Tag Archives: James Conlon

Five Things To Know Before You See ‘Jonah and the Whale’

On March 16 and 17, LA Opera Education Department mounts the return of Jonah and the Whale, an opera for audiences of all ages by composer Jack Perla and librettist Velina Hasu Houston. Following in the tradition of previous Cathedral Project productions, Jonah and the Whale features professional opera singers in the leading roles and members of the LA Opera Orchestra, performing along with a large group of community-based performers drawn from schools, churches, choirs and orchestras from every part of Los Angeles.

Interested in attending? Here for five elements of the upcoming production that make it worth seeing!

A scene from LA Opera Education Department's 2014 production of Jonah and the Whale (Photo: Robert Millard ©)

A scene from LA Opera’s 2014 production of Jonah and the Whale (Photo: Robert Millard)

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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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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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Nabucco: A Note from Music Director James Conlon

Nabucco is the first manifestation of Giuseppe Verdi’s genius. It was his third opera, and its immense success established him at 28 years of age as a powerful force in Italian theater and music. He was never, even posthumously, to lose that status. Even with rocky moments and the inevitable ups and downs of an artistic life, he was to become and remain Italy’s preeminent composer of the 19th century and arguably of its entire history. Though thoroughly Italian (sometimes obstinately so in the face of the foreign influences from the north of Europe), his music transcended its native land and its composer’s humble origins to install itself throughout the world.

LOS ANGELES, CA. Sep. 6, 2016. LA Opera’s production of ‘Macbeth’ at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. (Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho)

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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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James Conlon Talks the Carmen Myth

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

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

Georges Bizet’s last opera has struck deeply into the soul of Western Civilization.

Its music is universally loved and its meaning constantly analyzed, debated and reinterpreted. As a protagonist, Carmen is unique. Contrary to many mythological characters who served as operatic subjects, she transcended her stage existence and then evolved into an archetype, a popular and modern myth. Unlike Don Juan, Faust and numerous Greek, Roman and Nordic mythological characters adapted for the opera stage, Carmen had little prehistory. But like Mozart’s Don Giovanni, her obvious male counterpart, she became immortal thanks to the genius of a composer. The protagonist of a short story by Prosper Mérimée, she was perfectly realized the moment Bizet set her to music.

Who is Carmen and what does she represent?

Ask a dozen opera lovers, and there will be a dozen answers. Evil temptress, femme fatale, erotic demon, 19th-century Eve for some; victim of racism, gender inequality and social injustice, symbol of emancipation and feminine empowerment for others.
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Meet Patricia Racette and James Conlon

Our Grammy Award Winning Duo - LA Opera Music Director and world renowned soprano Patricia Racette are back together in Salome.

Our Grammy Award Winning Duo – LA Opera Music Director and world renowned soprano Patricia Racette are back together in Salome.

Together again –  LA Opera Music Director, James Conlon and Patricia Racette (Salome) will host a special CD signing.

When: Thursday, March 16, 2017 – immediately following the performance
Where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – Grand Avenue Lobby

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Britten at the Cathedral

Noah's Flood (2015); Photo: Ben Gibbs

Noah’s Flood (2015); Photo: Ben Gibbs

When James Conlon became LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director in 2006, one of the first initiatives he brought to the company was the Cathedral Project. A partnership between LA Opera and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the Cathedral Project brings community singers and musicians together with LA Opera artists to present an opera to the public. For over a decade, it has been a key feature of the company’s community engagement and an opera that performers, teaching artists, and audience members look forward to each year. Conlon, who conducts these performances every year, is “thrilled that Los Angeles families have responded to community productions with so much enthusiasm and appreciation.” … Continue reading

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Celebrate 10 Years of Artistic Leadership

James Conlon; Photo: Chester Higgins

James Conlon; Photo: Chester Higgins

James Conlon’s remarkable work with the LA Opera Orchestra has elevated LA Opera’s artistry to a new level of excellence. He has also brought lost works to life through the Recovered Voices project and, working closely with Plácido Domingo, has contributed enormously to developing a love for opera in our city.

From convening, citywide festivals to packing the Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall during his pre-performance talks, Mr. Conlon has become one of the most visible advocates for classical music in Los Angeles.

This season, Maestro Conlon celebrates his tenth anniversary as LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director, and he recently extended his contract to the 2020/2021 season.

LA Opera invites you to celebrate Maestro Conlon’s achievements by supporting the James Conlon Tenth Anniversary Initiative, which will provide critical funds to support new programing and further enhance our acclaimed orchestra.

Additionally, we’ve curated some articles, videos, and a podcast below to help you get to know Maestro Conlon and illustrate why he has become a beloved figure in the cultural life of Los Angeles.

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James Conlon Joins Stephen Fry to Discuss Salome at American Cinematheque

Rita Hayworth Salome

Rita Hayworth as the title character in the classic 1953 film version of Salome

The story of Salome has inspired artists, filmmakers, and opera composers for centuries. Some adapted the original Biblical story – and scandalous Oscar Wilde play – while others have utilized elements from the tale of Salome to inform their own story. Nowhere does Salome’s story come to life more than in opera and on the silver screen.

