Faces of the Opera

James Conlon Talks the Carmen Myth

Ana María Martínez as Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Ana María Martínez as the title character in Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Georges Bizet’s last opera has struck deeply into the soul of Western Civilization.

Its music is universally loved and its meaning constantly analyzed, debated and reinterpreted. As a protagonist, Carmen is unique. Contrary to many mythological characters who served as operatic subjects, she transcended her stage existence and then evolved into an archetype, a popular and modern myth. Unlike Don Juan, Faust and numerous Greek, Roman and Nordic mythological characters adapted for the opera stage, Carmen had little prehistory. But like Mozart’s Don Giovanni, her obvious male counterpart, she became immortal thanks to the genius of a composer. The protagonist of a short story by Prosper Mérimée, she was perfectly realized the moment Bizet set her to music.

Who is Carmen and what does she represent?

Ask a dozen opera lovers, and there will be a dozen answers. Evil temptress, femme fatale, erotic demon, 19th-century Eve for some; victim of racism, gender inequality and social injustice, symbol of emancipation and feminine empowerment for others.
… Continue reading

Posted in About Our Shows, Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Love Opera Camp

Maurissa Dawson (left) with Holocaust survivor Peter Daniels (right)

Maurissa Dawson (left) with Holocaust survivor Peter Daniels (right)

Spring, 2016.

I’d been refreshing my email constantly for days on end, anxiously waiting for the email holding my fate. I auditioned for Opera Camp about a month earlier, and had been waiting for the results ever since. I’d found out about the program when I’d auditioned for Noah’s Flood months before. Patience however, was slowly edging its way out of my grasp. Then, suddenly I saw it:

Congratulations! We would like to inform you that you have been accepted and cast for our 16/17 Opera Camp!!!!

And so it began.
… Continue reading

Posted in Did You Know?, Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Opera Camp Encourages Children and Teens to Express Themselves through Music and Drama

Opera Camp 2017

Opera Camp 2017

UPDATE: Maestro James Conlon will be conducting both performances of Brundibár.

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.
… Continue reading

Posted in Did You Know?, Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Soprano So Young Park To Compete In Operalia

So Young Park; Photo: Lanley Le

So Young Park; Photo: Lanley Le

So Young Park is no stranger to Los Angeles operagoers.

Since 2014, Park has appeared in multiple LA Opera productions and concerts. The coloratura soprano first set foot on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage as Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro and has since wowed audiences in leading roles including the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Blondchen in The Abduction from the Seraglio and Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann.

“As Olympia, the mechanical doll that Hoffmann is tricked into believing is his love, So Young Park…sang spectacularly.” – Los Angeles Times

On July 24, the Domingo-Colburn-Stein alumna will compete in Operalia, Plácido Domingo’s annual opera competition, and sharing her high notes with the world.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What do Burning Man and LA Opera have in common?

What do Burning Man and LA Opera have in common?

Anabel Romero.

Anabel Romero

Anabel Romero

Romero is LA Opera’s Community Engagement Coordinator. She helps oversee the company’s Opera Camp and Cathedral Project programs that share opera with the Greater Los Angeles community.

When she’s not leading campers or community members in opera productions at LA Opera, Romero is a co-founder and co-artistic director of aLma.MaddR, a Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary arts collective. The collective’s latest project is a sound installation for an international collaboration called Aluna that will be staged at this year’s Burning Man.

These two gigs aren’t mutually exclusive.

Romero shares that one actually informs the other in the way she makes art. Her community outreach work has helped Romero understand how to use art to connect diverse communities.
… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Living the Suit Life

Head Tailor Laina Babb posing with suits she's made for LA Opera productions

Head Tailor Laina Babb posing with suits she’s made for LA Opera productions

When Laina Babb learned to sew at age six, she never imagined it would lead her to the opera. She’s made her love of sewing into a career, first training and then apprenticing as a tailor. Now, as LA Opera’s Head Tailor, Babb manages a team of up to six tailors (depending on the show). Together they craft all the men’s suits used in the company’s productions. That means she’s had a hand in making pretty much every suit you can imagine – elaborate French Revolution-style suits for The Ghosts of Versailles, 1960s Italian suits for the Woody Allen directed Gianni Schicchi, and even a flashy, taffeta suit worn in Porgy and Bess.

From Learning to Sew To Working at LA Opera

Long before Babb worked at LA Opera, she was just a little girl learning to sew as part of the 4-H program in her hometown of Lockwood, California. In this program, children complete hands-on projects that will serve their communities, as part of a larger goal to empower young people and teach them leadership.

