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Domingo Family Program welcomes all ages to an exotic adventure with "Florencia en el Amazonas"

Scenes from Florencia en el AmazonasScenes from Florencia en el Amazonas

All aboard for an operatic adventure, as LA Opera's Domingo Family Program welcomes families to explore an exciting river journey along the Amazon River!

On Sunday, November 22, the matinee performance of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas will feature themed activities for the whole family to enjoy while learning more about the opera and its fascinating Amazonian setting. The dynamic staging of the opera features a flying river spirit, intoxicating choreography, colorful projected animation and a 42-foot long steamship that rotates on the stage. Domingo Family Program activities are free with ticket purchases, with half-price tickets available for children from 9 to 17 when purchased with an adult ticket.   

"I love to see parents and grandparents with their children at the opera," said Plácido Domingo, the General Director of LA Opera. "It’s so important to introduce them early to the joy of the classical arts. From my own experience, I know that when families come to the opera together, it creates a special bond, with beautiful memories that last a lifetime."

Scenes from Florencia en el Amazonas
Scenes from Florencia en el Amazonas

Pre-show activities begin at 12:30pm in the Fifth Floor Salons of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (located at 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012). Teaching artist Peter Kors will lead enjoyable and inspiring acting workshops that explore themes from the opera and help youngsters understand the elements of theater. Exhibit interpreters from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles will showcase specimens of flora and fauna relating to the opera's setting on the Amazon River. The performance itself will begin at 2pm and will last until approximately 4:10pm.

After the performance, participants will have the opportunity to meet the cast at a special Domingo Family Program reception in the Fifth Floor Salons.

Booster seats are available to help small children get a better view of the performance. Booster seats can be picked up from the coat check stand located on the Grand Avenue side of the main lobby. You can also reserve booster seats in advance to have them waiting in your seating locations when you arrive. To reserve booster seats, simply email Garrett Collins with your seating location at

Tickets for the November 20 Domingo Family Program performance of Florencia en el Amazonas start at $18 for adults, and are now available for sale in person at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion box office or by phone at 213.972.8001. (No online orders.) Tickets can also be purchased for LA Opera's next Domingo Family Program performance: Rossini's rollicking comedy The Barber of Seville on March 8, 2015.

Scenes from Florencia en el Amazonas
Scenes from Florencia en el Amazonas

In the Spotlight: Verónica Villarroel


Veronica Villarroel as FlorenciaVerónica Villarroel as Florencia Grimaldi in Florencia en el Amazonas

Chilean soprano Verónica Villarroel, a longtime favorite with Los Angeles audiences, returns for her seventh role (more than any other leading soprano) at LA Opera. This season, she stars as the prima donna Florencia Grimaldi in Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas.

Your debut here was as Violetta in La Traviata in 1992. What do you remember most about that experience?
I always love singing La Traviata and I had done the same production with the same director the year before in Barcelona. But this was very meaningful to me because it was my first time in Los Angeles and I felt like it was my home. L.A. has been so important to me as an artist and near to my heart. I’ve had a wonderful relationship with the staff, the chorus, everybody—you have always welcomed me. I was impressed by the Latino community; that was when Hispanics for LA Opera was starting, and they have become very dear to me too. With every production I’ve done here, I’ve felt an extra happiness, which in this career is sometimes difficult to find. It’s often very competitive and very lonely. When you come to an opera house that treats you well—warm and welcoming—it makes such a difference.

La Traviata (1992)Verónica Villarroel in her 1992 LA Opera debut as Violetta in La Traviata.

Did you ever meet Daniel Catán, the composer of Florencia en el Amazonas?
I met him briefly twice, when I was singing in Mexico. He came to see me in my dressing room and he mentioned that he was writing this piece, Florencia. I have been talking with and becoming friends with his widow Andrea, who has been so helpful. We’ve talked about what Daniel thought of his trips to the Amazon, how his love is represented in this opera. It’s a very interesting piece. Some composers are interesting but not beautiful; Daniel’s music has everything. It’s modern but romantic at the same time. The vocal parts of this piece are very potent. They’re strong and they’re magical and subtle.

I had heard Il Postino, and I thought that the music was absolutely gorgeous, but I hadn’t heard Florencia when I was offered this role. Would I be able to do it?  Andrea gave me a CD, I got the piano-vocal score, and I went through the entire opera. I absolutely fell in love with it! I don’t think anybody can go through the music without feeling it very deeply.

Do you have much in common with Florencia?
It’s about a singer coming back to her home country after a long absence. I know what that’s like; I have been in this career now for more than 30 years. As we get older, every human being has that question mark, that mystery: “Why did I make that decision and not another? What would my life have been like if I had made a different choice?” Florencia has lived life, had a career, and is now going back to where she first discovered love. She’s coming back to find her other half, this soul of her life, the reason why she became a singer. The most beautiful part is at the end when she transforms, coming together with him in the forest, through this love. 

A scene from "Florencia en el Amazonas"Verónica Villarroel as Florencia, with David Pittsinger as the Captain of the El Dorado.

How does Florencia compare to your other roles?
A lot of my characters are strong women like her. It’s not an easy opera. You really have to work through the music to get strong, to build up your muscles and your stamina. The lines are voluptuous; the jumps from one note to another are sometimes very big. You have to give yourself entirely: your body, your technique, your soul. The music is very strong, very emotional. In that way, it’s close to Puccini because it’s easy to understand. You can almost smell the music.

It has been ten years since your last role here, Elettra in Idomeneo.
That was only my third Mozart role. At the beginning of rehearsals, I remember that Kent Nagano told me that I didn’t sound very Mozartian yet. But by the time we got to the performances, he said I did!

