Monthly Archives: January 2016

Iconic Productions: Los Angeles Does Wagner’s Ring Cycle

“Producing a new Ring is the ultimate accomplishment for an opera company and it brings to the city a great sense of civic pride.” Plácido Domingo on staging Los Angeles’ first-ever Ring Cycle

Sieglinde (Anja Kempe) and Siegmund (Placido Domingo) in <em>Die Walkure</em> (2008); <span id="lbCaption">Monika Rittershaus</span>

Sieglinde (Anja Kempe) and Siegmund (Placido Domingo) in Die Walkure (2008); Monika Rittershaus

Staging Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is the mark of any great opera house. Since becoming Artistic Director in 2001 (and since then General Director), Plácido Domingo sought to produce a Ring cycle. Led by a generous donation from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Domingo’s dream became a reality, when the company staged all four operas in the cycle (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung) over the course of two seasons – 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, with complete cycles presented in the summer of 2010.

Wagner’s Ring cycle follows a cast of gods and humans in their ultimate quest for power and search for love over the course of four operas. Music Director James Conlon puts it well:

“Wagner, among so many other things, sought to create works that would unite the accomplishments of Shakespeare and Beethoven. The Ring can be viewed as a four-part symphony, with each movement culminating in the expression of a different aspect of love. Das Rheingold is the expository movement. Die Walküre is the slower, expressive lyric movement. Siegfried is the scherzo: the first act witty, sharply bristling with demonic and Beethoven energy. Götterdämmerung is the apocalyptic finale.”

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Iconic Productions: Simon Boccanegra

Simon Boccanegra (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

Simon Boccanegra (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

“My first performances as Simon, in Berlin in 2009, were among the most gratifying nights of my career, and I have looked forward to each subsequent opportunity to revisit this fascinating character.

– Plácido Domingo on singing the title role in Simon Boccanegra

LA Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s politically charged operatic masterpiece, Simon Boccanegra, in 2012. It starred Plácido Domingo as Simon and was masterfully conducted by James Conlon (who cites Simon Boccanegra as one of the first Verdi operas he knew from beginning to end). The story follows Simon Boccanegra, the Doge (or ruler) of Genoa, in his efforts to crush a mounting uprising, and find his long-lost daughter, Amelia.

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Iconic Productions: Il Postino

Plácido Domingo as Pablo Neruda and Charles Castronovo as Mario Ruoppolo in Il Postino (2010); Photo: Robert Millard

Plácido Domingo as Pablo Neruda and Charles Castronovo as Mario Ruoppolo in Il Postino (2010); Photo: Robert Millard

“I realized from the very first time I saw the film, that it was a suitable theme for an opera. It deals with Art and Love: the foundations upon which we build our lives.”

– Daniel Catán, Il Postino, composer and librettist

LA Opera opened its 25th Anniversary Season with the world premiere of Daniel Catán’s Il Postino, starring Plácido Domingo as the famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Based on the Academy Award-winning 1994 Italian film of the same name that became a surprise hit with audiences around the world and also on the 1985 novel Ardiente Paciencia by Antonio Skármeta, Il Postino tells the story of a shy young postman in a tiny Italian fishing village, who discovers the courage to pursue his dreams through his daily deliveries to his only customer, a famous poet. Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas was previously staged at LA Opera to much acclaim in 1997. Il Postino equally resonated with audiences, who were attracted the developing friendship between Neruda and the postman, Mario (Charles Castronovo) that forms the core of the story.

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Night on Broadway: LA Opera Style

Night on Broadway 2015; Photo: Hunter Kerhart

Night on Broadway 2015; Photo: Hunter Kerhart

How much do you love Downtown LA? Well, this Saturday is your chance to experience DTLA in all its cultural glory. Don’t miss “Night On Broadway,” an evening of food, entertainment, arts and culture celebrating the 8th anniversary of Councilmember José Huizar’s “Bringing Back Broadway” initiative. This wildly popular event is free for people of all ages looking to experience the Historic Theater District in a unique and personal way, while discovering the best of what today and tomorrow’s Broadway has to offer.

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2016/17 Season Trailer

https://youtu.be/8_2vNJr-GO4

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#WordWednesday: Countertenor

COUNTERTENOR (13 Scrabble points) – Latin – A countertenor is the highest, adult male voice type in opera. Countertenor parts are common in Baroque opera (watch Anthony Roth Costanzo sing “Stille amare” from George Frideric Handel’s Tolomeo below) but they also gained an increased popularity in the mid to late 20th century with the works of Benjamin Britten and Philip Glass. The title character in Akhnaten, which opens at LA Opera in November as part of the 16/17 season is a countertenor part.

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

Can’t get enough of the countertenor voice? We’ve collected a few articles and videos below to get you in the countertenor spirit.

