Rehearsals are in full swing for LA Opera’s Elementary In-School Opera program. This annual five-week residency brings LA Opera teaching artists and staff into 15 elementary schools across the county to rehearse, stage, and perform an opera. While teaching artists are cast as principal roles, the students are cast in ensemble and smaller roles, often getting their first taste of opera and learn about California history along the way.
Pittance Chamber Music, comprised of members of the LA Opera Orchestra, will host their next concert on February 3. Special guest James Conlon will be conducting Pittance Chamber Music in Mozart’s sublime Serenade in B-flat, K.361, known as the “Gran Partita.” As Pittance is a chamber music organization, its ensembles are small and normally don’t require a conductor. However, the size and scope of the “Gran Partita” makes it difficult to put together without one, and it is exciting that Maestro Conlon has agreed to move from the pit to the stage for this concert.
Since LA Opera’s first season in 1986, Los Angeles is not the only place in the world that you can experience one of the company’s productions. Over the years, they’ve been rented and staged by other opera companies, produced during festivals, and even shown on the big screen. LA Opera’s innovative and beloved productions travel the world, sharing the spirit of Los Angeles and a love of opera with people far and wide.
Here are three productions that have traveled the world in recent years.
Salome (1986; 1989; 1998; 2001; 2017)
LA Opera’s iconic production of Strauss’s Salome (which returns to the LA Opera stage February 18) originally premiered during our first season in 1986. Adapted from the scandalous play by Oscar Wilde, Salome is a seductively beautiful tapestry of the subconscious. The princess Salome becomes infatuated by her stepfather’s prisoner, John the Baptist, and she determines to have him…whatever the cost.
This production of Salome is well traveled and has been staged both close to home (at San Diego Opera) across the country (Washington National Opera) and around the world (on tour with the Savonlinna Festival in Finland and as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival in China).
“Nothing is as ugly as vengeance, whereas the quality of great souls is to be humanely kind and forgive without selfishness.” (Act III, The Abduction from the Seraglio*)
In the final months of his life, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completed two operas, written simultaneously in 1791: The Magic Flute, a German Singspiel (“singing play”) alternating musical numbers with spoken dialogue; and La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus), an Italian opera seria. He might just as well have given his earlier Singspiel, 1782’s The Abduction from Seraglio, a different title: The Clemency of Pasha Selim. After all, the planned abduction fails to materialize. And of the many issues addressed in this work, the rejection of vengeance and the power of forgiveness are at its center, embodied in the person of Pasha Selim.
Impatient to impress Kaiser Joseph II, one of Europe’s greatest Enlightenment monarchs, Mozart jumped at the opportunity to “lift the national German stage to recognition in music!” He showed that not just he, but German music, could be freed from the virtual monopoly of Italian opera. Taking the popular form of Singspiel, he merges it with Italianate sophistication. This, in time, would lead to The Magic Flute, Beethoven’s Fidelio and the 19th-century German genre of Spieloper (“opera play”).
Mozart was 20 when British historian and man of letters Horace Walpole reiterated in a private letter what was to become his famous epigram: “The world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.” The highly cultured Walpole might even have heard about the young genius from Salzburg.
Comedies make us think through provoking laughter and humor. Tragedies and melodramas make us feel, and sometimes weep. In the 18th century, Italian opera was compartmentalized: opera buffa made us laugh, opera seria made us think. Most importantly, they both pleased the ear. Mozart clouded this distinction by elevating the level of comic opera to deal with more serious subjects.
The votes are in…Congratulations to our winners!
This past fall, LA Opera hosted a contest for currently enrolled college art and design students in southern California. Students were asked to submit artwork for LA Opera’s spring production of Strauss’s Salome for a chance to be featured on the cover of the show’s performance program and displayed at the home of LA Opera, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Thanks to the generous support of GRoW @ Annenberg, more than 35 students from 14 different southern California institutions competed for cash prizes and to see their artwork on this season’s Salome program cover. The winners were chosen by a jury, chaired by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten of the Annenberg Foundation and by Regina Weingarten, a member of the LA Opera board of directors. The jury also included Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera President and CEO; Diane Bergman, LA Opera Vice President of Marketing and Communications; Keith Rainville, LA Opera Brand Manager; and Tim Johnson, Film Director at DreamWorks Animation and a member of the LA Opera board of directors. We are pleased to announce our three winners: Marshall Dahlin, David Kwock, and Lauren Moss.
