Tag Archives: LA Opera Chorus
During a dinner break between rehearsals of L.A. Opera’s Romeo and Juliet in 2005—in a rehearsal room at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion because the cast was in wigs and makeup and not allowed to venture outside—star soprano Anna Netrebko asked Opera Chorus tenor George Sterne to join her. “When she invited me to sit next to her, that thrilled me,” Sterne says with a grin. “I think she’d kind of gotten to like me, from talking to me.”
LA Opera chorister Omar Crook has appreciated opera since he was a child, spending summers roaming the creaky corridors of his grandparents’ house.
“My grandfather had a really nice tape player. One day, I came across the iconic Decca recording of Luciano Pavarotti singing Canio in Pagliacci,” says Crook. “I had just finished playing Billy Idol’s ‘Eyes Without a Face,’ and I was jazzed up. Then, I played all of Pagliacci and the music grabbed me just as much.”
Crook did not immediately pursue opera. In fact, he spent several years narrowing down the careers he wanted, taking a variety of classes from literature to marine biology. He ultimately decided on writing and was accepted into UCLA’s creative writing program. To transfer to UCLA from Santa Monica college, he needed to fulfill one more requirement. That’s how Crook found himself in a beginning voice class.
Charles Lane has worked with LA Opera since the beginning. He first appeared in the opening night production of Verdi’s Otello in 1986 and can currently be seen in La Bohème. In 30 years, Lane has performed in 70 different operas and 100 total productions. He is only one of 14 current members of the LA Opera Chorus (and 3 retired members), who can say this. We sat down with Lane to chat about his decades-long singing career and his time at LA Opera.
What led you to work for LA Opera?
I moved to Los Angeles from New York around the time that LA Opera was founded. I got into the Master Chorale and at the time they provided the chorus for LA Opera. So, I got to be in that first production of Otello alongside Plácido Domingo.
Why do you think you’ve stayed for so long?
The experience itself. It takes so much to produce an opera and it’s such an honor to be a part of that whole machine. Then, being able to stand on stage next to the greatest singers in the world and working with the most influential directors in the world, even Hollywood directors like Bruce Beresford. It’s extraordinary.
What has been your most rewarding experience?
There are so many! Singing in all the productions starring Plácido Domingo. Being on stage with him is very rewarding. He has such an incredible presence and energy.
What is one production that really struck you?
Lohengrin. We were supposed to open in September 2001, but when 9/11 happened, the opening was postponed. When we finally did open, it was so moving, because everyone came out on stage, and sang the National Anthem. I will always remember that production, because of the time that it happened. I loved that show.
Every season, LA Opera presents multiple mainstage operas. The operas vary season to season, as does the cast. One thing that remains constant is the chorus. Under Resident Conductor Grant Gershon’s direction, the LA Opera Chorus has evolved into one of the nation’s most renowned choirs.
Gershon – a California native – started working as a pianist at LA Opera in its third season (1988). He remained with the company for six seasons, before moving to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He returned to work with LA Opera in 2007, making his company debut conducting multiple performances of Verdi’s La Traviata in 2009. Additionally, he has worked with the LA Opera Chorus ever since.
When asked what makes the LA Opera chorus unique, Gershon says, “I think that the talent pool in Los Angeles for singers is extraordinary and there’s a long-standing tradition of great solo singing and great ensemble singing in the city. From the beginning, LA Opera has always been able to draw on a really deep pool of talent and on singers who are very well trained and very enthusiastic about singing as an ensemble.” Some choristers have been with the company for over 100 productions; others are just starting their careers as vocalists.
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.