PLÁCIDO DOMINGO ELI AND EDYTHE BROAD GENERAL DIRECTOR

JAMES CONLON ELI AND EDYTHE BROAD GENERAL DIRECTOR

CHRISTOPHER KOELSCH PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Blog

Rehearsing The Magic Flute (2016)

Ben Bliss (Tamino) rehearsing The Magic Flute (2016)

There is usually a pretty standard way of rehearsing opera. The director has a concept for the production – a vision that has been in play with designers and production staff years ahead of the first rehearsal. When singers do arrive, they spend time with the director, reaching a compromise on character choices, and perfecting their knowledge of the music. Sometimes bits of music are cut out; other times bits of music are added. This whole process starts in rehearsal rooms then moves onto stage within a matter of weeks.

The rehearsal process for The Magic Flute is entirely different.

Why?

The projection wall - rehearsing The Magic Flute (2016)

The projection wall – rehearsing The Magic Flute (2016)

Our production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is inspired by the silent film (and early “talkie”) era and is comprised entirely of projected film. Singers stand on stage or on platforms that are 9ft high off the ground, 18” in diameter, and attached to a giant wall. Animated video (in the style of Max Fleischer cartoons or the classic Disney “Skeleton Dance”) is projected onto the wall behind the singers. The singers cannot see what’s behind them, despite the fact that they interact with the animation projected (at one point an animated bird lands on Pamina’s hand).

In a regular opera, there’s some forgiveness, the orchestra, the staging, pretty much everything can adjust in real time. For this opera – there’s none of that.

The required precision means that all character decisions for the singer have already been made by the director (and there are no bits of music being added or taken out). As the film designs and animations are already set, there’s no room for compromise.

Brenton Ryan (Monostatos) pulling an animated dog across the stage during The Magic Flute (2016) rehearsal

Brenton Ryan (Monostatos) pulling an animated dog across the stage during The Magic Flute (2016) rehearsal

Singers also have an added job in rehearsal. They must learn highly choreographed movement that cannot be altered during a performance. If, for example, Monostatos is going to be pulling a dog’s leash at this point in the projection and at this point in the music, his hand has to be in that exact spot for it to look like he’s interacting with the animation. To hit their marks, singers practice with the set and projections as soon as possible, as opposed to only when they arrive on stage for tech rehearsals. They also must rehearse in the dark for the projections to be seen.

It’s not only the singers that are learning the show earlier in the process. The staging staff and crew are learning and planning for highly choreographed work. This show has one stage manager and three assistant stage managers (“ASMs”). The stage manager calls the majority of the 666 cues in the show from a secluded area front of house. That’s 2-3 times as many as there are in most other shows. And, unlike other shows, 25% of the cues are visual instead of the usual 5%. The stage manager must be able to see the projections and know the show well enough to call a cue on time or ahead of time to prepare cast and crew.

… Continue reading

Carmen (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Carmen (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

I remember the night I was getting ready to see my sister perform in the children’s chorus in LA Opera’s production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen. I was nine years old and it was my first opera. As I stressed over what to wear, I kept imagining what it would be like when I opened the doors to the Dorothy Chandler: Hundreds of sophisticated adults in expensive outfits sipping champagne and discussing the show, and meanwhile I’d be sitting there feeling under dressed, under prepared, and terribly confused as to what they were even talking about.

… Continue reading

Two LA Opera artists—soprano Karen Hogle-Brown and tenor Ashley Faatoalia—perform at USC-Keck Medical Center.

Two LA Opera artists—soprano Karen Hogle-Brown and tenor Ashley Faatoalia—perform at
USC’s Keck Medical Center.

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

– Hans Christian Andersen

Music is a universal language that feeds the soul.

