Tag Archives: Opera

What Is It? Objects That Help Make Opera Magic.

The Tales of Hoffmann (2002); Photo: Robert Millard

The Tales of Hoffmann (2002); Photo: Robert Millard

Have you ever wondered – “How’d they do that?” Opera brings stories to life, and the magic you see on stage is often the result of incredible ingenuity on the part of our behind-the-scenes artisans. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite objects used in productions—old and new, both onstage and off—to give you a glimpse at what’s involved in staging the operas you love.

Can you guess what these objects are for? (The answers are below, but no cheating!)

Torch

  1. The torches we use onstage have a name that references a crucial safety feature. What are these props called?
  2. Butane-Bufer
  3. Dead Man’s Torch
  4. Burnless Bunsen
  5. Touchable Torch

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3 Things Opera and the Olympics Have in Common

Back in 1984, Los Angeles hosted the Olympics Arts Festival. During the Los Angeles Olympics, the Opera Association co-produced three operas with London’s Royal Opera (Turandot, starring Domingo as Calaf, as well as Peter Grimes and The Magic Flute), which not only helped establish the city as an international arts destination, but also helped raise funds for the soon-to-rise opera company.

So, you could say, LA Opera was born out of the Olympics.

We’re thinking about this history as we prepare to watch tonight’s opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics. But, we’re also thinking of some of the things opera and the Olympics have in common.

Opera Singers

The 1984 Olympics is not the only time that opera and the Olympics have collided. Throughout the years, many famous opera singers have sung at various summer and winter olympics, including Plácido Domingo. Remember when he sang alongside Song Zuying in Beijing in 2008?

Plácido Domingo and Song Zuying at the Beijing Olympics (2008)

Plácido Domingo and Song Zuying at the Beijing Olympics (2008)

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Want to win an exclusive LA Opera backstage experience?

What do you love lead image

What do you love about opera in Los Angeles? If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen an opera. Whether it’s been at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion or about town, we want to share your love of it with new fans. What is it about operas in Los Angeles that you love? Is it the film-inspired opera productions, or even the various locations you can go to see an opera?

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Opera’s not for me…or is it?

Walk into a room and mention you’re heading to the opera. I bet you’ll get some confused looks and head scratching. For me, the response is typically, “You – an opera fan?” So try it and don’t be surprised if you hear some of these.

But you don’t look like an opera fan, what gives?

What does an opera fan look like? I thought I knew, but when I look around the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (LA Opera’s home) during a performance, I see all sorts of people. Parents with their teenagers, hipsters on first dates, girlfriends on outings, couples young and old on a regular night out, groups celebrating special milestones, others dressed in costumes to emulate the production. You name it; you’ll see it in the theater and on the red carpet out front.

Faces of the Opera

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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About La Bohème

Share There are three chances left to see La Bohème at LA Opera. This Belle Époque set production has wowed audiences with its doomed love story beautifully sung by Nino Machaidze and Olga Busuioc and Mario Chang and rivetingly conducted … Continue reading

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Why I Give: Summer Walters

Summer Walters attending a performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Summer Walters attending a performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Summer Walters wears a special outfit each time she attends an LA Opera production and shares pictures on Facebook. “My friends see the excitement that envelops me in each photo, so I have introduced quite a few friends to the world [of opera] that I hold so dear,” explains Ms. Walters. “Each time I attend with someone who has never experienced opera, it’s like watching the performance through the wide-eyed wonder of a child. It makes my heart so happy.”

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Guess The 2016/2017 Season!

Are you excited to find out what we have in store for our 2016/2017 season? We can’t wait to tell you! That’s why this week, we’re giving you some clues. Get in on the fun and guess what will be on our mainstage in the coming season, which starts this fall.

Just how well do you know opera? (And if you don’t, now’s the time to get excited.) There are two ways that you can guess the 16/17 season this week. Here they are.

