Tag Archives: Macbeth

Celebrate 10 Years of Artistic Leadership

James Conlon; Photo: Chester Higgins

James Conlon; Photo: Chester Higgins

James Conlon’s remarkable work with the LA Opera Orchestra has elevated LA Opera’s artistry to a new level of excellence. He has also brought lost works to life through the Recovered Voices project and, working closely with Plácido Domingo, has contributed enormously to developing a love for opera in our city.

From convening, citywide festivals to packing the Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall during his pre-performance talks, Mr. Conlon has become one of the most visible advocates for classical music in Los Angeles.

This season, Maestro Conlon celebrates his tenth anniversary as LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director, and he recently extended his contract to the 2020/2021 season.

LA Opera invites you to celebrate Maestro Conlon’s achievements by supporting the James Conlon Tenth Anniversary Initiative, which will provide critical funds to support new programing and further enhance our acclaimed orchestra.

Additionally, we’ve curated some articles, videos, and a podcast below to help you get to know Maestro Conlon and illustrate why he has become a beloved figure in the cultural life of Los Angeles.

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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Macbeth

The witches surround Macbeth (Plácido Domingo) ; Photo: Karen Almond

The witches surround Macbeth (Plácido Domingo) ; Photo: Karen Almond

LA Opera’s gritty production of Macbeth, directed by Darko Tresjnak will be staged one more time – this afternoon. In case you’ve missed the Macbeth love these past few months, we’ve collected a bunch of articles and videos for you to check out.

Get to Know Macbeth

 Macbeth: A Personal Note

 In this guest post, Maestro James Conlon discusses why he loves Macbeth.

 James Conlon: Why Verdi’s Macbeth Is Important

 In this guest post, Maestro James Conlon discusses why Macbeth is important.

 The Macbeth Witches Are Not Your Ordinary Witches

 The dancing witches in Macbeth are not your pointy hat, black-wearing, broom-flying witches. As the agents that drive the story, they are onstage virtually the entire time, lurking during every sinister choice that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth make in the opera. They move props. They haunt all of the characters and bring them to the darkest moments of their lives. We spoke with the nine women who play the witches about how they bring their hellish characters to life.

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All the Things to See at LA Opera This Fall

Share Fall is in full swing in Los Angeles and so is LA Opera’s 16/17 season. WikiLeaks. Pharaohs. Vampires. There’s something for everyone to see. Here’s a breakdown of all LA Opera offerings over the next few months. The Source (October … Continue reading

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How Joshua and Gloria Guerrero Are Living the Opera Dream

Gloria and Joshua Guerrero

Gloria and Joshua Guerrero

Joshua and his sister, Gloria were not always opera fans. The closest to opera they came was watching Andrea Bocelli specials on PBS as kids. It was not until adulthood that they both fell in love with the art form and found a home at LA Opera – Joshua as an up and coming tenor and Gloria as a rising star in the costume shop.

“I got into opera later in life and Gloria was a huge part of it,” says Joshua, who led an eclectic pre-opera life that included studying theology and a stint as a gondolier on the Las Vegas strip and abroad in Macau.

Joshua was always a singer, and adds, “We’re close and she was really the only family member who saw the whole process of becoming a singer.”

As Gloria saw Joshua pursuing a career in opera, she decided to pursue her dream of studying fashion.

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5 Things To Know About LA Opera’s Live Broadcast Before You Go

A soundcheck for Opera in the Park Macbeth live broadcast

A soundcheck for Opera in the Park Macbeth live broadcast

Heading to one of LA Opera’s live broadcast on Thursday, 10/13? If you haven’t planned to – you should! Whether you’re going to Santa Monica Pier or to South Gate Park to experience the live broadcast of Macbeth starring Plácido Domingo there are a few things you should know about Opera at the Beach and Opera in the Park.

1. It’s FREE.

Yes, that’s right. Both live broadcasts are free, so come early to get the best seats. The event opens at 5:30 pm and the show starts at 7:30 pm.

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One Day. One Opera. Across the County.

Opera at the Beach (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Opera at the Beach (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Yes, it’s fall, but only in Los Angeles can you take advantage of the southern California weather, grab a blanket and a picnic and experience opera under the stars. This Thursday, you can do just that – experience the grandeur of LA Opera’s production of Macbeth as it is broadcast live to Santa Monica Pier and South Gate Park. That’s opera – live – for free – and surrounded by families and friends.

While the idea of showing opera in three locations might sound simple, it takes an enormous number of people to pull it all together and bring it to life.

Preparations for Opera at the Beach and Opera in the Park began nearly nine months ago when we secured the production team – Black & Tan – that will direct, live edit, and produce the broadcast.

