7 Days in the Arts

Saturday, October 30

The title says it all in playwright Larry Gelbart’s satirical look at political scandals, “Mastergate.” Utilizing a Hollywood action film as a front – the fictional controversy goes – the White House has allegedly engaged in some illegal shipping of arms. The play centers on the congressional hearings that must logically follow. It plays at the Actors Group Theatre through Nov. 14.

8 p.m. (Fri. and Sat.), 7 p.m. (Sun., except Oct. 31.), 2 p.m. (Oct. 31). $12-$15. 4378 Lankershim Blvd., Universal City. (818) 506-4644.

Sunday, October 31

Old-fashioned music and romance converge in Bruce Kates’ operetta, “Sophie: A Musical Love Story of the 1930s.” Set in Los Angeles, the tale begins with Miles Pearson, a widower who has been so heartbroken by the tragic death of his young bride that he has spent years burying himself in his work as a professor. A series of chance meetings with Diane Walker, an actress heartbroken by life’s injustices, will change him – and her. The show runs through Nov. 14.

2 p.m. (Sundays). $10. Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. R.S.V.P., (323) 665-2208.

Monday, November 1

The prolific and beloved Maurice Sendak gives the kids something new to get excited about: Yiddish. The “Where the Wild Things Are” author employs his storytelling talents in a collaboration with The Shirim Klezmer Orchestra in a klezmer variation of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” “Pincus and the Pig: A Klezmer Tale” is the resulting CD and full-color booklet, which includes original drawings and removable stickers.

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Tuesday, November 2

Inspired by the stars, artist Renee Amitai depicts the cosmos based on images from the Hubble telescope in her latest works, included in Gallery Asto’s “Conceptual Expressionism” exhibition. “My paintings translate the outward reflection of the inner nature of things,” Amitai writes. “Dream and reality, the continual mystery at the cycle of life, the transcendence of nature.”

11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Tues.-Fri.), 1 p.m.-5 p.m. (Sat.). 923 E. Third St., No. 107, Los Angeles. (213) 972-0995.

Wednesday, November 3

Jewish Book Month continues with tough choices today. Nessa Rapoport battles it out against Jonathan Kirsch for your attention. For Rapoport, head to Arcadia to hear her discuss her book, “House on the River: A Summer Journey” as part of San Gabriel’s Jewish Book Festival. Kirsch fans book it to the Robertson branch library, where he’ll discuss, sell and sign “God Against the Gods.” Stay tuned for The Journal’s Book Issue, Nov. 12.

Rapoport: 7:30 p.m. $10. Arcadia residence. R.S.V.P., (626) 967-3656.
Kirsch: 6-7:30 p.m. 1719 Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8648

Thursday, November 4

Klezmer fun continues at UCLA’s Fowler Museum. “Fowler Out Loud: Klezmer Juice” presents the titular klezmer fusion and world music quintet al fresco with light refreshments this evening. Take advantage of our city’s superior climate and musical groups in Westwood tonight.

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Friday, November 5

The Museum of Television and Radio’s aptly titled, “Two Five-Letter Words: Lenny Bruce” begins today. The screening follows the provocative comedian’s quick rise to fame and subsequent fall through excerpts from appearances on “One Night Stand: The World of Lenny Bruce” and “Playboy’s Penthouse” with Hugh Hefner and Nat King Cole, among others, and a final frenetic interview on “The Steve Allen Show” that was never aired.

Noon-5 p.m. (Wed.-Sun.). Through Jan. 9. Free. 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 786-1000.

The Sound
and the Fusion

by Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer

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Every Saturday night at the Disraeli household in Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek in northern Israel, the mandolins would come out and three generations of Disraelis would start to play and sing.

“My grandparents were the original chalutzim [pioneers] who came into Israel before it was even a country, and my grandfather was a poet who wrote songs,” said Itai Disraeli, who now plays bass and percussion for the band Maetar. “So on Saturday night we would get together with them and play harmonies – this music is in our blood.”

In 1991, Disraeli and his brother, Hagai Izraeli, left Israel, but not the music. Three years ago they joined with drummer Peter Buck to start Maetar, a jazz/funk/rock/hip-hop/reggae band that plays clubs all over Los Angeles.

“People ask us what kind of music do we play, and even though we try pretty hard to find a box, the reality is that our music is outside the box,” Disraeli said. “We contain musical influences from Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, klezmer music, Chinese music and Arab music, but our music is totally original. We are innovators, not imitators.”

“We try to intermingle our sounds and voices,” Izraeli said. “It’s a collective sound. At any time any one of us can be leading or following.”

“But it’s very coherent,” Disraeli interjected. “It’s not meaningless meanderings into the jungles of our mind.”

The two chose the name Maetar at the suggestion of Izraeli’s wife. In Hebrew, Maetar has a few meanings. It means string, as in instrument strings. If you break the word up, mae and tar, it means water that you take with you on a journey; another translation is vibrations of change.

These meanings, say the brothers, embody the spirit of their music.

“The beauty of jazz is that it’s a model of democracy,” Izraeli said. “Every person that plays can be the utmost of who he or she is and, at the same time, his powers of [being] individual do not separate him from the group. Music is the true democracy in action.”

