Faces of the Opera
John Neumeier is director, choreographer, set designer, costume designer and lighting designer for LA Opera’s new production of Orpheus and Eurydice (performed here in its 1774 French revision as Orphée et Eurydice). His staging comes to Los Angeles after performances earlier this season at Lyric Opera of Chicago, and it will be presented next season by a third co-producer, the Hamburg State Opera, featuring the Hamburg Ballet, where Mr. Neumeier is director and chief choreographer. During rehearsals for the Chicago performances, he spoke with Roger Pines, dramaturg of Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Soprano Erin Morley takes her job as a performer very seriously. That’s why she spends so much time dissecting the roles she sings to get to their true grit. Even an operetta like Candide, which is seemingly whimsical and lighthearted, has plenty of dark themes at its core that are relatable in today’s society.
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!
Renowned director Francesca Zambello brings her fanciful production of Candide to Los Angeles for the first time. First seen at the Glimmerglass Festival in 2015, with subsequent performances in Bordeaux and Toulouse, Zambello’s staging has been praised by Opera Today as “likely the best of all possible Candides.” And though the production is new to the company, Zambello is no stranger to Los Angeles: this is her seventh production with LA Opera.
Soprano Liv Redpath may have her sights set on a singing career, but opera isn’t her only passion. This member of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program is keen on maintaining a myriad of interests beyond the stage, most notably her love of literature.
Mezzo-soprano Amanda Crider loves performing contemporary works. That’s probably why she holds operas such as Persona close to her heart. In the two years since she premiered the piece, her own life experiences have added grit to her understanding of the troubled nurse Alma, and she looks forward to elevating her interpretation in Los Angeles.
Fifty years ago to the day— on November 17, 1967 — the fast-rising Spanish tenor on tour with the New York City Opera took to the stage of the new Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, to sing the title role in Alberto Ginastera’s Don Rodrigo. By the time the curtain came down, it was clear that Plácido Domingo was destined for stardom. But few could have predicted the profound and lasting impact that the young singer would make on the city’s cultural life.
On November 17 2017, LA Opera will celebrate its General Director with a star studded concert featuring artists from across the musical spectrum.
Soprano Lauren Michelle did not have an easy road to success. In fact, for many years she struggled to even be heard. But out of all the things this California native has proven, it’s that she’s a hard worker. And her perseverance has finally paid off. She’s not only sung on domestic stages in St. Louis and Washington, D.C., but has traveled all over the world — from Italy to Austria to Wales — singing for the some of the top names in the business.
Her triumphs have now led her to LA Opera, where she is currently covering Leïla in Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. For the inaugural post for our Cover Story series, which features profiles on the principal covers (or understudies) for our mainstage productions, Michelle had a chance to sit down with the company to discuss the long, winding road that has landed her back on her home turf, and how Maestro Plácido Domingo proved to be her biggest advocate.
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.
When your teacher tells you that an internationally-renowned opera singer is coming for a visit, you many not even know who they are or even imagine what they could possibly have in common with you. For students whose schools are part of LA Opera’s Cast to Class program, that preconceived notion is quickly erased when someone like Javier Camarena steps through the door.
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.
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.
Over the past 17 years, British filmmaker Penny Woolcock has made a name for herself in the opera world. After directing a film adaptation of John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer (which won the Jury Prize at the Brussels European Film Festival and the Prix Italia), Woolcock staged John Adams’ Doctor Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera and the English National Opera. She followed Doctor Atomic with a production of The Pearl Fishers at the English National Opera (ENO) in 2010, which ENO revived last year and which also had a successful run at the Metropolitan Opera. Now, Woolcock has brought The Pearl Fishers to Los Angeles. Before a rehearsal, we sat down with Woolcock to discuss her entry into the opera world and how she brings The Pearl Fishers to life.
You’ve had a successful career in film and television especially with the Tina trilogy, Tina Goes Shopping, Tina Takes a Break and One Mile Away. What drew you to opera?
I love music. When I was a teenager, I lived in Buenos Aires and I used to go the Teatro Colón with a friend. We were so high up, you couldn’t see the stage unless you held the other person’s legs while leaning over the balcony. [laughter] It’s been something I’ve always had a feeling for but I never imagined I would get a chance to direct it.
