Author Archives: LA Opera Staff
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.
An opera 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, its composer who plays the central role and got to know her and 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
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.
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.
LA Opera is a non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good. We rely on generous contributions to produce the world-class opera you see on the stage, around the county and through our many education and community engagement programs. By becoming a member of the Friends of LA Opera with a tax-deductible contribution, you’re helping us share opera with the Los Angeles community – and receiving several benefits along the way, such as the ones listed below.
The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is not the only place in Los Angeles where you can experience an LA Opera production. You can see our productions at REDCAT, inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and even at Santa Monica Pier. LA Opera has many programs and initiatives that bring opera to various locations in the county and make sure everyone has access to opera.
In partnership with the County of Los Angeles Public Library and with generous support provided by former Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe (4th district) and Supervisor Hilda Solis (1st district), LA Opera brings professional opera singers to libraries around Los Angeles to perform musical moments from the most celebrated operas for families. Next month’s Puccini Opera Tales has the singers recounting tales from The Girl of the Golden West, Gianni Schicchi, and Turandot, as told by Giacomo Puccini himself.
Brian Kellow wasn’t always an opera lover. One fateful performance of The Tales of Hoffmann changed his mind. He shares his story below.
A favorite topic among opera lovers is the Great Conversion Moment—the performance at which the key mysteriously turned, and opera became something more than an outpouring of beautiful melody and instead became something we began to understand on a gut level, something we began to crave.
LA Opera is hosting a special concert on April 1 and here are some reasons why this concert is not-to-be-missed.
Domingo, Domingo, Domingo
When Plácido Domingo is your general director, you get the benefits of his artistic vision, his influence and his talent. For this one-night only concert, Maestro Domingo has brought together some of the worlds most acclaimed opera singers – Sondra Radvanovsky, Diana Damrau and Nicolas Testé. He’s also invited back many celebrated alumni of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist program, including Joshua Guerrero, So Young Park and Brenton Ryan. They’ll sing together and alongside the very talented artists currently in the distinguished program. And as if singing weren’t enough, when he’s not singing, he’ll conduct the LA Opera Orchestra. (When he is singing, Resident Conductor Grant Gershon will take the reins.)
The world of opera is filled with famous duets – some romantic, some reflective, some heroic. Here’s what we’re excited about: Plácido Domingo and Sondra Radvanovsky singing the recognition scene from Simon Boccanegra and the beloved Merry Widow duet (“Lippen schweigen”); Domingo joining with tenor Joshua Guerrero for the gorgeous Pearl Fishers duet; as well as Diana Damrau and Nicolas Testé performing the seductive “Là ci darem la mano” from Don Giovanni. … Continue reading
Every company has an oracle. He/she is the person who has been at the company a while, knows just about everything and is willing to share it with you. They know a lot yet don’t make you feel bad that you might not; and, they have a way of educating while entertaining and guiding you to be as passionate about something as they are.
At LA Opera – that’s Mark Lyons. Mark is the Associate Director of Communications and Publications. Mark has been with LA Opera since 2003 and when we say he knows just about everything there is to know about opera, it’s because he’s been in it and around it his entire adult life.
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 over a 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. Conlon, who conducts these performances every year, is “thrilled that Los Angeles families have responded to community productions with so much enthusiasm and appreciation.” … Continue reading
E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822), who in homage to Mozart changed his third name to that of Amadeus, was a writer, music critic, painter, graphic artist and lawyer—a man of many talents who lacked the most important gift of all: how to find happiness.
When Hoffmann was two years old, his father abandoned his mother, who returned to live with her parents. He was surrounded by a depressed mother who was always sick, an unmarried aunt and a retired uncle—this was hardly an ideal environment for a happy childhood. A restless boy, he grew up rebellious and nonconformist. To escape this oppressive reality, Hoffmann developed an enormous fantasy life, from which he fashioned his own surreal world. He became an extraordinary exponent of supernatural, bizarre and almost diabolical tales.
Though very successful as a writer, he never overcame the frustration of not being the musician he had dreamed of becoming. Nor was he ever successful in finding the stability he searched so much for in his private life. A very unstable man, he always fell in love with the wrong woman at the wrong time, knocking on the forbidden doors of madness, alcohol or artificial paradises.
The tradition of opening one’s home up to visitors, welcoming them in to explore and discover and become a part of the intimate environment, has been an evolving part of community living for centuries. Open house history dates back at least as far as biblical times and exists in many cultural and religious customs. From weddings to wakes, royalty to presidents, realtors to school teachers, these communal celebrations are an opportunity to welcome guests into your space and share something—knowledge, experience, camaraderie.
In honor of this grandest and oldest of traditions, LA Opera is opening its home and welcoming all to join us in a day of fun and function. On Sunday, March 26, we are offering free activities for all ages and all levels of opera awareness. Come visit the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion between 10 am and 6 pm for interactive experiences, creative workshops, professional performances, behind the scenes tours and unique presentations. Discover the glamorous décor and rich history of this house. You’re invited to come meet the opera and get to know the great people who inhabit this space.
James Conlon’s remarkable work with the LA Opera Orchestra has elevated LA Opera’s artistry to a new level of excellence. He has also brought lost works to life through the Recovered Voices project and, working closely with Plácido Domingo, has contributed enormously to developing a love for opera in our city.
From convening, citywide festivals to packing the Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall during his pre-performance talks, Mr. Conlon has become one of the most visible advocates for classical music in Los Angeles.
This season, Maestro Conlon celebrates his tenth anniversary as LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director, and he recently extended his contract to the 2020/2021 season.
LA Opera invites you to celebrate Maestro Conlon’s achievements by supporting the James Conlon Tenth Anniversary Initiative, which will provide critical funds to support new programing and further enhance our acclaimed orchestra.
Additionally, we’ve curated some articles, videos, and a podcast below to help you get to know Maestro Conlon and illustrate why he has become a beloved figure in the cultural life of Los Angeles.
It’s Oscars time and we are all waiting with baited breath to see whether La La Land takes home best picture. We’re also excited to see the glamorous looks stars don on the red carpet – some of which could totally be pulled straight from the opera stage.