Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

New hope for the supposedly shuttered San Diego Opera

Missy West

San Diego Opera senior docent Kathleen Kay O’Neil, protesting the decision to close the opera company.

UPDATE 9:43pm 4/24/2014:  There's another potential legal obstacle to the shutdown of the San Diego Opera.  Hope Singer, an attorney for the American Guild of Musical Artists, says the guild is seeking a temporary restraining order against the opera company in San Diego Federal District Court. The  union represents solo singers whom the opera already contracted for performances in the upcoming season, and the TRO would require the opera to put up $1.75 million in assets to pay the contracted singers, even if the company shuts down as proposed. ''The singers have to get paid anyway, whether they get to sing or not," Singer said. 


On what was supposed to be the final Friday night performance of the San Diego Opera - its longtime director had just announced there would be no next season - senior docent Kathleen Kay O’Neil was having none of it. As ticket holders milled in the forecourt of the Civic Theater, she stood out among the large handful of protesters in her black jump suit and a home-made skull mask. And she carried a big sign: “Please Don’t Let Our Opera Die.”


7 Byzantium books to read after seeing new double Getty exhibits

Courtesy Byzantine & Christian Museum, Athens.

Icon with the Archangel Michael, about A.D. 1300–1350, Constantinople; tempera and gold on wood. Gift of a Greek of Istanbul, 1958

A short list of books on Byzantium from Off-Ramp contributor Marc Haefele to accompany his review of the Getty Center and Villa's first simultaneous show: Heaven and Earth.

Original history by Byzantine writers:

  • The Alexiad” by Anna Komnena (sometimes Comnena): Princess Anna’s own story of the reign of her emperor father in the 11th Century during the arrival of the crusaders. She’s such a colorful figure that she appears in some of the novels listed below.
  • The Secret History" by Procopius: The original tell-all dish on Constantinople’s famous couple, the Imperial Justinian and Theodora. Her naked stage performances with her trained geese still titillate.

  • 14 Byzantine Rulers” by Michael Psellus: Anecdotal, engrossing, informative, wide-ranging.

Four great novels about the Byzantine Empire:


Pete Seeger tribute to be hosted by Arch Grove Music in downtown Los Angeles

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger at age 88 photographed on 6-16-07 at the Clearwater Festival 2007 by Anthony Pepitone

Ash Grove Music is bringing together an all-star cast of folk, blues and roots-rock musicians this weekend to honor folk musician and activist Pete Seeger, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 94.

Perhaps best known for his role in the folk music and activism scenes of the 1960's, Seeger began his career decades earlier when he helped Alan Lomax collect songs throughout the south for the Library of Congress. He gained musical fame as a member of The Almanac Singers and then The Weavers, whose chart-topping success was cut short by a blacklisting in the McCarthy Era. Seeger reemerged as a prominent folk musician and activist in the tumultuous sixties and has remained a beloved public figure ever since.

The tribute will include Claudia Lennear, former Blaster Dave Alvin and Rick Shea, Len Chandler, Ross Altman, Peter Alsop and many others. Spoken word performers Mike Davis, S. Pearl Sharp and the Get-Lit Players will also be getting in on the fun.


Pasadena to play host to the North American Tree Climbing Championship

Tree climbing champ


A climber participating in the 2011 Tree Climbing Championship.

If you visit Brookside Park and see a bunch of adults climbing trees, don't worry--it's completely normal. At least for this weekend. 

Arborists from all over the U.S. and Canada will compete in the 2014 North American Tree Climbing Championship. The Western Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture hosted the first tree climber event more than forty years ago, and now they've brought it back to its birthplace here in California. Arborist Dick Alvarez started the event in 1975 as a way to preserve the classic skills that a climber would need if he or she had to perform an aerial rescue. The competition's changed a bit since then. There's now a work climb and a belayed speed climb. Part of the work climb involves walking back and forth along a narrow tree limb and then ringing a bell--with a handsaw. 


LACMA architect Renzo Piano revamps Boston's Gardner Museum

The new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

Halfway through lunch in the gleaming, sprawling, glass-caged café, a young guy came out of the kitchen and started to sing. Obviously a trained tenor, he performed a 10-minute aria about the terrible, yet heavenly burden of love. We sat riveted over our mid-day snack (fine clam fritters and good wine) and basked in the music.

“He’s the real deal,” said our waiter, Dustin. “He practices in the pantry on his breaks.”

Dustin asks if this is my first visit to Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. No, I say. I last visited in 1960, and a lot has changed since then, both positive and negative.

The Gardner Museum has recently sustained a $118 million renovation by architect Renzo Piano, who brought us the Resnick Pavilion and Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA. The additions, including an entirely new entrance, studio space, and a fine-looking concert hall, are as startling to me as the lunch-time aria.