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.
The Staging of An 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.
Richard Cook moved to Southern California from the East Coast in 2003, and began attending LA Opera soon after. “It was the first time I could attend opera without significant travel time. I became a donor very quickly.”
After retiring from a successful career in manufacturing operations and management, Mr. Cook pursued his passions for environmental protection, archeology, and opera. Hailing from a musical family, he had first asked his mother to take him to the opera at 9 years old. “She was delighted,” he recalls. “I turn 87 this year, so that’s a long time seeing opera.”
During the course of his nearly 80 years of opera fandom, Mr. Cook has attended opera productions throughout the US and Europe. He even attended an opera performed at the foot of the Great Pyramids. However, he claims that some of the most memorable operas he has ever experienced have been at LA Opera.
Opera Camp is one of our favorite parts about summer at LA Opera. Watching more than 50 talented kids rehearse and perform opera in just two weeks never ceases to astound us. But, this year’s camp was extra special, because we premiered Eli Villanueva and Leslie Stevens’ Then I Stood Up, a youth opera honoring the contributions of young people to the Civil Rights Movement. From day one, kids not only engaged with opera, but also with civil rights history, in a way that connects past with the present, and brings people together through the power of opera.
While we loved everything about this year’s Opera Camp, here are some moments that really made this year’s program the best yet.
Back in 1984, Los Angeles hosted the Olympics Arts Festival. During the Los Angeles Olympics, the Opera Association co-produced three operas with London’s Royal Opera (Turandot, starring Domingo as Calaf, as well as Peter Grimes and The Magic Flute), which not only helped establish the city as an international arts destination, but also helped raise funds for the soon-to-rise opera company.
So, you could say, LA Opera was born out of the Olympics.
We’re thinking about this history as we prepare to watch tonight’s opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics. But, we’re also thinking of some of the things opera and the Olympics have in common.
The 1984 Olympics is not the only time that opera and the Olympics have collided. Throughout the years, many famous opera singers have sung at various summer and winter olympics, including Plácido Domingo. Remember when he sang alongside Song Zuying in Beijing in 2008?
Chaya Forman and Luz Duran love to sing. Chaya used to sing with the National Children’s Chorus, while Luz loves singing pop songs and can easily break into a rendition of Alicia Keyes’ “Girl On Fire.” They’re also both rising seventh graders and will spend two weeks of their summer at LA Opera’s Opera Camp, rehearsing and performing Then I Stood Up, a youth opera about the contributions of young people to the Civil Rights Movement.
It’s also their first year in the camp and they’re loving the experience so far. We spoke with the girls to get a sense of what life is like for a first year camper.
What do you love about opera in Los Angeles? If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen an opera. Whether it’s been at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion or about town, we want to share your love of it with new fans. What is it about operas in Los Angeles that you love? Is it the film-inspired opera productions, or even the various locations you can go to see an opera?
Envision yourself on stage. You’re in character, singing a role you love, and connecting with hundreds of audience members. You’ve worked hard for this moment and it’s more wonderful than you could have ever imagined. It also doesn’t feel like work, because you’ve enjoyed every minute.
This is how I feel every year during LA Opera’s summer youth program, Opera Camp. It’s some of the most rewarding “work” I’ve had the pleasure of doing. This year, I will participate in the camp for the fourth time, for which I am immensely grateful. Over the past few years, I have learned so much from amazing teaching artists and directors (particularly Eli Villanueva, Leslie Stevens, and Karen Hogle Brown) and even Maestro James Conlon.
The camp only lasts two weeks, but it is an intense two weeks. It never ceases to astound me how quickly the camp passes and how much I learn in such a short period of time. Few words can do justice to how working with Eli, Leslie, Karen, and all of the other magnificent performers and teaching artists enhance my (and other kids) knowledge of acting, singing, performance, and an artist’s responsibility. Whether through the lyrics of Hans Krása in Brundibár—in which, in 2011, I played “Little Joe,” a young man, who seeks out aid from unwilling adults to save his ailing mother—or Then I Stood Up—in which, this year, I will play the role of Pastor Jim—LA Opera always makes sure we learn both about performing and the history behind each opera.
On August 6, LA Opera will premiere Then I Stood Up, a one-act youth opera that honors the contributions of young people to the Civil Rights Movement. The opera—which will be presented as the culmination of a two-week intensive summer Opera Camp—was commissioned by LA Opera and composed and co-written by Eli Villanueva and Leslie Stevens (who have also written other operas for the camp). For two years, Villanueva and Stevens worked closely with the education and community engagement team and a number of consulting organizations (Facing History and Ourselves, Watts Labor Community Action Committee, California African American Museum) on Then I Stood Up. They crafted an opera that not only engages audience members, but also teaches campers vital lessons about social justice.
