Search Results for: Iconic productions
“The Ghosts of Versailles exemplifies LA Opera’s ongoing commitment to the most important operas of our time.”
The west coast premiere of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles in February 2015 was one of the most exciting – and iconic – productions to grace the LA Opera stage in recent seasons. Originally staged by the Metropolitan Opera in 1991, The Ghosts of Versailles is an opera-within-an-opera that counterpoises the fiction of Mozart and Beaumarchais (author of The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro) with the Reign of Terror to create a richly multilayered meditation on the need for, and costs of personal and social change.
Trapped in the spirit world, the ghost of Marie Antoinette bitterly reflects on her final suffering. Her favorite playwright tries to entertain the melancholy queen with the continuing adventures of his beloved characters from The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro. But sneaky Figaro refuses to play by the script, breaking free from the opera-within-the-opera in a surprise bid for a better life. The opera turns history on its head as love attempts to alter the course of destiny.
“Two operas about arrival and departure. Two operas about a woman and a man. Two operas about lost Eden. Two operas about forgotten Eden. Two operas about remembered Eden.”
– Director Barrie Kosky on his pairing of Dido and Aeneas and Bluebeard’s Castle
Following his triumphant Magic Flute the previous season, Barrie Kosky returned to LA Opera to direct an iconic double bill of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. On the outside, these operas are very different. Dido and Aeneas is a 17th-century wonder – the first great opera written in English – about a queen, who falls prey to the machinations of a formidable enemy, losing her heart to a man who abruptly abandons her.
Anticipating the 2013 celebrations surrounding the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth, LA Opera opened its 2012/13 season with a new production of The Two Foscari starring Plácido Domingo. Rarely staged, Verdi’s opera explores themes of political power and family relationships, similar to his later work, Simon Boccanegra (which the company also staged that same season). Set in the languid canals and boisterous festivals of 15th-century Venice, the plot revolves around a father and son struggling to reclaim honor in a city that knows no mercy.
Can’t get enough Verdi? Check out the articles we’ve collected below and make sure you get your tickets to Verdi’s Macbeth, premiering this September.
“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
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.”
“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.
“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.
“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
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.
“Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes” – Bertolt Brecht
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.
“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
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.
“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 in … Continue reading →
“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)
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).
“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
“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) Director … Continue reading →
“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
“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
“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)
“[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)
“[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)
“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)
“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)