Monthly Archives: April 2017

Ambrogio Maestri slays on stage and off

Ambrogio Maestri as Scarpia in Tosca (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

Ambrogio Maestri as Scarpia in Tosca (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

Baritone Ambrogio Maestri may be a sinister villain on stage as Scarpia in Tosca, but he’s quite the opposite off stage.

A large, booming man, Maestri who comes in at 6 foot, 5 inches tall, he towers over the parishioners, his victims, and the doomed lovers, Cavaradossi and Tosca. Maestri, who plays Scarpia through the end of the month, has sung the role many times and developed the role over the years. In Maestri’s interpretation, Scarpia is stoic and still, believing that such a powerful man would command the room and force others to move about him, responding to his orders and will. The effect is a Scarpia that is completely in control and with an evil essence that makes Rome quake.

But, the evil Scarpia couldn’t be further from who Maestri really is.

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Tosca comes together in its final week of rehearsals

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

This week we open the final main stage production of LA Opera’s 2016/17 season – Tosca. If you’ve been following along on social media, you’ve seen a host of rehearsals in progress. As the elements come together this week, we thought we’d break it down and show you how an opera comes to life.

GETTING TO KNOW TOSCA

Several weeks ago, we started with studio rehearsals. These are musical and staging rehearsals where the principal cast and the chorus go through the music, sometimes individually, sometimes together, to get a sense of the show’s flow, the acting involved and how the director expects it to all look. These rehearsals are conducted in rehearsal halls with a piano, not on the stage and without many of the main elements of the opera (the orchestra, the lighting, the costumes etc). Each scene is mapped out on the floors with tape so that the cast can rehearse their roles in their proper positions, relevant to each other and the chorus, as well as to the sets and props on stage.

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Why I Give: Ruby Hanan

Ruby Hanan and friends

Ruby Hanan and friends

Ruby Hanan has worked part-time as a Telefund caller for LA Opera for the past 12 years. For 10 of those years she has also been a donor to the organization.

What inspires Ruby to not only give her time but also contribute to LA Opera?

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Mozart: Truth Through Beauty

Matthew Aucoin (right) works with Summer Hassan, a member of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program

Matthew Aucoin (right) works with Summer Hassan, a member of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program

Next month, LA Opera presents Mozart: Truth Through Beauty, a recital tour featuring artist-in-residence Matthew Aucoin as he and the rising stars of the company’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program explore Mozart’s unique artistic trajectory.

Why Mozart? Mozart is arguably the world’s most popular composer. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the music in its entirety, you’ve likely heard some of his music on TV, in film, or even in a viral commercial. Mozart is also one of the most misunderstood composers. He is often portrayed as a faintly-annoying child prodigy to whom everything came easy (much to the chagrin of his peers as portrayed in the award-winning film Amadeus). In reality, Mozart was a serious questing artist who spent his few adult years transforming his youthful brilliance into music of sublime simplicity.
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Girl Power Playlist

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Opera has some of the gutsiest heroines that you don’t want to mess with who have killer arias –anthems as empowering awe-inspiring as your favorite Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Katy Perry songs.

Before seeing our upcoming production of Tosca –whose title character is one gutsy heroine – check out our list of music that gets you in that girl power spirit.

Tosca’s Act III aria (“Il tuo sangue o il mio amore”) – Tosca by Giacomo Puccini (opens at LA Opera on April 22)

Tosca will do anything for Cavaradossi, the man she loves – even resort to murder. In Act III, Tosca tells Cavaradossi exactly what she had to do to save his life. It’s one of the most climactic moments in the opera and showcases just how gutsy Tosca can be.

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Body Double

For the past few weeks, our props, costumes, and wig/makeup teams – the same people who created a scarily realistic head of the John the Baptist for Salome – have been working on their latest bit of opera magic. They’re not just creating a head, but an entire body to look like one of the characters in Tosca.

That character? Cesare Angelotti.

The original search and rescue dummy before the costumes, wig/makeup, and props magic.

The original search and rescue dummy before the costumes, wig/makeup, and props magic.

Angelotti (played in our production by Nicholas Brownlee) is an escaped political prisoner given sanctuary by the opera’s hero, Mario Cavaradossi (Russell Thomas). While Angelotti evades capture for most the opera, he’s ultimately cornered by Scarpia’s thugs. In our production, Angelotti’s corpse is hung by the neck. When this happens, the singer is replaced by a “stunt double,” or in other words, a mannequin that’s dressed and styled to resemble the singer.

Making the body double is a multi-tiered process that starts with sourcing the dummy.

Craftsperson Meredith Miller (left) and Costume Design Manager Jeannique Prospere (right) discuss the Cesare Angellotti body double for Tosca.

Craftsperson Meredith Miller (left) and Costume Design Manager Jeannique Prospere (right) discuss the Cesare Angelotti body double for Tosca.

Properties Coordinator Lisa Coto sources the dummy. We started with an articulated dummy used for search and rescue and CPR training. Coto chose this dummy, because it’s well-made. It’s a heavy dummy (60lbs) and the limbs dangle like a real person; in other words, it’s very lifelike.

After Coto sources the dummy, she delivers it to Costume Design Manager Jeannique Prospere. Prospere and her team make sure that the dummy’s costumes match Angelotti’s costume – an off-white, striped prison uniform, with blue/grey pants and jacket. Since Angelotti has been in prison, it’s not enough for the team to replicate the costumes. They also must distress, age, and dye the costume to make it look like the dummy has suffered the same trauma as the live character of Angelotti.

