G is considered his greatest work and Strauss dug him so much he conducted the premier, a smashing success, and he also ain’t the schmaltzy crooner who stole his name in the ‘60s, but don’t get too distracted from the superb Wagnerian score by the 12-foot magical characters on stage, the fantastical sets and special effects of this production and it’s also got laughs, see above), Sun 2 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, downtown LA, $16-$294.

RECOMMENDED:

TONIGHT! – LA PHILHARMONIC: Stanley Kubrick’s Sound Odyssey (Kubrick loved him some classical music scores for his films, Beethoven to Bartok, Ligeti to Penderecki, can’t imagine “2001” or “A Clockwork Orange” without those signatures, you will see a string of clips from his great ones, hosted by none other than “Clockwork’s” Alex, Malcolm McDowell, and hear the music live and fabulous from the LA Phil, seems like a good night’s entertainment), Thurs, Fri 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, downtown LA, $20-$204.

TONIGHT! – PATTI LABELLE (would I send you all the way out to Temecula, yes I would to see the great Patti Labelle, sometimes not included in the pantheon of the greatest soul voices ever but she most definitely is, put her on your bucket list, you may not have seen her blow minds in the ‘70s on tour with her outrageous trio LaBelle, I did, straight from the New York Continental baths scene, glammed up in what I dubbed the Crustaceans from Outer Space silver outfits, it’s when I learned there were gay people in Albuquerque, what a party that was, you may not have seen her take the stage in LA as the Tina Turner “replacement” Acid Queen in the one-off all-star “Tommy,” I did, no one missed Tina I’ll tell ya, but you can always see my other sweetest performance by her, you know how people say so-and-so could sing the phone book, or the alphabet and it would be fabulous, well she did sing the ABCs song gospel-style on Sesame Street 2/19/99, 11+M views, and you should watch, I did, I do, pretty often, good for the soul, but call Pechanga if you really want to go because it may be sold out but it is her only show in the area, so, bucket list), 7 p.m., Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, $69 up.

JACK SHELDON (great trumpeter-singer-actor who was part of the ‘50s West Coast jazz scene and has been performing ever since in so many fields, this is his birthday party for himself, turning 87, famous voices singing in “Schoolhouse Rock” including “I’m Just a Bill” and the guy who explained the electoral college — I think he needs a re-do now explaining how we can get rid of it — and if you see him live you will not only catch a legend with the best sidemen but you will wonder if he missed his calling at stand-up, he is sooo bawdy funny), Fri, Sat 8:30 p.m., Catalina Bar & Grill, Hollywood, $25-$30.

I SEE HAWKS IN LA, MEAT PUPPETS (two great bands with very different styles and right, another long journey for great music I’m sending you on, the Hawks do play locally somewhat regularly but not Phoenix’s legendary Meat Puppets so maybe you’re coming back from Thanksgiving anyway past Joshua Tree, do yourself a favor and dew drop inn), Sat 9 p.m., Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, Joshua Tree, $25.

GLORIA CHENG, “Garlands for Steven Stucky” (see above), Tues 8 p.m., the Colburn School of Music, Zipper Concert Hall.

THE SKATALITES (they’re still around? didn’t they invent ska in the mid-’60s? maybe, named it anyway, were really active only 1964-’65 but so influential, worked with all the best Jamaican producers and players, the 10 founders were a who’s who of JA music, Jackie Mitoo, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Rolando Alphonso et al, started playing together in ‘55, all gone now save Lester Sterling and Doreen Shaffer, reformed and touring the last 35 years so I believe you will get the real deal), Wed 9 p.m., the Echoplex, Echo Park, $20.

HOUSE OF VIBE ALL STARS (ordinarily I never recommend something I haven’t seen but the boys at Harvelle’s, with the perfect resume for taking over this nearly 90-year-old blues club in downtown Santa Monica from longtime mogul Seven, keep telling me this is a great show I must see so I am recommending it based on great sources and promise to go so I can give a personal assessment, meanwhile if you go and you hate it I will personally give you your 5 bucks back), Wed 9 p.m., Harvelle’s, Santa Monica, $5.

ELVIS COSTELLO (Elvis Costello!), next Thurs, 7 p.m., the Wiltern, Mid-Wilshire, $125-$240 (too much! but it’s your money).

A LYRIC SO GOOD I WISH I HAD THOUGHT OF IT: “I’d rather go blind, boy, than to see you walk away from me.”

— (Etta James, Ellington Jordan, Billy Foster  1967)

Sung with such palpable, heart-wrenching emotion by the late great Etta James, it became an instant blues classic, covered by Beyonce (playing her in “Cadillac Ranch”), Clarence Carter (blind from birth), Koko Taylor, Little Milton, B.B. King and currently on the airwaves — remember airwaves? — a very credible version by Grace Potter.

But what an image. For a sighted person, is there a much bleaker future than to suddenly go blind? Think of it. I think about it, probably you have too, at least once. Your whole world would change. A pitch black world filled achingly with color memories, fading each day a little more. What worse could happen? And yet, the love-struck singer tells us, I’d choose it, rather than have eyes to witness the unbearable sight of you walking away from me. Has that ever been portrayed more powerfully, 13 words, in written word anywhere?

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at  therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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