Monthly Archives: July 2016

Opera Camp Never Gets Old

Samuel Bindschadler

Samuel Bindschadler

Envision yourself on stage. You’re in character, singing a role you love, and connecting with hundreds of audience members. You’ve worked hard for this moment and it’s more wonderful than you could have ever imagined. It also doesn’t feel like work, because you’ve enjoyed every minute.

This is how I feel every year during LA Opera’s summer youth program, Opera Camp. It’s some of the most rewarding “work” I’ve had the pleasure of doing. This year, I will participate in the camp for the fourth time, for which I am immensely grateful. Over the past few years, I have learned so much from amazing teaching artists and directors (particularly Eli Villanueva, Leslie Stevens, and Karen Hogle Brown) and even Maestro James Conlon.

The camp only lasts two weeks, but it is an intense two weeks. It never ceases to astound me how quickly the camp passes and how much I learn in such a short period of time. Few words can do justice to how working with Eli, Leslie, Karen, and all of the other magnificent performers and teaching artists enhance my (and other kids) knowledge of acting, singing, performance, and an artist’s responsibility. Whether through the lyrics of Hans Krása in Brundibár—in which, in 2011, I played “Little Joe,” a young man, who seeks out aid from unwilling adults to save his ailing mother—or Then I Stood Up—in which, this year, I will play the role of Pastor Jim—LA Opera always makes sure we learn both about performing and the history behind each opera.

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Creating Then I Stood Up

Then I Stood Up: A Civil Rights Cycle - Opera Camp 2015; Photo: Gennia Cui / The Future Collective

Then I Stood Up: A Civil Rights Cycle – Opera Camp 2015; Photo: Gennia Cui / The Future Collective

On August 6, LA Opera will premiere Then I Stood Up, a one-act youth opera that honors the contributions of young people to the Civil Rights Movement.  The opera—which will be presented as the culmination of a two-week intensive summer Opera Camp—was commissioned by LA Opera and composed and co-written by Eli Villanueva and Leslie Stevens (who have also written other operas for the camp). For two years, Villanueva and Stevens worked closely with the education and community engagement team and a number of consulting organizations (Facing History and Ourselves, Watts Labor Community Action Committee, California African American Museum) on Then I Stood Up. They crafted an opera that not only engages audience members, but also teaches campers vital lessons about social justice.

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The Next Great Opera Stars


Brownlee Ryan

Plácido Domingo has a passion for discovering talent. He’s not just the world’s most legendary opera singer; he’s also a champion for new young artists. In 1993, Maestro Domingo established Operalia, an international vocal competition created to find and help launch the careers of today’s most promising young opera singers. Over the years, Operalia has done just that, launching the careers of some of the most talked about artists of our time.

This year’s competition wrapped up last night (you can watch the final round here), and those of us in Los Angeles, who have been following along all week, watched and cheered from our homes. Through the magic of live stream, we watched the final announcements from Guadalajara, Mexico. You could probably hear the cheering from the stage in Guadalajara when two of our very own young artists won top prizes (accompanied by Nino Sanikidze, Head Coach in the Young Artist Program).

  • Nicolas Brownlee, a current member of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, won “The Don Plácido Domingo Ferrer Prize of Zarzuela.” Brownlee has been in six different productions at LA Opera to date, most recently as Coline in La Bohème. He will make his Metropolitan Opera debut this coming season, in addition to performing several roles in Los Angeles, including Angelotti in Tosca next spring.
  • Brenton Ryan, an alumnus of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, won the Birgit Nilsson Prize. You can catch Ryan as Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio in our upcoming season, a role he debuted at the Metropolitan Opera this past spring.

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How do you expand an impactful program?

Teaching artists prepping for LA Opera's Elementary In-School Opera Program

Teaching artists and LA Opera staff prepping for LA Opera’s Elementary In-School Opera Program

LA Opera believes in sharing the transformative power of opera with the Los Angeles community. As a result, the company places education and community engagement at the core of its mission. In the past sixteen years, LA Opera has more than tripled its outreach programs. The programs have expanded beyond their original target, K-12 students, to serve many more members of the Los Angeles community, including teachers, veterans, families and seniors. Whether at LA Opera’s home in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion or in neighborhoods across Los Angeles County, LA Opera remains committed to maintaining and growing the programs that reach hundreds of thousands in the community. How does a non-profit build and maintain such programs? Well, one reason is partnerships.

