Faces of the Opera
When arriving for her interview a few weeks ago on an unusually rainy day in Los Angeles, mezzo-soprano Ginger Costa-Jackson is all smiles. She’s just happy to be in the city, regardless of the weather.
“The apartment that I’m staying at has a rooftop and I can see the Hollywood sign,” said Costa-Jackson. “On my days off, I’ve been laying out and tanning, but I guess not today.”
Stage Managers have some of the most important jobs in opera. Unlike other types of performing arts, such as musical theater, stage managers in the opera cue almost everything — from paging artists to the stage, to entrances, to sound cues and special effects, stage managers pretty much run the show. It’s an enormous responsibility, one that Chelsea Antrim, Production Stage Manager at LA Opera, feels prepared for every performance.
Audra McDonald is an artist that transcends all genres. From the stage to television to the movie screen, there isn’t much she hasn’t already done. And with an Emmy Award, two Grammy Awards and a record-setting six Tony Awards, it’s safe to say she’s already established herself as an icon.
Although mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven has only been a member of LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program for a year, she’s already made her company debut as the Vanderdendur in Candide. As the treacherous ship captain who double crosses Candide, she chewed up the stage. Later this month, she appears with Artist in Residence Matthew Aucoin and the other Domingo-Colburn-Stein YAPs on-tour in “Verdi: Bel Canto and Beyond.”
Joffrey dancer Victoria Jaiani knows a thing or two about ballet — she’s been training in the art since age 10. Since joining the Joffrey Ballet in 2003, she’s gone on to perform roles such as Giselle (Giselle), Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Terpsichore (Apollo) and many more.
Though she’s well-seasoned in ballet, Jaiani is new to the world of opera. Currently appearing in Orpheus and Eurydice, she had the opportunity to answer our questions on working with opera singers, as well as her insight on the daily life of a ballerina.
For a lyric-coloratura soprano like Lisette Oropesa, it can be easy to be pigeonholed into the many mistreated ingenue roles that dominate the repertoire. But Oropesa has broken that mold. At only 34 years old, she already has a wide array of repertoire. From Baroque to bel canto to new music, she has sung it all.
This season, Oropesa returns to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage in two back-to-back roles. On March 10, she makes her role debut as Eurydice in John Neumeier’s new staging of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice. In May, she assumes the role of Gilda in the first three performances of Verdi’s Rigoletto.
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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