Tag Archives: Iconic Productions

5 Things You May Not Know About LA Opera’s La Boheme

Since film director Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias, The Turning Point) first envisioned LA Opera’s production of Puccini’s La Boheme in 1993, it’s been staged frequently, wowing Los Angeles audiences time and time again. Before the return of La Boheme in May, here are five things you may not know about LA Opera’s iconic production.

Herbert Ross added a subtle cinematic take to La Boheme.

Ross looked at the opera through the lens of an experienced filmmaker. For example, Acts I and IV take place in a garret, the loft space inhabited by the four bohemian men. Most productions only show the interior of the garret. Ross recognized that it would be much more dynamic to have the garret be but one piece of an entire rooftop setting. In our production, audience members not only focus on the singers, but also what’s going behind them, around them, within the environment of the set. This cinematic staging brought the beauty of Paris to life.

La Boheme (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

La Boheme (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

 The Bohemians’ garret is inspired by an actual building in Paris.

The Bohemian’s garret is inspired by the Bateau-Lavoir, a run-down building in Paris where Picasso (and other painters in the period) lived and worked during the early years of their careers.

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Iconic Productions: The Ghosts of Versailles

The Ghosts of Versailles exemplifies LA Opera’s ongoing commitment to the most important operas of our time.”

Plácido Domingo

The west coast premiere of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles in February 2015 was one of the most exciting – and iconic – productions to grace the LA Opera stage in recent seasons. Originally staged by the Metropolitan Opera in 1991, The Ghosts of Versailles is an opera-within-an-opera that counterpoises the fiction of Mozart and Beaumarchais (author of The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro) with the Reign of Terror to create a richly multilayered meditation on the need for, and costs of personal and social change.

Trapped in the spirit world, the ghost of Marie Antoinette bitterly reflects on her final suffering. Her favorite playwright tries to entertain the melancholy queen with the continuing adventures of his beloved characters from The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro. But sneaky Figaro refuses to play by the script, breaking free from the opera-within-the-opera in a surprise bid for a better life. The opera turns history on its head as love attempts to alter the course of destiny.

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Iconic Productions: A Double Bill To Remember

Dido and Aeneas (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

“Two operas about arrival and departure. Two operas about a woman and a man. Two operas about lost Eden. Two operas about forgotten Eden. Two operas about remembered Eden.”

– Director Barrie Kosky on his pairing of Dido and Aeneas and Bluebeard’s Castle

Following his triumphant Magic Flute the previous season, Barrie Kosky returned to LA Opera to direct an iconic double bill of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. On the outside, these operas are very different. Dido and Aeneas is a 17th-century wonder – the first great opera written in English – about a queen, who falls prey to the machinations of a formidable enemy, losing her heart to a man who abruptly abandons her.

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Iconic Productions: The Two Foscari

The Two Foscari (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

The Two Foscari (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

Anticipating the 2013 celebrations surrounding the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth, LA Opera opened its 2012/13 season with a new production of The Two Foscari starring Plácido Domingo. Rarely staged, Verdi’s opera explores themes of political power and family relationships, similar to his later work, Simon Boccanegra (which the company also staged that same season). Set in the languid canals and boisterous festivals of 15th-century Venice, the plot revolves around a father and son struggling to reclaim honor in a city that knows no mercy.

Can’t get enough Verdi? Check out the articles we’ve collected below and make sure you get your tickets to Verdi’s Macbeth, premiering this September.

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Iconic Productions: Los Angeles Does Wagner’s Ring Cycle

“Producing a new Ring is the ultimate accomplishment for an opera company and it brings to the city a great sense of civic pride.” Plácido Domingo on staging Los Angeles’ first-ever Ring Cycle

Sieglinde (Anja Kempe) and Siegmund (Placido Domingo) in <em>Die Walkure</em> (2008); <span id="lbCaption">Monika Rittershaus</span>

Sieglinde (Anja Kempe) and Siegmund (Placido Domingo) in Die Walkure (2008); Monika Rittershaus

Staging Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is the mark of any great opera house. Since becoming Artistic Director in 2001 (and since then General Director), Plácido Domingo sought to produce a Ring cycle. Led by a generous donation from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Domingo’s dream became a reality, when the company staged all four operas in the cycle (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung) over the course of two seasons – 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, with complete cycles presented in the summer of 2010.

Wagner’s Ring cycle follows a cast of gods and humans in their ultimate quest for power and search for love over the course of four operas. Music Director James Conlon puts it well:

“Wagner, among so many other things, sought to create works that would unite the accomplishments of Shakespeare and Beethoven. The Ring can be viewed as a four-part symphony, with each movement culminating in the expression of a different aspect of love. Das Rheingold is the expository movement. Die Walküre is the slower, expressive lyric movement. Siegfried is the scherzo: the first act witty, sharply bristling with demonic and Beethoven energy. Götterdämmerung is the apocalyptic finale.”

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Iconic Productions: Simon Boccanegra

Simon Boccanegra (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

Simon Boccanegra (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

“My first performances as Simon, in Berlin in 2009, were among the most gratifying nights of my career, and I have looked forward to each subsequent opportunity to revisit this fascinating character.

– Plácido Domingo on singing the title role in Simon Boccanegra

LA Opera presented Giuseppe Verdi’s politically charged operatic masterpiece, Simon Boccanegra, in 2012. It starred Plácido Domingo as Simon and was masterfully conducted by James Conlon (who cites Simon Boccanegra as one of the first Verdi operas he knew from beginning to end). The story follows Simon Boccanegra, the Doge (or ruler) of Genoa, in his efforts to crush a mounting uprising, and find his long-lost daughter, Amelia.

