LAO 30

Iconic Productions: Der Rosenkavalier

“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)

Der Rosenkavalier (2005); Photo: Robert Millard

Der Rosenkavalier (2005); Photo: Robert Millard

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).

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: Der Rosenkavalier

Iconic Productions: Roméo et Juliette

“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

<em>Roméo et Juliette</em> (2004); Photo: Ken Howard

Roméo et Juliette (2004); Photo: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: Roméo et Juliette

Iconic Productions: Ariadne auf Naxos

Share “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) … Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: Ariadne auf Naxos

Iconic Productions: The Damnation of Faust and Madame Butterfly

“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

A scene from <em>The Damnation of Faust</em> (2003); Photo: Robert Millard

A scene from The Damnation of Faust (2003); Photo: Robert Millard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: The Damnation of Faust and Madame Butterfly

Two Sensual Operas

“[Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk] was meant as a tribute to the Soviet state and its new ideology – Katerina’s [sexual] revolt was an instance of class struggle, an ideal central to the way the young USSR chose to define itself.” – Mitchell Morris, Professor, UCLA Department of Musicology

Larissa Shevchenko as Katerina and Vladimir Grishko as Sergei in <em>Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk</em> (2002); Photo: Ken Howard

Larissa Shevchenko as Katerina and Vladimir Grishko as Sergei in Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk (2002); Photo: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Two Sensual Operas

Iconic Productions: The Season of Lohengrin and Mass

“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

<em>Lohengrin</em> (2001); Photo: Ken Howard

Lohengrin (2001); Photo: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: The Season of Lohengrin and Mass

Iconic Productions: Fantastic Mr. Fox

“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)

Fantastic Mr. Fox (1998); Photo: Ken Howard

Fantastic Mr. Fox (1998); Photo: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Iconic Productions: Florencia en el Amazonas

“[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)

Sheri Greenawald as Florencia in Florencia en el Amazonas (1997); Photo: Ken Howard

Sheri Greenawald as Florencia in Florencia en el Amazonas (1997);
Photo: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: Florencia en el Amazonas

#LAO30Images: Halloween Edition

Albina Shagimuratova as the title character in Lucia di Lammermoor (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

“There on the fountain’s edge, the shadow appeared to me. I could see her lips moving as if speaking and with her lifeless hand she seemed to call me. For a moment she stood there motionless, then she vanished all at once, and the water, earlier so limpid, had grown red, as if with blood.” – Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor

With these words, Lucia shows the world her thin grip of reality, showcasing her slip into madness later on in Donizetti’s tragic Lucia di Lammermoor. Opera is filled with such haunting moments and characters, some that are so powerful, they are difficult to forget like the above Lucia scene, or others that are truly terrifying, such as the characters in Howard Shore’s The Fly (2008).

To celebrate Halloween during our 30th Anniversary Season, we have selected 30 haunting LA Opera images. Below are images from three productions that horror junkies should know about. Other images in this series have been uploaded to our #LAO30Images: Halloween Edition Pinterest Gallery.

The Fly

“The time had come for me to attach myself to a new form.” – Composer Howard Shore on his score for The Fly

LA Opera presented the U.S. premiere of The Fly in 2008. Based on David Cronenberg’s 1986 cult horror classic, The Fly follows the story of an eccentric scientist, who while working on a teleportation device, accidentally fuses his DNA with that of a fly’s. As a result, he slowly turns into a fly, terrifying those he loves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvJPZM2hvjY

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on #LAO30Images: Halloween Edition

The Staging of an Opera Company: The Hemmings Era Begins

When the LA Opera first presented Rigoletto in 1993, David Young was the second chair bass player in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the ensemble that played for most performances during the company’s early years. The opera features a prominent solo for the double bass—at the fateful moment when the troubled jester first encounters the assassin Sparafucile—which went to LACO’s longtime principal bassist, Susan Ranney. But by 2000, when the company next offered Rigoletto, Young had become the principal bassist for the LA Opera Orchestra, and it was finally his moment to shine after years of waiting for that rare opportunity. He asked Peter Hemmings, who would soon retire as LA Opera’s general director, if a promotional poster had been made for the production, explaining how much it meant to him. “Of course,” replied Hemmings. “I’ll get you one.”

Peter Hemmings; Photo: Ken Howard

Peter Hemmings; Photo: Ken Howard

Hemmings delivered the poster a few days later. Not only was it signed “Best wishes, Peter Hemmings,” it also boasted the signatures of the major stars in the cast. That framed treasure hangs on the wall of Young’s studio today. Hemmings passed away two years later, making his thoughtfulness especially poignant to Young. “Peter Hemmings really cared about everybody,” he says. “He loved this company and he gave his all to our founding years.”

Young’s story is indicative of the atmosphere that Hemmings fostered, with artists, administrators, staff and volunteers all working in close collaboration toward a common goal. Fondly remembered for his warmth, British wit and jovial nature, Hemmings was also greatly respected for his high expectations, imagination and loyalty. With a background that included bringing the Scottish Opera to prominence, he was more than up to the challenge of building a massive opera company—virtually overnight.