People connect with music on another level that involves the brain in ways that neuroscientists are still exploring (learn more here). While the science behind music and memory is nascent (research is primarily observational at this point), there is reason to believe that music can stir memories in people with dementia. For the past two years, LA Opera, the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern California have partnered to bring music – and perhaps memories – to patients living with memory loss, Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia in a program called “Music to Remember.” During the performances, LA Opera teaching artists sing holiday carols to residents (and workers) in long-term care and assisted living facilities throughout Los Angeles, suffering from ­dementia. Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students from the ZNI who work on the neurobiology of aging and memory accompany the group of teaching artists and observe the effects their singing has on patients.

… Continue reading

WW - Singspiel

SINGSPIEL (12 Scrabble points) – German – A singspiel, which literally translates to “sing-play” is a German comic opera that mixes spoken dialogue with singing. Singspiels are folkloric in nature, often having fantasy elements. If you are slightly more inclined towards musical theater, then singspiels are the opera genre for you. Famous singspiels include Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio (coming next season) and The Magic Flute (though our upcoming production has taken out the dialogue).

Excited about our upcoming singspiels? Learn more below.

… Continue reading

The Ghosts of Versailles exemplifies LA Opera’s ongoing commitment to the most important operas of our time.”

Plácido Domingo

The west coast premiere of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles in February 2015 was one of the most exciting – and iconic – productions to grace the LA Opera stage in recent seasons. Originally staged by the Metropolitan Opera in 1991, The Ghosts of Versailles is an opera-within-an-opera that counterpoises the fiction of Mozart and Beaumarchais (author of The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro) with the Reign of Terror to create a richly multilayered meditation on the need for, and costs of personal and social change.

The Ghosts of Versailles (2015); Photo: Robert Millard

The Ghosts of Versailles (2015); Photo: Robert Millard

Trapped in the spirit world, the ghost of Marie Antoinette bitterly reflects on her final suffering. Her favorite playwright tries to entertain the melancholy queen with the continuing adventures of his beloved characters from The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro. But sneaky Figaro refuses to play by the script, breaking free from the opera-within-the-opera in a surprise bid for a better life. The opera turns history on its head as love attempts to alter the course of destiny.

… Continue reading

The  Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute opens this Saturday and that means you’ll be able to hear one of the most famous – and extravagant – arias in opera history, “Der Hölle Rache” (aka the “Queen of the Night Aria”). Sung during Act II of the opera, this aria is a pivotal moment in the relationship between the Queen of Night and her daughter, Pamina. The Queen orders Pamina to kill the Queen’s rival, Sarastro, on pain of cursing and forsaking Pamina if she does not comply. It requires disciplined and killer vocal range, as it spans two octaves (hello incredibly low notes and incredibly high notes – all within one aria). Check out Diana Damrau (who will tackle all four heroines in next season’s The Tales of Hoffmann) take on the aria below.

Excited for The Magic Flute? Learn more below.

… Continue reading

The  Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

It’s that time of year again. The Season of Love. Stores are filled with stuffed animals, chocolates, and other items you can buy for your beloved. It’s also the perfect time to show your romantic side and nothing says romance like an evening of Mozart or Puccini. Ever thought of surprising the ones you love with the gift of opera on Valentine’s Day? Here’s a list of the most romantic operas to give your significant other the opera experience of a lifetime.

The Magic Flute (you can even surprise them with an early night out – the show opens on Saturday, 2/13)

Mozart’s comedic opera is a love story for all ages, perfect for a mommy- or daddy-and-me date, a first date or a very special occasion. Take a romantic trip through a fantasy world inspired by the roaring twenties and fall in love with Mozart’s quirky characters. A celebration of true love conquering all, The Magic Flute transports us into an enchanted world where good faces the forces of darkness. The opera follows the trials of young Tamino. He is asked by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from Sarastro, who has captured her. Tamino falls instantly in love with Pamina and vows to overcome every obstacle to be with her.

Madame Butterfly

Madame Butterfly is Puccini’s tale of a love that knows no boundaries. What begins as an idyllic liaison in an enchanting land of cherry blossoms turns into the wrenching tragedy of an abandoned bride forced to make an excruciating decision. Puccini’s cherished music expresses the heartbreak of a naive young woman who commits herself to a man unworthy of her loyalty.

