Tag Archives: Julie Taymor
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).
“There on the fountain’s edge, the shadow appeared to me. I could see her lips moving as if speaking and with her lifeless hand she seemed to call me. For a moment she stood there motionless, then she vanished all at once, and the water, earlier so limpid, had grown red, as if with blood.” – Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor
With these words, Lucia shows the world her thin grip of reality, showcasing her slip into madness later on in Donizetti’s tragic Lucia di Lammermoor. Opera is filled with such haunting moments and characters, some that are so powerful, they are difficult to forget like the above Lucia scene, or others that are truly terrifying, such as the characters in Howard Shore’s The Fly (2008).
To celebrate Halloween during our 30th Anniversary Season, we have selected 30 haunting LA Opera images. Below are images from three productions that horror junkies should know about. Other images in this series have been uploaded to our #LAO30Images: Halloween Edition Pinterest Gallery.
“The time had come for me to attach myself to a new form.” – Composer Howard Shore on his score for The Fly
LA Opera presented the U.S. premiere of The Fly in 2008. Based on David Cronenberg’s 1986 cult horror classic, The Fly follows the story of an eccentric scientist, who while working on a teleportation device, accidentally fuses his DNA with that of a fly’s. As a result, he slowly turns into a fly, terrifying those he loves.
Before he captained the Pequod, Jay Hunter Morris debuted at LA Opera as Unferth—singing in Old English—in the world premiere of Grendel by composer Elliot Goldenthal and director Julie Taymor. The warrior Unferth tries to best the monster Grendel, but falls short of his heroic expectations (which serves as a source of comic relief in the opera) and is mocked for his shortcomings. Based on the novel of the same name by John Gardner, the opera follows the story of the titular monster and his war against the humans that shunned him. He gobbles up his enemies throughout the show, in attempt to reconcile his idealized view of humanity with the realities of “modern man.” The opera is a fable with very real world connections.
Jay Hunter Morris will play Captain Ahab in our upcoming production, Moby-Dick. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here. To find out more about our current season, check out our website.