Maetar will be playing at Cafe Z at the Skirball Cultural Center, on Oct. 30, noon-2 p.m. Free. For more information, visit

Honor Thy Father

Top, a scene from “Countess Maritza;” Above, YvonneSylva Maritza Josephine Kálmán as a child, with herfather Emmerich Kálmán.

Yvonne Sylva Maritza Josephine Kálmán, sixtyish,blond and glamorous, is named for all her father’s favorite operettaheroines. So perhaps not surprisingly, she has dedicated much of herlife to seeing that her father’s operettas have been performed allover the world.

She has many memories of him, but, mostly, she remembers thestories of how the Nazi came calling at the family villa on theAvenue Foch in Paris. It was 1939, not long after EmmerichKálmán had fled Vienna for France, and he wasashen-faced as he received the general. But the general’s message wascordial: “The Führer loves your music, and he misses yourpresence in Austria. He would very much like you to return,” he toldthe composer. Hitler would make Kálmán an “honoraryAryan,” and no one would know he was Jewish.

The musician shakily declined. By March 1940, he was forced toescape with his family to Los Angeles. His music was bannedthroughout the Reich, and most of his extended family perished in theconcentration camps. Kálmán never recovered from theshock and died, brokenhearted, in 1953.

Yvonne, his youngest child, was only 16 when he died. Over theyears, she has tenaciously telephoned and written to opera directorsall over the world, prompting revivals of her father’s works.

Beginning on Saturday, Nov. 22, and running through Dec. 7, theLos Angeles Opera will present Kálmán’s “CountessMaritza,” in perhaps the most lavish production of an operetta seenanywhere. Last week, Yvonne Kálmán could hardly containher excitement as she spoke of the production, jumping upintermittently to play excerpts from the operetta on the stereo.

Emmerich Kálmán was born in 1882 to a musical familyin the Hungarian resort town of Siofok. He attended Budapest’s RoyalAcademy of Music with Béla Bartók, and, by the 1920s,he had become renowned all over Europe. His fiery works, such as “TheGipsy Princess” and “Sari,” combined Hungarian folk themes withstrains of the Viennese waltz.

In Vienna, Kálmán first eyed Yvonne’s mother, VeraMakinska, at the famed Cafe Sacher; she was a lovely Russian dancer,30 years his junior, who asked if she could have a part in his nextshow. George Gershwin later visited the couple at their elegant villaand serenaded them with his “Rhapsody in Blue.”

But when the Nazis forced Kálmán to flee to LosAngeles, the once-prominent composer suddenly found himself obscure,a stranger in a strange land. MGM’s Louis B. Mayer had bought themovie rights to his operettas, but they never made it to the screen.Austrian and Hungarian plots were taboo, impossible with the outbreakof war, Yvonne explains.

It was only when the family relocated to Park Avenue in New Yorkthat Kálmán found a real home amid the expatriatecommunity. He reunited with his old Viennese librettist, AlfredGruenwald, and Yvonne remembers how they shouted together in hiscluttered study while smoking myriad cigars and strewing sheet musiceverywhere. The daughter loved to sit under the Steinway as herfather played or scribbled musical notes on his shirt cuffs. At theage of 3, she first heard Kálmán conduct his work withthe NBC Radio Orchestra, and “thought it was the most beautiful musicI had ever heard.”

Vera Makinska, meanwhile, held court at her legendary Manhattansoirees, where the passing celebrity parade included Greta Garbo andpianist Artur Rubinstein. Salvador Dali, who could always be countedupon to behave outrageously, fascinated young Yvonne with his long,twisted mustache. Shy, sensitive Kálmán usually sat outthe parties in the kitchen with pals Marlene Dietrich and authorErich Maria Remarque.

The composer’s newfound happiness was short-lived, however. Uponlearning of the death of his family in the Holocaust, he suffered amassive heart attack. Three years later, he was virtually immobilizedby a stroke. To cheer him up, 12-year-old Yvonne once brought home asurprise guest she had met at a party. When her father groggilyemerged in his bathrobe, he discovered his film idol, Buster Keaton.

Yvonne remembers the long train ride with her father’s coffin toVienna, where he was buried on a gray, stormy day in an honorarygrave near the composer Johann Strauss. She was devastated by theloss of her father, but heartened by the revivals of his operettasall over Europe. Once, after a production in Leningrad, theperformers called Yvonne onstage and presented her with dozens ofwhite roses, to thunderous applause.

By the 1980s, promoting her father’s work had become a full-timejob for Yvonne, who persuaded the Vienna Volksoper to perform “TheGipsy Princess” at Lincoln Center in 1984. After the sold-out run,she prompted shows in Santa Fe, N.M., and Orange County.

But the upcoming Los Angeles production, she says, is perhaps themost meaningful of all. “My father lived in anonymity in this city,”says Yvonne, who maintains residences in the Southland high desert,Munich and Mexico. “If he could have seen the people lining up hereto buy tickets, it would have been one of the happiest moments of hislife.”

For information about “Countess Maritza,” call (213) 972-8001. Tobuy tickets, call (213) 365-3500.