Idomeneo rehearsal (2004)Verónica Villarroel in a rehearsal with conductor Kent Nagano for Idomeneo in 2004.

I am truly honored to be back in Los Angeles. I feel very blessed. I didn’t know I’d be coming back to L.A. again at all, and when Florencia was offered to me, I became very emotional. Many years have passed between that Traviata in 1992 and Florencia in 2014. As you grow older, you transform, life around you changes and we must make peace with that. I think this experience will be fantastic. I want to keep it in my soul, my memory, my heart. I hope it goes well and that the public knows that we are doing it with a lot of love. We’re grateful, all of us, to give the public the chance to hear this wonderful music.

Meet Soprano Lisette Oropesa

Lisette Oropesa

Aside from making your LA Opera debut as Rosalba in Florencia en el Amazonas, what are your other must-do’s while here in LA?
I can’t wait to hit my favorite vegan restaurants in town, especially Cafe Gratitude! I am also looking forward to finding inspiration in the beauty of the beach and the surrounding hills. Lots of running and being grateful for the chance to spend the fall there.

Rosalba is a role debut for you. Do you prefer to create new characters or slip into more familiar roles?
Both old and new roles are exciting. No matter how many times I’ve sung say, Susanna, she is still new to me every time. There is always a different cast, a new production, new interpretations on how a scene can be done. It’s a really endless discovery! 

You are a first generation Cuban-American. Is this your first Spanish-language opera?
Yes! My first Spanish role. I actually love singing in Spanish, and if you count all the hours I've spent singing salsa/rumba/Cuban son, it seems like I sing in Spanish a ton!

You were a 2007 Operalia winner. How did that competition change your career?
Well it was one of the biggest competitions I’ve ever done—lots of great singers from all over the world, a prestigious venue in Paris, and incredible opportunities to sing in front of many people. As a young artist at the Met, this was a wonderful introduction to what our professional life could be like. It was a thrill to win a couple of the prizes, and also to meet one of my great heroes, Plácido Domingo (and his family!) He still knows me by name, and we have sung together a handful of times. As a person of Latin background, it means a lot to have the support of someone like Maestro Domingo.

Do you have your running maps for L.A.?
Are you kidding? Well it will be new to me, so I'm looking forward to discovering the running there. I specifically got a place to stay that was close to a large park (the Arroyo Seco path) in Pasadena. It’s probably the place I’ll hit daily before rehearsal!

To learn more about Lisette Oropesa, please click here.

Watch the Replay: Koelsch + Zambello Live from LA Opera

Christopher Koelsch and Francesca Zambello

In an ongoing series of live conversations, Christopher Koelsch was joined by Francesca Zambello, the director of Daniel Catan’s Florencia en el Amazonas.

Ms. Zambello, who directed the world premiere of Florencia in Houston in 1996 and its LA Opera premiere the following year, has guided this operatic ship back home to Los Angeles for the Company’s first revival of this much beloved opera.  They discussed the opera’s journey and what it was like to direct it first with the late composer and now, without him.  

If you missed it live, watch the replay here:

Vid Guerrerio's "¡Figaro! (90210)" comes to LAO!

Figare 90210

As an adjunct to the company's 2015 productions of the Figaro Trilogy, LA Opera will present the world premiere staging of ¡Figaro! (90210), to be presented at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre from January 16 through 18. The debate over immigration reform takes center stage in this multi-cultural adaptation of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, which recasts the title character as an undocumented worker in a present-day Beverly Hills mansion. Presented under the company's Off Grand banner, dedicated to new and unusual repertoire presented in a wide range of venues, ¡Figaro! (90210) showcases Mozart’s score with an entirely new English (and Spanglish) libretto by Vid Guerrerio.

Earlier New York concert presentations were praised by The New York Times as “blasphemous, brilliant… realistically contemporary and timelessly comic.” The New York Observer hailed ¡Figaro! (90210) as one of the top ten opera productions of 2013.

Figaro 90210 in NYCRobert Balonek as Paul Conti, Carlos Monzón as Figaro, Sophia Benedetti as Susana and Donata Cucinotta as Roxanne Conti in Morningside Opera's 2013 performances of ¡Figaro! (90210) in New York.
Photo by Karen Almond.

"I wrote ¡Figaro! (90210) as a great, big love letter to my adopted hometown of Los Angeles, and I could not be happier or more honored to have LA Opera present its first fully staged production," said Mr. Guerrerio. "Since the first moment of inspiration, which came while walking Hollywood Boulevard with Mozart in my headphones, it has been my dream to bring ¡Figaro! (90210) to life in the amazing city that inspired it. I am looking forward to sharing this multi-cultural update of what many call 'the most perfect opera ever written’ with audiences as diverse as the characters it presents on stage."

¡Figaro! (90210) will be directed by Melissa Crespo, with costumes designed by Project Runway season 12 finalist Bradon McDonald. The cast includes José Adán Pérez as Figaro and Maria Elena Altany as Susana, with Craig Colclough and Greta Baldwin as their employers Paul and Roxanne Conti, and Orson Van Gay II as Bernard Curson.

Tickets for ¡Figaro! (90210) go on sale to the public at 10:00am on Thursday, November 13. Tickets cost $21 and $37 and can be purchased in person at the LA Opera Box Office (located at 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 90012), online at or by calling 213.972.8001. Performances will take place at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre (4800 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 90027). For disability access, please call 213.972.0777 or email To learn more about ¡Figaro! (90210), including casting and ticket information, click here or visit