Hundreds of thousands classified military documents don’t exactly sound like ideal fodder for an opera libretto, but on October 19 LA Opera and Beth Morrison Projects will present the west coast premiere of Ted Hearne’s The Source, drawn from the U.S. Department of Defense cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 and the story of the U.S. Army private who leaked them. It is the season’s first foray into staging operas tackling contemporary themes (followed by Kamala Sankaram’s Thumbprint in the spring).
Like many musicians in the LA Opera Orchestra, French horn player Daniel Kelley plays on the soundtracks for some of the world’s major films. He’s played in the orchestra for scores of blockbuster movies from Star Wars to Pirates of the Caribbean, and even worked with his hero, composer John Williams, on ten films including the Academy Award-winning JFK. Since the 1993, Kelley has worked at LA Opera first as a freelance French horn player and then as a full member of the LA Opera Orchestra.
“Out of all the jobs I do, opera has become my favorite,” says Kelley. “I just love being here and all the members of the horn section get along. It’s almost like going home to work with the other three players.”
“I love the oboe for its many colors and expressiveness. On very rare occasions, when the reed and the instrument are working just right, the instrument becomes an extension of myself. I feel vulnerable, yet I stay in the moment as nerves and distractions disappear. It is an incredible experience!”
The oboe itself is finicky. A screw can come loose, a crack can form, a pad can break off or an adjustment may shift. During performances, Jennifer keeps a tool bag under her chair with screwdrivers and superglue for just those occasions.
Thirty years after its founding, the opera legacy first established by Peter Hemmings lives on – literally.
That sweet, albeit heartbreaking and starved face you’ll see at the center of the Scottish Refugee’s chorus in Act IV is Amelia Hemmings, granddaughter of the late Hemmings.
By day, Amelia is your regular 7th grader. Besides singing, dancing and performing, she loves baking mini cupcakes (plain vanilla especially) and crafts (she even has her own glue gun). But then again, she might not be so regular after all. In LA Opera’s last two seasons, she’s been in several productions, carrying on the family’s opera tradition. (Her older brother Rory made his LA Opera solo debut as the Cabin Boy in Billy Budd in 2014 and has also appeared in several other productions.)
Before he ever conceived of a career in opera, renowned tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz still spent most of his week singing. While studying engineering in his hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico, Chacón-Cruz sang with local trios, mariachis, and even as the lead singer serenading women for other men who were proposing. He was so passionate about singing that his mother signed him up for a voice lesson with an opera coach. At first, Chacón-Cruz protested, but the 15 minutes he spent with his first coach changed the course of his entire life.
“I told my mother, ‘Nobody likes opera. It’s so antiquated,’ but like a good son, I went to the lesson. The teacher – Jesus Li Cecilio – had me wait and I heard him working with another student. I thought, ‘This isn’t so bad.’ Then it was my turn and after hearing me sing for a few minutes, Li Cecilio said that I have a future in opera,” says Chacón-Cruz. He continues, “Those 15 minutes turned into the rest of my life and I couldn’t be happier.” … Continue reading
As an addendum to my essay “Why Verdi’s Macbeth Is Important,” I want to add a very personal note about why this opera, which has been with me for my entire professional life, has been so important to me.
For no particular reason, it has turned out that I have done more productions of Macbeth (this will be the eighth) than any other opera. Whereas it is hardly a rarity, it is also not a work that is so popular that it comes up every other season.
Deciding what to wear to an event can be anxiety-producing for some people, especially if it’s your first time or a special occasion. Fashion Crisis be gone…Here are some helpful tips for opera goers eyeing their closet for the season’s opening night on September 17.
You may not need a pair of opera gloves or a tuxedo (although we love to see them!), but it’s a great excuse to get spiffy. Let’s face it, life doesn’t offer most of us many formal opportunities after prom. Why not glam it up? A suit and tie or an elegant cocktail dress can really set the mood for a special evening. At opening nights you’ll see fancier ensembles, with the fanciest on the season’s opening night, which is this Saturday, September 17.
LA Opera has a robust array of programs that get kids, teens, and young adults excited about opera. Several of these programs – Operawise, Opera Prep – bring students to the opera to meet with the company’s talented arts professionals. While these programs offer students the ability to network with people in the arts community, another program – the College Advisory Committee – takes networking to the next level. It offers students the opportunity to gain leadership skills while they help promote a major arts institution.
Our post about the Prompter raised some questions; so we thought we’d spend some time with our prompter to answer your them.
What does a promoter do?
Prompters are often referred to as a security blanket. We support both the artists and the conductor, reinforcing cues and helping keep time. While artists know their parts, the fear of forgetting a line is alleviated when you know someone’s there just in case.
