Tag Archives: La Boheme

What Opera Should I See First? Here’s a list.

You’ve read the rave reviews, watched the season trailer, and seen your friends’ Instagrams at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Now, you want to experience a night at the opera. The only problem is – there are a lot of choices and you don’t know which opera to see first.

We’re here to help. Below are a few great starter operas, some of which are coming to LA Opera this season.

CARMEN

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

There’s a reason why everybody loves Carmen. It’s about an independent, wild, and fierce woman from the south of Spain, who has no shortage of admirers. This realistic, action-packed story has become one of the most popular operas in the world. That’s because of its Spanish flair, grand music, and tragic love triangle. Also, whether you’re a Westworld fan or you like The Muppets, we know you’ve heard the music from Carmen before (“Habanera”).

You’re already familiar with Carmen, so why not make it your first opera experience this September?

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An Opera-Filled Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again. The Season of Love. It’s the perfect time to show your romantic side, and nothing says romance like an evening of Mozart or Strauss. Ever thought of surprising the ones you love with the gift of opera on Valentine’s Day? Here’s a list of the most romantic operas to give your significant other the opera experience of a lifetime.

The Abduction from the Seraglio

This Mozart treasure is perfect for a fun, romantic evening at the opera. Our production is set in the 1920s and has the feeling of a classic screwball comedy (think Bringing Up Baby). It’s light, it’s funny and it’s perfect for any first – first opera, first date. With two intermissions, there’s time to share some bubbly while enjoying an evening together.

En route from Istanbul to Paris, two beautiful damsels in distress are held captive aboard the luxurious Orient Express by a notorious Ottoman royal. It’s up to their faithful lovers to rescue them before it’s too late! James Conlon conducts a brilliant ensemble of soloists, including bass Morris Robinson as the Pasha’s delightfully nefarious henchman Osmin. Hamish Linklater makes his company debut in the pivotal role of the Pasha Selim.

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

If you’re looking for a short, but thrilling night at the opera, Salome is the opera to give your loved on Valentine’s Day. Filled with unbridle passion and seduction, this one will give you lots to talk about.

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What Being in 100 LA Opera Productions Looks Like

Charles Lane

Charles Lane

Charles Lane has worked with LA Opera since the beginning. He first appeared in the opening night production of Verdi’s Otello in 1986 and can currently be seen in La Bohème. In 30 years, Lane has performed in 70 different operas and 100 total productions. He is only one of 14 current members of the LA Opera Chorus (and 3 retired members), who can say this. We sat down with Lane to chat about his decades-long singing career and his time at LA Opera.

What led you to work for LA Opera?

I moved to Los Angeles from New York around the time that LA Opera was founded. I got into the Master Chorale and at the time they provided the chorus for LA Opera. So, I got to be in that first production of Otello alongside Plácido Domingo.

Charles Lane before a performance of Moby-Dick (2015)

Charles Lane before a performance of Moby-Dick (2015)

Why do you think you’ve stayed for so long?

The experience itself. It takes so much to produce an opera and it’s such an honor to be a part of that whole machine. Then, being able to stand on stage next to the greatest singers in the world and working with the most influential directors in the world, even Hollywood directors like Bruce Beresford. It’s extraordinary.

What has been your most rewarding experience?

There are so many! Singing in all the productions starring Plácido Domingo. Being on stage with him is very rewarding. He has such an incredible presence and energy.

What is one production that really struck you?

Lohengrin. We were supposed to open in September 2001, but when 9/11 happened, the opening was postponed. When we finally did open, it was so moving, because everyone came out on stage, and sang the National Anthem. I will always remember that production, because of the time that it happened. I loved that show.

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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About La Bohème

Share There are three chances left to see La Bohème at LA Opera. This Belle Époque set production has wowed audiences with its doomed love story beautifully sung by Nino Machaidze and Olga Busuioc and Mario Chang and rivetingly conducted … Continue reading

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How LA Opera’s Professional Development Program Helped Me Get Kids Excited About Opera

Jessica Insco (center) with Stacy Brightman, Senior Director of Education & Community Engagement and Nathan Rifenburg, Education Manager

Jessica Insco (center) with Stacy Brightman, Senior Director of Education & Community Engagement and Nathan Rifenburg, Education Manager

I have been teaching fine arts at Narbonne High School for three years. I specialize in vocal music and theater and have had the pleasure of teaching students the “art” of loving the arts. This year, I tried something different by attending LA Opera’s Opera for Educators sessions. I’ve gained so much from these sessions that have fueled my passion for opera – a passion that I share with my students.

