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Blog entries posted during October 2011

Tweet to Win 2 Orchestra Level Tickets for Romeo et Juliette Opening Performance!

R&J Tweets

Who wants a pair of orchestra level tickets to Gonoud’s Roméo et Juliette starring Vittorio Grigolo as Roméo, Nino Machaidze as Juliette, and conducted by Placido Domingo?

So, how creative can you be in 140 characters or less? Funny, irreverent, serious… all are fair game, just be clever, creative and have fun! Be sure to use the #RJ140 hashtag and @replies so we see your tweets! (Learn more about @ replies on Twitter here .)

But first, a little housekeeping:

• LA Opera’s #RJ140 Tweet Contest begins Friday, October 28 at 8am and ends Sunday, October 30 at midnight. Winner will be announced in our November 1 newsletter and notified via Direct Message on Twitter.

• Don’t use multiple accounts to enter. It’s against Twitter’s rules and could get all your Twitter accounts suspended. Anyone found using multiple accounts to enter will be ineligible.

• Don’t post duplicate, or near duplicate, updates. This is also a violation of Twitter’s rules and jeopardizes search quality. In other words, if you post the same thing over and over, your tweet may not show up in search. And if we don’t see it, you aren’t entered into the contest.

• The prize is for two (2) orchestra level tickets only, transportation is not included.

Now go forth and tweet the story of woe between Juliette and her Roméo! Good luck!

Gounod and Shakespeare: Masters of Music and Words

By Basil De Pinto

Early and late in his career, Shakespeare wrote about all-consuming passion. Romeo and Juliet is a domestic drama about the reckless, headstrong love of teenagers; Antony and Cleopatra deals with a world-weary historical couple whose romance plays out on a vast stage and alters the course of history. Although the later play is a far superior work of art, the story of the children of fair Verona is the one that has captured the hearts of millions through the ages, and has inspired retelling in every conceivable form: spoken theater, ballet, film, the Broadway musical, symphonic treatment and, many times over, in opera.

Although he wrote a good deal of music, Charles Gounod is primarily remembered for Faust, his operatic treatment of the great classic of German literature. The Germans thought little of his effort and always refer to his opera as Margarete, the woman Faust seduces (Gretchen in Goethe’s original). Eight years after Faust, in 1867, and with several more operas to his credit, Gounod brought out Roméo et Juliette, a work of outstanding musical and dramatic power. It deserves its own place in the operatic pantheon.

The music of an opera has to begin with a text, a story, an idea that gives a composer the impulse to expand and amplify beyond verbal limits to the fullness of dramatic communication that we call musical theater. (In Italy, the home of opera, the whole operatic project is called simply il teatro.) The librettists for Roméo, Barbier and Carré, were experienced at adapting literary texts for operatic use, having already served Gounod and other composers in that capacity. Naturally enough, they had to pare down Shakespeare’s text to a manageable size and they did a good, workmanlike job which is more than a sketch, if less than a literary masterpiece. But it served the purpose of stimulating Gounod to writing music of extraordinary romantic and dramatic scope.

The process by which a play of some thousands of lines is reduced to proportions suitable for an opera is instructive; the challenge consists of maintaining the basic outlines of the story as well as the overall concept of the original. Inevitably there will be compromises involving characters and situations; omissions will be necessary and may seem fatal to those familiar with the play. For example, the first scene takes place at the Capulets’ ball, omitting much of the exposition which serves to delineate the character of Shakespeare’s Romeo. But, as in the play, there is a prologue, here sung by the chorus, which does indicate the nature of the dispute between the two houses.

A major change and stumbling block might seem the survival of Roméo in the last scene so that the two lovers can sing their final duet. But in one of Shakespeare’s supreme works, Desdemona revives briefly after Othello has strangled her, and no one seems to be troubled by that. The willing suspension of disbelief sets in as soon as we accept three walls on any stage, and continues unabated.

Barbier and Carré are surely to be commended for the large elements in Roméo that correspond to Shakespeare’s unfolding of the plot and which give the opera its essential dramatic structure: the ball in the opening scene, the balcony scene, Roméo’s duel with Tybalt and his condemnation to exile, the lovers’ parting, and the final scene in the tomb. Each of these segments is clothed in music of outstanding dramatic quality and, at times, of musical genius. The major characters come across as fully believable persons of the drama, and the central idea of the star-crossed lovers is amply presented: when hatred and violence are given their head, love is destroyed and tragedy ensues.

