Monthly Archives: September 2015

LA Opera and Beth Morrison Bring New York’s Indie Opera Scene West

Anatomy Theater (2016)

Anatomy Theater (2016)

In the aftermath of a war that ravaged America, a family clings to their existence; teenaged Lisa holds onto the hope of a better world as her family spirals into the depths of starvation and despair. When a stranger – a man who acts like and thinks of himself as a dog – arrives on her doorstep, they are forced to confront what it means to be human and what they will do to survive.

The above summary may sound like the logline of a post-apocalyptic thriller, but it is not a film.

It’s a multi-media opera.

Yes, opera.

LA Opera presented Dog Days in June at REDCAT as part of the Off Grand initiative, which brings thrilling contemporary chamber opera to LAO audiences. It was the west coast premiere of the opera, developed and produced by Beth Morrison Projects in New York. Inventive, thrillingly evocative of the human condition, and visceral, Dog Days has garnered a great deal of interest in the burgeoning indie opera scene.

Now, LA Opera and Beth Morrison have joined forces again to present two of Beth Morrison Projects’ (BMP) operas this season at REDCAT: Song from the Uproar and Anatomy Theater. Combining live musical performance and original film, Song from the Uproar (October 8-11), tells the incredible story of Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904), a young woman who left her life in Switzerland behind for an unfettered existence in the North African desert. Anatomy Theater follows the astonishing progression of an English murderess: from confession to execution and, ultimately, public dissection before a paying audience of fascinated onlookers. Through the miracle of opera, she sings through it all.

Abigal Fischer as Isabelle Eberhardt in Song from the Uproar (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Abigal Fischer as Isabelle Eberhardt in Song from the Uproar (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

… Continue reading

Posted in About Our Shows, Opera About Town | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My Love of Opera Gene

Steve Kohn at LA Opera

My maternal grandfather Hugo immigrated to New York from Czechoslovakia for the American Dream. He became a citizen and worked extraordinarily hard as a doorman to support his wife and two children. Hugo also loved opera. Passionately.

Although he barely earned enough for his family, he would save some pennies for days, weeks, or even months, so he would eventually have enough money to buy one standing room ticket at the Metropolitan Opera (in its old location on 39th Street and Broadway) and enjoy his favorite art form. He dreamed of one day being able to share his love of opera with our entire family.

My grandfather passed away when I was one. I could never speak to him about his love of opera, but my grandmother and mother would tell me countless stories. They insisted that I had acquired my “love of opera gene” from him.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on My Love of Opera Gene

These Are A Few Of Our Fav Moby Things

As October approaches, we are gearing up for Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. But we can’t help hearing the joyous music coming from The Ahmanson Theatre across the street, currently presenting Center Theatre Group’s The Sound of Music. It got us thinking – what would happen if Maria’s “My Favorite Things” met Moby-Dick?

San Francisco Opera, Moby Dick,

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in San Francisco Opera’s 2013 production of Moby-Dick

… Continue reading

Posted in About Our Shows | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on These Are A Few Of Our Fav Moby Things

A View from the Bridge

Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci are rarely – if ever – done together. The most common pairing for Pagliacci is Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, another tragic love triangle of sorts. This season, LA Opera has forgone tradition by staging two gigantic productions together in its season opening double bill. It’s a marriage of comedy and tragedy and a posthumous reconciling for two composers, who fought against each other so fervently, after Puccini premiered La Bohéme (Leoncavallo also completed a version of the Bohéme story).

It’s also a huge undertaking set-wise.

Crew member lowering Pagliacci set platforms

Crew member lowering the Pagliacci set platform

From their view in the house, audience members are not privy to the pure magic that goes on behind the curtain, while they are in the midst of intermission. But with a view from the bridge, it’s possible to see both the production and the set-up.

The bridge is a platform walkway, connecting our second-floor backstage area with lighting equipment. Before you ask, this seat is not open to the public, but it does provide an interesting view of what it takes to stage a sizeable double bill, such as Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci. Once the curtain falls on the 50-minute Gianni Schicchi, it’s the stage crew’s time to shine. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, Schicchi’s gigantic, 1940s-inspired Florence set is removed and a 1980s-inspired bohemian Pagliacci set takes its place.

… Continue reading

Posted in About Our Shows, Behind the Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A View from the Bridge

LA Opera: A Teacher’s Paradise

Last week during Arts in Education Week, LA Opera teaching artists spent the day working with students on Orpheus, an original youth opera commissioned by LA Opera, written by librettist Matthew Leavitt and composer Nathan Wang, based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. This is part of a program called Secondary In-School Opera, a ten-week performance workshop that provides secondary schools with a team of teaching artists and directors to show students what it takes to perform an opera. Students meet with the artists ten times to work on the opera between August and October with a performance in November – an engaging experience to foster interest in the world of opera.

