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The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is not the only place in Los Angeles where you can experience an LA Opera production. You can see our productions at REDCAT, inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and even at Santa Monica Pier. LA Opera has many programs and initiatives that bring opera to various locations in the county and make sure everyone has access to opera.
In partnership with the County of Los Angeles Public Library and with generous support provided by former Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe (4th district) and Supervisor Hilda Solis (1st district), LA Opera brings professional opera singers to libraries around Los Angeles to perform musical moments from the most celebrated operas for families. Next month’s Puccini Opera Tales has the singers recounting tales from The Girl of the Golden West, Gianni Schicchi, and Turandot, as told by Giacomo Puccini himself.
Since LA Opera’s first season in 1986, Los Angeles is not the only place in the world that you can experience one of the company’s productions. Over the years, they’ve been rented and staged by other opera companies, produced during festivals, and even shown on the big screen. LA Opera’s innovative and beloved productions travel the world, sharing the spirit of Los Angeles and a love of opera with people far and wide.
Here are three productions that have traveled the world in recent years.
Salome (1986; 1989; 1998; 2001; 2017)
LA Opera’s iconic production of Strauss’s Salome (which returns to the LA Opera stage February 18) originally premiered during our first season in 1986. Adapted from the scandalous play by Oscar Wilde, Salome is a seductively beautiful tapestry of the subconscious. The princess Salome becomes infatuated by her stepfather’s prisoner, John the Baptist, and she determines to have him…whatever the cost.
This production of Salome is well traveled and has been staged both close to home (at San Diego Opera) across the country (Washington National Opera) and around the world (on tour with the Savonlinna Festival in Finland and as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival in China).
Sondra Radvanovsky was having a good night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion downtown. The American soprano, giving a recital as part of the L.A. Opera season, had performed repertory ranging from Verdi to Copland, interspersed with personal stories and an emotional tribute to her late father. Now she’d returned for encores—to an audience so enthusiastic she ended up singing four.
Dr. King, it is a privilege and honor to have the opportunity to share your career highlights with our audience. As an internationally recognized teacher, you fly into L.A. to work with our young artists three days every month.
How do the great vocal teachers get great? May we recap a bit of your formal academic path?
I was hooked nearly from the beginning. I went to college at Auburn University in Alabama and began by studying biochemistry. When I made the critical discovery that it would never be my passion, I joined the choir and auditioned for the voice program. After acceptance, I started intensively studying voice. Within six months, I was on stage singing in my first show, Gianni Schicchi. I cringe when I think of how I must have sounded then! After that, I entered graduate school at Florida State University and began singing.
Before he ever conceived of a career in opera, renowned tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz still spent most of his week singing. While studying engineering in his hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico, Chacón-Cruz sang with local trios, mariachis, and even as the lead singer serenading women for other men who were proposing. He was so passionate about singing that his mother signed him up for a voice lesson with an opera coach. At first, Chacón-Cruz protested, but the 15 minutes he spent with his first coach changed the course of his entire life.
“I told my mother, ‘Nobody likes opera. It’s so antiquated,’ but like a good son, I went to the lesson. The teacher – Jesus Li Cecilio – had me wait and I heard him working with another student. I thought, ‘This isn’t so bad.’ Then it was my turn and after hearing me sing for a few minutes, Li Cecilio said that I have a future in opera,” says Chacón-Cruz. He continues, “Those 15 minutes turned into the rest of my life and I couldn’t be happier.” … Continue reading
Richard Cook moved to Southern California from the East Coast in 2003, and began attending LA Opera soon after. “It was the first time I could attend opera without significant travel time. I became a donor very quickly.”
After retiring from a successful career in manufacturing operations and management, Mr. Cook pursued his passions for environmental protection, archeology, and opera. Hailing from a musical family, he had first asked his mother to take him to the opera at 9 years old. “She was delighted,” he recalls. “I turn 87 this year, so that’s a long time seeing opera.”
During the course of his nearly 80 years of opera fandom, Mr. Cook has attended opera productions throughout the US and Europe. He even attended an opera performed at the foot of the Great Pyramids. However, he claims that some of the most memorable operas he has ever experienced have been at LA Opera.
LA Opera’s last decade has been marked by multi-season initiatives—celebrating influential composers, exploring special repertoire, or presenting works in innovative ways—and it all started with a ring.
