Did You Know?

6 Black Opera Singers Who Changed the Game

February is the month of many things; scrambling to find a decent gift for your significant other for Valentine’s Day, praising the heavens for that three-day weekend for Presidents’ Day and — of course — Black History Month. From Jesse Owens’ historic achievements at the 1936 Summer Olympics to Bessie Coleman’s accomplishment of becoming the first Black female pilot in 1922 — achievements by Black individuals throughout American history are abundant.

But what about the opera world? We’ve rounded up six (although there are plenty more!) opera singers who changed the landscape of the art!

Tenor George Shirley and soprano Leontyne Price rehearse for"Così fan tutte" (Photo Rights: RCA Victor Records)

Tenor George Shirley and soprano Leontyne Price rehearse for Così fan tutte (Photo Rights: RCA Victor Records)

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Did You Know? LA Opera Has a Coveted 4-Star Rating from Charity Navigator!

Due to its strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency, LA Opera is recognized as a 4-star charity by Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator.

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator

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Candide: A Note from Music Director James Conlon

“I am thrice homeless, as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world. Everywhere an intruder, never welcomed.”—Gustav Mahler

What does that famous quote have to do with Candide, Voltaire and Leonard Bernstein? This year the world celebrates the Bernstein centenary. For those of us who grew up in New York in the fifties and sixties, he was our inspiration. Looking back at this giant, who seemed to be the embodiment of music—classical, jazz and popular—it is hard to believe that one man could be and do all he was and did: conductor, composer, pianist, lecturer and educator all rolled into one.

Jack Swanson (Candide) in a rehearsal with Music Director James Conlon for LA Opera's 2018 production of "Candide." (Photo: Ken Howard)

Jack Swanson (Candide) in a rehearsal with Music Director James Conlon for LA Opera’s 2018 production of “Candide.” (Photo: Ken Howard)

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Behind the Masterpiece: Everything You Need to Know About Candide

One of the greatest works in Western literature, Voltaire’s 1759 satirical novel Candide, or Optimism follows its eponymous hero on a whirlwind tour throughout much of the known world. Bernstein’s 1956 musicalization of the novel followed almost as many twists and turns on its journey from Broadway to the opera house.

On Jan. 27, we resume our 2017-18 season with Bernstein’s masterpiece. Before you go, here is everything you need to know about Candide.

A still from the original 1956 production of Bernstein's Candide. (From left to right: Max Adrian, Louis Edmonds, Barbara Cook and Robert Rounseville).

A still from the original 1956 production of Bernstein’s Candide. (From left to right: Max Adrian, Louis Edmonds, Barbara Cook and Robert Rounseville).

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Roundup: Re-Watch LA Opera’s Pre-Performance Lectures From 2017

Prior to every performance, LA Opera’s acclaimed Music Director Maestro James Conlon and other scholars of note hold an engaging and informative talk about the opera our audience is about to see. Generously sponsored by The Flora L. Thornton Foundation and The Opera League of Los Angeles, these talks are free of charge to those attending the performance and take place in the Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

As LA Opera looks forward to the new year, here’s a recap of our Pre-Show Talks for the beginning of our 2017-18 season!

LA Opera’s production of ‘Macbeth’ at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. (Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho)

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In-School Opera Teaches Important Lessons Both On and Off the Stage

Opera not only offers transcendence and expands imaginations, but can also educate the public on social issues. LA Opera’s Elementary and Secondary In-School Operas do just that. Students from all over Los Angeles County learned this themselves just a few weeks ago when they performed alongside LA Opera artists in the Secondary In-School Opera (SISO), The White Bird of Poston, composed by Eli Villanueva with libretto by Leslie Stevens. This opera explores themes of service and citizenship, as well as the issues of prejudice, racism and cultural differences.

Students perform in Eli Villanueva’s The White Bird of Poston

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Opera Meets Film: How Persona Moves From Screen To Stage, To The Screen Again

How do movies and opera relate? To some, a conclusive answer may not be obvious — each art differs exponentially in many aspects. But when you take away the blatant differences, such as the respective emphases on music and the spoken word, there are commonalities that bring the two together. What opera and film share, along with most all performing arts, is the attention to human emotion.

A scene from “Persona.” (Photo: Noah Stern Weber, courtesy of Beth Morrison Projects)

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Hoop Skirts Are The Real Star of Nabucco

On Nov. 2, Verdi’s Nabucco returns to the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, with Plácido Domingo in the title role. The vibrant production by director Thaddeus Strassberger pays homage to the opera’s premiere at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala in 1842, featuring costumes elegantly designed by Mattie Ullrich.

Photo: Ken Howard/LA Opera

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La Belle et la Bête: Notes from Composer Philip Glass

Interested in going out this Halloween weekend but can’t figure out what to do? Join us at the Theatre at ACE Hotel for Cocteau/Glass’ La Belle et la Bête! Our Saturday and Tuesday shows include after-parties at the venue directly following the performance, including a special Costume Contest on the 31st.

Before you go, check out composer Philip Glass’ program notes on re-scoring the Cocteau classic, his relationship with the piece and more.

Philip Glass composed a new operatic soundtrack for Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film La Belle et la Bête.