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Iconic Productions: Il Postino

Plácido Domingo as Pablo Neruda and Charles Castronovo as Mario Ruoppolo in Il Postino (2010); Photo: Robert Millard

Plácido Domingo as Pablo Neruda and Charles Castronovo as Mario Ruoppolo in Il Postino (2010); Photo: Robert Millard

“I realized from the very first time I saw the film, that it was a suitable theme for an opera. It deals with Art and Love: the foundations upon which we build our lives.”

– Daniel Catán, Il Postino, composer and librettist

LA Opera opened its 25th Anniversary Season with the world premiere of Daniel Catán’s Il Postino, starring Plácido Domingo as the famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Based on the Academy Award-winning 1994 Italian film of the same name that became a surprise hit with audiences around the world and also on the 1985 novel Ardiente Paciencia by Antonio Skármeta, Il Postino tells the story of a shy young postman in a tiny Italian fishing village, who discovers the courage to pursue his dreams through his daily deliveries to his only customer, a famous poet. Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas was previously staged at LA Opera to much acclaim in 1997. Il Postino equally resonated with audiences, who were attracted the developing friendship between Neruda and the postman, Mario (Charles Castronovo) that forms the core of the story.

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Iconic Productions: Recovered Voices

“History is not only made by ‘its big names,’ its warrior kings, dictators and most famous artists, but by the collective action of all those artists who lived in a given era.” – James Conlon

<em>The Broken Jug</em> (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

The Broken Jug (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

In 2006, LA Opera inaugurated a series entitled “Recovered Voices,” dedicated to showcasing works by composers whose voices were silenced by the rise of the Nazi regime. Maestro James Conlon spearheaded the effort to stage these works (with generous support from philanthropist Marilyn Ziering, who serves as one of five vice-chairmen on the LA Opera board) including Viktor Ullmann’s The Broken Jug and Alexander Zemlinsky’s The Dwarf.

In Maestro Conlon’s words:

“The music of Alexander Zemlinsky and Viktor Ullmann remained buried for decades in the wake of the destruction caused by the totalitarian Nazi regime. Dozens of composers and thousands of compositions are still largely unknown to lovers of classical music and opera. One of the glories of western civilization, the German classical music tradition, experienced the most terrible upheaval in its history by the genocide of the Nazi regime. In an ironic paradox of history, by proclaiming themselves as a master race and attempting to impose this on the rest of the world, they marched to folly and dealt the most self-destructive blow possible to their own proud culture. In trying to ‘purify’ their society, they tore at its heart and soul. They murdered some of their greatest talent, forced others to flee, and scorched the earth of the precious milieu that had nurtured this great culture.

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Three Operas, Two Film Directors, One Iconic Opening Night

“As long as people feel emotion, fall in and out of love, experience joy and pain, this music will live on because no other composer combines truth and beauty or makes you laugh and cry, like Puccini.” – William Friedkin

Suor Angelica (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

Suor Angelica (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

From its inception, LA Opera has cultivated a strong bond with film. This is a partnership that continues to prove successful. Herbert Ross, Peter Sellars, Gary Marshall, Maximilian Schell, Franco Zeffirelli, and even Julie Taymor have produced productions for the company. (Ross’ iconic 1993 production of Puccini’s La Boheme has been a crowd favorite for over 20 years and returns this June with the final two performances conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.) Yet, the 2008 season opener, a presentation of Puccini’s three one-act Operas, Il Tritico was a truly cinematic experience. Oscar-winning film titan, Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Match Point, Annie Hall) made his opera directing debut with Gianni Schicchi (which recently returned to open our current season) and William Friedkin (The Exorcist) masterfully tackled Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica.

<em>Il Tabarro</em> (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

Il Tabarro (2008); Photo: Robert Millard

Il Tabarro follows the love triangle of Giorgetta, her much older husband, Michele, and her lover, Luigi, while Suor Angelia is the story of Sister Angelia, a nun, longing for word of her illegitimate son. Gianni Schicchi is the story of a family’s squabble over the inheritance of their dead patriarch.

Can’t get enough of Puccini or Gianni Schicchi? We’ve collected a few articles below for you to check out.

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Iconic Productions: Mahagonny

“Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes” – Bertolt Brecht

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

In 1927, two titans of German theater and opera (respectively), Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht started working on Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Their intriguing partnership (which would last through other famed works, such as The Threepenny Opera) resulted in a marriage of married epic theater and energetic music to satirically showcase the excesses of modern life and politics.

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Iconic Productions: Don Carlo

Don Carlo is one of the noblest and most beautiful operas of Giuseppe Verdi…an epic work which constantly shifts from full-scale grand opera scenes to astonishingly intimate moments.” – General Director Plácido Domingo on Don Carlo

Don Carlo (2005); Photo: Robert Millard

Don Carlo (2005); Photo: Robert Millard

LA Opera’s 2006/2007 was one for the record books with four company premieres, five new productions, and the arrival of Music Director James Conlon.

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Iconic Productions: Grendel

Share “Our monster is not an innocent of dumb brute. He is an artist and a thinker trapped in the body of beast.” – Director Julie Taymor on the character of Grendel LA Opera presented the world premiere of Grendel … Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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