Babb took her sewing skills with her to high school, where she made costumes in the theater department. Working in costumes in high school spawned her desire to turn a love of sewing and costumes into a career in theater.

Babb enrolled at Chapman University to study technical theater. During her four years at Chapman, she took multiple costume classes, but the technical side of costuming – of building them and solving all a director’s staging challenges – kept calling.
… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Opera-Filled Bike Ride

Shawnet Sweets with her opera composer helmet at the AIDS ride

Shawnet Sweets with her opera composer helmet at the AIDS ride

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.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera, Opera About Town | Tagged , , | Comments Off on An Opera-Filled Bike Ride

Mukhtar Mai Travels To LA To See The Opera She Inspired

A talk back after the west coast premiere of Thumbprint; from left - composer Kamala Sankaram, librettist Susan Yankowitz, creative producer Beth Morrison, and they are joined by Mukhtar Mai, whose life inspired the story, and her translator Gyanam Mahajan

A talk back after the west coast premiere of Thumbprint; from left – composer Kamala Sankaram, librettist Susan Yankowitz, creative producer Beth Morrison, and they are joined by Mukhtar Mai, whose life inspired the story, and her translator Gyanam Mahajan

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.
… Continue reading

Posted in About Our Shows, Faces of the Opera | Tagged , | Comments Off on Mukhtar Mai Travels To LA To See The Opera She Inspired

Writing Mukhtar Mai’s Story

Kamala Sankaram as Mukhtar Mai in Thumbprint; Photo: Noah Stern Weber / Beth Morrison Projects

Kamala Sankaram as Mukhtar Mai in Thumbprint; Photo: Noah Stern Weber / Beth Morrison Projects

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.

After a brutal attack meant to destroy her, Mukhtar Mai became the first woman in Pakistan to bring her rapists to justice. Since then, Mai has become an international icon for women’s rights. She used the reparations money she received from the government to build schools for girls and continues to support women through her Mukhtar Mai Women’s Organization. Mai’s story resonates beyond borders in its implicit belief that even in the darkest times, one person, one voice, through a single act of courage, can change the lives of thousands.

Writer Susan Yankowitz has told Mai’s story for over a decade – as a monologue, then part of a play called Seven and now in the opera Thumbprint.
… Continue reading

Posted in About Our Shows, Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why I Give: Brian Wong

Brian Wong

Brian Wong

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.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Why I Give: Brian Wong

From Bollywood to Baroque – Kamala Sankaram’s composing finds inspiration in the world.

Kamala Sankaram

Kamala Sankaram

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.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera, Opera About Town | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on From Bollywood to Baroque – Kamala Sankaram’s composing finds inspiration in the world.

Melody Moore’s Tosca Has Evolved from Demure to Empowered

Melody Moore; Photo: Chip Gillespie

Melody Moore; Photo: Chip Gillespie

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.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Melody Moore’s Tosca Has Evolved from Demure to Empowered

Patrick Blackwell Gears Up for the Flood

Patrick Blackwell (left) in rehearsal for Noah's Flood (2017); Photo: LA Opera

Patrick Blackwell (center) in rehearsal for Noah’s Flood (2017); Photo: LA Opera

Patrick Blackwell has always wanted to sing. His mother was an avid opera-goer and Blackwell grew up in the shadow of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. His passion for singing led him to Duke Ellington School of the Arts and later Julliard. As a professional singer, he’s traveled the world performing and in recent years has made a home for himself at LA Opera.

On May 6, Patrick Blackwell stars as Noah in Benjamin Britten’s Noah’s Flood. As part of our Cathedral Project and presented at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Noah’s Flood brings together opera professionals with members of the Los Angeles community for an opera experience unlike any other. This is Blackwell’s first time performing an opera at the Cathedral and it’s an experience the bass-baritone is looking forward to.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Patrick Blackwell Gears Up for the Flood

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.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Ambrogio Maestri slays on stage and off

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?

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Why I Give: Ruby Hanan

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.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on How Kate Lindsey Found Her Passion for Singing

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.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Giving for the Future: Tarasenka Pankiv Fund

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.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Comments Off on Sunday Night at the Domingo Awards

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.

… Continue reading

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Get To Know LA Opera Young Artist Brian Michael Moore

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

Posted in Faces of the Opera | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments