Tag Archives: Puccini

How far would you go to save the one you love?

Everyone has their limits – Tosca’s plight reflects today’s world more than Puccini could have imagined.

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Sondra Radvanovsky as the title character in Tosca (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Tosca is one of the greatest works of music theatre ever written and its importance is undiminished more than a century after Puccini wrote it. Its narrative is deceptively simple. It involves the lives of three principal characters. Mario Cavaradossi is a talented young painter, earning his living by creating ecclesiastical art in Roman churches. Floria Tosca, his lover, is a well-known opera singer, adored by her public. Baron Scarpia is the chief of police in a military state that is cracking down on all opposition, including artists and the support they draw.

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An Opera-Filled Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again. The Season of Love. It’s the perfect time to show your romantic side, and nothing says romance like an evening of Mozart or Strauss. Ever thought of surprising the ones you love with the gift of opera on Valentine’s Day? Here’s a list of the most romantic operas to give your significant other the opera experience of a lifetime.

The Abduction from the Seraglio

This Mozart treasure is perfect for a fun, romantic evening at the opera. Our production is set in the 1920s and has the feeling of a classic screwball comedy (think Bringing Up Baby). It’s light, it’s funny and it’s perfect for any first – first opera, first date. With two intermissions, there’s time to share some bubbly while enjoying an evening together.

En route from Istanbul to Paris, two beautiful damsels in distress are held captive aboard the luxurious Orient Express by a notorious Ottoman royal. It’s up to their faithful lovers to rescue them before it’s too late! James Conlon conducts a brilliant ensemble of soloists, including bass Morris Robinson as the Pasha’s delightfully nefarious henchman Osmin. Hamish Linklater makes his company debut in the pivotal role of the Pasha Selim.

Salome

Patricia Racette as the title character in Salome (2015) at Opera San Antonio; Photo: Karen Almond

Patricia Racette as the title character in Salome (2015) at Opera San Antonio; Photo: Karen Almond

If you’re looking for a short, but thrilling night at the opera, Salome is the opera to give your loved on Valentine’s Day. Filled with unbridle passion and seduction, this one will give you lots to talk about.

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10-Year-Olds Perform Opera and Learn About History Along the Way

Elementary In-School Opera

Elementary In-School Opera

Rehearsals are in full swing for LA Opera’s Elementary In-School Opera program. This annual five-week residency brings LA Opera teaching artists and staff into 15 elementary schools across the county to rehearse, stage, and perform an opera. While teaching artists are cast as principal roles, the students are cast in ensemble and smaller roles, often getting their first taste of opera and learn about California history along the way.

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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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One of the Quickest Act Changes in LA Opera History

La Bohème (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

La Bohème (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

Our production of Puccini’s La Bohème boasts one of the quickest, major set changes ever seen on our stage. From Act I to Act II, La Bohème’s setting changes from a rooftop and garret (loft) to a Parisian street.

The main set piece – the garret – is rotated to reveal its opposite side – a two-story building with a ground level cafe. This may not seem like a big deal. It’s just rotating a set piece. How difficult can that be? Difficult – very difficult. It isn’t just a light-weight structure or a façade that can be easily maneuvered.  This garret is a giant 1500-square-foot, 30,000-pound structure – the equivalent of a three-story house.  Moving it requires planning, precision and a great deal of practice. That’s because the structure needs to be moved manually (yes, manually, by a team of 20 production crew members) and hit very specific, pre-determined marks on the stage.

Try moving this piece – along with other set pieces and props – while over a hundred people (principal artists, chorus members, supernumeraries) crowd onto the stage for Act II.

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Speranza Scappucci Searches for Puccini’s Truth in La Bohème

Speranza Scappucci; Photo: Dario Acosta

Speranza Scappucci; Photo: Silvia Lelli

Speranza Scappucci is one of opera’s rising conducting stars. Since making her debut in 2012 conducting Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the Yale Opera, Scappucci has conducted around the world, including at Finnish National Opera, Washington National Opera and Scottish Opera. She did not always know that her destiny was to conduct.

Speranza Scappucci conducting a gala concert, starring soprano Marina Rebeka to celebrate the opening of Great Amber, the new concert hall in Liepāja, Latvia.

Speranza Scappucci conducting a gala concert, starring soprano Marina Rebeka to celebrate the
opening of Great Amber, the new concert hall in Liepāja, Latvia.

This month, Scappucci makes her LA Opera debut conducting six performances of Puccini’s La Bohème. It’s a piece that Scappucci knows really well (she coached the piece for 20 years), but that does not stop her from finding new things in Puccini’s masterpiece. Scappucci discovers these new things by extensively revisiting the score, as if it’s the first time she’s approaching it.

Born and raised in Rome, Scappucci moved to New York at age 20 to study piano at The Juilliard School. She received a master’s at Juilliard in collaborative piano and went on to brilliant career as a coach and assistant conductor. For 15 years, Scappucci was a familiar face in the world’s top opera houses, coaching both rising stars and famous opera singers, and also working as an assistant conductor for some of the world’s most renowned conductors – Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Daniele Gatti, and James Levine.