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Female Characters in TV to Get to Know Before Seeing Tosca

Women Rock – on television, in film and in opera – Tosca Rocks!

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Girl Power has been around a long time – and it’s at the center of many conversations today. The more we’ve gotten to know the title character of Tosca – in anticipation of its opening on April 22nd  – it’s clear that she is the epitome of Girl Power. She’s certainly not a wallflower – she’s courageous, she’s loyal and she’s fierce. In the spirit of Tosca, we’ve rounded up some powerful women and their stories to get us inspired and in the mood.

Daenerys – Game of Thrones

Daenerys Targaryen (played by Emilia Clarke); Photo: @HBO

Daenerys Targaryen (played by Emilia Clarke); Photo: @HBO

Daenerys rose from being sold by her brother in exchange for an army to becoming one of the most powerful forces in the Seven Kingdoms. Whether she’s freeing the slaves in Meereen or blowing up enemy ships via her dragons, she’s a total fighter. Judging from the latest promo, Daenerys will continue fighting for what she wants – the Iron Throne. Like Tosca, she controls her destiny. … Continue reading

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How Kate Lindsey Found Her Passion for Singing

Kate Lindsey as the Muse in The Tales of Hoffmann (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

Kate Lindsey as the Muse in The Tales of Hoffmann (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

Mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey had two passions growing up: soccer and singing. Though a series of life events eventually led her to pursue classical music, her time spent as the only girl on sports teams worked in her favor, carrying over lessons from her time as “one of the boys” into her celebrated career. On April 15, Lindsey finishes another run of her signature role, Nicklausse, in LA Opera’s production of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, alongside Vittorio Grigolo and Diana Damrau.

Though opera-goers have established Lindsey as one of today’s leading interpreters of trouser roles, she never set out wanting to become a singer — instead, she feels that music found her, and that’s ultimately what drew her in.

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Giving for the Future: Tarasenka Pankiv Fund

Tara Colburn

Tara Colburn

Tara Colburn, born Tarasenka Pankiv in Zagreb, Croatia, grew up surrounded by music and the arts. She studied piano with her concert pianist mother and her grandfather was director of the Zagreb Conservatory. A lifelong supporter of the arts, Ms. Colburn served as an active board member of LA Opera since the company’s founding year in 1986. She was one of the company’s most dedicated supporters for nearly two decades before her death in 2003. She established the Tarasenka Pankiv Fund through a bequest (a directive in her will) that continues to support LA Opera productions, including the upcoming presentation of Tosca.

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Master Your Opera Skills

Eli Villanueva

Eli Villanueva

On April 21, LA Opera is hosting a master class for undergraduate and graduate students taught by Eli Villanueva, LA Opera’s resident stage director for education and community engagement. Five students from different schools across Los Angeles – chosen from LA Opera’s College Advisory Committee – will sing and Villanueva will coach them on performance and musicality. Students are encouraged to sign-up for the master class to learn the secrets behind compelling storytelling, musicality, and crafting a personalized approach to opera performance.

Master classes are held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and on college campuses and offer students the chance to connect with the artists that make the opera magic happen. Students watch these professionals work and see firsthand what it takes to pursue careers in the arts – and in opera, specifically.

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How far would you go to save the one you love?

Everyone has their limits – Tosca’s plight reflects today’s world more than Puccini could have imagined.

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Tosca is one of the greatest works of music theatre ever written and its importance is undiminished more than a century after Puccini wrote it. Its narrative is deceptively simple. It involves the lives of three principal characters. Mario Cavaradossi is a talented young painter, earning his living by creating ecclesiastical art in Roman churches. Floria Tosca, his lover, is a well-known opera singer, adored by her public. Baron Scarpia is the chief of police in a military state that is cracking down on all opposition, including artists and the support they draw.

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Sunday Night at the Domingo Awards


LA Opera
The Domingo Awards
Photo Credit: Steve Cohn

Since 1997, Hispanics for LA Opera (HLAO) has hosted the Plácido Domingo Awards. The awards ceremony – which honors distinguished Hispanic opera artists and others who have contributed to the success of HLAO – was held last night at the home of the LA Opera, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall. In addition to honoring this year’s winners – Rafa Sardina and Joshua Guerrero – the awards also celebrated the 25th Anniversary of HLAO.

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Breaking News: LA Opera Releases New DVD

First, there was Richard Simmons. Then, we had Billy Banks Tae Bo. Next, came Pilates and every kind of yoga you can imagine. Way back in the day, there was Jazzercise.

Now, there’s Opera-cise.

Just this morning, LA Opera has released a workout DVD called “Sweatin’ to the Opera.” From Puccini to Bizet, get into tip top shape, while listening to some of opera’s greatest hits. Get your blood pumping and your metabolism soaring, while you strike poses inspired by the staging in LA Opera’s iconic productions, and workout alongside some of LA Opera’s favorite singers.

The Opera-cize Craze is about to take off. Whether you’re looking for a beach body, a six-pack or just to burn off some steam, there’s a workout for you. Here’s a peek at some of the poses that will surely get you that perfect physique.

Get Your Tales of Hoffmann on with our Doll Arms Press

Perfect for building boulder shoulders

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