Monthly Archives: September 2016

LA Opera and Beth Morrison Place Today’s Headlines Into Opera

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

Hundreds of thousands classified military documents don’t exactly sound like ideal fodder for an opera libretto, but on October 19 LA Opera and Beth Morrison Projects will present the west coast premiere of Ted Hearne’s The Source, drawn from the U.S. Department of Defense cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 and the story of the U.S. Army private who leaked them. It is the season’s first foray into staging operas tackling contemporary themes (followed by Kamala Sankaram’s Thumbprint in the spring).

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Daniel Kelley Has Played for Hero John Williams and the LA Opera Orchestra

Daniel Kelley

Daniel Kelley

Like many musicians in the LA Opera Orchestra, French horn player Daniel Kelley plays on the soundtracks for some of the world’s major films. He’s played in the orchestra for scores of blockbuster movies from Star Wars to Pirates of the Caribbean, and even worked with his hero, composer John Williams, on ten films including the Academy Award-winning JFK. Since the 1993, Kelley has worked at LA Opera first as a freelance French horn player and then as a full member of the LA Opera Orchestra.

“Out of all the jobs I do, opera has become my favorite,” says Kelley. “I just love being here and all the members of the horn section get along. It’s almost like going home to work with the other three players.”

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In the Pit: Jennifer Johnson – Passion and Perseverance

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

“I love the oboe for its many colors and expressiveness. On very rare occasions, when the reed and the instrument are working just right, the instrument becomes an extension of myself. I feel vulnerable, yet I stay in the moment as nerves and distractions disappear. It is an incredible experience!”

The oboe itself is finicky. A screw can come loose, a crack can form, a pad can break off or an adjustment may shift. During performances, Jennifer keeps a tool bag under her chair with screwdrivers and superglue for just those occasions.

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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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Who Networks at the Opera? College Students.

Member of the 15/16 season College Advisory Committee

Member of the 15/16 season College Advisory Committee

LA Opera has a robust array of programs that get kids, teens, and young adults excited about opera. Several of these programs – Operawise, Opera Prep – bring students to the opera to meet with the company’s talented arts professionals. While these programs offer students the ability to network with people in the arts community, another program – the College Advisory Committee – takes networking to the next level. It offers students the opportunity to gain leadership skills while they help promote a major arts institution.

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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 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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Opera Prep Shows Students Future Career Possibilities

Lee Blakeley (director of last season's Madame Butterfly) talks to Opera Prep students about his career.

Lee Blakeley (director of last season’s Madame Butterfly) talks to Opera Prep students about his career.

LA Opera has several education and community programs geared towards teachers and students and offering them a taste of the many careers students can pursue in the future. Opera Prep is one of those programs. It offers teachers the opportunity to bring their students to the opera and introduce them to some of the most talented professionals in the arts world. … Continue reading

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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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What Interning at LA Opera Meant To Me

Cristian Perez

“You go to school for theatre? Like acting? I didn’t know people went to school for that,” said the flight attendant, a bright-faced, tall woman. Her smile glowed with the same intensity that mine receded. I was on my way to the 2017 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and our flight was due to land in Hawaii in just about two hours. The view underneath me was shifting from the blue tinge of ocean water to the mossy greens and browns of island life.

Yet, the excitement that was boiling inside me just mere moments ago, vanished with the sound of her words. Was my career path the right one? Did I really want to pursue a career in the arts? These are sentiments to which any student in the arts terrain can relate to. Feelings of uncertainty, low self-confidence, and doubt are a poison which sadly follows every creative spirit. I am conscious that a career in the arts means a challenge: a challenge to truly find one’s place within the world of creative exploration. As a Creative Literature and Theatre Performance double major with a minor in Latino Studies (all fields in the humanities), I have made my choice: the arts.

There is no question that the arts field presents a tough road; its fast paced nature and extreme competitiveness makes it a constant challenge to thrive. However, it is due to opportunities such as the one I’ve had this summer that my dream continues to gleam with zeal. Interning at LA Opera has been an absolute blessing for me.

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