Resident Stage Director Eli Villanueva working with students as part of LA Opera's Secondary In-School Opera Program

Resident Stage Director Eli Villanueva working with students as part of LA Opera’s Secondary In-School Opera Program

For more than 20 years, LA Opera has been exploring the magic of opera with schools, teachers and students from kindergarten through college, all over Southern California. Secondary In-School Opera is just one of the many education programs that make LA Opera a teacher’s paradise. Others include Opera Camp, Opera-U, and LA Opera 90012.

… Continue reading

Posted in Behind the Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on LA Opera: A Teacher’s Paradise

Muppets Opera Love

From Hey Arnold! to The Simpsons, several cartoons have featured opera . Of these, The Muppet Show most notably included several opera references during its run that introduced younger audiences to the art form. Did you know that Miss Piggy wanted to sing opera? We think Miss Piggy would love our Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci. Can you picture her singing Lauretta’s aria, “O mio babbino caro?”

Plácido Domingo as Gianni Schicchi and Andriana Chuchman as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi (2015)

Plácido Domingo as Gianni Schicchi and Andriana Chuchman as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi (2015)

In honor of tonight’s The Muppets series premiere on ABC, we have found some “Muppets meet opera” moments we think you’ll enjoy:

Beaker’s Habanera

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXKUb5A1auM

… Continue reading

Posted in Did You Know? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

4 Questions with Gianni Schicchi’s Youngest Star

LA Opera - Schicchi Final Dress Rehearsal  Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

Isaiah Morgan as Gherardino and Plácido Domingo as the title character in Gianni Schicchi (2015)

One of the busiest stars currently gracing the LA Opera stage in Gianni Schicchi is only 10. The triple-threat (actor, singer, dancer) plays Gherardino, the son of one of the scheming Donati family members. Besides being in his debut at the opera this season, Isaiah is also an avid YouTuber with his own channel and he’s been featured in several commercials, including ABC Mouse. Check out his latest cover of Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?”

… Continue reading

Posted in Behind the Scenes, Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on 4 Questions with Gianni Schicchi’s Youngest Star

The Return of Ulysses: Iconic Productions Day 10

The Return of Ulysses, 1996-1997

Frederica von Stade as Penelope in The Return of Ulysses (1997); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

“[There’s] an underlying anger [to Penelope]…her frustration, and at the bottom of everything is fear – what these people could do to her. They’ve had enough of her saying, ‘Just wait a little longer, he’s going to come back.’” – Frederica von Stade’s explorations of her character Penelope in The Return of Ulysses (1997)

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Return of Ulysses: Iconic Productions Day 10

Pagliacci: Iconic Productions Day 10

“The first time I did Pagliacci, at the Royal Opera House in London, I did it as it had normally been done, turn-of-the-century. Also, at the Met, I did it that way. But then in the early ‘80s, I brought it much closer to us. I set it in the same environment, Southern Italy, but in the early 1940s. That’s the version that Plácido [Domingo] and Teresa Stratas did around the world and also on video and laser disc. But then I thought, why stop in the middle of the road? Let’s do it today.” – Director Franco Zeffirelli on staging his Pagliacci in the present day (then 1996)

Pagliacci, 1996-1997

Plácido Domingo as Canio in Pagliacci (1996); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pagliacci: Iconic Productions Day 10

The Flying Dutchman: Iconic Productions Day 9

“I can listen to the music in my home and imagine the most amazing imagery. But quite often when I go to the opera and then I see it, I’d rather close my eyes, because you can’t match the music.” – Julie Taymor (Frida, Across The Universe) on what made her desire to push theatrical boundaries in opera for The Flying Dutchman (1995)

The cast of The Flying Dutchman (1995); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

The cast of The Flying Dutchman (1995); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Flying Dutchman: Iconic Productions Day 9

Pelleas et Melisande: Iconic Productions Day 8

“I have gone out of my way to demonstrate that Debussy was writing very specific music for very specific situations. When you actually put it all out there, when you take the trouble to make a believable existence, note by note, bar by bar for these characters, you realize this opera is so filled with life, and with detail, that it becomes anything but the boring opera of the season. On the contrary, it’s a sizzler.” – Peter Sellars, on his staging of Pelléas et Mélisande (1995)

The cast of Pelleas et Melisande (1995); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

The cast of Pelléas et Mélisande (1995); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pelleas et Melisande: Iconic Productions Day 8

Die Frau on Schatten: Iconic Productions Day 8

“[Designer] Hockney has turned the opera into a scenic wonderland of gleaming, fluidly changing, primary colors. Everything looks very pretty and very painterly, from the stylized panoramas of winding roads, lakes and ornamental trees in the upper realms to the dye-dripped platform that functions as Barak’s modest hovel.” – Martin Bernheimer, Los Angeles Times Music Critic (1993)

Franz Grundheber as Barak and Gwyneth Jones as his wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

Franz Grundheber as Barak and Gwyneth Jones as his wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iconic Productions: La Bohème

“Having worked in many art forms, I find opera is the most challenging of all, because it is a fusion of all the arts.” – Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias, The Turning Point) on his first operatic directing experience staging La Bohème at LA Opera in 1992.

