Monthly Archives: September 2015

#LAO30 Images Iconic Productions Day 1: Salome

“All the characters in the opera are obsessed, often to the brink of madness. Obsessions make men blind, unable to understand other points of view or to admit the balancing power of reason. And such obsessions finally lead to violence [in Salome]. Salome’s passions lead directly to her death. She is crushed like an infectious insect. We can only approve of her end, while perhaps reflecting that all of us have the possibility of aberrant sexual behavior inside us. It is the obverse of true passion.”

– Sir Peter Hall, director of 1986’s Salome

Salome, 1986, Photo By Frederic Ohringer

Maria Ewing and Michael Devlin in Salome (1986); Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

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#LAO30Images Iconic Productions Day 1: Otello

“The theme [of Otello] is eternal and current: The Soldier, shoved into peacetime, proves to be defenseless and helpless in the face of the attacks of everyday life, the persecutions of injured vanity. In ancient tragedy, the heroes fell because of the gods. With Shakespeare and Verdi, it is the envy of men which destroys the outsider.” – Götz Friedrich, director of inaugural season opener, Otello.

The cast of Otello (1986); Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

The cast of Otello (1986); Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

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Introducing #LAO30Images Project

 

LAO30Images IntroLA Opera is turning 30. This is a huge milestone year for a company that has grown to become the fourth largest opera company in the nation, lauded for both its unique artistic vision and operatic innovation.  In honor of our 30th Anniversary Season, we are introducing our #LAO30Images Project. This is a year-long photo series, showcasing photos from our most engaging productions that portray our extensive visual history.

Throughout the year, we will share images in bulks of 30, either all 30 images in one day, or 30 images scattered through the season.

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Marie Rogers: A Teacher For All Seasons

Marie Rogers (center) with Rob Crites (left) and her student Isaiah Morgan (right)

Marie Rogers (center) with Rob Crites (left) and her student Isaiah Morgan (right)

In 1986, Marie Rogers was an opera enthusiast excited that Los Angeles was finally getting its own resident opera company. She taught in LA’s public school system at the time and couldn’t wait to spend a night at the opera watching Plácido Domingo in Otello. But she couldn’t find anyone to go with her.

So Marie went alone – and loved every second of it. The show made a great impression on her and she wanted to be a part of it. Act I had a children’s chorus and Marie thought to herself, “There has to be a studio teacher for those kids.”

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The Technician: Rita Pudenz

Rita PudenzYou don’t always associate opera with the Olympics, but we should be grateful the Games of the XXIII Olympiad took place in Los Angeles or else you might not be reading this article right now. And I might not be sitting in the living room of this beautiful single-story house in Pasadena, right around the corner from the Rose Bowl, with the sounds of KUSC drifting across the polished wooden floors.

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#WordWednesday: Verismo

Pagliacci Verismo_FINALVERISMO (22 Scrabble points) – Italian – Verismo literally means “realism” or “truth.” It is a genre of opera made famous by Puccini, Mascagni, and Leoncavallo in the late 19th century – think cinema’s Italian neo-realism movement, but for opera.

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From Allen to Zeffirelli: Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci on the Silver and Small Screens

Since the July release of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the internet has been ablaze with stories about opera in film. In the movie, Tom Cruise plays spy Ethan Hunt, who thwarts an assassination attempt during a performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot. Rogue Nation is the latest in a long line of films that feature opera performances – utilizing arias to tell a story or illustrate elements of a character’s psyche. Franco Zeffirelli (whose production of Pagliacci returns to LA Opera this Saturday) specialized in making cinematic adaptations of operas in the 1980s, often collaborating with Plácido Domingo and Teresa Stratas. His 1982 adaptations of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci are particularly stunning.

Two of the most famous arias to be used in film are “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and “Vesti la giubba” from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. The former is a persuasive aria, which Lauretta uses to convince her father Gianni Schicchi to stop fighting with the family of Rinuccio, the man she loves, while the latter is sung by Canio in Pagliacci after he discovers his wife’s infidelity. Both arias have been included in a plethora of films and television shows for decades.

Here are a few examples:

“O mio babbino caro” – Gianni Schicchi

A Room with a View (1985) – In the film, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) is torn between her fiancé Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis) and the free-spirited George Emerson (Julian Sands), after meeting the latter in Florence. “O mio babbino caro” (performed by Kiri Te Kanawa) is the film’s main theme, expressing Lucy’s choice between a light-hearted romance and a passionate romance.

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Music Monday: Pagliacci Prologue

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQxHDPVc-F4

George Gagnidze singing in The Metropolitan Opera Spring Highlights Concert

Pagliacci opens not with a love triangle scene between Canio, Nedda, and Silvio, but instead with a clown. This is Tonio, the fool of Canio’s troupe. He emerges and addresses the audience directly—“Si puo, si puo,” asking for indulgence.