The top submission (see below), by Marshall Dahlin of Cal State Fullerton, was selected for the Salome cover, and earned him a $5,000 prize.
With The Abduction from the Seraglio, Mozart scored the biggest stage success he would enjoy during his lifetime. It premiered in Vienna on July 16, 1782, and, by the fourth performance—according to Mozart himself—the show was “creating such a sensation that they don’t want to see or hear anything else, and the theater is packed full each time.”
Nowadays Abduction ranks among the less frequently encountered of Mozart’s mature stage works. One reason might be that it suffers from what director James Robinson calls “ugly-title syndrome.” Catchy titles, to be sure, can go a long way toward securing recognition for even second-rate works. Robinson adds: “Abduction is underrated in many ways. It’s one of the most unabashedly romantic pieces that Mozart ever wrote. The way he addresses relationships and longing, as well as all the things that accompany love and its potential loss, is so heartfelt. Abduction wears its emotions on its sleeve. And it’s also a wonderfully funny piece.”
The stakes for the success of Abduction were high.
When Mozart started working on his new project in the summer of 1781, he was right in the middle of a period of profound transition—personally as well as professionally. The year had started with the premiere, in Munich, of Idomeneo, an ambitious opera that represented a major artistic leap forward for the composer. A few months after that came a dramatic confrontation with his boss, Count Hieronymus Colloredo, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Among the many reasons Mozart felt so miserable at Colloredo’s provincial court was the lack of opportunities to write opera, the art form he loved most of all.
The story of how David Washburn found the trumpet has become a family legend.
David’s father, an engineering professor, played cornet. He eventually gave that cornet to a friend. One evening, while the Washburns were visiting this friend, someone brought out the cornet. Little David gave it a go. After one lesson, his father’s friend exclaimed: “You’d better get him a trumpet!”
Since its founding in 1986, LA Opera has become one of Los Angeles’s most influential arts organizations. In 2011 LA Opera’s communications team conducted extensive research in order to better identify the company’s brand and connect with its ever-expanding audience in a new era.
“In order for branding to be effective, it has to be organic,” says Diane Rhodes Bergman, vice president of marketing and communications, who oversaw the research efforts five years ago and continues to spearhead the company’s communications strategy. “It has to start with the people who are most involved with the brand: the board, our staff, and the public we serve. We conducted research with these three groups to identify what LA Opera is at its core, what role the company plays in the Los Angeles community, and what part it will play in the community’s future.”
Through this research and subsequent testing of various brand concepts, LA Opera’s branding began to take form. There were several things that all the groups surveyed connected to LA Opera: the company’s influential presence in the Los Angeles community, the inextricable link to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s decades-long history, innovative productions, and a certain method of storytelling reflective of the city’s edgy (but still beautiful) spirit.
LA Opera has made a mission of bringing opera into LA County schools and students to the opera. Through several programs, the company introduces and shares a love of opera with kids and teens across the county. Students learn about opera from singers and staff, and experience productions geared toward teaching them the “big ideas” about the art form. However, presenting opera isn’t enough. LA Opera collaborates with teachers to integrate the music and theater standards of the opera with their English language arts and/or history curriculum standards. LA Opera’s production of Figaro’s American Adventure, which the company performs to thousands of students at venues across the county, is a great example of this arts-integrated learning.
Sondra Radvanovsky was having a good night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion downtown. The American soprano, giving a recital as part of the L.A. Opera season, had performed repertory ranging from Verdi to Copland, interspersed with personal stories and an emotional tribute to her late father. Now she’d returned for encores—to an audience so enthusiastic she ended up singing four.
Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera’s President and Chief Executive Officer, is either astonishingly modest or tremendously reverential to those who have gone before him… or both.
Mr. Koelsch is this year’s recipient of the Opera League’s Peter Hemmings Award – given to individuals “who have made significant contributions to the development of opera in the greater Los Angeles area.” He speaks of the achievements of LA Opera in his four years at the helm as little more than the naturalension of ideas and programs put forth by his predecessors – and by “the incredible team we have here.”
L.A. Opera patrons who rely on supertitles to understand the text of what’s being sung can thank the woman wearing a headset and sitting in a space above the wall chandeliers on the right side of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion auditorium.