As in the play, the prologue presents the basic outline of the story and the music adds its unique descriptive and suggestive element. At the start, the orchestra led by the brass depicts the raging conflict of the opposing families, but then we hear the love theme which will recur so affectingly at key moments later in the opera.

Roméo enters with his friends and we recognize his sensitive, almost timid unwillingness to arouse the hostility of his hosts, as contrasted with the brash behavior of Mercutio. What really matters in this scene is the vivacity of Juliette revealed in her famous Waltz Song and the ensuing duet when the lovers first meet. The French text of the duet has none of the incomparable grace of the sonnet Shakespeare gives them, but the music has its own charm and easily establishes the powerful attraction that draws them together. There is no suggestion of raging hormones in this music; it is a depiction of tentative exploration, of gradual dawning of completely new emotion. These two are little more than children and they are happily embarking on a voyage of discovery, completely oblivious of its final tragic ending.

The balcony scene begins with an orchestral prelude that evokes the lush warmth of the Italian night; the strings weave a delicious web of yearning that prepares us for Roméo’s apostrophe to the night and the stars. Juliette for him is the brilliant sun that puts the stars to shame. In this version we miss Shakespeare’s wonderful trope:

Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.

But the ardent lyricism of Roméo’s music makes up for it; small wonder that this is one of the arias that every tenor dreams of singing, and inevitably it brings down the house.

The love duet portrays the advance from their first meeting to a rapid, tempestuous passion that leads to the promise of marriage and the eager longing for the night to end and bring the longed for union of the following day. The scene ends as it began, with Roméo alone, imagining Juliette sleeping like a child and praying that the soft night breezes will whisper in her ear his goodnight kiss. He sings almost the whole text on a single note, while the orchestra weaves around him a web of rich chromatic sound, and with him fades to silence at his final words, “ce baiser” — this kiss.

This wedding before Friar Laurence is quickly dispatched and the quiet romanticism of the balcony scene gives way to the violent uproar of the duel between Roméo and Tybalt and the ensuing decree of Roméo’s exile. The librettists have combined several elements of the play: after Roméo kills Tybalt he does not flee as in Shakespeare but remains to hear the Duke’s decree of exile. The librettists insert here the cry Shakespeare wrote for the Nurse at discovering the seemingly dead Juliet —“Most lamentable day, most woeful day” — and it becomes the central text of the great concertato scene that follows: “Ah, jour de deuil, et d’horreur, et d’alarmes.” Roméo begins it solo and it is taken up by the whole ensemble with a powerful orchestral accompaniment. This is one of those concepts in opera that often baffle those accustomed only to spoken theater. How can a large group of singers declaim all at once and make sense of the various sentiments they want to convey? With this great music, the composer gives an outstanding example of the value of this dramatic convention. Everyone concerned laments what has happened: the cause of Roméo’s outburst is the Duke’s decree of Roméo’s exile; the blame lies not only with Roméo but with the two warring houses which have brought grief on the whole city. In a masterful stroke the composer has combined the personal tragedy of the two lovers with the terrible social effect of their families’ mutual hatred.

Two great scenes remain for the star-crossed lovers, the first in Juliette’s bed chamber. They sing in gentle tones of the sweetness of their wedding night. The music reprises the sounds of the balcony scene with all its lyrical charm. It is developed into a full throated cry for both until Roméo interrupts in alarm. In Shakespeare the scene begins with Juliet’s rebuke,

Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day.
It was the nightingale, and not the lark
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear.

The librettists have turned this into words that admirably mimic the English and moves Gounod to one of his most inspired musical inventions. “Non, c’est de pas le jour…” Juliette begins, then repeats her plea to Roméo to stay; he relents and in his turn he sings Juliette’s impassioned “non, ce n’est pas le jour.” It is a melody of extraordinary dramatic power that combines passionate longing and a desperate denial of the reality that with the coming of day all the lovers’ hopes will be dashed by exile, death and the destructive power of hate that will separate them forever. The music at this point is a culmination of everything the opera wishes to convey; its importance will be confirmed in the final, tomb scene.

