A Year in Review: LA Opera’s Highlights from 2018

LA Opera experienced many firsts in 2018. From Emmy Award-winning artists making their debuts to stunningly powerful world premieres on our Off Grand stage, we are proud of our accomplishments over the last 12 months.

The LA Opera family thanks you for making our 2018 so successful. As we wind down for the holidays, take a look at some highlights throughout this monumental year.

January

Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Pangloss and Jack Swanson as Candide in LA Opera’s 2018 production of Candide. (Photo: Ken Howard)

LA Opera presented Leonard Bernstein’s Candide for the first time in January 2018 in honor of the composer’s centennial birth, starring five-time Emmy Award winner Kelsey Grammer as Voltaire/Dr. Pangloss. The production also saw a number of LA Opera debuts, including tenor Jack Swanson in the title role, soprano Erin Morley as Cunegonde and Broadway legend Christine Ebersole as the Old Lady.

February

Soprano Renee Fleming in recital with pianist Hartmut Holl at LA Opera on February 6, 2018. (Photo: Larry Ho)

Soprano Renée Fleming in recital with pianist Hartmut Höll at LA Opera on February 6, 2018. (Photo: Larry Ho)

Superstar soprano Renée Fleming delivered a memorable recital on Feb. 6 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, alongside pianist Hartmut Höll. Fleming performed selections from some of classical music’s greatest composers, including Handel, Brahams, Dvořák and Bernstein.

March

Maxim Mironov (center) as Orpheus with dancers from the Joffrey Ballet in a scene from LA Opera's 2018 production of "Orpheus and Eurydice." (Photo: Ken Howard)

Maxim Mironov (center) as Orpheus with dancers from the Joffrey Ballet in a scene from LA Opera’s 2018 production of Orpheus and Eurydice. (Photo: Ken Howard)

In its first partnership with The Joffrey Ballet, LA Opera presented Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice in a new production by John Neumeier, director and chief choreographer of Hamburg Ballet. Orpheus and Eurydice was a hit with audiences and critics, and was hailed as “exquisite” by LA Times.

April

Plácido Domingo and Sonya Yoncheva in the Metropolitan Opera's 2018 production of Luisa Miller (Photo: Chris Lee/Met Opera)

Plácido Domingo and Sonya Yoncheva in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2018 production of Luisa Miller (Photo: Chris Lee/Met Opera)

Our stage may have been dark during the month of April, but our team was still hard at work bringing the magic of opera to life. Most notably, Maestro Plácido Domingo, LA Opera’s Eli and Edythe Broad General Director, took a few gigs of his own at other opera houses across the globe. In April, he made yet another role debut (one of 150 in his 50+ year career!) as Miller in Verdi’s Luisa Miller at the Metropolitan Opera, alongside soprano Sonya Yoncheva. Also that month, he conducted performances of Gounoud’s Roméo et Juliette, again at the Met.

May

Broadway legend Audra McDonald

Broadway legend Audra McDonald

Broadway legend and six-time Tony Award-winning actress Audra McDonald gave an unforgettable recital during the 2017/18 season. In a concert alongside conductor Andy Einhorn and the LA Opera Orchestra, McDonald gave stirring renditions of songs by Lerner & Loewe, Jason Robert Brown and more. The LA Times said of the diva, “Perfection is not attainable in this earthly realm, but Audra McDonald came as close as humanly possible in her Los Angeles Opera concert … at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.”

June

Arturo Chacon-Cruz as the Duke of Mantua and Juan Jesus Rodriguez as Rigoletto in LA Opera's 2018 production of "Rigoletto." (Photo: Ken Howard / LA Opera)

Arturo Chacón-Cruz as the Duke of Mantua and Juan Jesús Rodríguez as Rigoletto in LA Opera’s 2018 production of “Rigoletto.” (Photo: Ken Howard / LA Opera)

We closed out the 2017/18 season was Giuseppe Verdi’s quintessential Rigoletto, starring two divine casts that included Juan Jesús Rodríguez, Ambrogio Maestri, Arturo Chacón-Cruz, Michael Fabiano, Lisette Oropesa, and, in her triumphant LA Opera debut, Adela Zaharia. Both casts were led under the baton of Artist-in-Residence Matthew Aucoin.

