About Us

The stage at the Hollywood Bowl.

L.A. Opening Nights offers recommendations and reviews to a discerning audience for the finest theatre, classical music, opera, and dance in the greater Los Angeles area. The goal is to help you plan your season wisely.

We do not cover everything. Your time is valuable, so we carefully select only the venues and companies which strive to present world-class performance. All the events at these venues and  companies might be considered “Recommended.” Our goal is to painstakingly research the entire season at these venues and companies for events we can confidently call “Recommended Highly” or list as truly “Not To Be Missed.”

Intriguing, but less certain performances at these or other venues we might offer as “Worth the Risk” or “No recommendation.” Recommendations are updated daily based on our advisors, sources, and reviews.

For select performances, we also offer preview discussions, with links to musical samples and interesting notes. The blog might also include news from our covered venues and companies. (Scroll down the menu at left to see our current list. If you have a particular interest, click on a particular category, like “Classical Music”)

L.A. Opening Nights is a project of Upper Story Arts.


Marc Porter  Zasada, Executive Editor

Marc has been covering classic performance since 1985. His opera, theatre, book, and classical music reviews and essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Los Angeles Downtown News, San Francisco Chronicle, on the Huffington Post, and in many other venues. Marc was a co-founder of the Bay Area Book Awards in 1982, and was editor of Title Pages at the Palo Alto Weekly. He served as Managing Editor of the Los Angeles Downtown News for five years, where he won several awards for journalism, and was a  co-founder of the L.A. Open Space Summit. His “The Urban Man” commentaries appeared on KCRW-FM in Los Angeles for six years, on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and on the BBC World Service. Marc maintains an essay site at www.theurbanman.com where he posts favorite  commentaries on modern life in text form, as well as Urban Man updates. Tweeting at www.twitter.com/theurbanman. Marc is a graduate of Stanford University in 1979 (where he also served as an on-campus representative of S.F. Opera), and has pursued a parallel career in high tech, where he was co-founder of a major technology laboratory, VeriTest, and served as a vice president of a global technical outsourcing firm. Marc continues as a technical and partner marketing consultant to leaders in the technology industry.

Trace Oakley, Theatre Editor

Trace has more than 150 productions to his credit as either actor, director, playwright, producer, or administrator, working in his home town of Denver, on both coasts, and on national and international tours. Trace worked on the Off-Broadway and Broadway productions of Rollin’ on the Toba, and later stage managed and co-directed the Los Angeles production. He received the United Nations Medal for Distinguished Service for his U.S. Department of Defense touring production, Hollywood Homicide Whodunnit, which performed at military bases throughout Europe. Other directing credits include A Christmas Carol, Butterflies are Free, Sister Mary Ignatius, and more than 15 world premieres at Denver’s historic Changing Scene Theatre. He also served as artistic director for Denver’s famed Chicken Lips Comedy Theatre, where he also co-starred in Murder Most Fowl,  the longest running show in Denver theatre history. Trace now divides his time between Los Angeles and New Hampshire, where he is managing director for NorthEast Shakespeare Ensemble.   

Sarah Spitz, Contributor & Advisor

Sarah served as Publicity Director for leading public radio station KCRW-FM from 1988 to 2011. For 15 years she produced two weekly programs, “Left, Right & Center” and “The Politics of Culture,” in addition to award-winning long-form specials, documentaries and independent stories on the arts that were broadcast on NPR news programs, and specialty business stories for the public radio program “Marketplace.” In addition, Sarah is a UCCE/LA County Master Gardener (2006), a UCCE Master Food Preserver class trainee (Fall 2011) and one of the co-founders of SLOLA: Seed Library of Los Angeles.  She likes to say she’s about all things sustainable, in the garden and everywhere on Earth…and that good culture exists in soil, as well as society.

Dr. Michelle Green Willner, Contributor & Advisor

Dr. Green Willner has received numerous awards as a composer and conductor, including four ASCAP Special Awards, two ASCAP Foundation Grants to Young Composers, a Community Relations Council Grant, The Brian M. Israel Prize from the Society for New Music, and the Serge Garant Award from the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN). Her fellowships include residencies at the California Summer Arts Composers Workshop, the Wellesley Composers Conference and June in Buffalo; a President’s Fellowship from Columbia University; and the 7th Annual ASCAP/Fred Karlin Film Scoring Workshop Fellowship. Her teachers have included Mario Davidovsky, Steven Mackey, David Rakowski and Marc Kopytman at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. Her works have been commissioned and performed by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, NACUSA Concert Series, Synergy, Shechina, the UCI Women’s Chorus, Speculum Musicae, New Millennium, the New Calliope Singers, Premier, the Society for New Music, the CSULB New Music Ensemble, and by Earplay at the Center for the Arts Forum in San Francisco. Dr. Green Willner’s choral works have been performed internationally by various choruses as well as exclusively by the Tehila Choir, which she founded in Toronto, Canada (1984-1989), Mit Gezang, which she directed from 1999-2003 in Los Angeles, and by Kol Ruach, which she directed from 2003-2006. She has taught composition and theory at the University of California, Irvine, California State University at Long Beach and the American Jewish University.

Endre Balogh, Advisor

Violinist Endre Balogh has performed as soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra, Frankfurt Symphony, and Basel Symphony as well as several other European ensembles. In the United States he has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the orchestras of Washington D.C., Seattle, Denver, Dallas, and Honolulu to name just a few. In the course of his career he has worked with such eminent conductors as Zubin Mehta, Edo de Waart, James de Priest, Lawrence Foster, Milton Katims, and Christoph von Dohnányi. He was the youngest First Prize winner in the history of the prestigious Merriweather Post Competition. Endre has had several concert tours of the United States and Europe, which have included live televised recitals in Amsterdam and taped performances for the BBC. He is an accomplished Chamber Music performer and toured throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe with the Pacific Trio for nearly 30 years. He has also played with such luminaries as Vladimir Horowitz and Leonard Pennario as well as in the acclaimed series of 1993 chamber concerts, “André Watts and Friends.” He performs frequently with his friend and colleague James Smith, Chairman of the Classical Guitar Department at USC. Over the years they have amassed a unique repertoire consisting of original and arranged works for violin and guitar. Lately he has joined forces with cellist Dennis Karmazyn, violist Steven Gordon, and pianist Genevieve Lee to perform Piano Trios and Quartets in chamber music venues.

Yu Tang, Contributor

Yu both writes about classical music and performs as a classical pianist. He has worked with Neuköllner Oper and Mann-O-Meter in Berlin, as well as the CSUN Wind Ensemble.

Rosemary McGuiness, Contributor

Rosemary is a writer, editor, and violinist.  She has worked with the Hermitage Museum in Moscow, the Hollywood Bowl Museum; Red Hen Press, and ArtMargins Magazine, among other publications.


Dedicated readers may enjoy other sites and works by our contributors:

The Urban Man features essays and commentaries by Marc Porter Zasada on modern life in L.A. and beyond.

”The Urban Man: Staying Human in L.A,” by Marc Porter Zasada was selected as a Los Angeles Times “Discovery,” featured at the L.A. Times Book Festival, and is available on Amazon.com.

The Urban Man®  is a registered United States Trademark covering print, radio, blogs, and commentaries by Marc Porter Zasada. All material on this website is Copyright © 2001-2011 by Marc Porter Zasada, and may not be duplicated in any electronic or physical form without written permission from the author.

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