After Roméo leaves, Juliette has an aria, once routinely cut, now happily restored, which admirably depicts the development of her character. Friar Laurence enters and gives her the potion which will simulate her death. She sings, “Amour, ranime mon courage” — o love, strengthen my resolve. She is afraid, but willing to do anything that will rejoin her to Roméo. The music here is no longer that of the carefree girl singing her waltz song. Young still in years but grown into the stature of a woman matured by suffering, Juliette has become a tragic heroine whose voice reflects both the height and the depth of her final state.

As in the play, everything goes wrong and Roméo believes that his beloved is really dead. The tomb scene in the opera eliminates all characters except the two lovers. Gounod has concentrated in these final moments all his powers of melodic invention and deeply felt sympathy for these two people. The music suggests that the composer really loves these characters and feels the sadness of their cruel end. Every page of the music is suffused with dramatic cogency that plumbs the depths of longing and sorrow that all of us sense in the needless death of the young: longing to avert catastrophe and the clear understanding that we cannot.

Two moments stand out in the exchanges between the two in this final scene. Roméo’s words, “le rêve était trop beau,” our dream was all too fair, is clothed in music that achingly expresses the combination of hope and sorrow that have almost been the definition of the love of Romeo and Juliet. The other moment, even more poignant, is the recollection of that other parting when both of them desperately tried to stave off the pain of separation, “Non, non, ce n’est pas le jour” — it is not the day and the sound of the lark; it is the nightingale, protector of our love. That melody, so touching when first heard in the bedroom scene, returns now with a searing urgency that marks the composer not only as a canny dramatist but also as a deeply humane observer of lost love.

Critical judgments have their place. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is an early play and has the flaws of a writer not yet at the top of his game; the reliance on chance to advance the plot, e.g., Friar Laurence’s letter going astray, is not a good dramatic device. But if the play is a flawed work it is nevertheless the work of a genius who would grow astronomically in very short order. Gounod was a conservative composer, bound by the strict rules of 19th-century romantic sensibility, yet he had a profound sense of the power of passionate love and found the musical means to give it glorious life.

At the end of the play the Duke laments that “never was a story of more woe / than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Both the master of words and the master of music have assured that the story will never be forgotten.

Basil De Pinto, who writes frequently for LA Opera, has also written for the opera companies of Washington, D.C., Seattle, Atlanta and Fort Worth.

Are you a College Student who Loves Opera? LA Opera Wants You On Board!

Education University Internships

LA Opera is excited to announce the recent formation of its College Advisory Committee. Working closely with LA Opera staff, this savvy group of students will not only help shape the company’s future college programming, but act as ambassadors for opera on their campus.

College Advisory Committee members will have access to exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences, as well as other opportunities for professional development.

LA Opera will be hosting an Information Night for interested college students on Wednesday, November 16 from 7:00pm – 8:00pm at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Refreshments will be provided. To ensure complimentary parking, please RSVP to educom@laopera.org or (213) 972-3157.

Updated Open House schedule

On Saturday, November 5, we’re throwing open the doors of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for a full day of fun, free activities for the whole family. Our first Open House will pack tons of performances and activities into just one day, from 9:30am to 5pm. For starters: two free concerts featuring Plácido Domingo! Here’s our schedule for the day…hope to see you there!

Classical KUSC 91.5fm Live Broadcast of “The Opera Show”

9am to noon, Main Lobby (Grand Avenue side)

Meet host Duff Murphy as he broadcasts his entertaining weekly program for the first-time live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  Stop by and say hello to Duff and several other KUSC on-air personalities as he plays music and interviews LA Opera artists and other guests.

The Prospector
10am and 3pm, Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall
Two performances of the 30-minute children’s opera by composer Lee Holdridge and librettist Richard Sparks, inspired by Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West. The opera is geared toward children aged 4 to 10 and their families.

Art Workshops for Children
10:30am to 2:45pm, Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall (Hope Street side)
Two different hands-on art workshops will be offered throughout the day to children ages 4 to 10.  Using opera as inspiration, children can make their own opera-themed finger puppets or decorate a postcard to send to a loved one.