Live Edit Image

In partnership with members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (who have generously supported these events for the last three years) we identified the venues. We would have had a riot had we moved from the Santa Monica Pier, so that location was set in stone, thanks to support from Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. But we all agreed, more communities should experience this production. So this year, with the support from Supervisor Hilda Solis, we’ve expanded the program and we will also be broadcasting to South Gate Park – the heart of the South Gate community.

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5 Macbeth Props That Will Keep You Up at Night

Witches. Cauldrons. Prophesies. Runes. Our production of Macbeth is the stuff nightmares are made of – in the very best and haunting way. When it comes to props, director Darko Tresjnak wanted objects capable of truly terrifying and also intriguing an audience.

Here’s our list of 5 Macbeth props that will keep you up at night.

Bloody Head in a Burlap Sack

Head of Caudor

The nightmare-inducing props start at the very beginning of Macbeth, when messengers from King Duncan present Macbeth and Banquo with the head of the executed Thane of Cawdor in a bloody burlap sack. (Macbeth gets the dead man’s title, following the prophecy of the witches.)

Duncan’s Body

Duncan's Body

(spoiler alert!), Macbeth and Lady Macbeth murder King Duncan in the first act so that Macbeth can seize the throne. During the second scene, Duncan’s body is brought out on a golden bier, very slowly, to emphasize the gore. While a white sheet is placed over the corpse, it is clear that Duncan’s throat has been slashed, and the Special FX blood ensures that his body appears freshly killed.

Skulls

Skulls

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth present these skulls to the audience at the end of the opera – creepily representing their doomed fate. Flashes of light illuminate these two props and they are the last thing seen as the curtain falls – a haunting image not easily forgotten.

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The Macbeth Witches Are Not Your Ordinary Witches

The witches; Photo: Karen Almond

The witches; Photo: Karen Almond

Macbeth is a comedy if you’re a witch and a tragedy if you’re anyone else.”

The dancing witches in Macbeth are not your pointy hat, black-wearing, broom-flying witches. As the agents that drive the story, they are onstage virtually the entire time, lurking during every sinister choice that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth make in the opera. They move props. They haunt all of the characters and bring them to the darkest moments of their lives. We spoke with the nine women who play the witches about how they bring their hellish characters to life.

It all started at the audition.

While most dance auditions involve an incredible amount of specific movement and counting, the auditions for Macbeth were all about becoming witches.

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Feed This Girl

Amelia Hemmings as a Scottish Refugee in Macbeth (2016); Photo: Karen Almond

Amelia Hemmings as a Scottish Refugee in Macbeth (2016); Photo: Karen Almond

Thirty years after its founding, the opera legacy first established by Peter Hemmings lives on – literally.

Amelia Hemmings

Amelia Hemmings

That sweet, albeit heartbreaking and starved face you’ll see at the center of the Scottish Refugee’s chorus in Act IV is Amelia Hemmings, granddaughter of the late Hemmings.

By day, Amelia is your regular 7th grader. Besides singing, dancing and performing, she loves baking mini cupcakes (plain vanilla especially) and crafts (she even has her own glue gun). But then again, she might not be so regular after all. In LA Opera’s last two seasons, she’s been in several productions, carrying on the family’s opera tradition. (Her older brother Rory made his LA Opera solo debut as the Cabin Boy in Billy Budd in 2014 and has also appeared in several other productions.)

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A 15-Minute Voice Lesson Changed Arturo Chacón-Cruz’s Life

Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Macduff in Macbeth (2016); Photo: Karen Almond

Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Macduff in Macbeth (2016); Photo: Karen Almond

Before he ever conceived of a career in opera, renowned tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz still spent most of his week singing. While studying engineering in his hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico, Chacón-Cruz sang with local trios, mariachis, and even as the lead singer serenading women for other men who were proposing. He was so passionate about singing that his mother signed him up for a voice lesson with an opera coach. At first, Chacón-Cruz protested, but the 15 minutes he spent with his first coach changed the course of his entire life.

“I told my mother, ‘Nobody likes opera. It’s so antiquated,’ but like a good son, I went to the lesson. The teacher – Jesus Li Cecilio – had me wait and I heard him working with another student. I thought, ‘This isn’t so bad.’ Then it was my turn and after hearing me sing for a few minutes, Li Cecilio said that I have a future in opera,” says Chacón-Cruz. He continues, “Those 15 minutes turned into the rest of my life and I couldn’t be happier.”    … Continue reading

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Macbeth: A Personal Note

JC Real

Maestro James Conlon during a rehearsal for Macbeth (2016)

As an addendum to my essay “Why Verdi’s Macbeth Is Important,” I want to add a very personal note about why this opera, which has been with me for my entire professional life, has been so important to me.

For no particular reason, it has turned out that I have done more productions of Macbeth (this will be the eighth) than any other opera. Whereas it is hardly a rarity, it is also not a work that is so popular that it comes up every other season.