Plácido Domingo has a passion for discovering talent. He’s not just the world’s most legendary opera singer; he’s also a champion for new young artists. In 1993, Maestro Domingo established Operalia, an international vocal competition created to find and help launch the careers of today’s most promising young opera singers. Over the years, Operalia has done just that, launching the careers of some of the most talked about artists of our time.
This year’s competition wrapped up last night (you can watch the final round here), and those of us in Los Angeles, who have been following along all week, watched and cheered from our homes. Through the magic of live stream, we watched the final announcements from Guadalajara, Mexico. You could probably hear the cheering from the stage in Guadalajara when two of our very own young artists won top prizes (accompanied by Nino Sanikidze, Head Coach in the Young Artist Program).
- Nicolas Brownlee, a current member of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, won “The Don Plácido Domingo Ferrer Prize of Zarzuela.” Brownlee has been in six different productions at LA Opera to date, most recently as Coline in La Bohème. He will make his Metropolitan Opera debut this coming season, in addition to performing several roles in Los Angeles, including Angelotti in Tosca next spring.
- Brenton Ryan, an alumnus of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, won the Birgit Nilsson Prize. You can catch Ryan as Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio in our upcoming season, a role he debuted at the Metropolitan Opera this past spring.
LA Opera believes in sharing the transformative power of opera with the Los Angeles community. As a result, the company places education and community engagement at the core of its mission. In the past sixteen years, LA Opera has more than tripled its outreach programs. The programs have expanded beyond their original target, K-12 students, to serve many more members of the Los Angeles community, including teachers, veterans, families and seniors. Whether at LA Opera’s home in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion or in neighborhoods across Los Angeles County, LA Opera remains committed to maintaining and growing the programs that reach hundreds of thousands in the community. How does a non-profit build and maintain such programs? Well, one reason is partnerships.
While the generous support of many donors and foundations has helped make these programs possible, to further extend its programming and to better serve the community, LA Opera adopted partnerships as a vital strategy.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What does LA Opera have that is so beautiful and unique and what are the many ways somebody needs it?’ Opera is a collaborative art form. Partnerships reflect our art form, so it is only natural that this model would help further LA Opera’s mission of sharing opera with the Los Angeles community,” says Stacy Brightman, Vice President of Education and Community Engagement.
Walk into a room and mention you’re heading to the opera. I bet you’ll get some confused looks and head scratching. For me, the response is typically, “You – an opera fan?” So try it and don’t be surprised if you hear some of these.
But you don’t look like an opera fan, what gives?
What does an opera fan look like? I thought I knew, but when I look around the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (LA Opera’s home) during a performance, I see all sorts of people. Parents with their teenagers, hipsters on first dates, girlfriends on outings, couples young and old on a regular night out, groups celebrating special milestones, others dressed in costumes to emulate the production. You name it; you’ll see it in the theater and on the red carpet out front.
On the heels of another successful collaboration with anatomy theater, LA Opera and Beth Morrison Projects are hard at work on two operas, ripped straight from the headlines, making their west coast premieres next season. They are Ted Hearne’s The Source and Kamala Sankaram’s Thumbprint.
In October, LA Opera presents The Source, which follows the story of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, a U.S. Army soldier who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. It explores the many identities of the army private – adrift adolescent, emboldened whistleblower, and traitor to her country – amidst the media hysteria following the leak.
Hearne’s and director Daniel Fish’s work is a contemporary masterpiece, showcasing what opera in the digital age can truly be.
Opera is filled with stories of betrayal, murder, and love that push characters to emotional extremes. Heroines (and anti-heroines) are often the characters most caught up in the drama. They love passionately, sacrifice greatly, and kill relentlessly. We’ve created a list of ten multifaceted women, who aren’t afraid to lean in and stir the plot; they’re bold, brave and influential, even if it leads to their untimely death. See some of these fierce ladies at LA Opera next season.
In Verdi’s Macbeth (based on the Shakespeare play), Lady Macbeth takes fierce to a whole new level. After learning of her husband’s victory in battle, she urges him to kill the king and take the crown. Macbeth does so, only to be filled with remorse. It is Lady Macbeth who completes the killing and frames two guards for the king’s murder. She wants power and social standing and will stop at nothing to achieve this. Verdi expands the role of “Lady M” in his opera, giving her character even more agency, and making her the epitome of an opera anti-heroine not to mess with. She might murder you, if you do!