By 2006, LA Opera had established itself as a force of nature in the opera world. The company staged highly regarded productions each season, remaining true to the original tenets of its founders: pushing the boundaries of the medium, nurturing young talent, building a relationship with Hollywood, and producing opera infused with the pioneering spirit of Los Angeles. It was time for the company’s next bold move: a staging of Richard Wagner’s four-part Ring cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen. It would be a game changing project, to be sure, but nobody could have predicted how enormously this monumental project would affect the entire course of the company’s future.
SUPERNUMERARY (20 Scrabble points) – Latin – A supernumerary is opera’s version of an extra. Supernumeraries have no dialogue and are directed to create a believable scene, when the environment calls for large groups of people. But they’re actors or artists in their own right. What would Gianni Schicchi have been like without the lively corpse played by Momo Casablanca? What would the Pagliacci circus be like without dozens of attentive audience members? Can you imagine the cinematic beauty of Paris in La Boheme without several spirited supernumeraries showcasing the quintessential Parisian “joie de vivre?”
LA Opera ushered in the new millennium with astounding vitality. Now led by Plácido Domingo as artistic director, the young company was poised to build upon the remarkable growth that had marked its first 14 years under the direction of Peter Hemmings. While the 2000/01 season had largely been planned in advance by the now-retired Hemmings, Domingo’s impact was big, bold and immediate.
To open the 2000/01 season, Plácido Domingo conducted the company premiere of Aida, Verdi’s grandest opera, featuring a high-powered cast: soprano Deborah Voigt as Aida, tenor Johan Botha as Radames and bass-baritone Simon Estes as Amonasro, all making their LA Opera debuts. Just days later, Domingo held a press conference to announce his ambitious future plans, which represented nothing less than a radical rethinking of what LA Opera could be. He envisioned fashioning LA Opera into an opera company that would push the artistic boundaries of the medium, bringing it squarely into the popular culture of Los Angeles in the new millennium. His plans included a multi-season collaboration with the dynamic leader of the Kirov Opera, conductor Valery Gergiev; an enormous expansion of the company’s repertoire to emphasize new operas and works not previously presented in Los Angeles; and even a new production of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle, the first ever created in Los Angeles. Domingo’s star power would not only attract the most prominent singers, directors and designers of the time, it would also inspire a new wave of funding, through initiatives such as the Domingo’s Angels, essential to realize his plans. At Domingo’s side was a man who shared his artistic ambition: Kent Nagano, newly announced as LA Opera’s first-ever principal conductor, a position he would take up the following summer.
LA Opera’s partnership with Valery Gergiev had begun on the evening before that remarkable press conference. To expand upon the repertoire planned by Hemmings, Domingo had added a remarkable series of Wagner concerts, showcasing the Kirov Orchestra and its celebrated conductor in their first performances in Los Angeles. It was also the first time for L.A. audiences to experience Domingo singing Wagner, as the concert featured Act One of Die Walküre and Act Three of Parsifal. The soloists included Linda Watson, who would become the company’s Wagnerian soprano of choice for the next decade, and a young soprano on the verge of superstardom, Anna Netrebko.
Like the Force, our opera and film connection is strong. In celebration of tonight’s 88th Academy Awards, we are dedicating our #LAO30Images to showcasing the amazing productions that tie opera and film together. This includes everything from filmmakers, who have directed operas here, to our recent silent film inspired production of The Magic Flute. Los Angeles is a cinematic city and LA Opera – being LA’s resident opera company – has always tapped into the special relationship between the two great art forms: film and opera. Below are a few of our film/opera collaborative productions.
Woody Allen and William Friedkin Take On Il Trittico (2008)
The 2008 season opened with Puccini’s Il Trittico, composed of three operas, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica, and Il Tabarro. Oscar-winning film titan, Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Match Point, Annie Hall) made his opera directing debut with Gianni Schicchi (which recently returned to open our current season) and William Friedkin (The Exorcist) masterfully tackled Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica.