Costume Presentations
10:30am and 3:30pm, 3rd Floor Lobby (Hope Street side)
Get a 20-minute, up-close look at the elaborate costumes seen on our stage. During the morning presentation, Head of Wardrobe Janine Allen will dress a mannequin in the Infanta’s costume from Zemlinsky’s The Dwarf (designed by Linda Cho), explaining all the underpinnings needed to create the look: corset, pantaloons, petticoats and, finally, the elaborate gown. Wigmaster Darren K. Jinks will also demonstrate how elaborate hair effects are created for the stage. The afternoon demonstration will be given by Senior Draper John Bishop, using a mannequin and muslin to illustrate how fabric is draped on a form to create costume shapes, and by Senior Craft Artisan Hallie Dufresne, who will demonstrate how special costume elements are constructed.

Scenic, Prop and Sound Presentations
10:30am and 3:30pm, 3rd Floor Lobby (Grand Avenue side)
Join Technical Director Jeff Kleeman and his staff for a 20-minute demonstration of the numerous complex scenic elements that transform the stage into a magical world. Our behind-the-scenes experts will explain how sets are built and reveal the secrets behind special effects like the steaming spaghetti pot
from The Turk in Italy, Musetta’s breakaway pottery from La Bohème, the “light sabers” from the Ring cycle, and the wind machine from The Barber of Seville and Rigoletto.

Young Artist Concerts Featuring Plácido Domingo and James Conlon
11am and 12:45pm, Main Auditorium, advance tickets available

Conductors Plácido Domingo and James Conlon share the podium for two concerts with the LA Opera Orchestra, featuring soloists from the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program in excerpts from favorite operas. Mr. Domingo will also perform as a singer at both concerts. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis; free tickets can be reserved in advance at www.laopera.org to insure admission. There will be a live simulcast in the downstairs Green Room for overflow audiences.

Post-Concert Q&A with Plácido Domingo and James Conlon
11:45am and 1:30pm, Main Auditorium

What is it like to perform in the world’s great opera houses? Find out in two post-concert roundtable discussions with Plácido Domingo and James Conlon.

Sing Out Loud
11:45am and 1:30pm, Founders Room, ticket required (limited availability)
Sing Out Loud
is a 30-minute, interactive introduction to opera for children and their families, featuring some of opera’s “greatest hits.” The performance is geared toward children aged 4 to 10 and their families. The Founders Room is located on the Hope Street side of the theater, one floor above the main level. Free tickets should be reserved in advance at www.laopera.org. (There will be a standby line for any available spots.)

Screening: La Damnation de Faust
1:30pm, Downstairs Green Room

LA Opera’s 2003 production of Berlioz’s grand-scaled masterpiece, featuring Paul Groves, Samuel Ramey and Denyce Graves, in a one-of-a-kind staging conducted by Kent Nagano and staged by director/designer Achim Freyer.

Meet the Artists: Plácido Domingo and James Conlon
2pm, East  Lobby (Grand Avenue side)

Plácido Domingo and James Conlon will be available to autograph programs, CDs and DVDs. Items will be available for purchase in the main lobby’s Opera Shop, and attendees are also invited to bring their own favorite items for signing.

Backstage Tours
2pm and 3:30pm, ticket required (limited availability)

Take a closer look at the sets and costumes for Roméo et Juliette with 45-minute guided backstage tours. Tours will begin in the lobby near Doors 1 and 2 into the auditorium (Hope Street side). (There will be a standby line for any available spots.)

Screening: La Traviata
4pm, Downstairs Green Room

LA Opera’s 2006 production of Verdi’s beloved tragedy, starring Renée Fleming and Rolando Villazón, in a sumptuous production conducted by James Conlon and directed by Marta Domingo.

Scenery and Prop Display
All day, 3rd Floor Lobby (Grand Avenue side)

See how the designer’s vision makes it to the stage through set models and designers’ renderings for productions of Il Postino (designed by Riccardo Hernandez), Il Trittico (designed by Santo Loquasto) and The Broken Jug and The Dwarf (designed by Ralph Funicello). Attendees can also handle actual props used onstage during performances.