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Get To Know the 2016/17 Season!

LA Opera's 2016/17 Season

LA Opera’s 2016/17 Season

We’ve finally announced the 2016/2017 season and it’s going to be a big one. There are six mainstage operas, a semi-staged concert, and stellar off-grand productions to enjoy starting September 17.

https://youtu.be/8_2vNJr-GO4

Can’t wait for the excitement to begin? Take a look below and get to know all the 16/17 season has in store for Los Angeles.

Plácido Domingo and James Conlon unite to open season with Verdi’s Macbeth
The season opens with a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth (September 17 through October 16, 2016), starring Plácido Domingo in the title role and conducted by James Conlon. Ekaterina Semenchuk will perform the role of the treacherous Lady Macbeth. LA Opera’s first production of Macbeth since 1987 will be staged by Darko Tresnjak, director of the 2015 hit The Ghosts of Versailles.

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Music Monday: Nabucco

<em>Nabucco</em> (2002): Photo: Robert Millard

Nabucco (2002): Photo: Robert Millard

To say that Nabucco put Giuseppe Verdi on the map is a vast understatement. The opera – a telling of the Biblical story of Jewish oppression by the Babylonians – saved his career. After his first opera, King for a Day, failed miserably (and also after he lost his wife and two children), Verdi was ready to give up composing. But La Scala manager Bartolomeo Merelli slipped him the libretto for Nabucco. Once Verdi read the lyrics to “Va pensiero,” he knew that this would be his next project. Nabucco became one of Verdi’s most famous operas, reigniting his career as a composer capable of creating rapturous, nationalistic sound, so vastly different from the more melodic Bellini or frenetic Donizetti. In 1901, at Verdi’s funeral, crowds of mourners sang “Va pensiero,” in his honor.

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Iconic Productions: Recovered Voices

“History is not only made by ‘its big names,’ its warrior kings, dictators and most famous artists, but by the collective action of all those artists who lived in a given era.” – James Conlon

<em>The Broken Jug</em> (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

The Broken Jug (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

In 2006, LA Opera inaugurated a series entitled “Recovered Voices,” dedicated to showcasing works by composers whose voices were silenced by the rise of the Nazi regime. Maestro James Conlon spearheaded the effort to stage these works (with generous support from philanthropist Marilyn Ziering, who serves as one of five vice-chairmen on the LA Opera board) including Viktor Ullmann’s The Broken Jug and Alexander Zemlinsky’s The Dwarf.

In Maestro Conlon’s words:

“The music of Alexander Zemlinsky and Viktor Ullmann remained buried for decades in the wake of the destruction caused by the totalitarian Nazi regime. Dozens of composers and thousands of compositions are still largely unknown to lovers of classical music and opera. One of the glories of western civilization, the German classical music tradition, experienced the most terrible upheaval in its history by the genocide of the Nazi regime. In an ironic paradox of history, by proclaiming themselves as a master race and attempting to impose this on the rest of the world, they marched to folly and dealt the most self-destructive blow possible to their own proud culture. In trying to ‘purify’ their society, they tore at its heart and soul. They murdered some of their greatest talent, forced others to flee, and scorched the earth of the precious milieu that had nurtured this great culture.

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In the Pit: Steven Becknell, 1st Horn, LA Opera Orchestra

Steven Becknell, 1st Horn, LA Opera Orchestra

Steven Becknell, 1st Horn, LA Opera Orchestra

“Of all the things I do, playing with the LA Opera Orchestra is my favorite. I want to keep doing it as long as I can. I wish the opera did more productions because I love being there.”

In 1987 he joined the LA Chamber Orchestra as 2nd horn and began performing with LA Opera. Soon he discovered that he really enjoyed opera music and welcomed the opportunity to become 1st horn with the new LA Opera Orchestra.

In the 30 years since, Steve has performed in the studio orchestras of over a thousand movies and TV shows, and recorded with famous vocal personalities. Musical theater experience includes this summer’s revival of The Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages. He plays chamber music with Camerata Pacifica, participates in a woodwind quintet, and plays occasionally with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the California Philharmonic Orchestra and Muse/ique.

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#LAO30Images: Domingo at LA Opera

Celebrating Plácido Domingo’s 40th Anniversary (2008)

Celebrating Plácido Domingo’s 40th Anniversary (2008)

Today, Plácido Domingo turns 75. The legendary singer has wowed audiences onstage for more than fifty years, with his emotionally connected acting talent and the remarkable timbre of his voice. He’s been described as “the King of Opera,” “a true renaissance man in music” and “the greatest operatic artist of modern times.” Domingo has also dedicated his life to sharing his passion for opera with the world. He does so greatly through his work as LA Opera’s Eli and Edythe Broad General Director. His love of the art form shows every time he’s in town and walks around the offices, greeting employees, before singing in and/or conducting an opera here. Domingo was also instrumental to the founding of LA Opera in 1986. (Check out my first installment of The Staging of an Opera Company to learn more.)

