Author Archives: Karen Bacellar

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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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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Get To Know LA Opera Young Artist Brian Michael Moore

Brian Michael Moore has lived a fuller life in 24 years than most people do in a lifetime — in barely a quarter of a century, the young tenor has beaten cancer twice, lived in multiple states and has shared the stage with some of the world’s most esteemed musicians. Currently in his first season as a Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist, Moore has already been seen in the company’s productions of Wonderful Town and Salome. This month and next, he’s playing Nathanaël in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann and sharing the stage with opera superstars Vittorio Grigolo and Diana Damrau.

Brian Michael Moore (center, right) with fellow young artists Kihun Yoon (center) and Theo Hoffmann (left) in The Tales of Hoffmann (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

Brian Michael Moore (center, right) with fellow young artists Kihun Yoon (center) and Theo Hoffmann (center, left) in The Tales of Hoffmann (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

Prior to his time in Los Angeles, the Cincinnati native attributes his musical beginnings to his parents, who enrolled him in piano lessons as a small child. Though neither of them “were that musical,” as Moore states, classical music was a big part of his childhood development. While balancing school and sports, his first taste of the limelight came in the seventh grade, after he was cast in the ensemble of his school’s production of Oliver! — however, the opportunity was over for him before it even began.

“I was never told when rehearsals would start or where they were, so I just never showed up,” Moore laughs. “And then they performed it and I thought ‘Well, I guess I could have been in that.’”

Though his stage career began rocky, Moore eventually became serious about pursuing singing professionally. He participated in his school’s musical the following year, singing in the Barbershop Quartet in “The Music Man.” And after taking the advice from his middle school musical director, he began taking formal voice lessons the summer before he entered high school, where he was first exposed to classical singing.

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150 Productions and Counting

George Stern in The Tales of Hoffmann (2003); Der Rosenkavalier (2005); The Merry Widow (2006); Manon (2007)

George Stern in The Tales of Hoffmann (2003); Der Rosenkavalier (2005); The Merry Widow (2006); Manon (2007)

Carmen. Manon. Pagliacci. Name almost any opera and George Sterne has probably performed in it. The current production of The Tales of Hoffmann marks the LA Opera Chorus member’s 150th production with the company – a milestone that no other chorister has yet to achieve. … Continue reading

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What’s a heckelphone and why did William May learn to play it for Salome?

William May and the hecklephone

William May and the heckelphone

Salome is one of the most challenging operas to play. Musicians are tasked with a score that pushes the limits of what’s considered playable for an orchestra. LA Opera Orchestra Principal Bassoonist William May had a further challenge. In less than a year, May learned a rare instrument to play in Salome – the heckelphone.

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Zanaida Robles Inspires Students Through Opera

Zanaida Robles working with students during Opera Camp (2016)

Zanaida Robles working with students during Opera Camp (2016); Photo: Gennia Cui

She fell in love with music at the age of seven. Now, Zanaida Robles is an established singer, conductor, composer, and music instructor. As an LA Opera teaching artist, she’s bringing her experience and love for the music to work by inspiring the next generation of opera lovers.

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Finding Love at the Opera

One of Anthony and Marta Richardson's engagement photos, taken outside of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

One of Anthony and Marta Richardson’s engagement photos, taken outside of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

When Anthony and Marta Richardson each bought tickets to a performance of LA Opera’s Simon Boccanegra in 2012, they had no idea they would end up finding love at the opera.

Before they ever met, Anthony and Marta were both frequent opera-goers. Marta, a teacher at the time (she’s now an elementary school principal at Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District), saw her first performance at LA Opera in 1997 and had since invited representatives of the Music Center and the LA Opera to speak to her students about opera and music. Anthony – an actor/singer turned financial consultant – had also attended shows at LA Opera since the late 1990s, even volunteering with the Opera League of Los Angeles. His assignment – shuffling artists from LAX to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

In March 2012, Anthony had tickets to see Simon Boccanegra.

“I had never seen Plácido Domingo perform before and was very excited,” says Anthony.

When his friend canceled, Anthony decided to have dinner at Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse, thinking he might meet someone to whom he could give his extra ticket.