Costume and Wig Displays
All day, 3rd Floor Lobby (Hope Street side)

Clothes may make the man, but highly detailed costumes and wigs help singers make magic. Some of our best will be on display throughout the day, including several costumes from LA Opera’s 2008 production of Zemlinsky’s The Dwarf, designed by Linda Cho, as well as costumes designed by Constance Hoffman for LA Opera’s 2006 world premiere of Goldenthal’s Grendel, including the massive Dragon attire worn by Denyce Graves. Additionally, attendees can watch a highly skilled artisan from the wig department creating a hairpiece from scratch.

LA Opera History Video Project
All day, 4th Floor Lobby (Hope Street side)

Step into our video booth and share your LA Opera story. What was your first opera?  What is the one performance you will never forget? Who are your favorite performers?  Your reminiscences will become part of LA Opera’s permanent history.

Historic Photo Gallery
All day, 4th Floor Lobby (Grand Avenue side)

A display of photos from the early years of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and LA Opera to the present day, including many behind-the-scenes photos.

Welcome Booths
All day, Main Lobby

Hosted by the Opera League of Los Angeles and Hispanics for Los Angeles Opera

In celebration of Halloween…

I’m what you’d call a lifelong horror geek, and this time of the year my DVD and Blu-ray decks overheat with the likes of The Abominable Dr. Phibes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Drive-in fare like The Killer Shrews and War of the Colossal Beast are personal faves from a childhood reared on WLVI Boston’s Creature Double Feature, and I’ve literally worn out a VHS of the long out-of-print The Incredible Melting Man.

But let me tell you something… the video collection can’t compete with some of the LIVE eerie effects, creepy costumes and monster moments this company has put on stage in the past decade. Here are a few highlights:

Denyce Graves is haunted by puppets and projections in DUKE BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE (2002)

From La Damnation de Faust in 2002 to The Turn of the Screw just last season, I’ve been treated to all sorts of ghostly images and visitors from the underworld, all in grand operatic scale. I’m not all that into ghost movies, but huge skull-headed spectral puppets live on stage are absolutely breathtaking.

The massive reaper from DON CARLO (2006), which looked like it stood over eight feet, was way more intimidating in person than anything portrayed on screen in LORD OF THE RINGS.

The statue-come-to-life in DON GIOVANNI (03 and 07) is downright zombie-like, as are the lost souls who drag him to the Underworld soon after.

2010's THE TURN OF THE SCREW featured both classic-style specters and nightmares right out of modern Japanese cinema.

The scares don’t stop at haunting spirits, we’ve put some pretty astounding MONSTERS on the stage, too.

In my opinion, LAO's 1990 production of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE had better practical costumes than the expensive digital creations of the recent film.

The Douglas Fitch-designed woodland creatures from HANSEL AND GRETEL (2006) were either whimsical or downright creepy, depending on how you felt about the electronic 'screen' eyes.

Despite their colorful execution, fairytale creations can be as scary as circus clowns are to some of us (and isn’t Pagliacci just a step away from being a slasher movie anyway?), but the nightmarish creatures of Julie Taymor’s Grendel left no room for interpretation. They were unnervingly inhuman and grotesquely asymmetrical.

These primitive abominations spawn the more man-like Grendel. The monster-as-protagonist was not only more humanoid, he was the most human character in the opera. It’s a widely popular theme in monster movies, going back to King Kong and Boris Karloff’s child-like monster in Frankenstein in the 1930s. We’re the creature. The marginalized, misfits and misunderstood of the world relate to the lagoon monsters and transformed un-men spurned by damsels in distress and hostile villagers alike.

Of course, the more singing a creature has to do, the more free the face has to be. Denyce Graves’ dragon, with three supporting vocalists as the tail, was actually more of a traditional opera costume.

But no one… and I mean NO ONE… did more heroic above-and-beyond singing in a monster suit than Daniel Okulitch in 2008's The Fly!

David Cronenberg’s first foray into opera was technically a reinterpretation of his landmark 1986 film, but it had a firm foot in the 1958 original as well. The Fly is an evolution of the familiar mad scientist theme, but with a more sympathetic lead. Seth Brundle isn’t a hand-gnashing madman cackling like a lunatic in his ominous lab. He’s brilliant, he’s onto something big, and in a very human moment of weakness and impatience makes a small mistake with unimaginably profound consequences. (Hmm, sounds like opera, doesn’t it?) All he tries to do from there is get back to being human, but the paths he takes go more and more wrong until the ultimate tragic conclusion.