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From Los Angeles to Sydney, Duane Schuler Lights the World

Duane Schuler

Duane Schuler; Photo: Ken Howard

Duane Schuler is one of the world’s most renowned theatrical lighting designers and a founding partner in the theater planning and architectural lighting design firm Schuler Shook. Over the past forty years, he’s brought grand stories to life through intricate, yet subtle lighting designs for productions at multiple opera houses, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera, La Scala Milan, Lyric Opera Chicago, and LA Opera. Through Schuler Shook, he’s also worked on numerous renovations and major architectural projects from Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater in New York to an upcoming renovation of the Sydney Opera House.

Mario Chang as Rodolfo and Olga Busuioc as Mimi in La Bohème 92016); Photo: Ken Howard

Mario Chang as Rodolfo and Olga Busuioc as Mimi in La Bohème (2016); Photo: Ken Howard

Currently, Schuler is back in Los Angeles lighting LA Opera’s iconic production of Puccini’s La Bohème. His stellar lighting design reinforces both the gritty realism of the bohemian’s poverty stricken existence, while also showcasing the simultaneous “joi de vivre” of Paris in 1887. We sat down with Schuler during rehearsals earlier this month to discuss his career, work with LA Opera, and his current design for La Bohème.

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How Nicholas Brownlee Went From “Performing” on the Football Field to Being a Rising Opera Star

Nicholas Brownlee as Colline in La Bohème (2016); Photo: Ken Howard

Nicholas Brownlee as Colline in La Bohème (2016); Photo: Ken Howard

By the time bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee finishes his second season in LA Opera’s Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, he will have appeared in six different productions with the company. His is the robust voice audiences have heard from off stage in Moby-Dick and The Magic Flute and on stage in Madame Butterfly. He’s also the singer they will see in such diverse roles as Colline in the current production of La Bohème and as Cesare Angelotti in next season’s Tosca. While the 2015 Met Council Winner may sound and look at home on stage now, he did not always want to pursue a career in opera.

“I was always into performing, whether it was on the football field – I’m a super sports guy – or in choir,” says Brownlee, who originally wanted to be a choral conductor.  That all changed when he had his first opera experience.

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One of the Quickest Act Changes in LA Opera History

La Bohème (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

La Bohème (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

Our production of Puccini’s La Bohème boasts one of the quickest, major set changes ever seen on our stage. From Act I to Act II, La Bohème’s setting changes from a rooftop and garret (loft) to a Parisian street.

The main set piece – the garret – is rotated to reveal its opposite side – a two-story building with a ground level cafe. This may not seem like a big deal. It’s just rotating a set piece. How difficult can that be? Difficult – very difficult. It isn’t just a light-weight structure or a façade that can be easily maneuvered.  This garret is a giant 1500-square-foot, 30,000-pound structure – the equivalent of a three-story house.  Moving it requires planning, precision and a great deal of practice. That’s because the structure needs to be moved manually (yes, manually, by a team of 20 production crew members) and hit very specific, pre-determined marks on the stage.

Try moving this piece – along with other set pieces and props – while over a hundred people (principal artists, chorus members, supernumeraries) crowd onto the stage for Act II.

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Los Angeles Children’s Chorus Takes the Stage in La Bohème

Members of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, who also make up the Children's Chorus in La Bohème.

Members of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, who also make up the Children’s Chorus in La Bohème.

For more than 20 years, members of the prestigious Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (LACC) have starred in productions at LA Opera. From playing precocious characters in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (1998) to singing alongside the pros in Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd, LACC children have shared their enthusiasm and vocal gifts with artists, staff and audiences. The latest collaboration between LA Opera and LACC is Puccini’s La Bohème.

In this opera, 14 singers make up the children’s chorus. Some of these children have been in other productions and others are new to the world of opera. What they all share is an excitement about singing and opera that is infectious and wonderful to see.

Today, the kids are gathered in the lobby, chatting excitedly, because they will soon be on stage rehearsing with the pros. When asked what their favorite parts of rehearsals and being in the opera are, several hands shoot up. “I love hearing the power of their voices and knowing that all these people are watching us,” says Soren Ryssdal (12). His fellow choir members nod their heads in agreement. Of staging, Sydney Brakeley (10) says, “I like being able to know where I am going just by hearing the music.” With a big grin on her face, Anika Erickson (13) age adds, “We also have fake siblings.” All the kids laugh.

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Speranza Scappucci Searches for Puccini’s Truth in La Bohème

Speranza Scappucci; Photo: Dario Acosta

Speranza Scappucci; Photo: Silvia Lelli

Speranza Scappucci is one of opera’s rising conducting stars. Since making her debut in 2012 conducting Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the Yale Opera, Scappucci has conducted around the world, including at Finnish National Opera, Washington National Opera and Scottish Opera. She did not always know that her destiny was to conduct.