Let’s Talk About Icons

Each day this week, we will release an image of an object that symbolizes of one of the operas in the coming season. We’ll roll them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest and they’ll also be added to this post.

Comment below or on any of our “How Well Do You Know Opera” social media posts and guess which production the icon is from. If you guess right, you will be entered to win a special prize.

But that’s not all! All winners will be entered to win a GRAND PRIZE – two tickets to the Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming concert on March 18.

Let the guessing games begin! In what opera might you see this?

Object #1

Guess The Season 1

Object #2

crown macbeth

Object #3

sand-dune

Object #4

moon

Object #5

luggage

Object #6

tosca brushes … Continue reading

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The Staging of an Opera Company: The Hemmings Era Begins

When the LA Opera first presented Rigoletto in 1993, David Young was the second chair bass player in the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the ensemble that played for most performances during the company’s early years. The opera features a prominent solo for the double bass—at the fateful moment when the troubled jester first encounters the assassin Sparafucile—which went to LACO’s longtime principal bassist, Susan Ranney. But by 2000, when the company next offered Rigoletto, Young had become the principal bassist for the LA Opera Orchestra, and it was finally his moment to shine after years of waiting for that rare opportunity. He asked Peter Hemmings, who would soon retire as LA Opera’s general director, if a promotional poster had been made for the production, explaining how much it meant to him. “Of course,” replied Hemmings. “I’ll get you one.”

Peter Hemmings; Photo: Ken Howard

Peter Hemmings; Photo: Ken Howard

Hemmings delivered the poster a few days later. Not only was it signed “Best wishes, Peter Hemmings,” it also boasted the signatures of the major stars in the cast. That framed treasure hangs on the wall of Young’s studio today. Hemmings passed away two years later, making his thoughtfulness especially poignant to Young. “Peter Hemmings really cared about everybody,” he says. “He loved this company and he gave his all to our founding years.”

Young’s story is indicative of the atmosphere that Hemmings fostered, with artists, administrators, staff and volunteers all working in close collaboration toward a common goal. Fondly remembered for his warmth, British wit and jovial nature, Hemmings was also greatly respected for his high expectations, imagination and loyalty. With a background that included bringing the Scottish Opera to prominence, he was more than up to the challenge of building a massive opera company—virtually overnight.

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The Month of the American Composer

Composer of Operas

Jake Heggie

When most people think of October, visions of fall and Halloween come to mind. Here at LA Opera, this October has been “The Month of the American Composer.” Three of our events involved some of the most important American composers of our age – Missy Mazzoli, Philip Glass, and Jake Heggie – working at the height of their powers. To celebrate how vital opera is to our nation culturally, we’ve curated a few articles below where you can learn more about each composer and listen to some of their masterful music.

Jake Heggie, The Man Behind Moby-Dick

Composer Jake Heggie Brings Moby-Dick to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – via Los Angeles Magazine

Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, the classic tale of one man’s pursuit of an elusive white whale, has over the years been turned into films and television miniseries. Now, it has been turned into an opera. Jake Heggie, whose Dead Man Walking was performed earlier this year at the Broad Stage, is the composer of the show, which opens Saturday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Jake Heggie On Why Opera Is Here To Stay – via Los Angeles Times

Don’t tell Jake Heggie that opera is a dying art form. The composer of the opera Dead Man Walking “thinks it’s alive and kicking — he even uses an unprintable term to describe a recent batch of articles declaring that “Opera is dead.” And while his passionate words in defense of the operatic form are convincing, the trajectory of his own career is perhaps his best argument.

Music Monday: Moby-Dick Overture – via LA Opera Blog

This weekend, Moby-Dick opens at LA Opera. Melville’s tale of obsession, the nature of good and evil, and the search for the elusive, titular, white whale is set to an evocative score by famed American composer, Jake Heggie (Dead Man Walking). When Heggie describes tackling the mammoth tale, he speaks of finally finding the music of Moby’s universe in four simple chords. These chords capture the spirit and yearning inherent in Melville’s story and resurface throughout the rest of the score, in a haunting fashion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd-Z4-3Ip_Q

 For tickets to Moby-Dick, click here.  … Continue reading

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James Conlon Invites You To Moby-Dick

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Maestro Conlon is very excited about conducting the upcoming production, Moby-Dick, opening October 31st. Check out why he loves Jake Heggie’s opera and why he thinks you should see it too.