Kallen Esperian as Mimi in <em>La Boheme</em> (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

Kallen Esperian as Mimi in La Boheme (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: La Bohème

The Magic Flute – Mozart’s Fantasy Opera: Iconic Productions Day 6

The Magic Flute 1, 1992-1993

Dale Franzen as Papagena and Rodney Gilry as Papageno in The Magic Flute (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

For the 1992/1993 season, director Sir Peter Hall believed that The Magic Flute “should have the metabolism of a child.” He wanted it to capture the childhood essence he believed existed in the music’s “deliberate naiveté.”

Mozart’s The Magic Flute is set in Egypt in the fantasy lands of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night. The young Tamino 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 through every trial to be with her.

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Magic Flute – Mozart’s Fantasy Opera: Iconic Productions Day 6

Come One, Come All To The Opera: Newcomers Welcome

Costume and Wig Demonstration at Newcomer Kick-Off

Costume and Wig Demonstration at Newcomer Kick-Off

Last night, LA Opera opened its doors to hundreds of people excited to learn about opera and see what all the brilliant fuss is about. This Newcomer Event allowed guests a sneak-peak into the world of opera, including a costume and wig exhibit, props demonstration, photo booth, and a tour of the Founders Circle (with a view of the Pagliacci set on stage). After mingling with LA Opera staff and discovering more about our upcoming productions, guests were treated to performances from three of our young artists: Kihun Yoon (currently singing the role of the Notary in Gianni Schicchi), Brenton Ryan (currently singing Beppe in Pagliacci) and Summer Hassan (who’ll appear as the Second Lady in this season’s The Magic Flute).

… Continue reading

Posted in Behind the Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Come One, Come All To The Opera: Newcomers Welcome

The Season of Epics – The Trojans and Kullervo: Iconic Productions Day 5

What is our personal duty to the state? How can a sense of history move a nation forward?

The 1991-1992 season brought two epic productions to the LA Opera stage: – Hector Berlioz’s The Trojans and Aulis Sallinen’s Kullervo – that ask these questions about personal duty and nationhood.

The Trojan, 1991-1992

The Trojans (1992); Photo Credit: Robert Millard

The Trojans is based on Virgil’s The Aeneid, following the capture of Troy in by the Ancient Greeks as well as the Trojans’ time in Carthage before the forming of Rome. A vast undertaking, The Trojans is a four-hour masterpiece, rarely staged at the time LA Opera put on the production. Director Francesca Zambello discussed its relevance to modern audiences:

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Season of Epics – The Trojans and Kullervo: Iconic Productions Day 5

Iconic Productions: Nixon in China

Nixon in China imagines what history cannot tell us and what none of the participants in the trip was able to articulate. The opera is not about what I meant for Nixon to go to China, it is an opera about what it felt like to be Nixon in China. It is not an opera about what Nixon did for China, but what China did for Nixon.” – Mark Swed, classical music critic for the Los Angeles Times.

LA Opera presented John Adams’ acclaimed Nixon in China in 1990, a production directed by Peter Sellars.

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: Nixon in China

#LAO30Images Iconic Productions Day 3: Orpheus in the Underworld

“[Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld] is a masterfully constructed spoof on the First Musician’s private life. But it does considerably more than substitute Orpheus’ famous rock-charming lute for a nymphette-seducing violin. It brings the Olympian deities down to earth with a sequence of hilarious bumps, including an examination of the sexual double standards of the gods, and a revolution on Mount Olympus on grounds of the catering standards.” – Snoo Wilson, English libretto translator, Orpheus in the Underworld

Orpheus in the Underworld, 1988-1989

The cast of Orpheus in the Underworld (1989); Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on #LAO30Images Iconic Productions Day 3: Orpheus in the Underworld

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.

Otello

Plácido Domingo as the title character in Otello (1986)

As conductor Lawrence Foster ushered in the sound of the orchestra to begin the opera, the curtain flew up swiftly. To the surprise of everyone present, the curtain rose halfway and no further. The show went on, and within minutes, the curtain arrived in its designated place, functioning properly for the rest of the stunning premiere.

The curtain’s antics prodded Los Angeles Times music critic Martin Bernheimer to ask, “Los Angeles Opera starts, and the curtain goes halfway up and gets stuck, is that what is going to happen to our opera company?”

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

#LAO30Images Iconic Productions Day 2: Tristan und Isolde

David Hockney’s 1987 Tristan und Isolde came out of a newly formed company looking to innovate and connect with the Los Angeles community. It was an LA affair with bold, wildly colored sets (designed in Hockney’s Hollywood Hills studio), a west coast born and bred cast, including stunning soprano, Jeannine Altmeyer, and Zubin Mehta vibrantly conducting the LA Philharmonic in the pit.

William Johns as Tristan and Jeannine Altmeyer as Isolde in Tristan und Isolde; Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

William Johns as Tristan and Jeannine Altmeyer as Isolde in Tristan und Isolde; Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on #LAO30Images Iconic Productions Day 2: Tristan und Isolde