While the generous support of many donors and foundations has helped make these programs possible, to further extend its programming and to better serve the community, LA Opera adopted partnerships as a vital strategy.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What does LA Opera have that is so beautiful and unique and what are the many ways somebody needs it?’ Opera is a collaborative art form. Partnerships reflect our art form, so it is only natural that this model would help further LA Opera’s mission of sharing opera with the Los Angeles community,” says Stacy Brightman, Vice President of Education and Community Engagement.

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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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What’s Next for LA Opera and Beth Morrison Projects

A scene from "The Source" at the 2014 BAM Next Wave Festival; Photo: James Daniel / Noah Stern Weber

A scene from The Source at the 2014 BAM Next Wave Festival; Photo: James Daniel / Noah Stern Weber

On the heels of another successful collaboration with anatomy theater, LA Opera and Beth Morrison Projects are hard at work on two operas, ripped straight from the headlines, making their west coast premieres next season. They are Ted Hearne’s The Source and Kamala Sankaram’s Thumbprint.

In October, LA Opera presents The Source, which follows the story of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, a U.S. Army soldier who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. It explores the many identities of the army private – adrift adolescent, emboldened whistleblower, and traitor to her country – amidst the media hysteria following the leak.

Hearne’s and director Daniel Fish’s work is a contemporary masterpiece, showcasing what opera in the digital age can truly be.

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Opera Heroines Not To Mess With

Opera is filled with stories of betrayal, murder, and love that push characters to emotional extremes. Heroines (and anti-heroines) are often the characters most caught up in the drama. They love passionately, sacrifice greatly, and kill relentlessly.  We’ve created a list of ten multifaceted women, who aren’t afraid to lean in and stir the plot; they’re bold, brave and influential, even if it leads to their untimely death. See some of these fierce ladies at LA Opera this season and next season.

Lady Macbeth

Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth and Plácido Domingo as the title character in Macbeth (2016); Photo: Karen Almond

Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth and Plácido Domingo as the title character in Macbeth (2016); Photo: Karen Almond

In Verdi’s Macbeth (based on the Shakespeare play), Lady Macbeth takes fierce to a whole new level. After learning of her husband’s victory in battle, she urges him to kill the king and take the crown. Macbeth does so, only to be filled with remorse. It is Lady Macbeth who completes the killing and frames two guards for the king’s murder. She wants power and social standing and will stop at nothing to achieve this. Verdi expands the role of “Lady M” in his opera, giving her character even more agency, and making her the epitome of an opera anti-heroine not to mess with. She might murder you, if you do!


Brunnhilde (Linda Watson) with Waltraute (Michelle DeYoung, rear left) in Gotterdammerung (2010); Photo: Monika Rittershaus

Brunnhilde (Linda Watson) with Waltraute (Michelle DeYoung, rear left) in Gotterdammerung (2010); Photo: Monika Rittershaus

Is Brünnhilde the strongest women in the entire opera repertory?  She is after all the central character in Richard Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle, appearing in three of the four Ring operas. A complex and compelling woman with a fascinating character arc, she is defined by her bravery and intelligence. She grasps what is happening in the world with keener perception than her father (Wotan, king of the gods) or her husband (the mighty-but-unintellectual hero Siegfried) and she is unafraid to take action to do what she thinks is necessary. Like many other Wagner heroines, she makes the ultimate sacrifice for love, but Brünnhilde’s martyrdom has the greatest impact: hers redeems the entire world.

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Erin Knell on What Led Her to Intern at LA Opera

Erin Knell

Erin Knell at LA Opera

I’m incredibly excited to be interning with the LA Opera PR staff, not only for the credit on my resume, but because everyone here is genuinely interested in helping me participate and learn, rather than simply being a go-fer. These hands-on experiences offer a valuable opportunity to practice and improve the skills I’ve learned in the classroom and to network with working professionals in my chosen field.

I’m currently a senior at California State University, Northridge (CSUN.) I will graduate this fall as a journalism major, with a public relations emphasis and a minor in writing and rhetoric. I don’t look like most interns though, because I returned to school after a 25 year break to raise my large family.

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