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Staging of an Opera Company: The Hemmings Era Begins

The Return of Ulysses: Iconic Productions Day 10

The Return of Ulysses, 1996-1997

Frederica von Stade as Penelope in The Return of Ulysses (1997); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

“[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)

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Return of Ulysses: Iconic Productions Day 10

Pagliacci: Iconic Productions Day 10

“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)

Pagliacci, 1996-1997

Plácido Domingo as Canio in Pagliacci (1996); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pagliacci: Iconic Productions Day 10

The Flying Dutchman: Iconic Productions Day 9

“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)

The cast of The Flying Dutchman (1995); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

The cast of The Flying Dutchman (1995); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Flying Dutchman: Iconic Productions Day 9

Pelleas et Melisande: Iconic Productions Day 8

“I have gone out of my way to demonstrate that Debussy was writing very specific music for very specific situations. When you actually put it all out there, when you take the trouble to make a believable existence, note by note, bar by bar for these characters, you realize this opera is so filled with life, and with detail, that it becomes anything but the boring opera of the season. On the contrary, it’s a sizzler.” – Peter Sellars, on his staging of Pelléas et Mélisande (1995)

The cast of Pelleas et Melisande (1995); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

The cast of Pelléas et Mélisande (1995); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pelleas et Melisande: Iconic Productions Day 8

Die Frau on Schatten: Iconic Productions Day 8

“[Designer] Hockney has turned the opera into a scenic wonderland of gleaming, fluidly changing, primary colors. Everything looks very pretty and very painterly, from the stylized panoramas of winding roads, lakes and ornamental trees in the upper realms to the dye-dripped platform that functions as Barak’s modest hovel.” – Martin Bernheimer, Los Angeles Times Music Critic (1993)

Franz Grundheber as Barak and Gwyneth Jones as his wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

Franz Grundheber as Barak and Gwyneth Jones as his wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Iconic Productions: La Bohème

“Having worked in many art forms, I find opera is the most challenging of all, because it is a fusion of all the arts.” – Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias, The Turning Point) on his first operatic directing experience staging La Bohème at LA Opera in 1992.

Kallen Esperian as Mimi in <em>La Boheme</em> (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

Kallen Esperian as Mimi in La Boheme (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: La Bohème

The Magic Flute – Mozart’s Fantasy Opera: Iconic Productions Day 6

The Magic Flute 1, 1992-1993

Dale Franzen as Papagena and Rodney Gilry as Papageno in The Magic Flute (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

For the 1992/1993 season, director Sir Peter Hall believed that The Magic Flute “should have the metabolism of a child.” He wanted it to capture the childhood essence he believed existed in the music’s “deliberate naiveté.”

Mozart’s The Magic Flute is set in Egypt in the fantasy lands of Sarastro and the Queen of the Night. The young Tamino is asked by the Queen of the Night to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from Sarastro, who has captured her. Tamino falls instantly in love with Pamina and vows to through every trial to be with her.

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Magic Flute – Mozart’s Fantasy Opera: Iconic Productions Day 6

The Season of Epics – The Trojans and Kullervo: Iconic Productions Day 5

What is our personal duty to the state? How can a sense of history move a nation forward?

The 1991-1992 season brought two epic productions to the LA Opera stage: – Hector Berlioz’s The Trojans and Aulis Sallinen’s Kullervo – that ask these questions about personal duty and nationhood.

The Trojan, 1991-1992

The Trojans (1992); Photo Credit: Robert Millard

The Trojans is based on Virgil’s The Aeneid, following the capture of Troy in by the Ancient Greeks as well as the Trojans’ time in Carthage before the forming of Rome. A vast undertaking, The Trojans is a four-hour masterpiece, rarely staged at the time LA Opera put on the production. Director Francesca Zambello discussed its relevance to modern audiences:

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Season of Epics – The Trojans and Kullervo: Iconic Productions Day 5

Iconic Productions: Nixon in China

Nixon in China imagines what history cannot tell us and what none of the participants in the trip was able to articulate. The opera is not about what I meant for Nixon to go to China, it is an opera about what it felt like to be Nixon in China. It is not an opera about what Nixon did for China, but what China did for Nixon.” – Mark Swed, classical music critic for the Los Angeles Times.

LA Opera presented John Adams’ acclaimed Nixon in China in 1990, a production directed by Peter Sellars.

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Iconic Productions: Nixon in China

#LAO30Images Iconic Productions Day 3: Orpheus in the Underworld

“[Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld] is a masterfully constructed spoof on the First Musician’s private life. But it does considerably more than substitute Orpheus’ famous rock-charming lute for a nymphette-seducing violin. It brings the Olympian deities down to earth with a sequence of hilarious bumps, including an examination of the sexual double standards of the gods, and a revolution on Mount Olympus on grounds of the catering standards.” – Snoo Wilson, English libretto translator, Orpheus in the Underworld

Orpheus in the Underworld, 1988-1989

The cast of Orpheus in the Underworld (1989); Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

… Continue reading

Posted in LAO 30 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on #LAO30Images Iconic Productions Day 3: Orpheus in the Underworld