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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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Lee Blakeley Talks Directing “The Humming Chorus”

Madame Butterfly (2016); Photo: Ken Howard

Madame Butterfly (2016); Photo: Ken Howard

“The Humming Chorus” is a rare moment of peace in the tragic love story that is Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. In the scene, Butterfly does not sing or move for three minutes. She holds a silent vigil, waiting for Pinkerton (her American husband) to return, while an off-stage chorus sings. “The Humming Chorus” is a scene that carries an enormous amount of emotional weight, highlighted in LA Opera’s current production by director Lee Blakeley’s novel take on which character the scene belongs to.

For Blakeley, whether he is directing theater or opera, it is all about storytelling. When he signed on to direct this production of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, he went back to basics. His primary job in the early stages of directing was to answer the question, “What do you strip away to find the essential truth of the piece?” He knew the first thing he had to do was rid himself of any preconceived notions of what the opera could be, which can be difficult with such a familiar work as Butterfly. With a blank sheet of paper and the libretto, he listened to Puccini’s music, while working through the text.

Blakeley came to understand that the essential truth – or theme – of Madame Butterfly is “loyalty in the face of adversity.” That singular theme informed all of Blakeley’s directorial choices for this production, whether it was the decisions he preplanned (for example, updating the setting to 1904, the year the opera premiered) or choices he “discovered along the way,” while working with singers.

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An Inspired Puccini Composes “The Humming Chorus”

Milena Kitic as Suzuki in Madame Butterfly (2016); Photo: Ken Howard

Milena Kitic as Suzuki in Madame Butterfly (2016); Photo: Ken Howard

In the fall of 1900, Giacomo Puccini sat in a London theater, mesmerized by a play entitled Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan. In the play, “Butterfly,” a Japanese geisha, abandoned by her American naval officer husband, Pinkerton, awaits his return. Puccini immediately grasped the operatic potential in the play’s doomed love story and clash of cultures. Yet one scene in particular—created by the play’s writer, producer and director, David Belasco—inspired him most of all.

Butterfly sits in the center of the stage, holding an overnight vigil, awaiting Pinkerton’s long-overdue return. For several long minutes, she does not speak. Time passes. The sun sets, the stars come out, fade, and then the sun rises again. In the audience, Puccini and those around him truly empathized with Butterfly. The powerful staging eliminated all the distractions, allowing them to focus solely on her emotional plight. It was at that moment that Puccini not only resolved to make Butterfly his next opera, but he also decided to make Butterfly’s vigil an arresting musical moment. Such a long stretch of silence had never been explored in opera and he was determined to see it come to life on the operatic stage.

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Music Monday: “Un bel di vedremo”

Ana María Martínez as the title character in Madame Butterfly 92016); Photo: Ken Howard

Ana María Martínez as the title character in Madame Butterfly (2016); Photo: Ken Howard

There are some pieces of music that instantly make the hair on your arms stand up – or give you goosebumps – or both. It’s usually the ones that break your heart while they’re at it. In the opera world, arias are the go-to heartbreakers. You’ve heard them, from Violetta’s final aria (Verdi’s La Traviata) to “Il dolce suono” (Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor). Why? An aria – like a monologue in a play or a solo song in a musical – is the truest expression of a character’s desires and soul; it’s an outpouring of emotion. They’re usually sung when a character is most vulnerable.

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5 Operas To Listen To By The Fire

When it’s freezing out—or cold by Los Angeles standards—it’s the perfect time to relax by the fire with a glass of wine or some hot cocoa and listen to music. For some, that music is Plácido Domingo’s “My Christmas” album; some prefer to buckle down for a little smooth, Kenny G jazz (his latest Brazilian Nights album is a favorite of mine). Other people—like my father—prefer winding down to Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, sung by Maria Callas and Nicolai Gedda. The next time you’re staying in for the night, consider listening to one of these operas instead, with the lights dimmed, and your favorite beverage. You might find yourself a lover of opera by the evening’s end!

The Tales of Hoffmann – Jacques Offenbach

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

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

Returning this season, The Tales of Hoffmann is a perfect opera to listen to by the fire (inspiring, in fact!). It follows the story of poet E.T.A. Hoffmann, whose boozy recollections of the women he has loved and lost. Hoffmann recounts the stories of the fascinating women who captured his heart—wind-up doll Olympia, conniving Giulietta, fragile Antonia and elusive Stella. Hoffmann’s doomed pursuit of romance, foiled by sinister figures of darkness at every turn, ultimately lead him to a poet’s artistic salvation.

Listen To: Act IV: “Belle Nuit, o nuit d’amour”

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Opera at the Beach: Bringing Music to the Masses

Santa Monica Pier is one of Los Angeles’ largest tourist attractions. Groups of people flock west to experience the beach, ride the ferris wheel, and pose in front of the sign signaling the end of Route 66. This past Saturday, tourists and Angelenos alike came to Santa Monica for one reason: opera.