Two latex-based creature suits, created by Mark Rappaport/Creature Effects, turned baritone into beast in The Fly. The first being simple lab clothes with lumpy semi-insectoid arms and head attached. This half-way creature look (lovingly referred to as “pants monsters” by the fan community) evoked the classic dirt-cheap B-movies of the 50s and 60s – The Hideous Sun Demon coming immediately to mind.

The stage-two transformation was a full-body suit. Now as any monster movie buff knows, all full-body suits harken back to The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the opera’s costume did its pedigree proud. But this suit had some special needs no movie gear ever had to deal with: the wearer had to sing in it. And sing suspended upside down from a scaffolding!

The Fly ended with a cinema-quality puppet/suit emerging from a smoking piece of retro lab tech. The man succumbed to monster, and the monster met its end, returning the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage to the relative tranquility of crazed knife-wielding lovers and bloody political intrigue.

And while I fully realize it is not The Fly, but Butterfly that keeps us open, as a monster movie buff I’m honored to have been here to see some amazing live stuff on stage.

Keith J. Rainville
LA Opera Brand Manager and graphic designer
(Creature from the Black Lagoon figure on desk)

Tenor Ben Bliss on “Whitney”

Photo by Kenneth Dolin

Ben Bliss, one of the newest members of the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program, will make his Company debut in just a few weeks as Benvolio in Romeo et Juliette. But he makes his NBC primetime debut tomorrow night, with a guest appearance on the new sitcom Whitney. He’ll even sing! Tune in Thursday at 9:30pm, when lead characters Whitney and Alex compete to see who can be more romantic.

Official show site

Stephen Costello interview

Stephen Costello, who’ll be our Rodolfo at the end of the season, recently sat down for an interview with “The Huffington Post.” Click here to read it.

Revenge of the LA Opera Costume Shop Sale – The Recap

Several hundred people started lining up along Alameda Street in downtown LA early Sunday morning to ensure first dibs at our “Revenge of the LA Opera Costume Shop Sale.” From complete costumes to masks, wigs, accessories and plumed hats, opera lovers, families with tots in tow, Halloween fans, theater fanatics and young designers poured through the racks hoping to find that right one-of-a-kind item.

Potential buyers arrived dressed very LA casual, but quickly transformed into the Grand Duchess of Gerolstein or a Chinese warrior from legendary times as they squeezed themselves into the stage couture. “We have a killer neighborhood costume party and this outfit is going to rock this year,” said Burbank property manager Deirdre Baird whose husband Tom was attired in full Turandot peasant attire. Longtime subscriber Nancy Colman-Frank along with daughter Melissa Holritz and granddaughter also scored big with multiple items including Timor’s shackles from Turandot and a worn fisherman’s outer coat. “We wanted to be a bleak Peter Grimes family this year,” Melissa said as she pointed to her young daughter wearing a darkly veiled brimmed hat. “This sale is brilliant.”

For several hours, shoppers wandered the racks wearing bird costumes, gladiator-style helmets and face masks while trying on numerous outfits. Criminal defense attorney Leslie Anne Boyce used the Costume Shop’s glass windows as fitting room mirror as she assessed the strapped black evening gown fitted with petite white wired feathers on top. “I’m thinking more of New Year’s Eve with this dress,” she said.

Carol Levin and daughter Laura stopped by on the way to the final Eugene Onegin matinee performance hoping to snag a quick item. “Do you think Dad would wear this to a Renaissance Faire?” asked budding designer Laura as she held up a darkly colored medieval frock.

As the racks of clothing were consolidated to a remaining few, Costume Shop production assistants Stephanie Cytron and Sondra Veldy sighed, “I love this sale. People get to see the amazing work, the attention to detail, and the choices that go into every piece of clothing. This is what we do!”

Memories of Opening Night: Carol F. Henry

We asked Carol F. Henry, one of the founders of LA Opera and the current President of the Board, for her memories of LA Opera’s inaugural performance of Otello on October 7, 1986.

Warner and I were so thrilled to be there on October 7, 1986, and to be a part of what even then I knew would be the beginning of a major international opera company. We had Placido with us from the beginning, coupled with the experience and wisdom of Peter Hemmings, so we knew we were going to be among the winners on the world stage. I never doubted it.  We were seated in the Founders Circle and I was somewhat horrified when the curtain stuck, probably more horrified then than I would be now. Today it’s just a glitch; but then I most likely feared it was an omen.

