Tag Archives: LAOHistory

The Return of Ulysses: Iconic Productions Day 10

The Return of Ulysses, 1996-1997

Frederica von Stade as Penelope in The Return of Ulysses (1997); Photo Credit: Ken Howard

“[There’s] an underlying anger [to Penelope]…her frustration, and at the bottom of everything is fear – what these people could do to her. They’ve had enough of her saying, ‘Just wait a little longer, he’s going to come back.’” – Frederica von Stade’s explorations of her character Penelope in The Return of Ulysses (1997)

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The Staging of an Opera Company

Minutes before the curtain rose on LA Opera’s 1986 production of Otello, Plácido Domingo stood in the wings, ready to make his entrance in one of his signature roles. He had triumphantly sung Verdi’s tragic hero for audiences around the world, and was widely renowned as the preeminent Otello of his generation. Yet this performance carried a special significance for the tenor. It would be the very first performance in LA Opera’s inaugural season. Full of anticipation, Domingo was eager to showcase to the Los Angeles community, and the greater opera world, what this city could create.


Plácido Domingo as the title character in Otello (1986)

As conductor Lawrence Foster ushered in the sound of the orchestra to begin the opera, the curtain flew up swiftly. To the surprise of everyone present, the curtain rose halfway and no further. The show went on, and within minutes, the curtain arrived in its designated place, functioning properly for the rest of the stunning premiere.

The curtain’s antics prodded Los Angeles Times music critic Martin Bernheimer to ask, “Los Angeles Opera starts, and the curtain goes halfway up and gets stuck, is that what is going to happen to our opera company?”

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