Opera About Town

James Conlon Joins Stephen Fry to Discuss Salome at American Cinematheque

Rita Hayworth Salome

Rita Hayworth as the title character in the classic 1953 film version of Salome

The story of Salome has inspired artists, filmmakers, and opera composers for centuries. Some adapted the original Biblical story – and scandalous Oscar Wilde play – while others have utilized elements from the tale of Salome to inform their own story. Nowhere does Salome’s story come to life more than in opera and on the silver screen.

To celebrate Salome in film and in opera, American Cinematheque and LA Opera have joined forces to present a special evening at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. First, there will be a screening of the famous 1953 film version of Salome starring Rita Hayworth. While the film takes liberties with the Biblical story, it is a perfect example of film epics in the “glory days of technicolor” and required viewing for both Salome and film enthusiasts. Following the screening, Maestro James Conlon (who conducts Salome at LA Opera starting on February 18) and actor Stephen Fry (who portrayed Oscar Wilde in the 1997 biopic) will discuss the importance of Salome in film and opera. All attendees will automatically be entered to win a pair of tickets to LA Opera’s production of Salome.

Before attending the evening at the Aero, get in the mood. We’ve pulled together a few films to watch and music from the opera.

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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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10-Year-Olds Perform Opera and Learn About History Along the Way

Elementary In-School Opera

Elementary In-School Opera

Rehearsals are in full swing for LA Opera’s Elementary In-School Opera program. This annual five-week residency brings LA Opera teaching artists and staff into 15 elementary schools across the county to rehearse, stage, and perform an opera. While teaching artists are cast as principal roles, the students are cast in ensemble and smaller roles, often getting their first taste of opera and learn about California history along the way.

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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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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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Cast to Class Inspires Teens to Dream Big

Tenor Joshua Guerrero speaks to high school students about his role in Macbeth (2016)

Tenor Joshua Guerrero speaks to high school students about his role in Macbeth (2016)

Currently in its second year, LA Opera’s Cast to Class program brings opera singers into schools and students to the opera house. Opera singers travel to schools around Los Angeles County speaking to students about their craft, and then those same students attend a mainstage performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and see the singer in action. The goal of the program—as with all of our education and community initiatives—is to break down the barriers between opera and the community.

However, in the past two years other, somewhat unexpected and beautiful results, has emerged.

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LA Opera’s ARIA Club Gets An Upgrade

ARIA Trendy Pic

LA Opera’s ARIA program has been a great place for the city’s young professionals to connect with the arts, network, and make friends with fellow arts enthusiasts. This season, we are taking ARIA to the next level; the program is being redefined to elevate its placement as a young professionals program for opera lovers between the ages of 21 and 40, and is switching to a club membership-based model.

This new and improved ARIA offers members even more exciting perks and entrée into Downtown LA’s hottest new establishments. Here’s the low down. With an ARIA Club membership, you get access to intermission receptions on ARIA nights, entry to exclusive after-parties, free admission to two auxiliary ARIA events, happy hour networking events, and special discounts to additional LA Opera productions.

The best part? ARIA members get all the above party and networking benefits for only $99 with the purchase of an ARIA Package. Those who purchase a Full Season Subscription (Series C) will receive all of your ARIA benefits and more, and LA Opera will waive the $99 club membership fee.

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What’s Next for LA Opera and Beth Morrison Projects

A scene from "The Source" at the 2014 BAM Next Wave Festival; Photo: James Daniel / Noah Stern Weber

A scene from The Source at the 2014 BAM Next Wave Festival; Photo: James Daniel / Noah Stern Weber

On the heels of another successful collaboration with anatomy theater, LA Opera and Beth Morrison Projects are hard at work on two operas, ripped straight from the headlines, making their west coast premieres next season. They are Ted Hearne’s The Source and Kamala Sankaram’s Thumbprint.

In October, LA Opera presents The Source, which follows the story of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, a U.S. Army soldier who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. It explores the many identities of the army private – adrift adolescent, emboldened whistleblower, and traitor to her country – amidst the media hysteria following the leak.

Hearne’s and director Daniel Fish’s work is a contemporary masterpiece, showcasing what opera in the digital age can truly be.