“When I got to the steakhouse, I spotted Marta and her friend at the bar and strategically sat next to them,” recalls Anthony. Marta replies jokingly, “That’s how men operate.”

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LA Opera Inspires Fashion Exhibit at FIDM Museum

FIDM 4

From the bonnet à la Figaro (an 18th-century fashion inspired by the hero of The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro), to the 1920s costumes in LA Opera’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, opera and fashion have always influenced each other. To celebrate the inextricable link between opera and fashion, LA Opera has partnered with FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles and inspired an exhibition called “Exotica: Fashion & Costume of the 1920s.”

FIDM 3

An evening dress designed by Natasha Rambova; circ 1927

This is the second time that LA Opera productions have inspired an exhibition at FIDM. In March 2015, FIDM Museum presented “Opulent Art: 18th-Century Dress.” This exhibition featured a rare original 18th-century Figaro costume worn during performances of The Marriage of Figaro. The exhibition also coincided with the company’s Figaro Unbound initiative (presented in connection with the company’s “Figaro Trilogy”: Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

 

This time, “Exotica: Fashion & Costume of the 1920s” explores how films set in exotic locales influenced the fashion of the day. This exhibition is inspired by LA Opera’s production of The Abduction from the Seraglio, which is set in the Roaring Twenties on the famous Orient Express, traveling from Istanbul to Paris.

Surrounded by a giant Orient Express structure, various “exotic” clothing is displayed as if on a platform about to board the train. Several of the pieces are not so different from what the characters in The Abduction from the Seraglio might wear on their journey around the world, also reflecting the “east meets west” nature of the opera – and of Hollywood cinema in the 1920s (see The Sheik or The Thief of Baghdad).

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Salome’s Two Worlds Projected

LA Opera first presented its provocative production of Salome during its inaugural season in 1986. That iconic production featured a backdrop of hand painted, psychedelic projections envisioned by designer John Bury. Salome returns to LA Opera this month and features new projections that build upon Bury’s original designs and showcase the title character’s mental state throughout the opera.

Bury’s original projections (see below) were abstract and textural, containing a dark color scheme (reds, blues, and purples). Some projections feature shapes that look like bubbles or blood cells, while others create patterns using horizontal lines.

A still from John Bury's original projections

A still from John Bury’s original projections

Updated since their original use, the new projections are no longer hand painted. Projection Designer Alisa Lapidus digitized Bury’s projections and used them as the base for the new projections (which are both digital and animated). These new projections reflect director David Paul’s emphasis on Salome’s journey between two worlds – the one she lives in and the one in her head.

A still from the new projections for Salome

A still from the new projections for Salome

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Where In The World Are LA Opera Productions?

Since LA Opera’s first season in 1986, Los Angeles is not the only place in the world that you can experience one of the company’s productions. Over the years, they’ve been rented and staged by other opera companies, produced during festivals, and even shown on the big screen. LA Opera’s innovative and beloved productions travel the world, sharing the spirit of Los Angeles and a love of opera with people far and wide.

Here are three productions that have traveled the world in recent years.

Salome (1986; 1989; 1998; 2001; 2017)

Salome (1986); Photo: Frederick Ohringer

Salome (1986); Photo: Frederick Ohringer

LA Opera’s iconic production of Strauss’s Salome (which returns to the LA Opera stage February 18) originally premiered during our first season in 1986. Adapted from the scandalous play by Oscar Wilde, Salome is a seductively beautiful tapestry of the subconscious. The princess Salome becomes infatuated by her stepfather’s prisoner, John the Baptist, and she determines to have him…whatever the cost.

This production of Salome is well traveled and has been staged both close to home (at San Diego Opera) across the country (Washington National Opera) and around the world (on tour with the Savonlinna Festival in Finland and as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival in China).

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How LA Opera Revealed Its Branding

BrandingArticleImage

Since its founding in 1986, LA Opera has become one of Los Angeles’s most influential arts organizations. In 2011 LA Opera’s communications team conducted extensive research in order to better identify the company’s brand and connect with its ever-expanding audience in a new era.