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

Moby-Dick is a classic American tale that’s wonderful to experience live. Yet, to enjoy Moby-Dick fully, take a look behind-the-scenes to see how the production has come together.

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Opera: A Community Treasure

Today, National Opera Week kicks off. Running through November 1, National Opera Week is a great opportunity to celebrate opera’s positive impact on communities around the country (and to a larger extent, the world). This got us thinking. What are some of the ways that opera influences community?

It brings us together.

Craig 2

Guests enjoy Gianni Schicchi (2015) at Opera at the Beach

Putting together an operatic production is a feat of epic proportions. Since opera is an amalgamation of several art forms, various artists (singers, designers, writers, even filmmakers) join together for one singular purpose: to bring a story to life.

Yet, opera brings not only artists together. Opera is for all those willing to experience timeless stories, staged theatrically, and sung by the most engaging voices of our time. This can mean a night out in Downtown Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler or a date night at Santa Monica Pier for a live HD simulcast at Opera at the Beach.

It educates us about history, society, social responsibility, and just about anything else you can imagine.

 The cast of Nixon in China (1990); Photo Credit: Frederic Ohringer

The cast of Nixon in China (1990)

Did you know that there’s an opera about Richard Nixon called Nixon in China? Several operas are based on Shakespeare plays and Greek myths that tackle the big themes: love, humanity’s purpose, revenge. There are even short operas based on themes of social responsibility that form the crux of our Opera Camp program. Operas make people think in different ways; they can teach us to see the world through a new lens.

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Moby-Dick: No Book Report Required

A timeless classic, Moby Dick sits atop just about every literary reading list. You’ve heard of it, you’ve probably read it and if you have a high school freshman, like I do, it’s on their reading list right now.

And as said freshman pointed out, the book is big – really big.

On October 31, Moby Dickthe opera – opens at LA Opera.While reading the novel can seem daunting due to the sheer volume of details, the opera brings the story to life. We’d never recommend you see the opera instead of reading the novel – it’s not a substitute or the Cliffs notes version or anything – but, the opera provides you with a rich and vibrant telling that’s pretty close to the big book. (It really is the perfect way to get the would-be reader excited about the classic tale.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd-Z4-3Ip_Q

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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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P2pH3qhYpM

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Greg Fedderly: 63 Productions, 390 Performances, and Counting

LA Opera is a family company. Nowhere is this more evident than in the returning singers that spend long stretches of their career gracing the stage at Dorothy Chandler. Greg Fedderly is the epitome of these singers. Throughout the course of LA Opera’s history, Fedderly has been in 63 productions – that’s over 390 performances in 30 years (and counting). This includes Borsa in Rigoletto (1993, 2010), Monostatos in The Magic Flute (1992, 2002, 2009), Red Whiskers in Billy Budd (2014), and many, many more.

Greg Fedderly

Greg Fedderly in his dressing room before portraying Gherardo in Gianni Schicchi (2015)

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7 Questions with Jay Hunter Morris

MobyDick5pub

Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab in San Francisco Opera’s 2013 production of Moby-Dick

This Halloween, Jay Hunter Morris reprises his role as Captain Ahab in Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. It will be the first time he’s performed the opera in Los Angeles, coming fresh from a year of tremendous roles in The Flying Dutchman and Cold Mountain. Here’s our Jay Hunter Morris Edition of Questions.

What’s it like to revisit the role of Ahab for the 4th time?

Thrilling. Ahab is #1 on my wish list every year. The music has been simmering in my mind, and I can’t wait to try again, there are so many options for me as a singer!