Herbert Ross Stages La Boheme (1993)
“Having worked in many art forms, I find opera is the most challenging of all, because it is a fusion of all the arts.” – Herbert Ross
Herbert Ross (Footloose, Steel Magnolias) directed a production of La Boheme in 1993 that significantly explores the deeper motivations behind Mimi, Musetta and Rodolfo’s actions. The story follows a series of bohemians in Paris (Ross updates the era to 1890s Paris) and centers on the love between Rodolfo and the dying Mimi. In Ross’ vision, Mimi and Musetta have more dimensions than are usually allowed – Musetta is characterized as a woman who demands independence, rather than a shrew, while Mimi is given greater agency and played as if she is not “innocent of experience.” Ross’ iconic 1993 production of Puccini’s La Boheme has been a crowd favorite for over 20 years and returns this June with the final two performances conducted by Gustavo Dudamel (who recently worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and conducted a Super Bowl 50 Half-Time performance).
Today, Plácido Domingo turns 75. The legendary singer has wowed audiences onstage for more than fifty years, with his emotionally connected acting talent and the remarkable timbre of his voice. He’s been described as “the King of Opera,” “a true renaissance man in music” and “the greatest operatic artist of modern times.” Domingo has also dedicated his life to sharing his passion for opera with the world. He does so greatly through his work as LA Opera’s Eli and Edythe Broad General Director. His love of the art form shows every time he’s in town and walks around the offices, greeting employees, before singing in and/or conducting an opera here. Domingo was also instrumental to the founding of LA Opera in 1986. (Check out my first installment of The Staging of an Opera Company to learn more.)
In September of last year, I was busy writing an article about opera in film, when I heard the news that Plácido Domingo had arrived on-site. I had yet to meet the famous opera legend, who was about to grace the stage in Gianni Schicchi and conduct Pagliacci, opening our current season. Wondering when I would get to speak to the General Director (who has helmed the company since 2001), I began to listen to my favorite Domingo tunes, including his spectacular Turiddu in Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. In a moment that can only be described as operatic, Maestro Domingo walked into our office right as his voice sounded through my headphones in a duet from Act I, “Turiddu, ascolta!” That’s when I met Plácido Domingo.
A lot of people at LA Opera – and I’m sure around the world – have similarly wonderful Plácido Domingo stories. He’s just that awesome.
To celebrate Maestro Domingo’s birthday, we have dedicated this edition of our #LAO30Images series to him. Check out our #LAO30Images: Domingo at LA Opera Pinterest Board to see all 30 images of Domingo on the LA Opera stage.
It has been a milestone season at LA Opera. During the latter half of our 29th season, we presented some of the most engaging and successful productions in the company’s history: a masterful west coast premiere of The Ghosts of Versailles, an engaging cinematic cross-over opera, Hercules vs. Vampires, and an epic avant-garde opera in Dog Days. Our 30th Anniversary Season has started off with a bang. Plácido Domingo’s 147th role debut as the title character in Gianni Schicchi, double-billed with Pagliacci, a contemporary classic, Moby-Dick, a sold-out run of Song from the Uproar, and a beloved bel canto masterpiece, Norma have all wowed Los Angeles audiences since September. Throughout the year, we’ve also had continued success with various initiatives that promote the arts in the greater Los Angeles Community, including our Cathedral Project and Opera Camp.
Below we’ve gathered a few articles and videos we’ve created throughout the year and additional photos are featured in our 2015: A Year in Review Pinterest gallery.
Take a sneak peek behind-the-scenes at The Ghosts of Versailles set and costumes as well as a preview from the show.
In September, Keith Walker brought his colleagues to see Gianni Schicchi. He wanted to share his love of opera with his fellow estate planning lawyers. The irony of taking a band of estate planning lawyers to see a Gianni Schicchi … Continue reading
Today, National Opera Week kicks off. Running through November 1, National Opera Week is a great opportunity to celebrate opera’s positive impact on communities around the country (and to a larger extent, the world). This got us thinking. What are some of the ways that opera influences community?
It brings us together.
Putting together an operatic production is a feat of epic proportions. Since opera is an amalgamation of several art forms, various artists (singers, designers, writers, even filmmakers) join together for one singular purpose: to bring a story to life.
Yet, opera brings not only artists together. Opera is for all those willing to experience timeless stories, staged theatrically, and sung by the most engaging voices of our time. This can mean a night out in Downtown Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler or a date night at Santa Monica Pier for a live HD simulcast at Opera at the Beach.
It educates us about history, society, social responsibility, and just about anything else you can imagine.
