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.”
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.)
The company capped off the season with a company premiere of Massenet’s Thaїs, starring Plácido Domingo and Nino Machaidze (who returns as Mimi in La Boheme in May). The opera follows the story of Thaïs (Machaidze), the most beautiful courtesan in Alexandria, who holds an entire city in her thrall as she embraces life’s most sensual delights. One man alone, the monk Athanaël (Domingo), weeps for her sins, but his pilgrimage to save the sinner’s soul becomes a tortured journey of erotic obsession. As seducer transforms into saint, the holy man falls victim to his own passions. Massenet’s opera is an epic story of religion versus sexuality and the grandeur of LA Opera’s production wowed audiences.