JC Conducting

Maestro James Conlon conducting the LA Opera Orchestra during a rehearsal of Macbeth (2016)

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Opening Night Style Guide

Kate Walsh at LA Opera's 2015/2016 Season Opening Night (2015); Photo:Steve Cohn

Kate Walsh at LA Opera’s 2015/2016 Season Opening Night (2015); Photo:Steve Cohn

Deciding what to wear to an event can be anxiety-producing for some people, especially if it’s your first time or a special occasion. Fashion Crisis be gone…Here are some helpful tips for opera goers eyeing their closet for the season’s opening night on September 17.

Dress up.

You may not need a pair of opera gloves or a tuxedo (although we love to see them!), but it’s a great excuse to get spiffy. Let’s face it, life doesn’t offer most of us many formal opportunities after prom. Why not glam it up? A suit and tie or an elegant cocktail dress can really set the mood for a special evening. At opening nights you’ll see fancier ensembles, with the fanciest on the season’s opening night, which is this Saturday, September 17.

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Get the Prompter Lowdown

Our post about the Prompter raised some questions; so we thought we’d spend some time with our prompter to answer your them.

LA Opera Young Artist Kihun Yoon

LA Opera Young Artist Kihun Yoon

What does a promoter do?

Prompters are often referred to as a security blanket. We support both the artists and the conductor, reinforcing cues and helping keep time. While artists know their parts, the fear of forgetting a line is alleviated when you know someone’s there just in case.

Doesn’t it get hot in the box?

It is not really hot – at least I have never felt uncomfortable.

Do you ever get hit by stage debris?

Confetti will float in of course. It is not uncommon for some props to roll into the box, but nothing dangerous has happened so far. Thank goodness!

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He Who Must Not Be Named

Plácido Domingo as the title character in Macbeth (2015) in Valencia, Spain; Photo: Tato Baeza

Plácido Domingo as the title character in Macbeth (2015) in Valencia, Spain; Photo: Tato Baeza

He Who Must Not Be Named…No, this isn’t a Harry Potter story.

With just over a week from opening night at LA Opera, we’re counting down. Everyone’s excited about the new production, starring Plácido Domingo, conducted by James Conlon, and directed by Darko Trejsnak. But there’s one thing you probably won’t hear if you’re at the theater…its name.

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James Conlon: Why Verdi’s “Macbeth” Is Important

Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth and Plácido Domingo as the title character in a 2015 production of Macbeth at the Palau de les Arts in Valencia, Spain; Photo: Tato Baeza

Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth and Plácido Domingo as the title character in a 2015 production of Macbeth at the Palau de les Arts in Valencia, Spain; Photo: Tato Baeza

“Be guided by this, there are three roles in this opera and three roles only: Lady Macbeth, Macbeth and the chorus of the Witches.”—Giuseppe Verdi

In 1847, Giuseppe Verdi stood the world of Italian opera on its head when he wrote his tenth opera in seven years. (He would later refer to that grueling period as his “years in the galley.”) This was no routine work. In writing Macbeth, he made a major leap into the future—his future, Italian opera’s future, our future. It would take half a century for the logical consequence of Macbeth to be fully drawn, and even then it would take another 50 or 60 years before its significance was recognized.

With this opera, Verdi began the long process of dismantling the forms he inherited from Rossini and the bel canto period. In so doing, he irrevocably transformed Italian opera. Dramatic coherence became dominant. It is in Macbeth that he stipulates, with an insistence and virulence beyond what he had demonstrated in the past, what the singers must do to serve the drama. He no longer accepts the status quo, neither in the comportment of the singers, who must now act with their voices as well as their bodies, nor in the overall form of the music. Verdi chooses musical forms that fit the dramatic situation. The opera is not a series of formulaic scenes designed to showcase the vocal prowess of the performers, but a concentrated distillation of the dramatic essence. As he instructed baritone Felice Varesi, his first Macbeth: “I will not cease to recommend that you study the dramatic situations and the words: the music will follow on its own.”

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Quick Changes – The Magic Happens in the Wings

LA Opera Dresser Shelley Graves-Jimenez speaks about the Macbeth assassins costume to guests at the company's Newcomer Event

LA Opera Dresser Shelley Graves-Jimenez speaks about the Macbeth assassins costume to guests at the company’s Newcomer Event

Ever wonder how an artist steps off stage, then minutes later magically returns in a whole new get-up? While they’re in the wings, they’re in the hands of a dresser, that’s how. You’ll find dressers backstage at most large-scale live performances.

We spent a few minutes with Shelley Graves-Jimenez, one of LA Opera’s dressers, who told us what it’s like to be a dresser in the wings during an LA Opera performance.

