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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About La Bohème

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 by … Continue reading

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Los Angeles Children’s Chorus Takes the Stage in La Bohème

Members of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, who also make up the Children's Chorus in La Bohème.

Members of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, who also make up the Children’s Chorus in La Bohème.

For more than 20 years, members of the prestigious Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (LACC) have starred in productions at LA Opera. From playing precocious characters in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (1998) to singing alongside the pros in Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd, LACC children have shared their enthusiasm and vocal gifts with artists, staff and audiences. The latest collaboration between LA Opera and LACC is Puccini’s La Bohème.

In this opera, 14 singers make up the children’s chorus. Some of these children have been in other productions and others are new to the world of opera. What they all share is an excitement about singing and opera that is infectious and wonderful to see.

Today, the kids are gathered in the lobby, chatting excitedly, because they will soon be on stage rehearsing with the pros. When asked what their favorite parts of rehearsals and being in the opera are, several hands shoot up. “I love hearing the power of their voices and knowing that all these people are watching us,” says Soren Ryssdal (12). His fellow choir members nod their heads in agreement. Of staging, Sydney Brakeley (10) says, “I like being able to know where I am going just by hearing the music.” With a big grin on her face, Anika Erickson (13) age adds, “We also have fake siblings.” All the kids laugh.

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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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Directing La Bohème

La Bohème (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

La Bohème (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

In May 2012, Peter Kazaras sat in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, surrounded by his UCLA students, observing a dress rehearsal of Puccini’s La Bohème at LA Opera. During a break, Kazaras asked his students, “When is this production set?” The students hesitated. He continued, “Where is the production set?” They responded, “Paris!” Yet, they still couldn’t determine the time period. Kazaras smiled, pointing out the half-formed Eiffel Tower structure in the background of Act I. He watched the lightbulbs go off, as his students suddenly realized that it must be set in the 1880s, when the Eiffel Tower was under construction. It was in this moment that all Kazaras’s teachings about the importance of design came full circle for his students. Kazaras beamed with pride.

Four years later, Kazaras once again comes face to face with this production – this time in the director’s chair.

Kazaras, who has recently directed La Bohème at both Washington National Opera and Dallas Opera, knows the piece well. However, LA Opera’s production, originally conceived by film director Herbert Ross in 1993, presents its own set of challenges. “It’s like being given a legal brief that you have to study thoroughly so that you can really understand the facts,” says Kazaras, alluding to his earlier profession as a lawyer. This is because Kazaras has inherited some key elements of the production (ie. set, props and costumes) Ross. Kazaras’s challenge is working with Ross’s gigantic and impressive set, while still adding his own directorial stamp on the show.

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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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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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5 Reasons to See The Pearl Fishers

On October 7, Angelenos experienced a rare treat. We opened George Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers – lesser known than his famous Carmen, but no less stunning for both opera aficionados and newbies. Critics have already been raving about the production, calling it “stunning” (LA Times), “enthralling” (Broadway World) and “eye-dazzling” (LA Daily News).

A scene from Penny Woolcock's production of The Pearl Fishers at the Metropolitan Opera (2015); Photo: Ken Howard

A scene from Penny Woolcock’s production of The Pearl Fishers at the Metropolitan Opera (2015); Photo: Ken Howard

If the critics’ response isn’t enough, here’s a list of more reasons why The Pearl Fishers is a must-see this fall:

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Nino Machaidze Discusses Her Role in ‘Pearl Fishers’

Soprano Nino Machaidze is no stranger to LA Opera. With six productions already under her belt, she considers the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as her “second home.” This Saturday, Machaidze returns to LA Opera to sing Leïla in Bizet’s seldom-performed The Pearl Fishers (Les pêcheurs de perles) under the baton of Maestro Plácido Domingo, alongside tenor Javier Camarena and baritone Alfredo Daza.

Nino Machaidze as Leila in LA Opera’s 2017 production of “The Pearl Fishers” (photo: Ken Howard)

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Amanda Woodbury Returns To LA Opera

Amanda Woodbury

Amanda Woodbury

Since “graduating” from our Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program in 2014, soprano Amanda Woodbury has become one of opera’s rising stars. She’s sung Musetta in La bohème here at LA Opera, Konstanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio at Dayton Opera and Des Moines Metro Opera, and multiple roles at the Metropolitan Opera, including a star turn as Juliette in Roméo et Juliette and Leïla in The Pearl Fishers. Now, Woodbury returns to sing Micaëla in Carmen, the role with which she made her professional here in 2013.

Before our last orchestra tech, we caught up with Woodbury to discuss how she fell into opera and how her performance of Micaëla has evolved.
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Attention Campers – Arias That Make the Bears Go Away

Shawnet Sweets, our resident opera junkie is at it again.