In September of last year, I was busy writing an article about opera in film, when I heard the news that Plácido Domingo had arrived on-site. I had yet to meet the famous opera legend, who was about to grace the stage in Gianni Schicchi and conduct Pagliacci, opening our current season. Wondering when I would get to speak to the General Director (who has helmed the company since 2001), I began to listen to my favorite Domingo tunes, including his spectacular Turiddu in Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. In a moment that can only be described as operatic, Maestro Domingo walked into our office right as his voice sounded through my headphones in a duet from Act I, “Turiddu, ascolta!” That’s when I met Plácido Domingo.

A lot of people at LA Opera – and I’m sure around the world – have similarly wonderful Plácido Domingo stories. He’s just that awesome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADEZBd8YhMk

To celebrate Maestro Domingo’s birthday, we have dedicated this edition of our #LAO30Images series to him. Check out our #LAO30Images: Domingo at LA Opera Pinterest Board to see all 30 images of Domingo on the LA Opera stage.

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Magic Flute By The Numbers

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute will take the stage in less than a month, sharing its roaring twenties inspired magic with Los Angeles once more. It’s exciting to see the whole production come together; it’s an elaborate one, but not in the way that you might think. Instead of giant, fantastical sets, this Magic Flute showcases a slew of projected animations, designed by filmmaker Paul Barritt, and inspired by the silent-film era.

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

There are 677 digital animation cues in the whole opera (yes, opera!). But that’s not all! To evoke the era of Charlie Chaplin, Louise Brooks, and Buster Keaton, you have to have the right costumes. We have 102 original costumes made for the production, including 14 wolf masks worn by our men’s chorus. Yet, no production of Mozart’s famous comedic opera would be complete without a characteristic Monostatos (Brenton Ryan), the evil henchman, who wishes to possess Pamina (Marita Sølberg). Our Monostatos looks like he stepped out of a classic horror film (think Nosferatu with a little more mobility), helped by the 6 prosthetics required for his makeup.

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Guess The 2016/2017 Season!

Are you excited to find out what we have in store for our 2016/2017 season? We can’t wait to tell you! That’s why this week, we’re giving you some clues. Get in on the fun and guess what will be on our mainstage in the coming season, which starts this fall.

Just how well do you know opera? (And if you don’t, now’s the time to get excited.) There are two ways that you can guess the 16/17 season this week. Here they are.

Let’s Talk About Icons

Each day this week, we will release an image of an object that symbolizes of one of the operas in the coming season. We’ll roll them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and they’ll also be added to this post.

Comment below or on any of our “How Well Do You Know Opera” social media posts and guess which production the icon is from. If you guess right, you will be entered to win a special prize.

But that’s not all! All winners will be entered to win a GRAND PRIZE – two tickets to the Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming concert on March 18.

Let the guessing games begin! In what opera might you see this?

Object #1

Guess The Season 1

Object #2

crown macbeth

Object #3

sand-dune

Object #4

moon

Object #5

luggage

Object #6

tosca brushes … Continue reading

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#TBT: Cosí fan tutte, A Mozart Comedy

Così fan tutte (2011); Photo: Robert Millard

Così fan tutte (2011); Photo: Robert Millard

Mozart is the king of comedy. His Così fan tutte is a comedic battle of the sexes in the style of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. In September 2011, LA Opera presented Così fan tutte for the first time in 15 years. The story begins when two young men go undercover to test the fidelity of their fiancées. Not to be outdone, the women put up a good fight against false seduction, but will they prove faithful? Filled with ravishingly beautiful music and sparkling wit, Così fan tutte features a funny, clever plot that was bracing and politically incorrect, even in Mozart’s day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rvj4EndElTU

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#WordWednesday: Cabaletta

CABALETTA (13 Scrabble points) – Italian – A cabaletta is a feature of Italian opera common in the first half of the 19th century. The fast, final section of a two-part aria, a cabaletta is animated, lively, and memorable. Think the end of the first act of Verdi’s La Traviata, when Violetta sings “Sempre libera.” Listen to Maria Callas’ rendition below.

Our recent production, Norma also has a famous cabaletta; the heroine’s slow aria (cavatina) “Casta diva” is followed by the cabaletta “Ah! Bello a me ritorna”.

Can’t get enough of cabalettas? Stay tuned for our upcoming 2016/2017 season announcement on January 26; you may be pleasantly surprised.