Dominic Armstrong as Edgar Allan Poe (with Jamielyn Duggan as Madeline Usher and Keith Phares as Roderick Usher) in LA Opera's 2018 production of "Usher House." (Photo: Craig T. Mathew / LA Opera)

Dominic Armstrong as Edgar Allan Poe (with Jamielyn Duggan as Madeline Usher and Keith Phares as Roderick Usher) in LA Opera’s 2018 production of Usher House. (Photo: Craig T. Mathew / LA Opera)

Also this month, we presented the company debut of Gordon Getty’s spooky yet kooky double-bill of Usher House/The Canterville Ghost (nicknamed “Scare Pair”) at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Hailed for its “lively cast” by LA Times, “Scare Pair” completed LA Opera’s Off Grand season for 2017/18.

July

Eli Villanueva, Resident Stage Director for LA Opera’s Education and Community Engagement, with kids from Opera Camp 2018.

Eli Villanueva, Resident Stage Director for LA Opera’s Education and Community Engagement, with kids from Opera Camp 2018.

Every summer, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion fills up with students ages 9-17 for LA Opera’s Opera Camp. This past year, the program expanded and over 70 campers participated in learning everything there is to know about opera. The program culminated in two fully-staged operas for friends, family and the community — The White Bird of Poston and The Prospector.

August

Ana Maria Martinez (center) in rehearsals for Don Carlo at LA Opera (Photo: Arya Roshanian)

Ana María Martínez (center) in rehearsals for Don Carlo at LA Opera (Photo: Arya Roshanian)

After a two-month hiatus, LA Opera returned to the rehearsal room in August for Verdi’s Don Carlo. The company happily welcomed back soprano Ana María Martínez in the role of Elisabetta, a role she’d only sung once before in her career as a professional singer. She starred alongside Plácido Domingo as Rodrigo and tenor Ramón Vargas as the titular character, with Richard Seaver Music Director James Conlon conducting.

September

Opera in the Park 2018: (Photo: Forest Casey)

Opera in the Park 2018: (Photo: Forest Casey)

We can’t talk about our opening night of Don Carlo without mentioning our annual live Simulcast events — Opera on the Beach and Opera in the Park. Thanks to a grant sponsored by Los Angeles County and by Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, LA Opera transmitted a live broadcast of Don Carlo from the stage to the big screens at both the Santa Monica Pier and El Cariso Community Regional Park. You can learn more about LA Opera’s simulcast here.

October

Sean Panikkar (center, in white) as Gandhi with the men of the LA Opera Chorus in LA Opera's 2018 production of "Satyagraha." (Photo: Cory Weaver)

Sean Panikkar (center, in white) as Gandhi with the men of the LA Opera Chorus in LA Opera’s 2018 production of Satyagraha. (Photo: Cory Weaver)

We completed our cycle of Philip Glass’ “Portrait Trilogy” with Satyagraha, following performances of Einstein on the Beach and Akhnaten in previous seasons. This non-linear opera of the life and accomplishments of M.K. Gandhi struck a chord with audiences and critics, and was deemed as a “must-see magnificent production” by LA Times. The performance also marked the LA Opera debut of tenor Sean Panikkar, who sang the role of Gandhi to critical acclaim as well.

November

Anna Schubert as Bibi (center) in the world premiere of Ellen Reid's "p r i s m" (Photo: Larry Ho/LA Opera)

Anna Schubert as Bibi (center) in the world premiere of Ellen Reid’s “p r i s m” (Photo: Larry Ho/LA Opera)

The final Off Grand production of 2018 — the world premiere of “p r i s m” by composer Ellen Reid and librettist Roxie Perkins, produced by Beth Morrison Projects at REDCAT — made a bold statement by tackling subject matters of national importance — . The piece, which tells the story of an ill girl and her doting mother who live locked away from the world, explores the elasticity of memory after trauma, and the lengths one will go to heal. Read more about the opera in an interview with one of its stars, Anna Schubert, who sang the role of Bibi.