To celebrate Salome in film and in opera, American Cinematheque and LA Opera have joined forces to present a special evening at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. First, there will be a screening of the famous 1953 film version of Salome starring Rita Hayworth. While the film takes liberties with the Biblical story, it is a perfect example of film epics in the “glory days of technicolor” and required viewing for both Salome and film enthusiasts. Following the screening, Maestro James Conlon (who conducts Salome at LA Opera starting on February 18) and actor Stephen Fry (who portrayed Oscar Wilde in the 1997 biopic) will discuss the importance of Salome in film and opera. All attendees will automatically be entered to win a pair of tickets to LA Opera’s production of Salome.

Before attending the evening at the Aero, get in the mood. We’ve pulled together a few films to watch and music from the opera.

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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About The Abduction from the Seraglio

Morris Robinson as Osmin (left) and Brenton Ryan as Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio (2017); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Morris Robinson as Osmin (left) and Brenton Ryan as Pedrillo in The Abduction from the Seraglio (2017); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

The Abduction from the Seraglio takes the stage two more time this month. In case you’ve missed the Roaring Twenties, Orient Express, and Mozart fun, we’ve collected a bunch of articles for you to check out below.

Get To Know The Abduction from the Seraglio

James Conlon Talks Mozart and The Abduction from the Seraglio

Maestro James Conlon, who is celebrating his 10th season as LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director, discusses Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio.

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James Conlon Talks Salome

Patricia Racette as the title character in Salome (2015) at Opera San Antonio; Photo: Karen Almond

Patricia Racette as the title character in Salome (2015) at Opera San Antonio; Photo: Karen Almond

“Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in the search for new sensations. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. Desire, at the end, was a malady, or a madness, or both.”

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Arriving on the heels of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio in our season, it is difficult to compare these totally different works without reflecting on how the world had changed. European civilization was sitting on a fault line when Richard Strauss wrote Salome. Strauss, who placed “the miracle Mozart, immediately after Bach,” could not turn to the latter for operatic prototypes, but found immeasurable inspiration in Mozart’s operas.

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James Conlon, Celebrating 10 Years at LA Opera (and Ready for More)

James Conlon; Photo: Chester Higgins

James Conlon; Photo: Chester Higgins

This season, James Conlon celebrates ten years as LA Opera’s Richard Seaver Music Director. Throughout the past decade, he has led the orchestra through more than fifty operas, from the great masterpieces of Mozart, Verdi and Wagner to contemporary works like The Ghosts of Versailles and Moby-Dick, and will continue do so for several years to come. On the heels of a contract renewal that will have him at the podium through the 2020/2021 season, we sat down with Maestro Conlon to discuss his life in classical music and what he loves most about opera in Los Angeles.

What inspired you to become a conductor?

It wasn’t a single person but, instead, a series of events that inspired me to become a classical musician. I went to the opera for the first time in 1961. I was 11 and the experience transformed my life within months. I wanted to hear classical music day and night. Soon I was studying piano and violin. I also began singing in the children’s choir of a small New York City opera company. A few years later, I decided I wanted to be a conductor, at which point every career decision I made focused on that goal. At 22, I graduated from The Julliard School and my professional life as a conductor was on its way.

Maestro James Conlon conducting Don Pasquale at The Julliard School in 1972; Photo: Beth Bergman

Maestro James Conlon conducting Don Pasquale at The Julliard School in 1972; Photo: Beth Bergman

What are the greatest challenges you faced in the field and how did you overcome them?

The greatest challenge I faced when I was starting out was proving myself as a young conductor in both symphonic and operatic institutions. Unlike today’s world, which now welcomes young conductors, it was just the opposite when I started out. I also faced the challenges of both proving myself in Europe as a qualified American conductor (and a young American conductor to boot), and additionally proving myself in the United States, which has historically preferred foreign (mostly European) conductors.

How did I master these challenges? I simply devoted myself to my work: Seriously. Relentlessly. Passionately. At a certain point, conducting ceased to be a career and became a way of life—something that still holds true today.

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Pittance Chamber Music Presents Concert with Special Guest James Conlon

James Conlon (Photo by Chester Higgins; Members of Pittance Chamber Music

James Conlon (Photo by Chester Higgins; Members of Pittance Chamber Music

Pittance Chamber Music, comprised of members of the LA Opera Orchestra, will host their next concert on February 3. Special guest James Conlon will be conducting Pittance Chamber Music in Mozart’s sublime Serenade in B-flat, K.361, known as the “Gran Partita.”  As Pittance is a chamber music organization, its ensembles are small and normally don’t require a conductor. However, the size and scope of the “Gran Partita” makes it difficult to put together without one, and it is exciting that Maestro Conlon has agreed to move from the pit to the stage for this concert.