… Continue reading

Dido and Aeneas (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

Dido and Aeneas (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

“Two operas about arrival and departure. Two operas about a woman and a man. Two operas about lost Eden. Two operas about forgotten Eden. Two operas about remembered Eden.”

– Director Barrie Kosky on his pairing of Dido and Aeneas and Bluebeard’s Castle

Following his triumphant Magic Flute the previous season, Barrie Kosky returned to LA Opera to direct an iconic double bill of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. On the outside, these operas are very different. Dido and Aeneas is a 17th-century wonder – the first great opera written in English – about a queen, who falls prey to the machinations of a formidable enemy, losing her heart to a man who abruptly abandons her.

… Continue reading

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

Barrie Kosky, Susanne Andrade, and Paul Barritt’s production of The Magic Flute is heavily inspired by the silent film era and the spirit of the roaring twenties. In Kosky’s words, “Papageno is suggestive of Buster Keaton, while Monostatos is a bit Nosferatu, and Pamina perhaps a bit reminiscent of Louise Brooks.” There are a plethora of silent films to check out before seeing The Magic Flute, as the silent film era was a rich time for the industry. Filmmakers explored the artistry of the cinematic medium, creating new stories and adapting classic – even operatic – works for a new audience (King Vidor’s excellent 1926 La Boheme film is definitely worth a movie night). Before you step into the world of The Magic Flute, here are a few silent films to watch to get you in the 1920s spirit.

Why Worry (1923)

Director Fred Newmeyer’s adventure comedy centers on hypochondriac Harold Lloyd, who escapes his rich, business focused life to the tropics, only to find himself in the middle of a revolution.

In our Magic Flute, Papageno is basically Buster Keaton with a Harold Lloyd Twist. Similar fashions, similar comedic impulses.

The Gold Rush (1925)

Charlie Chaplin is the king of silent film comedies and The Gold Rush is arguably one of his best pictures. Chaplin stars as a lone prospector, who ventures to Alaska in search of gold, and falls in love with a woman named Georgia. Chaplin’s brand of slapstick comedy permeates the fantasy world of this Magic Flute.

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)

If you’re a Monostatos fan, you’ll love that his character is heavily inspired by Nosferatu. F.W. Murnau’s classic horror film, based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, tells the story of Count Orlok and his interest in his real estate agent’s wife. The film has a subtle German Expressionist (the style of cinematography that later inspired film noir) feel that helps it retain its rightful place as one of the greatest classic horror films – a must-see for horror junkies everywhere. (LA Opera is presenting Nosferatu this Halloween at The Theatre at Ace Hotel.)

… Continue reading

Einstein on the Beach (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Einstein on the Beach (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

LA Opera’s 2013/14 season was one of the company’s most memorable in recent years. While there were many stellar productions, three stand out as iconic: Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Jules Massenet’s Thaїs. The first two are examples of the progressive programming that LA Opera is known for, while the latter is exemplary of how well the company produces traditional operatic repertory.

Einstein on the Beach radically redefines what audiences might expect from opera, theater, or performance art. Director Robert Wilson reflected on his experiences of Glass’s radical work:

“Here, it’s a work where you go and you can get lost. That’s the idea. It’s like a good novel. You don’t have to understand anything. I went to the revival at BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music] some years ago, and I was there for the opening, and then I went back a week later, and walked down the aisle. There was an empty seat, and I sat down, in the empty seat on the aisle, and Arthur Miller was sitting next to me. And after about 20 minutes he turned to me, and he didn’t know who I was, and he said, “What do you think about this?” I said, “I don’t know, what do you think?” And he said, “You know, I don’t get it.” I said, “You know, I don’t get it either.”

The  Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

Following the progressive staging of Einstein on the Beach, LA Opera presented a truly inspiring production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (which returns this month). Staged entirely with projections inspired by the roaring twenties, this Magic Flute reimagined Mozart’s opera, giving it a wildly successful cinematic twist. Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt (co-founders of the London theater company, 1927) envisioned an inspiring production in collaboration with Barrie Kosky of Komische Oper Berlin. (Read more about their Magic Flute here.)