Speranza Scappucci conducting a gala concert, starring soprano Marina Rebeka to celebrate the opening of Great Amber, the new concert hall in Liepāja, Latvia.

Speranza Scappucci conducting a gala concert, starring soprano Marina Rebeka to celebrate the
opening of Great Amber, the new concert hall in Liepāja, Latvia.

This month, Scappucci makes her LA Opera debut conducting six performances of Puccini’s La Bohème. It’s a piece that Scappucci knows really well (she coached the piece for 20 years), but that does not stop her from finding new things in Puccini’s masterpiece. Scappucci discovers these new things by extensively revisiting the score, as if it’s the first time she’s approaching it.

Born and raised in Rome, Scappucci moved to New York at age 20 to study piano at The Juilliard School. She received a master’s at Juilliard in collaborative piano and went on to brilliant career as a coach and assistant conductor. For 15 years, Scappucci was a familiar face in the world’s top opera houses, coaching both rising stars and famous opera singers, and also working as an assistant conductor for some of the world’s most renowned conductors – Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Daniele Gatti, and James Levine.

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Jill Michnick’s secret identity – revealed

Jill Michnick

Jill Michnick

By day, Jill Michnick leads the team at LA Opera that produces its signature events. From glamorous galas to vision-setting board meetings, town halls to salon gatherings, Jill spends her time overseeing the details of award winning festivities.

While Jill is used to directing a team of producers and vendors and dealing with all the surprises that she encounters in her role, little did she know that after ten years at one of the country’s most prestigious opera companies, she too would catch the acting bug. Jill’s not one to shy away from a challenge, so when the idea of being in one of LA Opera’s iconic production arose, she didn’t hesitate to explore it.

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How the Costume Shop Updates an Iconic Production

A 1993 rendering of Musetta's Act II Costume in La Bohème, designed by Peter Hall

A 1993 rendering of Musetta’s Act II Costume in La Bohème, designed by Peter Hall

La Bohème is one of the world’s most beloved operas; it also returns this season in one of LA Opera’s iconic productions. In 1993, director Herbert Ross envisioned a production set in the romantic era of Belle Époque Paris, fashioned brilliantly by costume designer Peter J. Hall. Since Hall’s passing in 2010, the costume shop has made some updates to his design, while keeping his original vision for La Bohème alive.

“He was a real artist,” says Jeannique Prospere reverently. Prospere is a Senior Costume Production Supervisor at LA Opera. Since joining the company in 2007, she has overseen many shows, including La Bohème (which has 160 total costumes). “As a supervisor, what I usually do is try and get into the designer’s head and see what they want to be on stage and keep that vision alive,” she says. This entails reviewing the costumes each time a production is revived, making sure that they retain the same feel and that the original idea is kept. Costumes might also need to be tweaked for a singer, not only in size and shape, but also in aesthetic, in order to reflect a singer’s individual essence.

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Top Gear: Opera Edition

LA Opera uses some of the most intriguing vehicles in its productions. From trucks and cars to modes of transportation only imaginable in the arts world, prop vehicles help tell grand opera stories. They are even sometimes rare and built entirely from scratch or refurbished by our technical crew to serve the needs of a production. Take a look at the vehicles we “drive” in our operas in the roundup below.

REPRODUCING A ONE OF A KIND PEUGEOT FOR LA BOHÈME

Peugeot Before and After; Photo: Studio Sereno

Peugeot Before and After; Photo: Studio Sereno

When the technical department was tasked with sourcing an 1890 Peugeot Type 2 (one of the earliest French motorized vehicles) for La Bohème, they realized how difficult this would be. There were none of these Peugeots anywhere in America, not even in museums. Working from only an 11”x17” photocopied image, a team at Studio Sereno built a fully battery-powered replica of the original model. This vehicle will be seen live when La Bohème opens May 14.

A 1929 ROLLS ROYCE ROARS ONTO STAGE

Nino Machaidze as Violetta, making a grand entrance at her own party in Verdi's La Traviata (2014); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Nino Machaidze as Violetta, making a grand entrance at her own party in  La Traviata (2014); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Our Roaring Twenties-set production of Verdi’s La Traviata features a 1929 Rolls Royce sourced from a private owner. Director Marta Domingo saw a photograph of the elegant car in 2006 and loved it so much, she made it a starring prop in her production. (What better way for glamorous party girl Violetta to arrive than in this stylish vehicle?)