Doesn’t it get hot in the box?
It is not really hot – at least I have never felt uncomfortable.
Do you ever get hit by stage debris?
Confetti will float in of course. It is not uncommon for some props to roll into the box, but nothing dangerous has happened so far. Thank goodness!
He Who Must Not Be Named…No, this isn’t a Harry Potter story.
With just over a week from opening night at LA Opera, we’re counting down. Everyone’s excited about the new production, starring Plácido Domingo, conducted by James Conlon, and directed by Darko Trejsnak. But there’s one thing you probably won’t hear if you’re at the theater…its name.
“Be guided by this, there are three roles in this opera and three roles only: Lady Macbeth, Macbeth and the chorus of the Witches.”—Giuseppe Verdi
In 1847, Giuseppe Verdi stood the world of Italian opera on its head when he wrote his tenth opera in seven years. (He would later refer to that grueling period as his “years in the galley.”) This was no routine work. In writing Macbeth, he made a major leap into the future—his future, Italian opera’s future, our future. It would take half a century for the logical consequence of Macbeth to be fully drawn, and even then it would take another 50 or 60 years before its significance was recognized.
With this opera, Verdi began the long process of dismantling the forms he inherited from Rossini and the bel canto period. In so doing, he irrevocably transformed Italian opera. Dramatic coherence became dominant. It is in Macbeth that he stipulates, with an insistence and virulence beyond what he had demonstrated in the past, what the singers must do to serve the drama. He no longer accepts the status quo, neither in the comportment of the singers, who must now act with their voices as well as their bodies, nor in the overall form of the music. Verdi chooses musical forms that fit the dramatic situation. The opera is not a series of formulaic scenes designed to showcase the vocal prowess of the performers, but a concentrated distillation of the dramatic essence. As he instructed baritone Felice Varesi, his first Macbeth: “I will not cease to recommend that you study the dramatic situations and the words: the music will follow on its own.”
LA Opera has several education and community programs geared towards teachers and students and offering them a taste of the many careers students can pursue in the future. Opera Prep is one of those programs. It offers teachers the opportunity to bring their students to the opera and introduce them to some of the most talented professionals in the arts world. … Continue reading
Ever wonder how an artist steps off stage, then minutes later magically returns in a whole new get-up? While they’re in the wings, they’re in the hands of a dresser, that’s how. You’ll find dressers backstage at most large-scale live performances.
We spent a few minutes with Shelley Graves-Jimenez, one of LA Opera’s dressers, who told us what it’s like to be a dresser in the wings during an LA Opera performance.
Dressers make sure that the performer they’re assigned to can focus on their performance and not whether their costume is right. From head to toe, Graves-Jimenez and her colleagues ensure every piece of an artist’s costume is on, secure, and comfortable before they hit the stage. “Nothing they’re wearing should distract them,” she says.
“You go to school for theatre? Like acting? I didn’t know people went to school for that,” said the flight attendant, a bright-faced, tall woman. Her smile glowed with the same intensity that mine receded. I was on my way to the 2017 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and our flight was due to land in Hawaii in just about two hours. The view underneath me was shifting from the blue tinge of ocean water to the mossy greens and browns of island life.
Yet, the excitement that was boiling inside me just mere moments ago, vanished with the sound of her words. Was my career path the right one? Did I really want to pursue a career in the arts? These are sentiments to which any student in the arts terrain can relate to. Feelings of uncertainty, low self-confidence, and doubt are a poison which sadly follows every creative spirit. I am conscious that a career in the arts means a challenge: a challenge to truly find one’s place within the world of creative exploration. As a Creative Literature and Theatre Performance double major with a minor in Latino Studies (all fields in the humanities), I have made my choice: the arts.
There is no question that the arts field presents a tough road; its fast paced nature and extreme competitiveness makes it a constant challenge to thrive. However, it is due to opportunities such as the one I’ve had this summer that my dream continues to gleam with zeal. Interning at LA Opera has been an absolute blessing for me.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the whole world is celebrating the Bard. While Shakespeare’s plays are brilliant when read and powerful when staged, there is something to be said for experiencing his stories set to music. Throughout history, opera composers have adapted Shakespeare plays into some of the most thrilling pieces in the repertory. We’ve compiled a list below of some operas based on Shakespeare plays. We’re sure you’ll fall in love them.
Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi
Gripping. Dark. Exciting. Verdi’s opera expands on Shakespeare’s tale of betrayal and murder, getting into the wicked and tormented minds of the Macbeths (kind of like the Whites in Breaking Bad) through electrifying vocal lines and propulsive energy. It is not to be missed (especially since LA Opera’s 16/17 season opens with Macbeth on Sept 17).
Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod
Charles Gounod’s elegant and sumptuous score for his version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet heightens the connection between the two young lovers through no less than four romantic duets, making their ultimate fate that much more tragic. Learn more about LA Opera’s iconic production here.
Name almost any major Hollywood film in the last decade and Reid Bruton may very well have sung on its soundtrack. From Star Wars to Suicide Squad to Frozen, Bruton’s rich bass voice can be heard in the background of an emotional moment (like the epic moment in Star Wars between Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren) or as a menacing creature-like sound effect. He can do it all, and that includes opera. Bruton has been singing with the LA Opera Chorus for almost 20 years, appearing in more than 80 productions with numerous appearances in comprimario roles. We caught up with Bruton before his work as Macbeth’s servant for this season’s opening production, to chat about his varied roles in opera and film.
How long have you been part of the LA Opera chorus?
Since 1997. My first production was LAO’s first Il Trovatore.
Did you always have a love of opera?
Oh, yes! I was raised in a farming community near Memphis and I used to drive a tractor for my father, which was equiped with a small radio inside. On Saturday mornings, I would plow fields and listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio or put in a cassette tape of Leontyne Price or Maria Callas singing. I listened and loved it, but never saw an opera until I went to college where I was a double degree in voice/opera and piano.
Why have you stayed with LA Opera for so long?
There are many reasons, but one of the most important is that at LA Opera I have the unique opportunity to work closely with some of the most notable singers in the world today… singing and acting with them very closely. Being on stage with great artists who inspire me and whom I learn from – it’s better than a college degree. I teach voice privately. So by getting to work so closely with all of these great singers with different voice types I am able to share, first hand, my experience and observations with my students.
Costumes are one of the best ways to express character – be it on screen or on stage. In Macbeth, costumes tell a tale of humble beginnings to unbridled horror, but it’s not just fabric and jewels that bring a character to life. It is how all the costume elements come together to showcase each character’s evolution. With its complex characters and designed by Suttirat Larlarb, LA Opera’s upcoming production of Verdi’s Macbeth perfectly illustrates how costumes and character meet.
Let’s take Lady Macbeth’s costumes as an example.
When Lady Macbeth first comes on stage, her costume is fairly simple (a t-shape common during the medieval period) and does not reflect affluence. She’s wearing earth tones; it’s the costume of a soldier’s wife, but also suggestive of the social climbing to come (a hint of green silk).
The curtain first rose at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for an LA Opera production in 1986, but our roots trace back four decades earlier. Steeped in tradition and celebrating the spirit of the city we call home, LA Opera’s history is worth exploring.
Check out the articles below to learn about the staging of our opera company.
Minutes before the curtain rose on LA Opera’s 1986 production of Otello, Plácido Domingo stood in the wings, ready to make his entrance in one of his signature roles. He had triumphantly sung Verdi’s tragic hero for audiences around the world, and was widely renowned as the preeminent Otello of his generation. Yet this performance carried a special significance for the tenor. It would be the very first performance in LA Opera’s inaugural season. Full of anticipation, Domingo was eager to showcase to the Los Angeles community, and the greater opera world, what this city could create.
On August 27, LA Opera’s award-winning Opera for Educators series returns with a day devoted to exploring our season opener, Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth. This program explores opera from interdisciplinary points of view with a diverse group of engaging professionals and academics. Teachers gain insight about Macbeth, the history of opera as an art form and as a form of social commentary, as well as learn about opera in general. Opera for Educators is a place for teachers to be inspired by rich content and fall in love with opera, while also discovering how opera can be used to integrate arts into classroom curriculum. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
LA Opera’s ARIA program has been a great place for the city’s young professionals to connect with the arts, network, and make friends with fellow arts enthusiasts. This season, we are taking ARIA to the next level; the program is being redefined to elevate its placement as a young professionals program for opera lovers between the ages of 21 and 40, and is switching to a club membership-based model.
This new and improved ARIA offers members even more exciting perks and entrée into Downtown LA’s hottest new establishments. Here’s the low down. With an ARIA Club membership, you get access to intermission receptions on ARIA nights, entry to exclusive after-parties, free admission to two auxiliary ARIA events, happy hour networking events, and special discounts to additional LA Opera productions.
The best part? ARIA members get all the above party and networking benefits for only $99 with the purchase of an ARIA Package. Those who purchase a Full Season Subscription (Series C) will receive all of your ARIA benefits and more, and LA Opera will waive the $99 club membership fee.