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Mary Johnston: Why I Became an LA Opera Community Educator

Mary Johnston volunteering with LA Opera

Mary Johnston volunteering with LA Opera

Close your eyes and imagine the most spectacular fireworks display you’ve ever seen. It’s probably filled with starbursts and various different colors that light up the sky, and brings back fond memories and leaves you in awe.

How you feel about that amazing fireworks display you’re picturing right now is how I have always felt about opera.

I have attended opera for more than 40 years in some of the greatest cities for the art form in the country, including New York and Los Angeles. Before becoming a Community Educator, I went to hear the singer’s beautiful voices and did not worry so much about the background on the opera or the composers. I sat and enjoyed the experience.

This all changed when I learned that as the member of the Opera League of Los Angeles, I could be trained by LA Opera’s Education and Community Engagement department to be a Community Educator. It sounded like a great way to give back to the community, while also having fun, and teaching people about opera. So, I decided to join the program.

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Spreading a Love of the Arts Through Reading Aloud

LA Opera's Production and Human Resources Coordinator Nadine Bedrossian reads to a class of third graders.

LA Opera’s Production and Human Resources Coordinator Nadine Bedrossian reads to a class of third graders.

Everyone loves a good story. That’s true whether you’re an adult reading the latest world news online or a child listening to a picture book being read. The latter is the core of the newest educational initiative in LA Opera’s already robust roster of inspiring programs.

Since January, LA Opera staff members and artists have read to kids in various grade levels at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. A rewarding experience, Read Aloud offers staff members the opportunity to give back to the Los Angeles community – a core tenant of the company’s mission. It also provides children the opportunity to ask staff members about opera and the arts.

“I think that kids are just innately curious. They want to know how things work. They are with you all the way when you read to them, and so anxious to be part of this exchange,” says Gerrie Maloof, Senior Director, Labor Relations and Human Resources, of her experience. Production and Human Resources Administrator Nadine Bedrossian adds: “I think the most surprising thing when I went was that kids started cheering when I said that I’m from LA Opera. I asked, ‘Does it make me cool that I work at LA Opera?’ and the kids yelled, ‘Yeah!’ It’s so cute how excited they were about LA Opera specifically.”

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Sing Along with Great Opera Choruses

Great Opera Choruses (2014); Photo: Jennifer Babcock

Grant Gershon conducting the audience at Great Opera Choruses (2014); Photo: Jennifer Babcock

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sing Carmen? LA Opera is presenting a free concert called Great Opera Concerts on April 10, where you can do just that.

Presented at the Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge, the concert (which will feature the acclaimed LA Opera Chorus) will begin with Resident Conductor Grant Gershon rehearsing the audience for their sing-along debuts.  Music will be provided in the program to the three sing-along sections: “Habanera” and the “Toreador Song” from Georges Bizet’s Carmen, and the “Anvil Chorus” from Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore.

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Get To Know The Zarzuela Project

Andrea Sohn and her three children Nicolas (14), Julien (10) and Shela (8) dressed up for Zarzuela

Andrea Sohn and her three children Nicolas (14), Julien (10) and Shela (8) dressed up for Zarzuela

In partnership with The Mariachi Conservatory, LA Opera invites people from around LA County (with a concentrated focus on East LA) to explore opera. The Zarzuela Project is a key component of this. Led by a team of LA Opera teaching artists, including Melodee Fernandez, Abdiel Gonzalez and Vivian Liu, The Zarzuela Project accepts all ages and weekly rehearsals are held at Salesian High School in East LA. Fernandez’s students rehearse various Zarzuelas and perform them at partner venues around the community. It is a project that is very dear to LA Opera General Director Plácido Domingo, whose parents were both Zarzuela singers.

One of the members of The Zarzuela Project is Andrea Sohn.

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Music to Remember

Two LA Opera artists—soprano Karen Hogle-Brown and tenor Ashley Faatoalia—perform at USC’s Keck Medical Center.

Two LA Opera artists—soprano Karen Hogle-Brown and tenor Ashley Faatoalia—perform at
USC’s Keck Medical Center.

