A History of Contemporary Opera in Los Angeles

Modern and contemporary work is not new to LA Opera audiences. Since its inception, the new and innovative have been an integral part of LA Opera’s history.

The New Yorker‘s Alex Ross recently said of LA Opera, “No American company of LA Opera’s size…is more committed to new and unusual work.”

Persona (Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho)

In the company’s 32-year history, approximately 40 contemporary works have been performed, some multiple times, on LA Opera’s mainstage and through Off Grand. Of these 40 contemporary works, ten have been commissions.

Two of LA Opera’s most successful mainstage commissions, Florencia en el Amazonas (1997) and the internationally acclaimed Il Postino (2010) starring Plácido Domingo, were developed through a longstanding collaboration with the late composer Daniel Catán. Both of these works have been remounted many times in the U.S. and around the world.

Other notable commissions include Howard Shore’s The Fly (2008), Lee Holdridge’s Dulce Rosa at The Broad Stage in 2013, and Jack Perla’s Jonah and the Whale (2014) as part of the Community Opera at the Cathedral project.

Plácido Domingo as Pablo Neruda and Charles Castronovo as Mario Ruoppolo in Il Postino (2010); Photo: Robert Millard

Charles Castronovo as Mario Ruoppolo and Plácido Domingo as Pablo Neruda in Il Postino (2010); Photo: Robert Millard

As a passionate custodian of the opera tradition, LA Opera believes that it is just as important to preserve the longevity of new works and to ensure that they enter mainstage opera repertory as it is to support their initial creation.

It is only by revisiting works over and again that they have the gestation necessary to become a new standard of opera tradition. LA Opera began this focus in 2013 with Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s revolutionary Einstein on the Beach. This was followed by Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire (2013), Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles (2014), Heggie’s Moby-Dick (2015) and Glass’ Akhnaten (2016).

Einstein on the Beach (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Einstein on the Beach (2013); Photo: Robert Millard

Off Grand productions have featured Little’s Dog Days, Morganelli’s Hercules vs. Vampires (film/opera presentation), Glass’ Dracula (film/music presentation), Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar, Lang’s anatomy theater, Kamala Sankaram’s Thumbprint, Keeril Makan and Jay Scheib’s Persona and Ted Hearne’s The Source.

Modern and contemporary work now accounts for at least 1/3 of the number of all LA Opera performances. The company strives to take an active role in elevating the understanding of opera and demonstrating its relevance to young and contemporary audiences.

Dog Days (Photo: Greg Grudt)

Dog Days (Photo: Greg Grudt)

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