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Paul and Marybelle Musco Matching Gift Challenge

Paul and Marybelle Musco; Photo: Steve Cohn

Paul and Marybelle Musco; Photo: Steve Cohn

Continuing their family tradition of encouraging support for LA Opera during the holidays, Paul and Marybelle Musco have announced a matching gift challenge.  Any donation received by December 31 will be matched $2 for every $1 donated up to $500,000.

For Paul and Marybelle Musco, supporting opera is an integral part of their lives. As a boy growing up in Rhode Island, Paul’s Italian immigrant parents were opera lovers and insisted that their children gather around the radio for the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. “I guess it was osmosis, because I came to love opera and it has stayed with me personally ever since,” he recalls.

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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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Domingo Is Still Number One in 30 Years

It is sometimes said among theatergoers that a bad final dress makes for a great opening night. If this is true, does less-than-perfect inaugural performance indicate success for the company as a whole?

When LA Opera opened the 1986/87 season with its first performance of Verdi’s Otello on October 7, 1986, nervous excitement and anticipation clung in the air—and apparently on the curtain as well. As the lights dimmed and conductor Lawrence Foster took his place at the podium, the curtain began to rise, only to malfunction and stick at its halfway point. The show went on and the curtain finally rose upward an instant later. Though many in the audience or behind the scenes must have been shocked, this proved to be only a small glitch in the overall evening. LA Opera has certainly clung to a standard of excellence in the 31 years since then. We’ve experienced ups and downs, but what has remained most constant is Plácido Domingo’s invaluable involvement with the company.

September 1, 2002; Los Angeles, California: USA
Los Angeles Opera
‘The Girl of the Golden West’ Dress Rehearsal
Copyright 2002 Robert Millard/LA Opera
www.MillardPhotos.com

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Nabucco and Verdi’s Creative Identity

A scene from Washington National Opera's Nabucco (2012); Photo: Scott Suchman

A scene from Washington National Opera’s Nabucco (2012); Photo: Scott Suchman

Giuseppe Verdi regarded Nabucco, his third work to reach the stage, as the catalyst that set the rest of his career in motion.

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The “Chill” Diva: Ana Maria Martinez Leads Master Class At USC

Martinez, currently starring in Carmen, worked with four singers from University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music on Friday afternoon.

An operatic diva is constantly on the go. From rehearsals to coachings to performances, it  can be difficult to balance a professional life with the personal.  Though it is certainly a skill one can stabilize, it’s important not to burn out or to wear all hats at the same time. That’s the message soprano Ana Maria Martinez conveyed to a group of university students on Friday afternoon.

Ana Maria Martinez works with soprano Bianca Orsi and pianist Sky Haneul Lee

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Susan Graham – A Dream Mentor Arrives at LA Opera

Susan Graham (center) with LA Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artists (from left: Taylor Raven, Joshua Wheeker, Juan Carlos Heredia, Carlos Enrique Santelli, Theo Hoffmann, Milena Gligic, Aurelia Andrews, Brian Michael Moore, Liv Redpath, Elizabeth Zharoff, and Michelle Siemens)

Susan Graham (center) with LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artists (from left: Taylor Raven, Joshua Wheeker, Juan Carlos Heredia, Carlos Enrique Santelli, Theo Hoffman, Milena Gligic, Aurelia Andrews, Brian Michael Moore, Liv Redpath, Elizabeth Zharoff, and Michelle Siemens)

Grammy Award-winner Susan Graham is a legend.

For decades, the mezzo-soprano has been one of opera’s greatest stars. She’s shared her voice with audiences worldwide and mastered an astonishing range of repertoire from classics like the title character in Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea (unforgettable at LA Opera in 2006) to Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking (a role written for her). This season, she adds another great role to her expanding resume: Artistic Advisor to LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein young artists.
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Carmen is in its final week of rehearsal

Share On September 9, we open the 17/18 season with Carmen. If you’ve been following along on Snapchat and Instagram Stories, you’ve seen some of our behind-the-scenes fun: rehearsals, set building, and even flamenco dancing. As we wrap up rehearsals … Continue reading

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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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Reasons to See Carmen

In just a few short weeks – on September 9, we’ll kick off our 17/18 season with Carmen. It’s one of the greatest operas – filled with passion and drama and promises to thrill opera-lovers and newbies alike.

Wondering why you should see it? Wonder no more. We’ve rounded up just a few reasons why it’s a must-see.

You know the music.

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

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

Whether it’s in a commercial or your favorite TV show, chances are you’ve probably heard one or all three of those pieces from Carmen. Knowing the tune or words to a song makes every live experience that much better – be it a concert or musical theater. Opera is no different. And since you know these songs – you’ll love this show.

Check out the use of “Habanera” in the Pixar film Up.

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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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Carmen on the silver and small screens

Look up most major opera composers on IMDb and you’ll get a list with hundreds of credits. Georges Bizet –famous composer of Carmen– is no exception. Music from Carmen can be heard in a variety of works, including the Pixar film Up. Carmen has also inspired several film adaptions, including the Academy-award nominated 1954 Carmen Jones.

We’ve rounded up some uses of Carmen on the silver and small screens to check out before seeing our production on September 9.

Up

In Up, Carl Frederickson, following the death of his wife Ellie, fulfills his lifelong dream of moving to Paradise Falls, but unbeknownst to him, eight-year-old Russell has tagged along. “Habanera” from Carmen is used early in the film, showcasing the monotony of Carl’s life without his wife.

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