Author Archives: LA Opera Staff
One of our beloved Opera Camp’s teaching artists, Judy Johnson, started performing at the age of eight. She sang in church, studied voice in high school and college, and then worked as an actress in Los Angeles. In 2014, she loved her life as an actress, but realized something was missing. After a life spent performing, Johnson wanted to give back to her community in another way.
That desire combined with her love of opera led her to become an LA Opera teaching artist.
Her first role with LA Opera was as Assistant Director for last year’s Opera Camp production of Then I Stood Up. Her enthusiasm for the work and her passion for teaching our campers shines through.
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An Innovative Summer Camp
For the past 17 years, we’ve hosted Opera Camp. It is a two-week immersive program where students aged 9-17 experience all aspects of opera production, guided by LA Opera artists. They are coached in singing, movement and learn about staging, scenic and prop design, and stage management.
Our campers have arrived this week. They’ve been rehearsing and exploring the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
But, our campers are also learning about something else.
Opera Camp connects campers to the past and to today’s toughest issues. It brings context to headlines and shows students their potential to impact the world.
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Are you heading down to San Diego for Comic-Con and looking for something to wear? Here’s a list of opera costumes that will leave you Comic-Con ready.
1. This costume from Grendel looks straight out of Game of Thrones.
2. Armored soldiers from Aida — who’s to say these aren’t right out of Game of Thrones or Outlander?
3. Any of the Pagliacci clowns — whether you’re dressing as a riff on the Joker or Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad, or a classic homage to Killer Klowns From Outer Space everyone (meaning no one) loves a creepy clown.
LA Opera President and CEO Christopher Koelsch participated in discussions at the inaugural Classical Evolution/Revolution Conference about how companies can find and keep new audiences for music.
The panel also included Yael Greenberg, Music Consultant, Kickstarter, and was moderated by Graham Parker, President of Universal Music Classics, USA.
LA Opera’s 2017/2018 season opens September 9
Our 2016/17 season may have come to an end, but 2017/18 is just around the corner. Next season has something for everyone from the classic gems to the avant-garde. Get to know the season below and don’t forget to buy your tickets early for the best seats.
CARMEN (September 9-October 1)
On September 9, we open with Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Ana María Martínez stars as opera’s most famous femme fatale. Nobody—not even a lover—can tame Carmen, who bursts into life onstage with an intoxicating whirl of thrilling choreography, vivid orchestrations and heart-stopping drama. Bizet’s unforgettable score is an endless parade of one great melody after the other, from the languid allure of Carmen’s sensual songs to the macho boasts of the dashing bullfighter.
THE PEARL FISHERS (October 7-28)
A beautifully detailed staging, complete with stunning special effects, brings a rare and exotic story to life. Soprano Nino Machaidze, one of LA Opera’s favorite leading ladies, returns as a veiled priestess with a hidden past, pursued by two lifelong friends and romantic rivals. The complicated triangle pushes forbidden love into a final struggle for life and death, until a nearly forgotten secret saves the day. Internationally acclaimed tenor Javier Camarena makes his company debut as Nadir.
The ravishing score, an early treasure by the composer of Carmen, features a rapturous duet for the two rivals that has become one of opera’s all-time greatest hits.
It’s finally summertime. What better way to celebrate than creating a killer summer playlist?
Here are some opera tunes to add to your summer jams playlist.
“Summertime” – Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin
This classic makes living in the heat of summer easy. Whether you’re listening to the original opera version, the celebrated Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald album, or this sample by Sublime, there’s no better piece of music to add to your summer playlist. Watch Audra McDonald (who returns to LA Opera in concert next season) perform the aria here.
When someone says that opera is their life, you naturally think – singer? composer? conductor?
Not in this case.
For Shawnet Sweets, her opera life is as a fan and as the Second Assistant Treasurer in LA Opera’s box office. But, when she’s not selling tickets, Shawnet travels the world to see opera and she finds other ways to make opera part of her life.
You see, Shawnet is also a philanthropist. She decided she’d ride in the AIDS Lifecycle: The Ride to End Aids. This is an annual seven-day bike ride to raise money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Participants raise money and then ride on average 80 miles a day, for seven days, from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
How does opera fit into this story?
Shawnet’s favorite operas give her strength to complete the 560-mile ride.
Mukhtar Mai’s smile lights a room. She’s recently arrived in Los Angeles and when we speak she chats about her eagerness to see Thumbprint – the opera her life inspired – and meet with friend Freida Pinto who lives in the area.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Mukhtar Mai, she’s an incredible woman.
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The music of Thumbprint is infused with the sounds of South Asia, melding classical Hindustani music with western classical music.
Kamala Sankaram, who is both the piece’s composer and plays the leading role of Mukhtar Mai, has woven traditional instruments – piano, flute, violins, drums, and what you’d expect in a band – with some that are not often seen in opera.