Ahab is complex, to say the least. What do you like best about the role?

The madness. Can you imagine the horror of being attacked by such a sea beast, surviving in those days, the agony endured, the festering, acidic anger, the single-minded drive for revenge? AND, I must embody the power, the charm and charisma that he must wield in order to lead grown men willingly to their death. It’s a mighty task, a privilege granted to few, and I am so grateful to step into his cloak once again.

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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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A View from the Bridge

Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci are rarely – if ever – done together. The most common pairing for Pagliacci is Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, another tragic love triangle of sorts. This season, LA Opera has forgone tradition by staging two gigantic productions together in its season opening double bill. It’s a marriage of comedy and tragedy and a posthumous reconciling for two composers, who fought against each other so fervently, after Puccini premiered La Bohéme (Leoncavallo also completed a version of the Bohéme story).

It’s also a huge undertaking set-wise.

Crew member lowering Pagliacci set platforms

Crew member lowering the Pagliacci set platform

From their view in the house, audience members are not privy to the pure magic that goes on behind the curtain, while they are in the midst of intermission. But with a view from the bridge, it’s possible to see both the production and the set-up.

The bridge is a platform walkway, connecting our second-floor backstage area with lighting equipment. Before you ask, this seat is not open to the public, but it does provide an interesting view of what it takes to stage a sizeable double bill, such as Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci. Once the curtain falls on the 50-minute Gianni Schicchi, it’s the stage crew’s time to shine. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, Schicchi’s gigantic, 1940s-inspired Florence set is removed and a 1980s-inspired bohemian Pagliacci set takes its place.

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LA Opera: A Teacher’s Paradise

Last week during Arts in Education Week, LA Opera teaching artists spent the day working with students on Orpheus, an original youth opera commissioned by LA Opera, written by librettist Matthew Leavitt and composer Nathan Wang, based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice. This is part of a program called Secondary In-School Opera, a ten-week performance workshop that provides secondary schools with a team of teaching artists and directors to show students what it takes to perform an opera. Students meet with the artists ten times to work on the opera between August and October with a performance in November – an engaging experience to foster interest in the world of opera.

Resident Stage Director Eli Villanueva working with students as part of LA Opera's Secondary In-School Opera Program

Resident Stage Director Eli Villanueva working with students as part of LA Opera’s Secondary In-School Opera Program

For more than 20 years, LA Opera has been exploring the magic of opera with schools, teachers and students from kindergarten through college, all over Southern California. Secondary In-School Opera is just one of the many education programs that make LA Opera a teacher’s paradise. Others include Opera Camp, Opera-U, and LA Opera 90012.

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Muppets Opera Love

From Hey Arnold! to The Simpsons, several cartoons have featured opera . Of these, The Muppet Show most notably included several opera references during its run that introduced younger audiences to the art form. Did you know that Miss Piggy wanted to sing opera? We think Miss Piggy would love our Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci. Can you picture her singing Lauretta’s aria, “O mio babbino caro?”

Plácido Domingo as Gianni Schicchi and Andriana Chuchman as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi (2015)

Plácido Domingo as Gianni Schicchi and Andriana Chuchman as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi (2015)

In honor of tonight’s The Muppets series premiere on ABC, we have found some “Muppets meet opera” moments we think you’ll enjoy:

Beaker’s Habanera

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXKUb5A1auM

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4 Questions with Gianni Schicchi’s Youngest Star

LA Opera - Schicchi Final Dress Rehearsal  Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging

Isaiah Morgan as Gherardino and Plácido Domingo as the title character in Gianni Schicchi (2015)

One of the busiest stars currently gracing the LA Opera stage in Gianni Schicchi is only 10. The triple-threat (actor, singer, dancer) plays Gherardino, the son of one of the scheming Donati family members. Besides being in his debut at the opera this season, Isaiah is also an avid YouTuber with his own channel and he’s been featured in several commercials, including ABC Mouse. Check out his latest cover of Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?”

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