Dressers make sure that the performer they’re assigned to can focus on their performance and not whether their costume is right. From head to toe, Graves-Jimenez and her colleagues ensure every piece of an artist’s costume is on, secure, and comfortable before they hit the stage. “Nothing they’re wearing should distract them,” she says.

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5 Shakespeare Operas To Sink Your Teeth Into

This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the whole world is celebrating the Bard. While Shakespeare’s plays are brilliant when read and powerful when staged, there is something to be said for experiencing his stories set to music. Throughout history, opera composers have adapted Shakespeare plays into some of the most thrilling pieces in the repertory. We’ve compiled a list below of some operas based on Shakespeare plays. We’re sure you’ll fall in love them.

Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi

Gripping. Dark. Exciting. Verdi’s opera expands on Shakespeare’s tale of betrayal and murder, getting into the wicked and tormented minds of the Macbeths (kind of like the Whites in Breaking Bad) through electrifying vocal lines and propulsive energy. It is not to be missed (especially since LA Opera’s 16/17 season opens with Macbeth on Sept 17).

Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod

Roméo et Juliette (2004); Photo: Ken Howard

Roméo et Juliette (2004); Photo: Ken Howard

Charles Gounod’s elegant and sumptuous score for his version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet heightens the connection between the two young lovers through no less than four romantic duets, making their ultimate fate that much more tragic. Learn more about LA Opera’s iconic production here.

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Reid Bruton Talks Opera and Film

Name almost any major Hollywood film in the last decade and Reid Bruton may very well have sung on its soundtrack. From Star Wars to Suicide Squad to Frozen, Bruton’s rich bass voice can be heard in the background of an emotional moment (like the epic moment in Star Wars between Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren) or as a menacing creature-like sound effect.  He can do it all, and that includes opera.  Bruton has been singing with the LA Opera Chorus for almost 20 years, appearing in more than 80 productions with numerous appearances in comprimario roles. We caught up with Bruton before his work as Macbeth’s servant for this season’s opening production, to chat about his varied roles in opera and film.

How long have you been part of the LA Opera chorus?

Il Trovatore (1997)

Reid Bruton – “Il Trovatore” (1997)

Since 1997. My first production was LAO’s first Il Trovatore.

Did you always have a love of opera?

Oh, yes! I was raised in a farming community near Memphis and I used to drive a tractor for my father, which was equiped with a small radio inside. On Saturday mornings, I would plow fields and listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio or put in a cassette tape of Leontyne Price or Maria Callas singing. I listened and loved it, but never saw an opera until I went to college where I was a double degree in voice/opera and piano.

Why have you stayed with LA Opera for so long?

Eugene Onegin (2011/2012) with Oksana Dyka

Eugene Onegin (2011/2012) with Oksana Dyka

There are many reasons, but one of the most important is that at LA Opera I have the unique opportunity to work closely with some of the most notable singers in the world today… singing and acting with them very closely. Being on stage with great artists who inspire me and whom I learn from – it’s better than a college degree.  I teach voice privately.  So by getting to work so closely with all of these great singers with different voice types I am able to share, first hand, my experience and observations with my students.

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Costumes Meet Character in Macbeth

Costumes are one of the best ways to express character – be it on screen or on stage. In Macbeth, costumes tell a tale of humble beginnings to unbridled horror, but it’s not just fabric and jewels that bring a character to life. It is how all the costume elements come together to showcase each character’s evolution. With its complex characters and designed by Suttirat Larlarb, LA Opera’s upcoming production of Verdi’s Macbeth perfectly illustrates how costumes and character meet.

Let’s take Lady Macbeth’s costumes as an example.

Lady Macbeth Costume Sketch

When Lady Macbeth first comes on stage, her costume is fairly simple (a t-shape common during the medieval period) and does not reflect affluence. She’s wearing earth tones; it’s the costume of a soldier’s wife, but also suggestive of the social climbing to come (a hint of green silk).

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Look Ahead to the 2016/17 Season

 16-17 IMAGE

The 15/16 season may have come to an end, but the halls of LA Opera are still abuzz with staff and artists working on the upcoming 16/17 season. Auditions are being held for supernumeraries in season opener Macbeth and the show’s set is also currently being built at Studio Sereno. Preparations for other productions and events for the fall are also underway. Can’t wait? Neither can we. See what all the excitement’s about below.

Plácido Domingo and James Conlon unite to kick off the season with Verdi’s Macbeth

The season opens with a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth (September 17 through October 16, 2016), starring Plácido Domingo in the title role and conducted by James Conlon. Ekaterina Semenchuk will perform the role of the treacherous Lady Macbeth. LA Opera’s first production of Macbeth since 1987 will be staged by Darko Tresnjak, director of the 2015 hit The Ghosts of Versailles.

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