But what did I wear? Probably the same long white dress I wore to the opening of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1964. It still fit, it was the only long dress I still had after three pregnancies, and times were tight enough then that a new gown would have been out of the question. And I loved it!

Memories of Opening Night: Bernard A. Greenberg

We asked Bernard A. Greenberg, one of the founders of LA Opera and the current chairman of the Executive Committee, for his memories  of LA Opera’s inaugural performance of Otello on October 7, 1986.

As I recall, we were sitting in the middle downstairs around the 10th to 12th row. When the curtain got stuck, I thought “Oh, no! This is not happening!” But then it was over so quickly. Little did I think at that time that we would be constantly reminded of this mishap “courtesy” of [former LA Times critic] Martin Bernheimer.

The one thing I most remember from that night is that the production was a triumph and, finances aside, we were finally, solidly on our way towards establishing a real producing company.

Given our myriad of problems, I sometimes marvel that we are still here. But, notwithstanding the adage that embarking on the presentation of opera creates its own opera, looking back over our 25 years, plus the many years that led up to our October 7, 1986 opening, I am very satisfied and extraordinarily pleased to have been part of this adventure.

By Bernard A. Greenberg

Do you have a special LA Opera memory that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you. Send us your reminiscences to press@laopera.org

Memories of Opening Night: Alice Coulombe

We asked Alice Steere Coulombe, one of the founders and a life trustee of LA Opera, for her memories  of LA Opera’s inaugural performance of Otello on October 7, 1986.

Joe and I were there, sitting in the Founders Circle. I remember that I wore a beautiful, beaded Indian silk dress. I also had real brown hair. [When the curtain was momentarily stuck on its way up] I thought, “Why don’t they stop and start again?” But they couldn’t because it was being broadcast live. It really only lasted seconds—no harm done—but it felt like a lifetime.

Joe Looking back over the last 25 years, I have an unladylike sense of pride, and many happy memories. All our Pasadena opera friends were convinced that Lorraine Saunders and I had accomplished this all by ourselves, so we had lovely coverage in the local paper.

There were volunteers everywhere. One of my kids was working on proofreading the supertitles at rehearsals. I remember a real blooper one night. Jane Hemmings and I had come together, and we were sitting in the Founders laughing. My daughter Madeleine told me when she got home that she knew we were up there laughing, even though she could not see or hear us. And she was furious!

By Alice Steere Coulombe

Do you have a special LA Opera memory that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you. Send us your reminiscences to press@laopera.org

Happy birthday to us!

It’s our birthday! 25 years ago TODAY, LA Opera inaugurated its very first season with a landmark production of Otello starring Placido Domingo. It was a remarkable beginning, and our journey over the last quarter-century has been truly astounding. For that, we have YOU, our incredibly devoted audiences, to thank.

It’s a bird! It’s a…um, a plane?

Photo by Allison Achauer

Actually I’m not completely sure what that second one is, but it’s pretty fabulous, and I think I want to buy it.

The LA Opera Costume Shop is literally gearing up for the upcoming costume sale this Sunday, October 9. Today, four of our costume staff—Jennifer, Laina, Hallie and Heather—paid a visit to KCAL 9 News at 2 wearing some of the pieces that will be a part of the sale. The costumes were so spectacular and elaborate that Hallie said that she felt like she was part of old-time Hollywood. It was inspirational to the rest of us in the shop. The wheels are turning…maybe a “Ladies of the Costume Shop” calendar is in order?

By Pamela Walt

Click here for more info on the costume shop sale.

Gran Venta del Taller de Vestuario

Otra vez viene la temporada de Halloween, una locura que a todos les encanta celebrar. Estan a tiempo con la Gran Venta del Taller de Vestuario de La Opera de Los Angeles que vamos a tener en nuestro edificio el dia 9 de octubre desde las 11 de la mañana hasta las 4 de la tarde o antes si se acaba TODO. Y aqui les doy un muestra de las muchas cosas que vamos a vender… Si tu quieres ser unas de la personas que quiere un disfraz de las muchas produciones del pasado nuestras puertas abren a las 11, los esperamos!