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James Conlon Talks Mozart and The Abduction from the Seraglio

A scene from James Robinson's "Orient Express" production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

A scene from James Robinson’s “Orient Express” production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

“Nothing is as ugly as vengeance, whereas the quality of great souls is to be humanely kind and forgive without selfishness.” (Act III, The Abduction from the Seraglio*)

In the final months of his life, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart completed two operas, written simultaneously in 1791: The Magic Flute, a German Singspiel (“singing play”) alternating musical numbers with spoken dialogue; and La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus), an Italian opera seria. He might just as well have given his earlier Singspiel, 1782’s The Abduction from Seraglio, a different title: The Clemency of Pasha Selim. After all, the planned abduction fails to materialize. And of the many issues addressed in this work, the rejection of vengeance and the power of forgiveness are at its center, embodied in the person of Pasha Selim.

Impatient to impress Kaiser Joseph II, one of Europe’s greatest Enlightenment monarchs, Mozart jumped at the opportunity to “lift the national German stage to recognition in music!” He showed that not just he, but German music, could be freed from the virtual monopoly of Italian opera. Taking the popular form of Singspiel, he merges it with Italianate sophistication. This, in time, would lead to The Magic Flute, Beethoven’s Fidelio and the 19th-century German genre of Spieloper (“opera play”).

A scene from James Robinson's "Orient Express" production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

A scene from James Robinson’s “Orient Express” production of The Abduction from the Seraglio; Photo: George Hixson / Houston Grand Opera

Mozart was 20 when British historian and man of letters Horace Walpole reiterated in a private letter what was to become his famous epigram: “The world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.” The highly cultured Walpole might even have heard about the young genius from Salzburg.

Comedies make us think through provoking laughter and humor. Tragedies and melodramas make us feel, and sometimes weep. In the 18th century, Italian opera was compartmentalized: opera buffa made us laugh, opera seria made us think. Most importantly, they both pleased the ear. Mozart clouded this distinction by elevating the level of comic opera to deal with more serious subjects.

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Beyond Boundaries: An Interview with Christopher Koelsch

Christopher Koelsch; Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Christopher Koelsch; Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera’s President and Chief Executive Officer, is either astonishingly modest or tremendously reverential to those who have gone before him… or both.

Mr. Koelsch is this year’s recipient of the Opera League’s Peter Hemmings Award – given to individuals “who have made significant contributions to the development of opera in the greater Los Angeles area.” He speaks of the achievements of LA Opera in his four years at the helm as little more than the naturalension of ideas and programs put forth by his predecessors – and by “the incredible team we have here.”

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Run, Don’t Walk, and Sign Up for Noah’s Flood

Noah's Flood (2015)

Noah’s Flood (2015)

Have you ever wanted to perform in an opera surrounded by artists, friends, and family? Here’s your chance. For the eleventh year, LA Opera and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels will produce a community opera production of Benjamin Britten’s Noah’s Flood (Noye’s Fludde), conducted by James Conlon.

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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Macbeth

The witches surround Macbeth (Plácido Domingo) ; Photo: Karen Almond

The witches surround Macbeth (Plácido Domingo) ; Photo: Karen Almond

LA Opera’s gritty production of Macbeth, directed by Darko Tresjnak will be staged one more time – this afternoon. In case you’ve missed the Macbeth love these past few months, we’ve collected a bunch of articles and videos for you to check out.

Get to Know Macbeth

 Macbeth: A Personal Note

 In this guest post, Maestro James Conlon discusses why he loves Macbeth.

 James Conlon: Why Verdi’s Macbeth Is Important

 In this guest post, Maestro James Conlon discusses why Macbeth is important.

 The Macbeth Witches Are Not Your Ordinary Witches

 The dancing witches in Macbeth are not your pointy hat, black-wearing, broom-flying witches. As the agents that drive the story, they are onstage virtually the entire time, lurking during every sinister choice that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth make in the opera. They move props. They haunt all of the characters and bring them to the darkest moments of their lives. We spoke with the nine women who play the witches about how they bring their hellish characters to life.

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Daniel Kelley Has Played for Hero John Williams and the LA Opera Orchestra

Daniel Kelley

Daniel Kelley

Like many musicians in the LA Opera Orchestra, French horn player Daniel Kelley plays on the soundtracks for some of the world’s major films. He’s played in the orchestra for scores of blockbuster movies from Star Wars to Pirates of the Caribbean, and even worked with his hero, composer John Williams, on ten films including the Academy Award-winning JFK. Since the 1993, Kelley has worked at LA Opera first as a freelance French horn player and then as a full member of the LA Opera Orchestra.

“Out of all the jobs I do, opera has become my favorite,” says Kelley. “I just love being here and all the members of the horn section get along. It’s almost like going home to work with the other three players.”

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Macbeth: A Personal Note

JC Real

Maestro James Conlon during a rehearsal for Macbeth (2016)

As an addendum to my essay “Why Verdi’s Macbeth Is Important,” I want to add a very personal note about why this opera, which has been with me for my entire professional life, has been so important to me.

For no particular reason, it has turned out that I have done more productions of Macbeth (this will be the eighth) than any other opera. Whereas it is hardly a rarity, it is also not a work that is so popular that it comes up every other season.

JC Conducting

Maestro James Conlon conducting the LA Opera Orchestra during a rehearsal of Macbeth (2016)

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