I’d also really loved John Adams’s music. I remember going into a record shop in Newcastle in 1988 and they were playing Nixon in China. I asked the guy in the store and asked, “What is this? I must have it!” Then, in the late ‘90s, I went to a concert performance of the The Death of Klinghoffer choruses. I was really moved by the way the first two heartbreaking choruses express the claims of two traumatized, dispossessed people over the same piece of land. It brought me to tears and the friend I was with saw that and said, ‘You should make a film of it,’ and I thought, ‘Yes, I should.’ I emailed the head of Channel 4 Music and to my surprise my phone rang immediately and she said, ‘What a fantastic idea!’ I was sort of known for making films about tough inner-city communities, not opera, but she thought that I might invent something different than just filming a staged performance. Then, obviously, I had to see if John Adams would approve. Again, it was one of those right place, right time moments, because he said that he’d always wanted someone to make a movie of one of his operas.
So, I made The Death of Klinghoffer.
We filmed John conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and we recorded the singers in isolation booths at Abbey Road Studios (where The Beatles famously recorded).
Once we had that, we hired a cruise line and sailed across the Mediterranean. We shot the film on location. John’s assistant conductor came with us and was running around behind the camera, conducting the singers as we shot them with a handheld camera. It was quite a magical experience and funnily enough we ended up using over 80% of the live sound in the final mix.
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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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Share The peerless stage director Sir Peter Hall (November 22, 1930 – September 11, 2017) was the founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a former director of the National Theatre in London, and had a thriving career in the world’s … Continue reading
A few months ago, we received an extraordinary letter from Deborah Perlis.
Perlis’s daughter, Ting, took part in two of our education and community engagement programs, and Deborah was eager to share with us just how much Ting’s opera experience helped change her life.
When Ting was diagnosed with autism at the age of 10, she and her mother Deborah didn’t know what do. For the next few years, all they heard from professionals was a laundry list of things that Ting would never do or have. Ting struggled in school, had low self-esteem and rarely spoke of her future, except to ask what would become of her.
Despite all the challenges Ting faces every day, she has always had a love of singing.
On a whim, Deborah reached out to our Education and Community Engagement team to discuss some options for Ting. With their help, Ting began her journey at LA Opera.
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A proud member of the first violin section in Los Angeles Opera Orchestra for a quarter century, Olivia Tsui has been successfully pursuing her career ever since completing her violin studies at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.
Her westward journey began in 1986, when Olivia arrived in the U.S. to continue her studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, followed by USC where she studied under Alice Schönfeld. Quickly becoming active in the Los Angeles music scene, she joined the LA Opera (LAO) Orchestra in 1992, followed by appearances with other local orchestras and chamber groups.
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Rehearsals for our 17/18 season opening production of Carmen are in full swing.
In addition to hearing wonderful singers perform the opera’s many hits like “Habanera,” we get to watch talented dancers tell Carmen’s story through flamenco.
These dancers are led by Spanish choreographer Nuria Castejón, whose career as a dancer (working for acclaimed Ballet Nacional de España and Compania Antonio Gades) evolved into a long-standing career as an opera, theater, and film choreographer. While Castejón has worked on many plays and as Penelope Cruz’s dance advisor on the Pedro Almodóvar film Volver, opera holds a special place in her heart.
“I adore opera,” says Castejón. “My parents were actors and lyric singers. They did a lot of operetta and zarzuela – sometimes even working with Plácido Domingo’s mother.”
Castejón brings this love of opera to every production she choreographs.
This includes classics like The Barber of Seville, Luisa Fernanda (with which she made her LA Opera debut in 2007) and now to Carmen.
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Laurie Peebler first joined LA Opera as a dancer.
She performed in all four operas of Wagner’s Ring Cycle spanning our company’s 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 seasons. Prior to joining LAO, Peebler’s performance background was focused on classical theater and small dance productions.
“I considered myself a Shakespeare nerd with movement experience when I auditioned for The Ring beside a mix of actors, dancers, stunt performers, circus artists and puppeteers,” Peebler explains. “The director led us through physical storytelling exercises that uniquely suited my skill set. I booked the job, my first time working in the world of opera, and it changed my life.”
After working on the Ring Cycle, Peebler went on to be featured in LA Opera’s La Cenerentola as well.
Then personal developments led to a shift in professional priorities.
“I became a mom and wanted more control over my schedule,” says Peebler. “At the same time, I hoped to stay connected to this amazing company and to feed my love of performing.”
That’s when Peebler traded late night rehearsals and day-long auditioning for working with kids as part of our Secondary In-School Opera (SISO) program.
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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