Tag Archives: The Pearl Fishers

Cover Story: Lauren Michelle Recalls Her Tough Road to Success

Soprano Lauren Michelle did not have an easy road to success. In fact, for many years she struggled to even be heard. But out of all the things this California native has proven, it’s that she’s a hard worker. And her perseverance has finally paid off. She’s not only sung on domestic stages in St. Louis and Washington, D.C., but has traveled all over the world from Italy to Austria to Wales singing for the some of the top names in the business.

Her triumphs have now led her to LA Opera, where she is currently covering Leïla in Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. For the inaugural post for our Cover Story series, which features profiles on the principal covers (or understudies) for our mainstage productions, Michelle had a chance to sit down with the company to discuss the long, winding road that has landed her back on her home turf, and how Maestro Plácido Domingo proved to be her biggest advocate.

Soprano Lauren Michelle

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Cast to Class Program Brings Javier Camarena to LA County School

When your teacher tells you that an internationally-renowned opera singer is coming for a visit, you many not even know who they are or even imagine what they could possibly have in common with you. For students whose schools are part of LA Opera’s Cast to Class program, that preconceived notion is quickly erased when someone like Javier Camarena steps through the door.

Tenor Javier Camarena visits a group of students at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies

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Movement Director Andrew Dawson Explains ‘Pearl Fishers’ Opening Sequence

Perhaps the most arresting moment in our latest production of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers is the opening sequence. Upon Maestro Domingo’s downbeat, three aerialists appear one by one from above, appearing to audiences as if they’re swimming through water.

In a production that’s been called a “treat for the eyes and the ears” (LA Daily News), the opening sequence has garnered buzz regarding whether the sequence was a projection or used real people to create the illusion. The “swimmers” are very much real, thanks to the wonderful choreography from movement director Andrew Dawson.

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5 Reasons to See The Pearl Fishers

On October 7, Angelenos experienced a rare treat. We opened George Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers – lesser known than his famous Carmen, but no less stunning for both opera aficionados and newbies. Critics have already been raving about the production, calling it “stunning” (LA Times), “enthralling” (Broadway World) and “eye-dazzling” (LA Daily News).

A scene from Penny Woolcock's production of The Pearl Fishers at the Metropolitan Opera (2015); Photo: Ken Howard

A scene from Penny Woolcock’s production of The Pearl Fishers at the Metropolitan Opera (2015); Photo: Ken Howard

If the critics’ response isn’t enough, here’s a list of more reasons why The Pearl Fishers is a must-see this fall:

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Penny Woolcock on Directing Opera

Penny Woolcock directing a scene from The Pearl Fishers at LA Opera

Penny Woolcock directing a scene from The Pearl Fishers at LA Opera

Over the past 17 years, British filmmaker Penny Woolcock has made a name for herself in the opera world. After directing a film adaptation of John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer (which won the Jury Prize at the Brussels European Film Festival and the Prix Italia), Woolcock staged John Adams’ Doctor Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera and the English National Opera. She followed Doctor Atomic with a production of The Pearl Fishers at the English National Opera (ENO) in 2010, which ENO revived last year and which also had a successful run at the Metropolitan Opera. Now, Woolcock has brought The Pearl Fishers to Los Angeles. Before a rehearsal, we sat down with Woolcock to discuss her entry into the opera world and how she brings The Pearl Fishers to life.

You’ve had a successful career in film and television especially with the Tina trilogy, Tina Goes Shopping, Tina Takes a Break and One Mile Away. What drew you to opera?

I love music. When I was a teenager, I lived in Buenos Aires and I used to go the Teatro Colón with a friend. We were so high up, you couldn’t see the stage unless you held the other person’s legs while leaning over the balcony. [laughter] It’s been something I’ve always had a feeling for but I never imagined I would get a chance to direct it.

I’d also really loved John Adams’s music. I remember going into a record shop in Newcastle in 1988 and they were playing Nixon in China. I asked the guy in the store and asked, “What is this? I must have it!” Then, in the late ‘90s, I went to a concert performance of the The Death of Klinghoffer choruses. I was really moved by the way the first two heartbreaking choruses express the claims of two traumatized, dispossessed people over the same piece of land. It brought me to tears and the friend I was with saw that and said, ‘You should make a film of it,’ and I thought, ‘Yes, I should.’ I emailed the head of Channel 4 Music and to my surprise my phone rang immediately and she said, ‘What a fantastic idea!’ I was sort of known for making films about tough inner-city communities, not opera, but she thought that I might invent something different than just filming a staged performance. Then, obviously, I had to see if John Adams would approve. Again, it was one of those right place, right time moments, because he said that he’d always wanted someone to make a movie of one of his operas.

So, I made The Death of Klinghoffer.

We filmed John conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and we recorded the singers in isolation booths at Abbey Road Studios (where The Beatles famously recorded).

Once we had that, we hired a cruise line and sailed across the Mediterranean. We shot the film on location. John’s assistant conductor came with us and was running around behind the camera, conducting the singers as we shot them with a handheld camera. It was quite a magical experience and funnily enough we ended up using over 80% of the live sound in the final mix.
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Get To Know the 2017/2018 Season

We’ve just announced the 2017/2018 season and it’s all about the new. Five of the six mainstage productions are new to Los Angeles and two of them are company premieres. There will also be two major concerts – the first celebrating the 50th anniversary of Plácido Domingo’s first appearance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the second featuring Audra McDonald.

Can’t wait for the excitement to begin? Take a look below and get to know all the 17/18 season has in store for Los Angeles.

(presented at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion)

Ana María Martínez returns as the famous opera femme fatale in Carmen

(Sep 9–Oct 1, 2017; production new to L.A.) — Georges Bizet

James Conlon conducts a cast that also features Alexander Vinogradov as Escamillo and Amanda Woodbury as Micaëla. The production is directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, winner of Tony, Emmy and Olivier Awards.

After seeing Carmen, experience The Pearl Fishers another Bizet gem

(Oct 7–28, 2017; company premiere) — Georges Bizet
Plácido Domingo and Grant Gershon will each conduct performances of a rarely performed treasure, directed by Penny Woolcock. Nino Machaidze returns as Leïla, her seventh leading role in Los Angeles, with superstar tenor Javier Camarena making his company debut as Nadir. The cast also includes Alfredo Daza as Zurga and Nicholas Brownlee as Nourabad.

Plácido Domingo and James Conlon unite for Nabucco

(Oct 14–Nov 19, 2017; production new to L.A.) — Giuseppe Verdi
Plácido Domingo sings the title role of the monumental opera that made Verdi famous, conducted by James Conlon. Directed by Thaddeus Strassberger, the production also features Liudmyla Monastyrska in her LAO debut as Abigaille, with Morris Robinson as Zaccaria, Mario Chang as Ismaele and Nancy Fabiola Herrera as Fenena.

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