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A Decade at the Cathedral

<em>The Festival Play of Daniel</em> (2012); Photo: LA Opera Educom

The Festival Play of Daniel (2012); Photo: LA Opera Educom ‘The Festival Play of Daniel’ Performances – February 27, 2010 Los Angeles Opera Educational Department Photos taken at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Robert Millard (©) Copyright 20010 by Robert Millard www.MillardPhotos.com millard@millardphotos.com 626-792-3237

When James Conlon became LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director in 2006, one of the first initiatives he brought to the company was the Cathedral Project. A partnership between LA Opera and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the Cathedral Project brings community singers and musicians together with LA Opera artists to present an opera to the public. For the past decade, it has been a key feature of the company’s community engagement and an opera that performers, teaching artists, and audience members look forward to each year. Mr. Conlon, who conducts these performances every year, is “thrilled that Los Angeles families have responded to community productions with so much enthusiasm and appreciation.”

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Music Monday: Domingo in Otello

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

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

In 1986, LA Opera’s inaugural season opened with Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello, starring Plácido Domingo. Of the opera, director Götz Friedrich said, “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.” This would become one of the company’s iconic productions.

Since its successful premiere in 1887, Otello has catapulted audiences to the Shakespeare of Verdi. This is a world where all the essentials of storytelling meet the heightened emotions of an operatic score. Take, for example, the below duet between Otello (Domingo) and Iago (Sherrill Milnes), “Si, pel ciel.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAiy8UcoBrg

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Three Operas, Two Film Directors, One Iconic Opening Night

“As long as people feel emotion, fall in and out of love, experience joy and pain, this music will live on because no other composer combines truth and beauty or makes you laugh and cry, like Puccini.” – William Friedkin

Suor Angelica (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

Suor Angelica (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

From its inception, LA Opera has cultivated a strong bond with film. This is a partnership that continues to prove successful. Herbert Ross, Peter Sellars, Gary Marshall, Maximilian Schell, Franco Zeffirelli, and even Julie Taymor have produced productions for the company. (Ross’ iconic 1993 production of Puccini’s La Boheme has been a crowd favorite for over 20 years and returns this June with the final two performances conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.) Yet, the 2008 season opener, a presentation of Puccini’s three one-act Operas, Il Tritico was a truly cinematic experience. Oscar-winning film titan, Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Match Point, Annie Hall) made his opera directing debut with Gianni Schicchi (which recently returned to open our current season) and William Friedkin (The Exorcist) masterfully tackled Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica.

<em>Il Tabarro</em> (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

Il Tabarro (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

Il Tabarro follows the love triangle of Giorgetta, her much older husband, Michele, and her lover, Luigi, while Suor Angelia is the story of Sister Angelia, a nun, longing for word of her illegitimate son. Gianni Schicchi is the story of a family’s squabble over the inheritance of their dead patriarch.

Can’t get enough of Puccini or Gianni Schicchi? We’ve collected a few articles below for you to check out.

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Iconic Productions: Mahagonny

“Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes” – Bertolt Brecht

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

In 1927, two titans of German theater and opera (respectively), Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht started working on Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Their intriguing partnership (which would last through other famed works, such as The Threepenny Opera) resulted in a marriage of married epic theater and energetic music to satirically showcase the excesses of modern life and politics.

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Music Monday: Rigoletto

<a href="http://blog.laopera.org/?s=George+Gagnidze&amp;x=0&amp;y=0">George Gagnidze</a> as the title character in <em>Rigoletto</em> (2011); Photo: Robert Millard

George Gagnidze as the title character in Rigoletto (2011); Photo: Robert Millard

“Everyone cried out at the idea of putting a hunchback on the stage; well, there you are. I was very happy to write Rigoletto…and it is my best opera.” – Giuseppe Verdi, July 26, 1852

Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto is Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse on steroids. Verdi’s music energizes the story’s tragic drama, a father-daughter tale that ends unhappily. In the opera, the title character is a court jester to the womanizing Duke of Mantua, who openly mocks his social superiors in order to please the Duke. One day, he mocks the wrong man – the Count Monterone, whose daughter has been seduced and discarded by the Duke.  The Count warns him never to make light of a father’s grief, a threat which haunts Rigoletto, as he is father to the beautiful Gilda, whom he keeps secluded from eyes of lecherous men like the Duke. When Gilda falls in love with the Duke, Rigoletto decides to have him murdered, but his plans go awry and Gilda ends up dying as a result.

Rigoletto’s most famous aria is the Duke’s Act IV show of callousness in the form of “La donna e mobile” (women are fickle), an unforgettable tune that returns—to heart wrenching effect—at the very end of the opera. The main point of the aria? Women are flighty and untrue, but men still need their love. (Warning: This may change your perspective on your favorite pasta commercial.)

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

Plácido Domingo as Rigoletto and Vittorio Grigolo as The Duke

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