… Continue reading

Cadenza

CADENZA (19 Scrabble points) – Italian – A cadenza is an elaborate section (sometimes improvised) towards the end of an aria that allows the singer to really showcase what their voice can do, like the below “Flute Cadenza” in Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.

Interestingly enough, Donizetti never wrote such a section into his original score for Lucia. The section was added to showcase Nellie Melba’s coloratura singing during an 1889 performance at The Paris Opera. Other famous singers (Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, and Beverly Sills) added their own flavor when playing Lucia. Check out Diana Damrau (who will play all four heroines in our 16/17 production of Tales of Hoffmann) tackling Lucia’s entire mad scene below, including the famous cadenza.

Can’t get enough Diana Damrau? Get to know Diana Damrau in the articles that follow and get in the Damrau spirit.

… Continue reading

The Two Foscari (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

The Two Foscari (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

Anticipating the 2013 celebrations surrounding the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth, LA Opera opened its 2012/13 season with a new production of The Two Foscari starring Plácido Domingo. Rarely staged, Verdi’s opera explores themes of political power and family relationships, similar to his later work, Simon Boccanegra (which the company also staged that same season). Set in the languid canals and boisterous festivals of 15th-century Venice, the plot revolves around a father and son struggling to reclaim honor in a city that knows no mercy.

Can’t get enough Verdi? Check out the articles we’ve collected below and make sure you get your tickets to Verdi’s Macbeth, premiering this September.

… Continue reading

Community Circle ArticleLA Opera has a great way for you to experience opera with your organization. Have you heard of it? The program is called Community Circle and it’s the perfect way for you to see the stellar mainstage productions we have this season (Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and La Boheme).

Embracing Our Community, One Voice At A Time.

We believe that experiencing and participating in the arts is a basic human right, essential to building community and part of LA Opera’s civic responsibility. Regardless of one’s background or means, opera is for everyone. We seek to ensure that everyone has access to opera and has an opportunity to participate in creating opera.

Through our Community Circle program, we are able to share the experience with students, low-income senior citizens, and underserved community groups. Hundreds of tickets are set aside in our orchestra level for every performance to accommodate these special groups, supplementing the extensive education and community outreach initiatives our company does throughout the year. (These tickets are not available for sale to the public.) Carefully selected groups will be able to experience opera at a significantly reduced price and, at times, even at no cost.

… Continue reading

Rolando Villazón and Anna Netrebko as the tile characters in Romeo et Juliette (2006); Photo: Robert Millard

Rolando Villazón and Anna Netrebko as the title characters in Romeo et Juliette (2006); Photo: Robert Millard

Opera is all about love. Passionate Love. Unrequited Love. Betrayed Love. Desperate Love. You-name-it love. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to find out what kind of opera valentine you are.

The Storybook Romantic

You’re the kind of person, who appreciates storybook romance, even if it ends in tragedy. For you, it’s all Puccini, Verdi, and Mozart all the time. You can get down with the unrequited romance just as much as you can love the fantastical loves that conquer all.

Best Opera Next Up at LAO: Madame Butterfly

Other Operas to Check Out: The Magic Flute, La Boheme, Tosca

The Cinema Siren

You live and breathe film and love it when opera productions are inspired by your favorite movies or film eras (or when films use or are inspired by opera). Operatic love is like a good Classic Hollywood film; whether it ends happily or tragically, the love is always spectacular.

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

Best Opera Next Up at LAO: The Magic Flute

Other Operas to Check Out: La Boheme, Macbeth , Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror

… Continue reading

Plácido Domingo as the title character in Macbeth (2015) in Valencia, Spain; Photo: Tato Baeza

Plácido Domingo as the title character in Macbeth (2015) in Valencia, Spain; Photo: Tato Baeza

There is no better composer than Giuseppe Verdi to tackle the darkly complex tragedy that is Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Fascinated by the supernatural and the bloody betrayal of Macbeth, Verdi composed the original opera in 1847, making dramatic additions in 1865 to create the masterpiece opera. Starring Plácido Domingo, Macbeth will kick off our upcoming season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion this September.