Is Brünnhilde the strongest women in the entire opera repertory? She is after all the central character in Richard Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle, appearing in three of the four Ring operas. A complex and compelling woman with a fascinating character arc, she is defined by her bravery and intelligence. She grasps what is happening in the world with keener perception than her father (Wotan, king of the gods) or her husband (the mighty-but-unintellectual hero Siegfried) and she is unafraid to take action to do what she thinks is necessary. Like many other Wagner heroines, she makes the ultimate sacrifice for love, but Brünnhilde’s martyrdom has the greatest impact: hers redeems the entire world.
I’m incredibly excited to be interning with the LA Opera PR staff, not only for the credit on my resume, but because everyone here is genuinely interested in helping me participate and learn, rather than simply being a go-fer. These hands-on experiences offer a valuable opportunity to practice and improve the skills I’ve learned in the classroom and to network with working professionals in my chosen field.
I’m currently a senior at California State University, Northridge (CSUN.) I will graduate this fall as a journalism major, with a public relations emphasis and a minor in writing and rhetoric. I don’t look like most interns though, because I returned to school after a 25 year break to raise my large family.
These operas capture the American spirit and explore its history. When planning your Fourth of July festivities, add opera to your menu with your burgers and fireworks to celebrate our nation’s independence.
Last performed by LAO in 2007, George Gershwin’s iconic work is the epitome of American opera. Set in 1912 South Carolina, the plot follows the story of street beggar Porgy, who seeks to rescue Bess from the clutches of her brutal lover and drug dealer. Heavily influenced by jazz, blues and spirituals, the score is a perfect summertime listen. You may even already be familiar with the iconic piece thanks to recordings by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Stewart and countless other recording artists of all genres, which made its most famous song, “Summertime,” a pop culture phenomenon.
Composer-librettist Mark Adamo turned Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale of four sisters growing up in post-Civil War New England into a contemporary American operatic masterpiece. Premiered in 1998 in Houston with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato (LAO’s dazzling 2009 Rosina in The Barber of Seville) in the leading role of Meg, it has rapidly become one of the most frequently performed operas of our time.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Based on the very operatic Tennessee Williams play, André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire begins with Blanche DuBois’ arrival in 1940s New Orleans. Clinging to a masquerade of Southern grace, she moves into her sister’s cramped apartment, creating all the wrong kinds of sparks with her crude brother-in-law. When dark truths about Blanche’s past begin to emerge, her world comes apart at the seams in a spiral of violence and madness. LAO’s 2014 performances starred Renée Fleming, who created the role of Blanche at the opera’s 1995 San Francisco premiere.
Last week, David Lang’s anatomy theater had its world premiere at REDCAT as part of LA Opera’s Off Grand series. The grisly and intense work has garnered a great deal of acclaim not only for the edginess of the production (with a staged public execution followed by a dissection), but also for the questions it raises about the nature of evil and where evil truly lives within each of us. If you’ve missed the anatomy theater love these past couple weeks, we’ve collected a bunch of articles and videos for you to get a sense of what makes the show so visceral.
Get To Know anatomy theater
Based on actual 18th-century texts, anatomy theater follows the story of Sarah Osborne, an English murderess, who is tried, executed, and publicly dissected before a paying audience of fascinated onlookers. Gritty, emotional, and inventive, the opera features several villainous characters, but none more vulnerable than Osborne, who is masterfully brought to life (and death) by mezzo-soprano Peabody Southwell.
Bass-baritone Robert Osborne is a veteran performer of contemporary opera, known for tackling challenging roles from the title character in Harry Partch’s Oedipus to François Mignon in the Robert Wilson-directed Zinnias. Currently, he performs the role of Baron Peel, the anatomist, in the world premiere of David Lang’s anatomy theater. During rehearsals, we sat down with Osborne to discuss his work in anatomy theater and what makes Baron Peel tick.
The 15/16 season may have come to an end, but the halls of LA Opera are still abuzz with staff and artists working on the upcoming 16/17 season. Auditions are being held for supernumeraries in season opener Macbeth and the show’s set is also currently being built at Studio Sereno. Preparations for other productions and events for the fall are also underway. Can’t wait? Neither can we. See what all the excitement’s about below.
Plácido Domingo and James Conlon unite to kick off the season with Verdi’s Macbeth
The season opens with a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth (September 17 through October 16, 2016), starring Plácido Domingo in the title role and conducted by James Conlon. Ekaterina Semenchuk will perform the role of the treacherous Lady Macbeth. LA Opera’s first production of Macbeth since 1987 will be staged by Darko Tresnjak, director of the 2015 hit The Ghosts of Versailles.