Tag Archives: #LAO30Images

#LAO30Images: Film Meets Opera

Woody Allen directing the 2008 cast of <em>Gianni Schicchi</em>

Woody Allen directing the 2008 cast of Gianni Schicchi

Like the Force, our opera and film connection is strong. In celebration of tonight’s 88th Academy Awards, we are dedicating our #LAO30Images to showcasing the amazing productions that tie opera and film together. This includes everything from filmmakers, who have directed operas here, to our recent silent film inspired production of The Magic Flute. Los Angeles is a cinematic city and LA Opera – being LA’s resident opera company – has always tapped into the special relationship between the two great art forms: film and opera. Below are a few of our film/opera collaborative productions.

Woody Allen and William Friedkin Take On Il Trittico (2008)

The 2008 season opened with Puccini’s Il Trittico, composed of three operas, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica, and Il Tabarro. 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.

Herbert Ross Stages La Boheme (1993)

“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

Herbert Ross (Footloose, Steel Magnolias) directed a production of La Boheme in 1993 that significantly explores the deeper motivations behind Mimi, Musetta and Rodolfo’s actions. The story follows a series of bohemians in Paris (Ross updates the era to 1890s Paris) and centers on the love between Rodolfo and the dying Mimi. In Ross’ vision, Mimi and Musetta have more dimensions than are usually allowed – Musetta is characterized as a woman who demands independence, rather than a shrew, while Mimi is given greater agency and played as if she is not “innocent of experience.” 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 (who recently worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and conducted a Super Bowl 50 Half-Time performance).

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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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2013/14 – An Iconic Season of Productions

Einstein on the Beach (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Einstein on the Beach (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

LA Opera’s 2013/14 season was one of the company’s most memorable in recent years. While there were many stellar productions, three stand out as iconic: Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Jules Massenet’s Thaїs. The first two are examples of the progressive programming that LA Opera is known for, while the latter is exemplary of how well the company produces traditional operatic repertory.

Einstein on the Beach radically redefines what audiences might expect from opera, theater, or performance art. Director Robert Wilson reflected on his experiences of Glass’s radical work:

“Here, it’s a work where you go and you can get lost. That’s the idea. It’s like a good novel. You don’t have to understand anything. I went to the revival at BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music] some years ago, and I was there for the opening, and then I went back a week later, and walked down the aisle. There was an empty seat, and I sat down, in the empty seat on the aisle, and Arthur Miller was sitting next to me. And after about 20 minutes he turned to me, and he didn’t know who I was, and he said, “What do you think about this?” I said, “I don’t know, what do you think?” And he said, “You know, I don’t get it.” I said, “You know, I don’t get it either.”

Following the progressive staging of Einstein on the Beach, LA Opera presented a truly inspiring production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (which returns this month). Staged entirely with projections inspired by the roaring twenties, this Magic Flute reimagined Mozart’s opera, giving it a wildly successful cinematic twist. Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt (co-founders of the London theater company, 1927) envisioned an inspiring production in collaboration with Barrie Kosky of Komische Oper Berlin. (Read more about their Magic Flute here.)

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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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#LAO30Images: Domingo at LA Opera

Celebrating Plácido Domingo’s 40th Anniversary (2008)

Celebrating Plácido Domingo’s 40th Anniversary (2008)

Today, Plácido Domingo turns 75. The legendary singer has wowed audiences onstage for more than fifty years, with his emotionally connected acting talent and the remarkable timbre of his voice. He’s been described as “the King of Opera,” “a true renaissance man in music” and “the greatest operatic artist of modern times.” Domingo has also dedicated his life to sharing his passion for opera with the world. He does so greatly through his work as LA Opera’s Eli and Edythe Broad General Director. His love of the art form shows every time he’s in town and walks around the offices, greeting employees, before singing in and/or conducting an opera here. Domingo was also instrumental to the founding of LA Opera in 1986. (Check out my first installment of The Staging of an Opera Company to learn more.)

In September of last year, I was busy writing an article about opera in film, when I heard the news that Plácido Domingo had arrived on-site. I had yet to meet the famous opera legend, who was about to grace the stage in Gianni Schicchi and conduct Pagliacci, opening our current season. Wondering when I would get to speak to the General Director (who has helmed the company since 2001), I began to listen to my favorite Domingo tunes, including his spectacular Turiddu in Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. In a moment that can only be described as operatic, Maestro Domingo walked into our office right as his voice sounded through my headphones in a duet from Act I, “Turiddu, ascolta!” That’s when I met Plácido Domingo.

A lot of people at LA Opera – and I’m sure around the world – have similarly wonderful Plácido Domingo stories. He’s just that awesome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADEZBd8YhMk

To celebrate Maestro Domingo’s birthday, we have dedicated this edition of our #LAO30Images series to him. Check out our #LAO30Images: Domingo at LA Opera Pinterest Board to see all 30 images of Domingo on the LA Opera stage.

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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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#LAO30Images Roundup

We are in the midst of our 30th Anniversary Season. This is a milestone year for a company that has grown to become the fourth largest opera company in the nation, lauded for both its unique artistic vision and innovation. Earlier this year, we introduced our #LAO30Images series. This year-long photo series, showcases photos from our most engaging productions that portray our extensive visual history. Throughout the season, we’ve been sharing images in batches of 30, based on larger themes.

In case you’ve missed the #LAO30Images fun, check out our year-end roundup.

ICONIC PRODUCTIONS

OTELLO (1986)

Plácido Domingo in Otello (1986); Photo: Frederic Ohringer

Plácido Domingo in Otello (1986); Photo: Frederic Ohringer

“The theme [of Otello] is eternal and current: The Soldier, shoved into peacetime, proves to be defenseless and helpless in the face of the attacks of everyday life, the persecutions of injured vanity. In ancient tragedy, the heroes fell because of the gods. With Shakespeare and Verdi, it is the envy of men which destroys the outsider.” – Götz Friedrich, director of inaugural season opener, Otello.

SALOME (1986)

Maria Ewing and Michael Devlin in Salome (1986); Photo: Frederic Ohringer

Maria Ewing and Michael Devlin in Salome (1986); Photo: Frederic Ohringer

“All the characters in the opera are obsessed, often to the brink of madness. Obsessions make men blind, unable to understand other points of view or to admit the balancing power of reason. And such obsessions finally lead to violence [in Salome]. Salome’s passions lead directly to her death. She is crushed like an infectious insect. We can only approve of her end, while perhaps reflecting that all of us have the possibility of aberrant sexual behavior inside us. It is the obverse of true passion.” – Sir Peter Hall, director of 1986’s Salome

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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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