Linda Zoolalian has prepared and cued the supertitles—librettos projected in English on a screen above the proscenium and elsewhere—since 2003. Three years ago, she began cueing supertitles for the Los Angeles Master Chorale as well.
Alma Guzman has three great passions in life: volunteering, photography and travel.
Her Opera League volunteerism dates back to the League’s very inception almost thirty years ago. Since her retirement, she has been able to volunteer a whopping 450 plus hours a year. This coming season, she will serve on the Opera League board of directors for the third time. The League, and by extension LA Opera, benefit greatly from Alma’s huge contribution of time, as have over 40 citywide organizations where she has volunteered since 1973.
It’s that time of year again! The time where we all make resolutions to meet new people and travel more. What if this New Year’s, you could do all of that at the opera house? Here are some ways to add seeing opera to your 2017 New Year’s resolutions.
Pick up a new hobby: opera.
Sometimes the day job gets to us and we forget to enjoy ourselves outside of the office. Take a break from Netflix binge-watching (although we also can’t wait for Sherlock) and spend some nights at the opera.
As a nonprofit, everything we do—on stage and throughout the community—is made possible by the generosity of supporters like you, who value the impact the performing arts have on the cultural fabric of Los Angeles.
When you make a tax-deductible donation by this Saturday, December 31, you will be entered for a chance to win:
- Two tickets to Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov in Concert on May 4, 2017
- Verismo, Anna Netrebko’s new album, on compact disc
A donation of any amount will help LA Opera and enter you for a chance to win this exciting giveaway. But hurry, this opportunity ends soon!
For the past 11 seasons, LA Opera has been honored to work with the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles to present free, large-scale community performances including Noah’s Flood, Judas Maccabaeus and The Festival Play of Daniel under the baton of James Conlon. These community opera performances include singers, actors and orchestra members from the community, performing alongside professional singers and orchestra members from LA Opera.
This season, LA Opera is reviving its successful production of Noah’s Flood (Noye’s Fludde). Conducted by James Conlon, Noah’s Flood will be performed at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at 4:00pm and 7:30pm.
Before marking your calendars, here’s a list of things you might not know about our production of Noah’s Flood.
ARIA is the program du jour for young professionals to connect with the arts, network, and make friends with fellow arts enthusiasts. This season, we’ve taken ARIA to the next level by elevating its placement as a young professionals’ program for opera lovers between the ages of 21 and 40, is switching to a club membership-based model. As a result, ARIA has never been bigger, with over 100 members mingling and mixing at various events and enjoying opera together. 2017 promises to be the best yet. 2017 promises to be the best yet.
Ever since last season’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, we’ve been eagerly waiting to stage another one of Mozart’s work at LA Opera. Next month, we get to do just that! Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio opens on January 29 and here are five reasons to see this riotous opera.
Did we mention that it’s Mozart?
Mozart’s effervescent score is sure to thrill audiences—even though Emperor Joseph II asked that Mozart cut a few notes from the piece when it was first presented to him. (Check out that moment and the finale of Abduction as depicted in the Miloš Forman biopic Amadeus below.)
Joshua Winograde, the company’s senior director of artistic planning, has been living out his dream at LA Opera. For the past decade, he has developed the company’s celebrated Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program and played an instrumental role in championing the company’s artistic vision. It has been an incredible journey for Winograde, whose long history with LA Opera began when he fell in love with opera as a teenager.
As a teenager, Winograde took summer classes at UCLA. There he met an exchange student from Japan who introduced him to Kathleen Battle’s recordings. “I had never heard anything like her. I was totally unaware that a human voice was capable of doing anything like that,” recalls Winograde. After hearing Battle’s voice, he became even more interested in singing and performing. He joined choirs and took advantage of every opportunity to see productions at LA Opera.
“Tara Colburn, one of the founders of LA Opera, was the mother of a friend of mine in high school. My friend didn’t like to go to the opera, so I was his mom’s date,” Winograde jokes.
After growing up at the LA Opera, Winograde pursued a career as a singer. He received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Julliard School and embarked on a professional career as a bass-baritone (including time as a young artist at Houston Grand Opera). However, as Winograde’s career took off, he started dreaming of a different career path.
“I couldn’t shake this peripheral vision of a career producing opera,” says Winograde.
Winograde followed his heart and switched to a career in management, working with young artists at Wolf Trap Opera Company and Julliard. One year later, LA Opera came knocking.