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

– Hans Christian Andersen

Music is a universal language that feeds the soul.

People connect with music on another level that involves the brain in ways that neuroscientists are still exploring (learn more here). While the science behind music and memory is nascent (research is primarily observational at this point), there is reason to believe that music can stir memories in people with dementia. For the past two years, LA Opera, the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern California have partnered to bring music – and perhaps memories – to patients living with memory loss, Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia in a program called “Music to Remember.” During the performances, LA Opera teaching artists sing holiday carols to residents (and workers) in long-term care and assisted living facilities throughout Los Angeles, suffering from ­dementia. Postdoctoral fellows and graduate students from the ZNI who work on the neurobiology of aging and memory accompany the group of teaching artists and observe the effects their singing has on patients.

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Night on Broadway: LA Opera Style

Night on Broadway 2015; Photo: Hunter Kerhart

Night on Broadway 2015; Photo: Hunter Kerhart

How much do you love Downtown LA? Well, this Saturday is your chance to experience DTLA in all its cultural glory. Don’t miss “Night On Broadway,” an evening of food, entertainment, arts and culture celebrating the 8th anniversary of Councilmember José Huizar’s “Bringing Back Broadway” initiative. This wildly popular event is free for people of all ages looking to experience the Historic Theater District in a unique and personal way, while discovering the best of what today and tomorrow’s Broadway has to offer.

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Abigail Fischer Explores the Mind of Isabelle Eberhardt

Abigail Fischer as Isabelle Eberhardt in Song from the Uproar (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Abigail Fischer as Isabelle Eberhardt in Song from the Uproar (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

“An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.”

– Maria Callas

Opera is a place where all other art forms – art, film, even dance – meet to create a spectacular production. This is a convergence that’s very familiar to mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer, who plays Isabelle Eberhardt in Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar. Fischer utilizes various artistic talents in the multimedia opera now showing at REDCAT. It is her haunting singing, however, that mesmerizes throughout the 75-minute opera.

“Singing is a very intimate art form. It’s very connected to the deepest parts of you. You really have to know yourself,” says Fischer. The intimacy of singing – and truly all performance – is heightened in Song from the Uproar, because of its abstractness. Fischer plays Isabelle Eberhardt solely, but there is also a “Chorus of Isabelles” that alternatively showcases Eberhardt’s emotions. There’s a strong synergy between the chorus members and Fischer to the point where they repeat each other’s dance moves and lyrics. Together, they illustrate the evolving psyche of a complicated woman, her many lives, and her many deaths.

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CONTEST: SPOT THE WHALE ABOUT TOWN? SOCIAL A SELFIE, WIN BIG

whale-tail-sticker_v2In honor of our upcoming production, Moby-Dick, we’re launching our Whale About Town Contest. We’ve placed stickers (pictured above) in a few of Los Angeles’ trendiest places (locations listed below). If you spot the whale sticker, take selfie and get social with it. If you include #WhaleAboutTown in your post, you could win a whale of a prize:

Moby-Dick Experience Package

Two Tickets for Moby-Dick’s Opening Night on October 31

Two Intermission Champagne Vouchers

and

Entry into Downtown LA’s Hottest Halloween Party

The Black & White Ball

   Hosted by The Black Tux at The Theatre at Ace Hotel

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Missy’s Song from the Uproar

Abigail Fischer as Isabelle Eberhardt in Song from the Uproar (2015); Photo Credit: James Matthew Daniel

Abigail Fischer as Isabelle Eberhardt in Song from the Uproar (2015); Photo Credit: James Matthew Daniel

“A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and unchartered places.” – Isabelle Eberhardt

In May 1897, an adventurous Swiss woman named Isabelle Eberhardt relocated to North Africa. There she went down a path of self-discovery very atypical for a woman of her time. Eberhardt lived her life to the fullest. She reveled in her time alone experiencing the desert just as much as she adored discussing Islam with members of the Sufi order she joined called Qadiriyaa.