“In order for branding to be effective, it has to be organic,” says Diane Rhodes Bergman, vice president of marketing and communications, who oversaw the research efforts five years ago and continues to spearhead the company’s communications strategy. “It has to start with the people who are most involved with the brand: the board, our staff, and the public we serve. We conducted research with these three groups to identify what LA Opera is at its core, what role the company plays in the Los Angeles community, and what part it will play in the community’s future.”

Through this research and subsequent testing of various brand concepts, LA Opera’s branding began to take form. There were several things that all the groups surveyed connected to LA Opera: the company’s influential presence in the Los Angeles community, the inextricable link to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s decades-long history, innovative productions, and a certain method of storytelling reflective of the city’s edgy (but still beautiful) spirit.

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Figaro’s American Adventure is a Symbol of Arts Integration at its Finest

Figaro's American Adventure

Figaro’s American Adventure

LA Opera has made a mission of bringing opera into LA County schools and students to the opera. Through several programs, the company introduces and shares a love of opera with kids and teens across the county. Students learn about opera from singers and staff, and experience productions geared toward teaching them the “big ideas” about the art form. However, presenting opera isn’t enough. LA Opera collaborates with teachers to integrate the music and theater standards of the opera with their English language arts and/or history curriculum standards. LA Opera’s production of Figaro’s American Adventure, which the company performs to thousands of students at venues across the county, is a great example of this arts-integrated learning.

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Joshua Winograde on a Life of Developing Young Talent

Joshua Winograde

Joshua Winograde

Joshua Winograde, the company’s senior director of artistic planning, has been living out his dream at LA Opera. For the past decade, he has developed the company’s celebrated Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program and played an instrumental role in championing the company’s artistic vision. It has been an incredible journey for Winograde, whose long history with LA Opera began when he fell in love with opera as a teenager.

As a teenager, Winograde took summer classes at UCLA. There he met an exchange student from Japan who introduced him to Kathleen Battle’s recordings. “I had never heard anything like her. I was totally unaware that a human voice was capable of doing anything like that,” recalls Winograde. After hearing Battle’s voice, he became even more interested in singing and performing. He joined choirs and took advantage of every opportunity to see productions at LA Opera.

“Tara Colburn, one of the founders of LA Opera, was the mother of a friend of mine in high school. My friend didn’t like to go to the opera, so I was his mom’s date,” Winograde jokes.

After growing up at the LA Opera, Winograde pursued a career as a singer. He received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Julliard School and embarked on a professional career as a bass-baritone (including time as a young artist at Houston Grand Opera). However, as Winograde’s career took off, he started dreaming of a different career path.

“I couldn’t shake this peripheral vision of a career producing opera,” says Winograde.

Winograde followed his heart and switched to a career in management, working with young artists at Wolf Trap Opera Company and Julliard. One year later, LA Opera came knocking.

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Summer Hassan Has Always Loved Singing

Summer Hassan; Photo: Kristin Hoebermann

Summer Hassan; Photo: Kristin Hoebermann

Many of the opera singers that comb through the halls of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion never conceived of a career in opera. Some started their careers late in life, after having an epiphany that they loved music, while others began their careers after thinking they would play professional sports. But, for soprano Summer Hassan, it’s always been singing.

“When I was six years old, my mom took me to see The Phantom of the Opera in Toronto. The music and singing thrilled me and I found myself – even at that young age – wanting to be on that stage, singing, and knowing every single thing that was going on. I wanted to part of it,” recalls Hassan. She continues, “At the time, I thought The Phantom of the Opera was an opera. It wasn’t, but there was something about the word ‘opera’ that caught my attention.”

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Leroy Villanueva On Bringing Opera To Schools

Leroy Villanueva (left) and Charlie Kim (right) in The White Bird of Poston (2016)

Leroy Villanueva (left) and Charlie Kim (right) in The White Bird of Poston (2016)

Every year, LA Opera brings opera into schools through its Secondary In-School (SISO) program, through which students and teaching artist join forces over the course of 10 weeks to produce an opera. This innovative and influential program shares the art form with kids across Los Angeles. It’s an enriching experience for both students, teachers, and the artists involved in the program, including baritone Leroy Villanueva.

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