So Young Park as Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

In addition to work and all her other adventures, Shawnet is a camper. During a recent critter-interrupted camping trip, Shawnet discovered that some of her favorite arias startled and shooed her uninvited visitors away. Those visitors were bears.

Just in time for the final weekend of summer, she’s shared her “Bear-Scare Aria Playlist” with us.

Forget the traditional banging of pots and pans. If you’re headed to the wilderness to cap off the summer this Labor Day Weekend, be sure to take these tunes along. You’ll enjoy them and it might keep those pesky bears away.
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Get To Know Ana María Martínez

Ana María Martínez as Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Ana María Martínez as the title character in Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Twenty Years of Singing in Los Angeles

One of the world’s most acclaimed opera stars, soprano Ana María Martínez first graced the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage in 1997 singing Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème. This was not long after she took a top prize in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition. Since then, she has sung five roles in six LA Opera productions—Violetta in La Traviata, Mimi (in two different seasons), Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, Nedda in Pagliacci, and Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly. In September, she will mark her 20th anniversary in L.A. by making another LA Opera role debut as the fiery Carmen in Bizet’s eponymous opera.
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LA Opera: For The Greater Good

Carmen (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

Carmen (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

Did you know that LA Opera is a non-profit?

Many people don’t realize that most arts organizations are non-profits, built to help people find common ground and an emotional connection.

LA Opera is no different. We strive to bring opera to everyone, because we know how opera’s unique combination of classical music, storytelling, and visual arts, when simultaneously shared with hundreds upon hundreds of people, can be awe-inspiring.
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James Conlon Talks the Carmen Myth

Ana María Martínez as Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Ana María Martínez as the title character in Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Georges Bizet’s last opera has struck deeply into the soul of Western Civilization.

Its music is universally loved and its meaning constantly analyzed, debated and reinterpreted. As a protagonist, Carmen is unique. Contrary to many mythological characters who served as operatic subjects, she transcended her stage existence and then evolved into an archetype, a popular and modern myth. Unlike Don Juan, Faust and numerous Greek, Roman and Nordic mythological characters adapted for the opera stage, Carmen had little prehistory. But like Mozart’s Don Giovanni, her obvious male counterpart, she became immortal thanks to the genius of a composer. The protagonist of a short story by Prosper Mérimée, she was perfectly realized the moment Bizet set her to music.

Who is Carmen and what does she represent?

Ask a dozen opera lovers, and there will be a dozen answers. Evil temptress, femme fatale, erotic demon, 19th-century Eve for some; victim of racism, gender inequality and social injustice, symbol of emancipation and feminine empowerment for others.
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What Opera Should I See First? Here’s a list.

You’ve read the rave reviews, watched the season trailer, and seen your friends’ Instagrams at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Now, you want to experience a night at the opera. The only problem is – there are a lot of choices and you don’t know which opera to see first.

We’re here to help. Below are a few great starter operas, some of which are coming to LA Opera this season.

CARMEN

Ana María Martínez as Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

Ana María Martínez as the title character in Carmen; Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of Houston Grand Opera

There’s a reason why everybody loves Carmen. It’s about an independent, wild, and fierce woman from the south of Spain, who has no shortage of admirers. This realistic, action-packed story has become one of the most popular operas in the world. That’s because of its Spanish flair, grand music, and tragic love triangle. Also, whether you’re a Westworld fan or you like The Muppets, we know you’ve heard the music from Carmen before (“Habanera”).

You’re already familiar with Carmen, so why not make it your first opera experience this September?

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Melody Moore’s Tosca Has Evolved from Demure to Empowered

Melody Moore; Photo: Chip Gillespie

Melody Moore; Photo: Chip Gillespie

Soprano Melody Moore believes in female empowerment — perhaps that’s why she’s so drawn to the Lady Macbeths and Floria Toscas of the operatic stage. Luckily, these are the types of roles she’s been polishing since her earliest days as a budding singer, meticulously analyzing each and every leading lady throughout her development. But Moore is all grown up now, and on May 13 she once again steps into the title role of Puccini’s Tosca at LA Opera, under the baton of Maestro Grant Gershon.

With her fifth production of Puccini’s masterpiece underway, Moore doesn’t let repetition affect her artistic integrity. In her own words, it’s a role that changes as she matures, and her understanding of the character has zig-zagged across the mood board.

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GIVING TUESDAY: HELPING ME GET KIDS EXCITED ABOUT OPERA

Jessica Insco (center) with Stacy Brightman, Vice President of Education & Community Engagement and Nathan Rifenburg, Education Manager

Jessica Insco (center) with Stacy Brightman, Vice President of Education &
Community Engagement and Nathan Rifenburg, Education Manager

The following is an article written by Jessica Insco, a fine arts teacher, who participated in Opera for Educators. This program is designed to equip educators with tools that help foster a love of the performing arts within students in schools across Los Angeles.

Help make education programs like this possible.  Visit LAOpera.org/Donate

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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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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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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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