Monthly Archives: December 2015

2015: A Year in Review

It has been a milestone season at LA Opera. During the latter half of our 29th season, we presented some of the most engaging and successful productions in the company’s history: a masterful west coast premiere of The Ghosts of Versailles, an engaging cinematic cross-over opera, Hercules vs. Vampires, and an epic avant-garde opera in Dog Days. Our 30th Anniversary Season has started off with a bang. Plácido Domingo’s 147th role debut as the title character in Gianni Schicchi, double-billed with Pagliacci, a contemporary classic, Moby-Dick, a sold-out run of Song from the Uproar, and a beloved bel canto masterpiece, Norma have all wowed Los Angeles audiences since September. Throughout the year, we’ve also had continued success with various initiatives that promote the arts in the greater Los Angeles Community, including our Cathedral Project and Opera Camp.

Below we’ve gathered a few articles and videos we’ve created throughout the year and additional photos are featured in our 2015: A Year in Review Pinterest gallery.

The Ghosts of Versailles

Take a sneak peek behind-the-scenes at The Ghosts of Versailles set and costumes as well as a preview from the show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnoNmpWl4S4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtwEwuLJ5Y8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97lpIpYVQBU

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#LAO30Images Roundup

We are in the midst of our 30th Anniversary Season. This is a 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 innovation. Earlier this year, we introduced our #LAO30Images series. This year-long photo series, showcases photos from our most engaging productions that portray our extensive visual history. Throughout the season, we’ve been sharing images in batches of 30, based on larger themes.

In case you’ve missed the #LAO30Images fun, check out our year-end roundup.

ICONIC PRODUCTIONS

OTELLO (1986)

Plácido Domingo in Otello (1986); Photo: Frederic Ohringer

Plácido Domingo in Otello (1986); Photo: Frederic Ohringer

“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.

SALOME (1986)

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

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

“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

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Iconic Productions: Don Carlo

Don Carlo is one of the noblest and most beautiful operas of Giuseppe Verdi…an epic work which constantly shifts from full-scale grand opera scenes to astonishingly intimate moments.” – General Director Plácido Domingo on Don Carlo

Don Carlo (2005); Photo: Robert Millard

Don Carlo (2005); Photo: Robert Millard

LA Opera’s 2006/2007 was one for the record books with four company premieres, five new productions, and the arrival of Music Director James Conlon.

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Iconic Productions: Grendel

Share “Our monster is not an innocent of dumb brute. He is an artist and a thinker trapped in the body of beast.” – Director Julie Taymor on the character of Grendel LA Opera presented the world premiere of Grendel … Continue reading

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Iconic Productions: Der Rosenkavalier

“All art, no matter how sophisticated, avant-garde or advanced, must still have the ability to touch and move a human being.” – Gottfried Helnwein, set and costume designer for Der Rosenkavalier (2005)

Der Rosenkavalier (2005); Photo: Robert Millard

Der Rosenkavalier (2005); Photo: Robert Millard

LA Opera capped off its 2004/2005 season with a colorful production of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Visually striking and set during the wildness of the Baroque era, Der Rosenkavalier was a new production directed by Academy Award nominee, Maximilian Schell (his second for the company following the successful Lohengrin in 2001).

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5 Operas To Listen To By The Fire

When it’s freezing out—or cold by Los Angeles standards—it’s the perfect time to relax by the fire with a glass of wine or some hot cocoa and listen to music. For some, that music is Plácido Domingo’s “My Christmas” album; some prefer to buckle down for a little smooth, Kenny G jazz (his latest Brazilian Nights album is a favorite of mine). Other people—like my father—prefer winding down to Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, sung by Maria Callas and Nicolai Gedda. The next time you’re staying in for the night, consider listening to one of these operas instead, with the lights dimmed, and your favorite beverage. You might find yourself a lover of opera by the evening’s end!

The Tales of Hoffmann – Jacques Offenbach

The Tales of Hoffmann (2002); Photo: Robert Millard

The Tales of Hoffmann (2002); Photo: Robert Millard

Returning this season, The Tales of Hoffmann is a perfect opera to listen to by the fire (inspiring, in fact!). It follows the story of poet E.T.A. Hoffmann, whose boozy recollections of the women he has loved and lost. Hoffmann recounts the stories of the fascinating women who captured his heart—wind-up doll Olympia, conniving Giulietta, fragile Antonia and elusive Stella. Hoffmann’s doomed pursuit of romance, foiled by sinister figures of darkness at every turn, ultimately lead him to a poet’s artistic salvation.