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It’s College GameDay at LA Opera

Across the country, college football teams are taking the field to kick off their season during the annual College GameDay tradition.

College students get an inside look at the staging of an opera

College students get an inside look at the staging of an opera

We’ve got college teams of our own at the LA Opera to help kick off our season.  Through a very special program called Operawise, about 100 college students watched today’s Orchestra Tech rehearsals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci… Continue reading

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A Donkey Named Sue

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj2vzo8Vh0c&feature=youtu.be

Making his operatic debut in this month’s upcoming production of Pagliacci is none other than a donkey named Sue (aptly named after the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue”). This tough leading animal arrived this week with his handler in tow, who will be a supernumerary in the show.

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Making the Case for Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci: Breaking the Barrier

Schicchi 2008 Image

Gianni Schicchi (2008)

One of the most compelling aspects of these two operas is that each breaks the barrier of the fourth wall, that imaginary boundary between the actors and the audience. With Gianni Schicchi, we make it through the entire opera before this disturbing postscript annuls the cumulative comic impulse. In Pagliacci, the fourth wall is broken at the beginning and at the end of the opera, creating an instability that runs as an undercurrent through the whole piece.

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5 Favorite Things from This Week’s Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci Rehearsals

Pag Rehearsal

George Gagnidze as Tonio in Pagliacci (2015)

There’s a lot to be said about LA Opera’s opening show, a double bill of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci. We’ve been watching rehearsals all week and have compiled a list of a few of our favorite things:

1. You’ll laugh a lot. Gianni Schicchi is hysterical and it’s clear that Plácido Domingo and the whole cast are having a ton of fun playing these characters.

2. If you’re on a low carb diet, stay off the set. There’s spaghetti in both of the one-act shows, and it’s real! Of course we make accommodations for our actors if they have dietary restrictions, but those aren’t rubber prop noodles!

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Making the Case for Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci: Double Trouble

Alagna as Canio (2005)

Roberto Alagna as Canio in 2005’s Pagliacci

Canio serves as a sort of moral barometer in Pagliacci. Although the tragic clown—smiling on the outside, crying on the inside—is now the stuff of endless parody, we can’t help but sympathize with Canio’s valiant attempts to go on with the show in spite of the devastating realization that Nedda is unfaithful. “Vesti la giubba e la faccia infarina,” laments Canio, “put on the costume and make up your face.” In his naivete, he denied his suspicions about his wife and lashed out at Tonio. We might feel a fleeting sympathy for Tonio were it not for the fact that he is a scheming troublemaker. From his first appearance—“I am the Prologue”—Tonio seems mysterious and intriguing, but he soon proves duplicitous and manipulative. A man who claims to be a literary device cannot be trusted.

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Supertitles Linda

Linda Zoolalian playing piano (which she also teaches along with voice).

Linda Zoolalian playing piano (which she also teaches along with voice).

Watching opera often also means reading supertitles – translations of opera text projected on a screen high enough for the whole audience to see. It’s a debated subject. Are supertitles needed or antiquated? While you’ll enjoy the opera whether you speak the language being sung or not, supertitles help you follow along.

Linda Zoolalian knows this well. A fan of opera since she saw a production of La Bohème as a teenager, Zoolalian runs supertitles for LA Opera (a position she has held since 2003). Working supertitles has strengthened her belief that the marriage between voice and text is vital to effect emotion in audience members.

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Brenton Ryan

Brenton Ryan, PhotoIn his own words, Brenton Ryan may have once been “super shy,” but he has emerged as not only an outgoing, confident young tenor but as an artist with an unusually focused view of where he is headed.

The Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist’s emergence began 19 years ago, when his family moved from St. Louis to Sedalia, Missouri, and his mother and stepfather thrust their nine-year-old onto the community stage as a way to gain confidence and make friends.

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Making the Case for Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci: Crime and Punishment

Schicchi6p

Gianni Schicchi 2008

Pagliacci is fueled by the crime of passion while Gianni Schicchi is powered by the sin of greed. Pagliacci’s origins were of the most mundane sort, but Gianni Schicchi sprang from a more literary source, one that also had roots in real life. In Canto XXX of The Divine Comedy, Dante and his guide Virgil arrive at the Eighth Circle of Hell, the place of falsifiers and forgers.

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#WordWednesday: Sitzprobe

imageSITZPROBE (22 Scrabble points) – German – A sitzprobe is a special rehearsal for an opera or musical theater production, when the singers and orchestra meet to rehearse together for the first time.

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