December

Susan Graham (center) as the Witch, with Sasha Cooke (Hansel) and Liv Redpath (Gretel) in LA Opera's 2018 production of "Hansel & Gretel" (photo ©Cory Weaver)

Susan Graham (center) as the Witch, with Sasha Cooke (Hansel) and Liv Redpath (Gretel) in LA Opera’s 2018 production of Hansel and Gretel. (photo ©Cory Weaver)

We are privileged to end our year by presenting Humperdinck’s fantastical Hansel and Gretel, starring superstar mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as the Witch. The production has been a treat for both children and adults, with San Francisco Classical Voice calling it “big and colorful, like a giant multimedia jigsaw puzzle that transforms the opera into something more akin to a theme park ride at Universal Studios.” But we’re not done quite yet — Hansel and Gretel is onstage until Dec. 15!

We at LA Opera can’t thank you enough for another memorable year in the books. We hope to see you just as often in 2019!

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5 Responses to A Year in Review: LA Opera’s Highlights from 2018

  1. Bernadette Brazal says:

    Put LA Opera Zarzuela in your Dorothy Chandler Pavillon shows.
    Also join Colleges and Universites in your College Productions and allow them an oportunity to perform at Dorothy Chandler Pavillon.
    Give students more discounted tickrts.
    Allow LA Community Outreach to perform at Dorothy Chandler Pavillion
    Give every group an opportunity to perform at Dorothy Chandler Pavillon as well.
    Include all groups in the Christmas Shows and New Year shows

    • Hi Bernadette,
      We can tell that you’re a passionate supporter of our projects and we couldn’t be more thrilled! We’re extremely proud of LA Opera’s community efforts that you mentioned and would love for them to be available on every stage as well. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion mainstage productions have very specific measures we need to meet in terms of partners and contracts but we’ve spotlighted a variety of community projects on stages large and small all over LA including our Opera Camp, annual Cathedral project and more. For more information on these programs as well as discounted tickets (for students, seniors and others) please visit https://www.laopera.org/tickets/rush/ and https://www.laopera.org/Community/Education-and-Community-Engagement/. Thanks for reaching out and we can’t wait to see you at our Zarzuela performance!

  2. Howard Lee Myerhoff says:

    I’ve seen 3 at the Dorothy Chandler this year. Candied, Satyagraha and Hansel and Gretel. Air the performances were really delightful, beautifully staged and gloriously sung. Talks by conductors are excellent and resulted in much mire intense enjoyment. Superscripts are extremely helpful in alloeing us more casual opera lovers to better understand what we are seeing and hearing.
    The only downsides are the very tight seating, the disruption caused by the construction, and the horrible traffic and parking when two or three events are scheduled on the same nights.

    • Thank you so much for your feedback, we’re glad that you enjoyed the performance (along with the talks!) and thank you so much for supporting the arts. We know the construction on the plaza is a bit disruptive and inconvenient, but we promise something bigger and better is coming soon! As far as the parking and traffic, our schedule of performances are the result of many factors (stage availability, artist availability, conductor availability, etc.) which sometimes means other organizations on our campus may also be having performances which clogs the parking and makes traffic a bit more dense. However, these are few and far between and we hope it didn’t put too much of a damper on your night. Can we chalk up the tight seats to a result of 1960s architecture and call a truce?! Again, thank you so much for supporting the arts and we hope to see you at the opera again soon.

  3. Katherine Pfeiffer says:

    I loved all the operas I saw this year and last. Michael Fabiano as the Duke in Rigoletto was magnetic – how could any woman resist! I now have all his available recordings.

    Placido Domingo (in Nabucco and Don Carlos) seems to be getting younger and more handsome every time we see him. His voice is celestial.

    Thank you for all your wonderful presentations.

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