LA Opera at the Pier Photo by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew ImagingLA Opera hosted its second annual, live HD simulcast called Opera at the Beach on Saturday. This year, an estimated 4,000 people were treated to performances of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. People arrived early to claim their spot in front of the large screen, participate in opera trivia, and listen to music from LA Opera’s upcoming season, including Beth Morrison Projects’ Song from the Uproar and Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. Guests who purchased tickets to the Wine Terrace, sponsored by Los Angeles magazine enjoyed tasting various wines and meeting the wineries responsible for creating some of the best drinks southern California has to offer.

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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5dq7UzG8gs

Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci make a fabulous pair for this year’s Season Opening. Blending comedy with tragedy from two wonderful composers, these operas have made an impact both at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and at Santa Monica Pier. Have you missed some of the Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci magic? Have no fear! We’ve collected a bunch of articles and videos for you to check out and see why so many Angelenos (and non-Angelenos alike) are flocking to see this double-bill.

Get To Know Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci

All Is Bustling On The Opera Front

Weeks before opening night, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion bustles with preparations for the upcoming opera season. As summer draws to a close, props are unpacked and organized, costume fittings occur, large sets are unloaded, and rehearsals are in full swing for Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

A Donkey Named Sue

Making his operatic debut in this month’s upcoming production of Pagliacci is none other than a donkey named Sue (aptly named after the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue”). This tough leading animal arrived this week with his handler in tow, who will be a supernumerary in the show.

Music Monday: Pagliacci Prologue

Pagliacci opens not with a love triangle scene between Canio, Nedda, and Silvio, but instead with a clown. This is Tonio, the fool of Canio’s troupe. He emerges and addresses the audience directly—“Si puo, si puo,” asking for indulgence.

5 Favorite Things From This Week’s Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci Rehearsals

There’s a lot to be said about LA Opera’s opening show, a double bill of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci. We’ve been watching rehearsals all week and have compiled a list of a few of our favorite things.

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“o mio babbino caro” from Gianni Schicchi

https://youtu.be/ZE1UPfRu4Es

Hear Andriana Chuchman sing the classic aria

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Momo Casablanca: Gianni Schicchi’s Character Star

Momo Casablanca as Buoso Donati in <em>Gianni Schicchi</em> (2015)

Momo Casablanca as Buoso Donati in Gianni Schicchi (2015)

Of the many stars hustling around the stage in Gianni Schicchi – the frenetic first half of a double bill with Pagliacci – there’s only one cast member who remains on stage the whole time. That’s character actor Momo Casablanca, who portrays the significant role of Buoso Donati in Puccini’s comedic opera. The opera centers on Buoso’s greedy relatives, waiting to see what he has left them in his will. That’s right – Buoso Donati is already deceased when the curtain rises.

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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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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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Iconic Productions: La Bohème

“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 (Steel Magnolias, The Turning Point) on his first operatic directing experience staging La Bohème at LA Opera in 1992.

Kallen Esperian as Mimi in <em>La Boheme</em> (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

Kallen Esperian as Mimi in La Boheme (1993); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

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#WordWednesday: Verismo

Pagliacci Verismo_FINALVERISMO (22 Scrabble points) – Italian – Verismo literally means “realism” or “truth.” It is a genre of opera made famous by Puccini, Mascagni, and Leoncavallo in the late 19th century – think cinema’s Italian neo-realism movement, but for opera.

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From Allen to Zeffirelli: Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci on the Silver and Small Screens

Since the July release of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the internet has been ablaze with stories about opera in film. In the movie, Tom Cruise plays spy Ethan Hunt, who thwarts an assassination attempt during a performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot. Rogue Nation is the latest in a long line of films that feature opera performances – utilizing arias to tell a story or illustrate elements of a character’s psyche. Franco Zeffirelli (whose production of Pagliacci returns to LA Opera this Saturday) specialized in making cinematic adaptations of operas in the 1980s, often collaborating with Plácido Domingo and Teresa Stratas. His 1982 adaptations of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci are particularly stunning.

Two of the most famous arias to be used in film are “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and “Vesti la giubba” from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. The former is a persuasive aria, which Lauretta uses to convince her father Gianni Schicchi to stop fighting with the family of Rinuccio, the man she loves, while the latter is sung by Canio in Pagliacci after he discovers his wife’s infidelity. Both arias have been included in a plethora of films and television shows for decades.

Here are a few examples:

“O mio babbino caro” – Gianni Schicchi

A Room with a View (1985) – In the film, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) is torn between her fiancé Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis) and the free-spirited George Emerson (Julian Sands), after meeting the latter in Florence. “O mio babbino caro” (performed by Kiri Te Kanawa) is the film’s main theme, expressing Lucy’s choice between a light-hearted romance and a passionate romance.

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