Listen To: Act IV: “Belle Nuit, o nuit d’amour”

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Iconic Productions: Roméo et Juliette

“The story is an elemental one, and we do not, after all, really remember the tragedy at the end – what we remember is the power of the love between [Romeo and Juliette].” – Librettist Mark Morris on the beauty of Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette

<em>Roméo et Juliette</em> (2004); Photo: Ken Howard

Roméo et Juliette (2004); Photo: Ken Howard

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Keith Walker: The Estates of Opera

Share In September, Keith Walker brought his colleagues to see Gianni Schicchi. He wanted to share his love of opera with his fellow estate planning lawyers. The irony of taking a band of estate planning lawyers to see a Gianni … Continue reading

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Iconic Productions: Ariadne auf Naxos

Share “Ariadne evokes the loneliness and solitude of the sea and of the human soul, but it also conveys the joys and agony of creating musical theater and the ever-present tension between art and commerce.” – Ariadne auf Naxos (2004) … Continue reading

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Iconic Productions: The Damnation of Faust and Madame Butterfly

“Faust embodies man in our modern industrial society; he is a self-sufficient, intellectual egocentric who has romantic ideas and longings. He strives for the independent loneliness, for power and control over the world (performances and science), and for conquest and possession (love). It is a vicious cycle that ultimately leads to the destruction of man and world.” – The Damnation of Faust director Achim Freyer

A scene from <em>The Damnation of Faust</em> (2003); Photo: Robert Millard

A scene from The Damnation of Faust (2003); Photo: Robert Millard

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Designing The Magic Flute: Roaring Twenties Fantasy Film

The Magic Flute is a roaring-twenties set vision. It has the beauty of a classic Louise Brooks film (like Pandora’s Box) , but live. Here, the production team – Suzanne Andrade, Barrie Kosky, and Paul Barritt – talk about the concept behind their vision for Mozart’s fantasy opera.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwbvFwvSbm4

How did you come up with the idea of staging The Magic Flute with 1927?
Barrie Kosky
(stage director; Intendent of the Komische Oper Berlin): The Magic Flute is the most frequently performed German-language opera, one of the top ten operas in the world. Everyone knows the story; everybody knows the music; everyone knows the characters. On top of that, it is an “ageless” opera, meaning that an eight-year-old can enjoy it as much as an octogenarian can. So you start out with some pressure when you undertake a staging of this opera. I think the challenge is to embrace the heterogeneous nature of this opera. Any attempt to interpret the piece in only one way is bound to fail. You almost have to celebrate the contradictions and inconsistencies of the plot and the characters, as well as the mix of fantasy, surrealism, magic and deeply touching human emotions.

The Magic Flute (2016); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

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Two Sensual Operas

“[Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk] was meant as a tribute to the Soviet state and its new ideology – Katerina’s [sexual] revolt was an instance of class struggle, an ideal central to the way the young USSR chose to define itself.” – Mitchell Morris, Professor, UCLA Department of Musicology

Larissa Shevchenko as Katerina and Vladimir Grishko as Sergei in <em>Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk</em> (2002); Photo: Ken Howard

Larissa Shevchenko as Katerina and Vladimir Grishko as Sergei in Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk (2002); Photo: Ken Howard

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Iconic Productions: The Season of Lohengrin and Mass

“Wagner wanted nothing less than that [Lohengrin] exude, through music, the mystical sensation of being in the presence of the Holy Grail, as if it could pour out ‘exquisite odors, like streams of gold, ravishing the senses…[Maximilian] Schell’s production is grim and intelligent, with a strong dose of brutal realism bringing dramatic point to Wagner’s mythic drama..” –Mark Swed, classical music critic for the Los Angeles Times

<em>Lohengrin</em> (2001); Photo: Ken Howard

Lohengrin (2001); Photo: Ken Howard

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Sneak Peek Behind-the-Scenes of The Magic Flute

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYg1zSrQIyo

Our 2014 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute marked the first time in opera that all physical scenery was entirely replaced by video projection. A marvel of Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky’s 1927 inspiration, this Flute took us back to the roaring twenties in cinematic style.

This upcoming February, The Magic Flute returns to wow more Los Angeles audiences.

The Magic Flute (2016); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

The Magic Flute (2016); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Take a sneak peek behind-the-scenes below to see how some of the tech for the show works.

Where can you find Pamina?

Pamina, daughter stands on a tiny revolving door platform that pivots out of the wall that serves as a projection screen. She is harnessed and buckled into the wall.  Monostatos (Sarastro’s slave) stands on the first level of the stage. All other scenic elements are video projections.

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Iconic Productions: Fantastic Mr. Fox

“After completing my first opera, Emmeline (1996), a human tragedy, I longed to write something about the inhabitants of a very different world. Fantastic Mr. Fox is an opera for ages five through one hundred and five. I began reading Roald Dahl when I was eight years old, and I have come to relish the unique sense of humor and to know of his compassion for children. And so it is a perfect joy for me to be able to write an opera to Donald Sturrock’s libretto, which sparkles with wit and love and tells a story that has reawakened the child in me.” –Tobias Picker on composing Fantastic Mr. Fox (1998)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (1998); Photo: Ken Howard

Fantastic Mr. Fox (1998); Photo: Ken Howard

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Iconic Productions: Florencia en el Amazonas