Did you know that there’s an opera about Richard Nixon called Nixon in China? Several operas are based on Shakespeare plays and Greek myths that tackle the big themes: love, humanity’s purpose, revenge. There are even short operas based on themes of social responsibility that form the crux of our Opera Camp program. Operas make people think in different ways; they can teach us to see the world through a new lens.
There are thousands of great operas to experience, but figuring out where to begin can be a little intimidating. However, opera newbies might be surprised to learn that they’re more familiar with opera than they think. Ever seen an episode of Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry? Many television shows, Broadway productions and even films are based on or inspired by some of the most popular operas to ever hit the stage.
Here’s a list of ten operas that would be great for any opera newbie to check out, most of which can be seen at LA Opera this season.
Moby-Dick – It’s a classic read and will be a classic opera performance for any newbie to watch. Sung in English, Moby-Dick is easier to follow musically and newbies will also be wowed by set designer Robert Brill’s creations, which bring the high seas to life on stage. Read more about a unique stage prop called a cyc, and the Moby-Dick ship set here.
La Boheme – For the Broadway junkies out there, this is the opera that sparked the musical Rent. It also served as the inspiration for Moulin Rouge (along with La Traviata) making the plot familiar and easy to follow for first-timers.
Aida – The elaborate costumes and set design give any opera newbie enough incentive to watch this beautiful opera. The story takes place in Egypt and focuses around the enslaved Ethiopian princess, Aida. The large pyramid sets and Egyptian attire, much like Pagliacci, show how much planning and work goes into making one of these shows come to life.
Madame Butterfly – Madame Butterfly is a romantic tragedy with an easy to follow story line and gorgeous music. The set is simple, beautiful and elegant and is sure to impress anyone who sees.
The Barber of Seville – Opera fan or not, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of The Barber of Seville. With famous tunes (check out this overture) and a few good laughs, it’s sure to be a lively performance and a great show for opera newbies.
Santa Monica Pier is one of Los Angeles’ largest tourist attractions. Groups of people flock west to experience the beach, ride the ferris wheel, and pose in front of the sign signaling the end of Route 66. This past Saturday, tourists and Angelenos alike came to Santa Monica for one reason: opera.
LA Opera hosted its second annual, live HD simulcast called Opera at the Beach on Saturday. This year, an estimated 4,000 people were treated to performances of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. People arrived early to claim their spot in front of the large screen, participate in opera trivia, and listen to music from LA Opera’s upcoming season, including Beth Morrison Projects’ Song from the Uproar and Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. Guests who purchased tickets to the Wine Terrace, sponsored by Los Angeles magazine enjoyed tasting various wines and meeting the wineries responsible for creating some of the best drinks southern California has to offer.
LA Opera is a family company. Nowhere is this more evident than in the returning singers that spend long stretches of their career gracing the stage at Dorothy Chandler. Greg Fedderly is the epitome of these singers. Throughout the course of LA Opera’s history, Fedderly has been in 63 productions – that’s over 390 performances in 30 years (and counting). This includes Borsa in Rigoletto (1993, 2010), Monostatos in The Magic Flute (1992, 2002, 2009), Red Whiskers in Billy Budd (2014), and many, many more.
Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci are rarely – if ever – done together. The most common pairing for Pagliacci is Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, another tragic love triangle of sorts. This season, LA Opera has forgone tradition by staging two gigantic productions together in its season opening double bill. It’s a marriage of comedy and tragedy and a posthumous reconciling for two composers, who fought against each other so fervently, after Puccini premiered La Bohéme (Leoncavallo also completed a version of the Bohéme story).
It’s also a huge undertaking set-wise.
From their view in the house, audience members are not privy to the pure magic that goes on behind the curtain, while they are in the midst of intermission. But with a view from the bridge, it’s possible to see both the production and the set-up.
The bridge is a platform walkway, connecting our second-floor backstage area with lighting equipment. Before you ask, this seat is not open to the public, but it does provide an interesting view of what it takes to stage a sizeable double bill, such as Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci. Once the curtain falls on the 50-minute Gianni Schicchi, it’s the stage crew’s time to shine. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, Schicchi’s gigantic, 1940s-inspired Florence set is removed and a 1980s-inspired bohemian Pagliacci set takes its place.