Monthly Archives: August 2016
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
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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).
The curtain first rose at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for an LA Opera production in 1986, but our roots trace back four decades earlier. Steeped in tradition and celebrating the spirit of the city we call home, LA Opera’s history is worth exploring.
Check out the articles below to learn about the staging of our opera company.
Minutes before the curtain rose on LA Opera’s 1986 production of Otello, Plácido Domingo stood in the wings, ready to make his entrance in one of his signature roles. He had triumphantly sung Verdi’s tragic hero for audiences around the world, and was widely renowned as the preeminent Otello of his generation. Yet this performance carried a special significance for the tenor. It would be the very first performance in LA Opera’s inaugural season. Full of anticipation, Domingo was eager to showcase to the Los Angeles community, and the greater opera world, what this city could create.
On August 27, LA Opera’s award-winning Opera for Educators series returns with a day devoted to exploring our season opener, Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth. This program explores opera from interdisciplinary points of view with a diverse group of engaging professionals and academics. Teachers gain insight about Macbeth, the history of opera as an art form and as a form of social commentary, as well as learn about opera in general. Opera for Educators is a place for teachers to be inspired by rich content and fall in love with opera, while also discovering how opera can be used to integrate arts into classroom curriculum. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
LA Opera’s ARIA program has been a great place for the city’s young professionals to connect with the arts, network, and make friends with fellow arts enthusiasts. This season, we are taking ARIA to the next level; the program is being redefined to elevate its placement as a young professionals program for opera lovers between the ages of 21 and 40, and is switching to a club membership-based model.
This new and improved ARIA offers members even more exciting perks and entrée into Downtown LA’s hottest new establishments. Here’s the low down. With an ARIA Club membership, you get access to intermission receptions on ARIA nights, entry to exclusive after-parties, free admission to two auxiliary ARIA events, happy hour networking events, and special discounts to additional LA Opera productions.
The best part? ARIA members get all the above party and networking benefits for only $99 with the purchase of an ARIA Package. Those who purchase a Full Season Subscription (Series C) will receive all of your ARIA benefits and more, and LA Opera will waive the $99 club membership fee.
Richard Cook moved to Southern California from the East Coast in 2003, and began attending LA Opera soon after. “It was the first time I could attend opera without significant travel time. I became a donor very quickly.”
After retiring from a successful career in manufacturing operations and management, Mr. Cook pursued his passions for environmental protection, archeology, and opera. Hailing from a musical family, he had first asked his mother to take him to the opera at 9 years old. “She was delighted,” he recalls. “I turn 87 this year, so that’s a long time seeing opera.”
During the course of his nearly 80 years of opera fandom, Mr. Cook has attended opera productions throughout the US and Europe. He even attended an opera performed at the foot of the Great Pyramids. However, he claims that some of the most memorable operas he has ever experienced have been at LA Opera.
Opera Camp is one of our favorite parts about summer at LA Opera. Watching more than 50 talented kids rehearse and perform opera in just two weeks never ceases to astound us. But, this year’s camp was extra special, because we premiered Eli Villanueva and Leslie Stevens’ Then I Stood Up, a youth opera honoring the contributions of young people to the Civil Rights Movement. From day one, kids not only engaged with opera, but also with civil rights history, in a way that connects past with the present, and brings people together through the power of opera.
While we loved everything about this year’s Opera Camp, here are some moments that really made this year’s program the best yet.
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.
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?
Chaya Forman and Luz Duran love to sing. Chaya used to sing with the National Children’s Chorus, while Luz loves singing pop songs and can easily break into a rendition of Alicia Keyes’ “Girl On Fire.” They’re also both rising seventh graders and will spend two weeks of their summer at LA Opera’s Opera Camp, rehearsing and performing Then I Stood Up, a youth opera about the contributions of young people to the Civil Rights Movement.
It’s also their first year in the camp and they’re loving the experience so far. We spoke with the girls to get a sense of what life is like for a first year camper.
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?