“[In the 1990s,] we flew to [Gabriel García Márquez’s] walled compound deep in the jungle near Cartagena in an open helicopter with protection from guards armed with machine guns. We landed on a helipad near his compound and went through the underbrush in a jeep with our protectors. If that was not enough of a thriller, then meeting and working with Márquez is a memory for life. You could see the essence of his very being was like the magical realism that spilled onto the pages of his novels.” – Stage Director Francesca Zambello on Gabriel García Márquez’s influence on developing Florencia en el Amazonas (1997)

Sheri Greenawald as Florencia in Florencia en el Amazonas (1997); Photo: Ken Howard

Sheri Greenawald as Florencia in Florencia en el Amazonas (1997);
Photo: Ken Howard

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3 Holiday Set Operas

We are now coming to the end of Hanukkah, with Christmas just around the corner. We’ve selected three holiday set operas for you to check out. Take a look below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukKOfDgA8mA

La Boheme (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

La Boheme (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

La Boheme

The first two acts of Giacomo Puccini’s timeless classic take place on Christmas Eve as six impoverished young Bohemians, surviving only on laughter and the promise of love in Belle Époque Paris, spend a memorable night on the town. Revel in the tragic romance this upcoming June, when La Boheme graces the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage (with the delectable Nino Machaidze making her role debut as Mimi), and fall in love with the beautiful snowy moment at the end of the third act.

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Every Student Succeeds…and Arts Education Helps

I’ve been fortunate to have had many wonderful teachers in my life, including Joe Marrella, who produced one of the most influential shows I participated in – a production of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses. I still remember it fondly almost a decade later, because it was not just a high school theater show. Marrella challenged us to dig deeper into our characters, to see real life, current events connections to the play’s themes of love and greed that are universal. Yes, it was the arts, but it taught me that dramaturgy – really in depth research (the likes of which are done in any profession from journalism to opera to the scientific fields) – is vital to a successful performance.

I received an even greater sense of the importance of the arts in education when I started working as a journalist for LA Opera, just in time for Opera Camp. Today’s headlines are filled with stories of inequality, injustice and hate. Understanding our role in changing the world can be daunting. Through our annual Opera Camp program, LA Opera not only gives kids 9-17 the experience of staging an operatic performance, but also connects campers to the past and to today’s toughest issues. It brings context to headlines and shows them their impact on the world. (This past summer, campers got to visit the Japan-America National Museum, while working on The White Bird of Poston, an opera set in a WWWII Japanese internment camp.)

2015 Opera Campers Rehearsing "Then I Stood Up: A Civil Rights Cycle"

2015 Opera Campers Rehearsing Then I Stood Up: A Civil Rights Cycle

This further proved to me (and to those involved) that the arts are vital to raising well-rounded, socially conscious children.

Well-rounded.

That’s a word that sticks out to me, particularly in light of President Obama’s signing of a New Education Bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It aims to provide all elementary and secondary students with fair and equal opportunities to achieve a high quality education, and these provisions for arts education will ensure that all students, including those in high poverty schools, have the opportunity to access arts education. This replaces the current national educational law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), previously known as “No Child Left Behind.”

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#TBT: Erwin Schrott in Don Giovanni

Erwin Schrott as the title character in <em>Don Giovanni</em> (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

Erwin Schrott as the title character in Don Giovanni (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

Before seeing Erwin Schrott’s live concert, Cuba Amiga, this Saturday, take a journey through LA Opera history and check out Schrott in Don Giovanni. He’s sung the title role in Mozart’s “Don Juan” opera 17 times here in Los Angeles, most recently in 2007.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAlpr8ZEJaQ

Can’t get enough of Erwin Schrott? Learn more about his latest concert, Cuba Amiga, below and make sure to snag your tickets before they’re gone.

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Feliz Navidad! A Latin Playlist In Honor Of Cuba Amiga

Erwin Schrott and Jose Feliciano; Photo: Thommy Mardo

This Saturday, Erwin Schrott takes over LA Opera for Cuba Amiga, his concert with special guest, José Feliciano, singing his classic, “Feliz Navidad.”

Taking the audience on a musical journey through Latin America, Cuba Amiga delivers a thrilling international spectrum of Latin rhythms: bolero, salsa, flamenco, timba, rumba, cha-cha, samba and tango. Cuba Amiga was inspired by the music and life of legendary tango performer Carlos Gardel. Eighty years ago, Gardel launched a concert tour throughout Latin America to promote his film musical El día que me quieras. Gardel’s plan was to conclude the tour with the movie’s premiere in Cuba, but his dream was defeated when the beloved performer was tragically killed in a plane crash in Colombia. Saturday’s concert metaphorically follows Gardel’s trip through South America. Schrott views the concert as “a thank you to Maestro Gardel and to Cuba as a source of inspiration and birthplace of many unique styles of music and immortal songs.”

To celebrate Saturday’s concert, we’ve collected an array of Latin classics into our Latin Fever Spotify Playlist below as well as a glimpse of Erwin Schrott singing, “Oblivion” from his album, Rojotango (above). Take a listen to the lively and passionate music before seeing the show.

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