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Blog entries posted during June 2012

La Boheme Technical Analysis

After a one to two year process of working with the design team on the concept and creation of renderings and models for a new set, one of the tasks of the Technical Department is to analyze, draw, engineer and supervise construction of the scenery and props for that new production. Our popular production of La Boheme was built new in 1993 and has been presented repeatedly here and at other opera companies.

Los Angeles Opera La Boheme

Act 1: Los Angeles Opera production of La Boheme onstage in 2012

Each time we revive the production, we meticulously study the technical drawings. This becomes especially critical since our productions often play in rep with other varying productions when they are revived. This package of archived drawings and documentation accompanies the production when it travels to another opera company.

Los Angeles Opera La Boheme

3D “exploded” view construction drawing of La Boheme set unit as built by Seattle Opera Scenic Studios. This illustrates how the individual components are assembled. (Click and zoom for large detailed image.)

3D AutoCAD drawing: Act 1 La Boheme on DCP Stage (Click and zoom for large detailed image.)

This short video captures some of the La Boheme scenery as it is unloaded from the trucks, assembled, and handled onstage.

The Many Faces of Opera in LA

We are excited that there is a vital conversation about opera in Los Angeles. We welcome the ongoing dialogue about which operas should be produced and how – it helps inform our future seasons and speaks to the strength and continuing popularity of opera as an art form. It is exciting to see so many organizations putting their spin on this timeless and enduring art form.

LA Opera is known around the world for our innovative pursuit of perfection in opera. Regardless of whether it is a world premiere or a 150-year-old classic, we approach each piece with artistic integrity and a commitment to creating a heightened emotional and cultural experience for our audiences. We are proud stewards of an art form which allows for multiple aesthetic perspectives. We also select operas based on their artistic value without regard to the year they are composed. The hallmark of a great story or artwork is its ability to transcend generations — the popularity of our recent La Bohème is a perfect example of this.

That being said, opera is a rich and diverse art form and we strongly support the creation of new works and the exploration of varied repertory. Our track record proves this. For example, we enthusiastically supported The Industry's production of "Crescent City" by providing casting, lighting and sound equipment, media relations support and marketing. On our own stage, we have often been accused of being too adventurous.

The onset of the recession, coinciding with a bold and ambitious Ring cycle,  led to a slight and temporary shift toward less modern repertory. It was a financially responsible course that allowed us to continue to produce opera of the highest caliber, bring in new audiences and weather the recession. Best of all: it worked. We are well on our way to being debt free — an amazing accomplishment considering the challenging economy.

We continue to value diversity in programming and already have several world premieres and modern operas in the planning stages. In the meantime, however, we invite you to partake of opera — LA Opera style — in all of its glory: elaborate, evocative scenery, fully-staged drama, a entire symphony orchestra in the pit, unamplified singing, world-class couture...unrivaled stagecraft and musicianship.

Firebreather from The Tow Foscari

 From LA Opera’s upcoming The Two Foscari — a brand new production (of a 168-year-old opera) starring Plácido Domingo.

Quote of the day!

Gianni Sachi, Woody Allen, James Conlon and Saimir Pirgu

How the times change…from Woody Allen, director of LA Opera’s 2008 production of Gianni Schicchi, to promoting To Rome With Love opening in Los Angeles on Friday, June 29. In the film, Woody Allen plays an opera director crippled by his fear of death.  "I'm not anti–Los Angeles," Allen says today. "I couldn't live here because I don't like a place where I have to drive everyplace, and I don't like sunshine. But I love coming out here for a couple of days. I have a lot of friends here, and the town has, over the years, really come on very strong. When I first came out here years ago, you couldn't get a decent meal in Los Angeles. Now it's full of great restaurants, great museums; the opera's wonderful."

To read the entire article, visit LA Weekly.com.

Opera's Next Supercommittee

or: "How the LA Opera College Advisory Committee Prepares Young People to be the Next Generation of Opera-Lovers and Shows That The Company is Serious About a Very Modern Approach to Marketing Opera."

by Johannes Schmitt, LA Opera College Advisory Committee

In December 2011, I joined the inaugural LA Opera College Advisory Committee. Committee members are encouraged not only to be ambassadors for the art form, but also to act as sounding boards for LA Opera’s general strategy to engage and connect with a variety of audiences - many of them non-traditional. Most are potential opera-goers who have maybe attended a big musical (like Cats or Wicked), but have yet to be introduced to the pleasures of watching Don Giovanni brag about his promiscuity or hear Isolde mourn the loss of her lover Tristan.

Johannes Schmitt (pictured right) and a fellow LAO Commege Advisoty Committee member at the LA Times Festival of Books

I should note that I am neither a vocal student, nor performing arts professional (my background is in philosophy). I simply like opera in the way other people like knitting, baking cupcakes and watching NHL hockey games. Even though I recently went all the way to the Bay Area just to see John Adams' Nixon in China at San Francisco Opera (a rewarding experience), I usually don't travel around the country just to see the most hyped opera productions or stalk my favorite opera singers.  So why did someone like me, who simply likes opera, decide to join the College Advisory committee?

I think opera is not just a great art form (as we know from the new LA opera branding campaign, it is more than the sum of its (p)arts), but its special role in the arts raises a lot of interesting and sometimes challenging questions. I was and continue to be interested in the refreshingly pragmatic way in which LA Opera approaches these questions.

LAO College Advisory Committee working at the LA Times Festival of Books

For example, is the whole art form aesthetically past its prime? Are there ever going to be contemporary operas that parallel the great masterpieces of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century?  Does opera (unlike modern musical theater) resist innovation? And finally, is opera inherently elitist or bourgeois because opera subscriptions, just like expensive sports cars, tend to be associated with social status and prestige?

These questions seem daunting. But I think the answer can be very simple: The most effective way of showing that opera is not obsolete, irrelevant or elitist is getting new people - especially young people - from every zip code between Whittier and Westchester to be equally excited about new productions.

And a great way of getting young people excited about the arts is giving them an opportunity to experience them from the inside. That’s where LA Opera's College Advisory Committee comes in. Students gain insight into the carefully and meticulously managed operations required to produce an opera. They quickly learn to appreciate the hard work behind the seemingly effortless singing and acting. And they come to identify with their local opera company, which may make them more likely to be involved in their own (smaller-scale) community opera productions, volunteer their time for outreach campaigns and think about opera as a genre in new and creative ways.

LAO College Advisoty Committee with tenor Stephen Costello after LA Boheme Q&A

Like any other cause, opera needs to make an effort to recruit people who care about it. It is wrong to think that opera companies should not be concerned with recruiting (and also training) future stakeholders. Opera is not a sacred cow. The view that it is somehow blissfully immune to changing societal demands is as unfortunate as it is widespread.

On the bright side, just like we don't worry about other 'genres' of performing arts that are able to excite audiences (a Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas, say), we don't have to worry about the future of opera as long as it continues to draw new audiences. And just like other art forms, opera needs to be marketed intelligently. It needs fans, sponsors, subscribers, advocates, Twitter hashtags and Facebook likes. The leadership of the LA Opera College Advisory Committee does a great job of equipping young people with the tools (and the unforgettable moments) to share their personal stories and anecdotes about opera and spread the excitement. 'Hey, guess who I had a chat with last night? Mimi and Rodolfo from La Bohème!’  At the end of the day, that is what opera is all about: Great stories, experienced through music, and shared between generations of performers and audiences.