… Continue reading

“Producing a new Ring is the ultimate accomplishment for an opera company and it brings to the city a great sense of civic pride.” Plácido Domingo on staging Los Angeles’ first-ever Ring Cycle

Sieglinde (Anja Kempe) and Siegmund (Placido Domingo) in Die Walkure (2008)

Sieglinde (Anja Kempe) and Siegmund (Placido Domingo) in Die Walkure (2008); Monika Rittershaus

Staging Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is the mark of any great opera house. Since becoming Artistic Director in 2001 (and since then General Director), Plácido Domingo sought to produce a Ring cycle. Led by a generous donation from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Domingo’s dream became a reality, when the company staged all four operas in the cycle (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung) over the course of two seasons – 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, with complete cycles presented in the summer of 2010.

Wagner’s Ring cycle follows a cast of gods and humans in their ultimate quest for power and search for love over the course of four operas. Music Director James Conlon puts it well:

“Wagner, among so many other things, sought to create works that would unite the accomplishments of Shakespeare and Beethoven. The Ring can be viewed as a four-part symphony, with each movement culminating in the expression of a different aspect of love. Das Rheingold is the expository movement. Die Walküre is the slower, expressive lyric movement. Siegfried is the scherzo: the first act witty, sharply bristling with demonic and Beethoven energy. Götterdämmerung is the apocalyptic finale.”

… Continue reading

Simon Boccanegra

Simon Boccanegra (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

“My first performances as Simon, in Berlin in 2009, were among the most gratifying nights of my career, and I have looked forward to each subsequent opportunity to revisit this fascinating character.

– Plácido Domingo on singing the title role in Simon Boccanegra

LA Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s politically charged operatic masterpiece, Simon Boccanegra, in 2012. It starred Plácido Domingo as Simon and was masterfully conducted by James Conlon (who cites Simon Boccanegra as one of the first Verdi operas he knew from beginning to end). The story follows Simon Boccanegra, the Doge (or ruler) of Genoa, in his efforts to crush a mounting uprising, and find his long-lost daughter, Amelia.

… Continue reading

Plácido Domingo as Pablo Neruda and Charles Castronovo as Mario Ruoppolo in Il Postino (2010); Photo: Robert Millard

Plácido Domingo as Pablo Neruda and Charles Castronovo as Mario Ruoppolo in Il Postino (2010); Photo: Robert Millard

“I realized from the very first time I saw the film, that it was a suitable theme for an opera. It deals with Art and Love: the foundations upon which we build our lives.”

– Daniel Catán, Il Postino, composer and librettist

LA Opera opened its 25th Anniversary Season with the world premiere of Daniel Catán’s Il Postino, starring Plácido Domingo as the famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Based on the Academy Award-winning 1994 Italian film of the same name that became a surprise hit with audiences around the world and also on the 1985 novel Ardiente Paciencia by Antonio Skármeta, Il Postino tells the story of a shy young postman in a tiny Italian fishing village, who discovers the courage to pursue his dreams through his daily deliveries to his only customer, a famous poet. Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas was previously staged at LA Opera to much acclaim in 1997. Il Postino equally resonated with audiences, who were attracted the developing friendship between Neruda and the postman, Mario (Charles Castronovo) that forms the core of the story.

… Continue reading

Night on Broadway 2015; Photo: Hunter Kerhart

Night on Broadway 2015; Photo: Hunter Kerhart

How much do you love Downtown LA? Well, this Saturday is your chance to experience DTLA in all its cultural glory. Don’t miss “Night On Broadway,” an evening of food, entertainment, arts and culture celebrating the 8th anniversary of Councilmember José Huizar’s “Bringing Back Broadway” initiative. This wildly popular event is free for people of all ages looking to experience the Historic Theater District in a unique and personal way, while discovering the best of what today and tomorrow’s Broadway has to offer.

… Continue reading

… Continue reading