 

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Directing La Bohème

La Bohème (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

La Bohème (2012): Photo: Robert Millard

In May 2012, Peter Kazaras sat in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, surrounded by his UCLA students, observing a dress rehearsal of Puccini’s La Bohème at LA Opera. During a break, Kazaras asked his students, “When is this production set?” The students hesitated. He continued, “Where is the production set?” They responded, “Paris!” Yet, they still couldn’t determine the time period. Kazaras smiled, pointing out the half-formed Eiffel Tower structure in the background of Act I. He watched the lightbulbs go off, as his students suddenly realized that it must be set in the 1880s, when the Eiffel Tower was under construction. It was in this moment that all Kazaras’s teachings about the importance of design came full circle for his students. Kazaras beamed with pride.

Four years later, Kazaras once again comes face to face with this production – this time in the director’s chair.

Kazaras, who has recently directed La Bohème at both Washington National Opera and Dallas Opera, knows the piece well. However, LA Opera’s production, originally conceived by film director Herbert Ross in 1993, presents its own set of challenges. “It’s like being given a legal brief that you have to study thoroughly so that you can really understand the facts,” says Kazaras, alluding to his earlier profession as a lawyer. This is because Kazaras has inherited some key elements of the production (ie. set, props and costumes) Ross. Kazaras’s challenge is working with Ross’s gigantic and impressive set, while still adding his own directorial stamp on the show.

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5 Things You May Not Know About LA Opera’s La Boheme

Since film director Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias, The Turning Point) first envisioned LA Opera’s production of Puccini’s La Boheme in 1993, it’s been staged frequently, wowing Los Angeles audiences time and time again. Before the return of La Boheme in May, here are five things you may not know about LA Opera’s iconic production.

Herbert Ross added a subtle cinematic take to La Boheme.

Ross looked at the opera through the lens of an experienced filmmaker. For example, Acts I and IV take place in a garret, the loft space inhabited by the four bohemian men. Most productions only show the interior of the garret. Ross recognized that it would be much more dynamic to have the garret be but one piece of an entire rooftop setting. In our production, audience members not only focus on the singers, but also what’s going behind them, around them, within the environment of the set. This cinematic staging brought the beauty of Paris to life.

La Boheme (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

La Boheme (2012); Photo: Robert Millard

 The Bohemians’ garret is inspired by an actual building in Paris.

The Bohemian’s garret is inspired by the Bateau-Lavoir, a run-down building in Paris where Picasso (and other painters in the period) lived and worked during the early years of their careers.

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The “Poochini” Package – Happy April Fool’s from LA Opera!

poochini1500

Have you ever wished you could bring your pet to the opera? Now you can! LA Opera, as part of its mission to expand its audience and to address the population of pet owners in the Downtown Los Angeles area, is offering a one-day only Poochini Package for a special matinee of Puccini’s operatic classic, La Bohème on Sunday, May 22 at 2:00pm.

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#WordWednesday: Supernumerary

supernumerary

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?”

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Word Wednesday: Soubrette

SOUBRETTE

SOUBRETTE

SOUBRETTE (11 Scrabble points) – French – A soubrette is both an operatic voice type and a style of character. Soubrette voices are lighter soprano or mezzos (often sung by younger singers), while soubrette characters are attractive and saucy ladies. Think Musetta in La Boheme.

In our Belle Époque Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme follows the story of six young bohemians, surviving only on laughter and the promise of love. One of them is Musetta, a singer, who early on abandons her rich lover in order to be with her ex. While Mimi may be the La Boheme’s famous femme, Musetta adds a quirky edge and her Waltz (“Quando me’n vo’”) is one of the most famous pieces from Puccini’s opera. Check out Nino Machaidze sing Musetta’s Waltz below and make sure to see her in May, when she makes her role debut as Mimi in our production.

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#LAO30Images: Film Meets Opera

Woody Allen directing the 2008 cast of <em>Gianni Schicchi</em>

Woody Allen directing the 2008 cast of Gianni Schicchi

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).

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Community Circle: Opera For All

LA Opera has a great way for you to experience opera with your organization. Have you heard of it? The program is called Community Circle and it’s the perfect way for you to see the stellar mainstage productions we have this season (Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly and La Boheme).

Embracing Our Community, One Voice At A Time.

We believe that experiencing and participating in the arts is a basic human right, essential to building community and part of LA Opera’s civic responsibility. Regardless of one’s background or means, opera is for everyone. We seek to ensure that everyone has access to opera and has an opportunity to participate in creating opera.

Through our Community Circle program, we are able to share the experience with students, low-income senior citizens, and underserved community groups. Hundreds of tickets are set aside in our orchestra level for every performance to accommodate these special groups, supplementing the extensive education and community outreach initiatives our company does throughout the year. (These tickets are not available for sale to the public.) Carefully selected groups will be able to experience opera at a significantly reduced price and, at times, even at no cost.

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