The sounds that form the musical language of Thumbprint and provide its regional nuances come from the traditional instruments of South Asia.
Harmonium – like an accordion, the harmonium is a small pump organ.
Tax accountant Brian Wong first discovered opera back in 2008, while he was looking for a way to relieve the stresses of work and life. A Los Angeles native, Brian recalled an elementary school trip to see Hansel and Gretel at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
An interest in opera stayed with him, and he began noticing familiar arias in movies and on television. “To me, the most famous aria was ‘O mio babbino caro,’ which I discovered to be from Puccini’s Il Trittico, an opera I’d never heard of and knew absolutely nothing about,” said Mr. Wong.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been to a few operas, maybe more, and have experienced the magic of the performance and all that comes with it.
But, if you’re buying tickets to shows one at a time you might be missing out on savings and the opportunity to really enjoy all that comes with an evening at the opera.
Consider becoming a subscriber. Why, you ask?
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LA Opera has several programs that bring music – opera, specifically – into schools and into the Greater Los Angeles community. One of these programs, Voices for Tolerance, offers students the opportunity to explore tough issues through music.
In this program, LA Opera collaborates with teachers to create a multi-week, choral program that fosters a love of music rooted in classroom curriculum. Voices for Tolerance features themes of community building, social justice, and cooperative action. Projects culminate in live performance and have included original operas based on classroom personal heritage projects, choral recitals exploring folk and protest music from around the world, and a pageant inspired by the Greek Olympics.
LA Opera’s 16/17 season is almost over. But, you don’t have to wait until September (and the opening of Carmen on September 9th). Here are a few ways to get your opera fix this summer.
Hear LA Opera’s Artists Around Town
Mozart: Truth Through Beauty
LA Opera’s artist-in-residence Matthew Aucoin, joined by the rising stars of the company’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist program, presents a musical exploration of Mozart’s unique artistic trajectory.
NEWS: We’re thrilled and honored that Mukhtar Mai – whose historic bravery inspired “Thumbprint” – is traveling from Pakistan to witness her story told and join us for the talkbacks after each performance. If you don’t have a ticket yet, this is your chance to be part of this powerful moment.
A story set in Pakistan about a woman who rises from tragedy to empower others like her is the basis of Thumbprint – LA Opera’s next Off Grand presentation. We spent some time with Kamala Sankaram, who composed and also stars in Thumbprint, and got to know what led her to the story of Mukhtar Mai.
Kamala Sankaram’s life has always been filled with music. She started studying piano at age six and spent hours listening to classical music, traditional Hindustani music, and Broadway music. As an adult, she fell in love with the complexity of the music in opera, and would ultimately pursue a career first as a singer and later as a composer.
There’s something about the entertainment industry that begs for people to be larger than life – some could say that this is especially true of those who perform opera for a living. There’s just something about that grand voice and flamboyant stage presence that makes opera resplendent.
Another art form that has that same grandness is improv comedy. Wasn’t quite what you were expecting to hear was it?! But, improv comedy has been around just as long as opera has – especially in the form of entertainment. And, it requires the same over-the-top, striking stage presence that opera requires – but, instead of taking your breath away with those glass-shattering high notes, improv comedy sets out to give you those deep belly laughs that leave you with a six-pack when the night is done. Or at least feeling like you’re well on your way to developing a six-pack.
Sometime in the company’s history, someone had the bright idea (read: best idea ever!) to have opera and improv comedy join forces. What could possibly be funnier than seeing an opera star comedically navigate their way through Don José pining over Carmen with an aria about Facebook stalking the love of his life?
We can’t guarantee that’s exactly what you’ll get, but you will get some stunning singing and laughs to boot when our Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artists head to the legendary Groundlings Theatre on May 15 and 16 to show off their opera and comedy skills. Under the guide of teacher Phyllis Katz – the Young Artists took months of classes to exercise their funny bone before hitting the stage. Although, Katz herself is no stranger to opera singers — in the seven years since she began working with young artists, Katz has developed an individual approach to teaching opera singers, covering everything from basic improv skills to character work.
Soprano Melody Moore believes in female empowerment — perhaps that’s why she’s so drawn to the Lady Macbeths and Floria Toscas of the operatic stage. Luckily, these are the types of roles she’s been polishing since her earliest days as a budding singer, meticulously analyzing each and every leading lady throughout her development. But Moore is all grown up now, and on May 13 she once again steps into the title role of Puccini’s Tosca at LA Opera, under the baton of Maestro Grant Gershon.
With her fifth production of Puccini’s masterpiece underway, Moore doesn’t let repetition affect her artistic integrity. In her own words, it’s a role that changes as she matures, and her understanding of the character has zig-zagged across the mood board.
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.
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.
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?
Women Rock – on television, in film and in opera – Tosca Rocks!
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 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