Missy Mazzoli (right) with Director Gia Forakis (center) and singer Abigail Fischer (left)

Missy Mazzoli (right) with Director Gia Forakis (center) and singer Abigail Fischer (left)

Eberhardt also romanced and eventually married an Algerian soldier with whom she had a sometimes tender, sometimes tumultuous relationship. Tragically, her extraordinary life ended at the age of 27 when a flash flood roared through the Algerian province of Aïn Séfra. Yet, elements of Isabelle’s life have been immortalized in the words of her journals, which were published posthumously.

Eleven years ago, composer Missy Mazzoli picked up a copy of Isabelle’s journals in a Boston bookstore and read the following passage:

“On days when I have no money, I am a vagabond on the road, enjoying the reflections of gold and scarlet sunset on the white dunes. The grave alone can rob me of such wealth, not man. If I am allowed the time it takes to write the odd fragment of a description, it may even survive the minds of some.”

Eberhardt’s words stopped Mazzoli in her tracks and “haunted her for years.” This Thursday, Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar has its west coast premiere, brought to Los Angeles through a partnership between LA Opera and producer Beth Morrison Projects.

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Opera at the Beach: Bringing Music to the Masses

Santa Monica Pier is one of Los Angeles’ largest tourist attractions. Groups of people flock west to experience the beach, ride the ferris wheel, and pose in front of the sign signaling the end of Route 66. This past Saturday, tourists and Angelenos alike came to Santa Monica for one reason: opera.

LA Opera at the Pier Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew ImagingLA Opera hosted its second annual, live HD simulcast called Opera at the Beach on Saturday. This year, an estimated 4,000 people were treated to performances of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. People arrived early to claim their spot in front of the large screen, participate in opera trivia, and listen to music from LA Opera’s upcoming season, including Beth Morrison Projects’ Song from the Uproar and Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. Guests who purchased tickets to the Wine Terrace, sponsored by Los Angeles magazine enjoyed tasting various wines and meeting the wineries responsible for creating some of the best drinks southern California has to offer.

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LA Opera and Beth Morrison Bring New York’s Indie Opera Scene West

Anatomy Theater (2016)

Anatomy Theater (2016)

In the aftermath of a war that ravaged America, a family clings to their existence; teenaged Lisa holds onto the hope of a better world as her family spirals into the depths of starvation and despair. When a stranger – a man who acts like and thinks of himself as a dog – arrives on her doorstep, they are forced to confront what it means to be human and what they will do to survive.

The above summary may sound like the logline of a post-apocalyptic thriller, but it is not a film.

It’s a multi-media opera.

Yes, opera.

LA Opera presented Dog Days in June at REDCAT as part of the Off Grand initiative, which brings thrilling contemporary chamber opera to LAO audiences. It was the west coast premiere of the opera, developed and produced by Beth Morrison Projects in New York. Inventive, thrillingly evocative of the human condition, and visceral, Dog Days has garnered a great deal of interest in the burgeoning indie opera scene.

Now, LA Opera and Beth Morrison have joined forces again to present two of Beth Morrison Projects’ (BMP) operas this season at REDCAT: Song from the Uproar and Anatomy Theater. Combining live musical performance and original film, Song from the Uproar (October 8-11), tells the incredible story of Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904), a young woman who left her life in Switzerland behind for an unfettered existence in the North African desert. Anatomy Theater follows the astonishing progression of an English murderess: from confession to execution and, ultimately, public dissection before a paying audience of fascinated onlookers. Through the miracle of opera, she sings through it all.

Abigal Fischer as Isabelle Eberhardt in Song from the Uproar (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Abigal Fischer as Isabelle Eberhardt in Song from the Uproar (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

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ARIA: The Trendiest Ticket In Town

ARIA Kickoff GuestsLast night, we kicked off this year’s ARIA season. Guests wined, dined, and took a break from the heat poolside underneath lit up palm trees at Mr. C Hotel in Beverly Hills. Everyone looked dashing, chatting about the upcoming season and looking forward to the many operatic adventures to come.

Haven’t heard of ARIA? It’s LA Opera’s gem of a club for young professionals, ages 21-35. During an ARIA Night at the Opera, members see a show at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and then head to an exclusive after-party with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to cap off a great evening in style. Often times, members get to meet the artists they’ve just watched on stage as they make their way to the post-opera festivities.

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