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Blog entries posted during May 2012

Los Angeles Opera Presents “The Story of La Bohème”

The Story of La Boheme

Opera can be as enchanting as a fairy tale, as raucous as the circus, or as dramatic as Harry Potter’s quest.  And better still, the action is set to some of the world’s most glorious music.  It seems to me to be the perfect entertainment for a child, and introducing children to the delights of opera is what SING ME A STORY is all about.

Dispel the notion that opera is “too difficult” for a child and present to your son or daughter an art form that encompasses all the arts: drama, music, and the visual arts through sets and costumes.  I wrote and illustrated SING ME A STORY to stimulate a child’s interest in opera by recreating, as fully as possible, the experience of a live performance.  With public schools steadily cutting arts programs, books on the performing and visual arts are more crucial than ever to educating our children.

To prepare your youngster for Puccini’s dazzling La Bohème, take a look at my retelling from SING ME A STORY.  If possible, play some musical highlights.  And if available, pop in a DVD of one of the many recorded performances.  You’ll be surprised at the richness and pure fun your child will experience when attending La Bohème, as he or she approaches the production with all the anticipation and wonder of an opera enthusiast, reveling in the gaiety and hardship that is the Paris of Puccini’s band of Bohemians.


Christopher Koelsch Named President and CEO of LA Opera

LA Opera is pleased to announce that Christopher Koelsch  has been appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, effective September 15, 2012.

The Company’s current Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Rountree, who has served LA Opera in an interim basis since late 2008 while also serving as President and CEO of the Music Center of Los Angeles County, will continue as the head of the Music Center and will join the LA Opera Board of Directors.

Eli and Edythe Broad General Director Plácido Domingo said, “We are very grateful for Steve Rountree’s guidance and leadership during the past few years. He has helped provide the Company with a solid foundation from which to build and grow. His guidance was strong and steady and will be missed. The time has come for LA Opera to have its own full-time business leader to join with me in continuing to advance the Company’s central artistic position, not only in Los Angeles but in the world of music. I cannot think of anyone more appropriate than Christopher Koelsch. Christopher is one of the most skilled professionals I have worked with and it gives me great pleasure to have him take on more responsibility as President and CEO of LA Opera. I embrace our future together at this wonderful company.”

Christopher Koelsch joined the company in 1997. He was named Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in 2010.  In his current role, and prior to that as Vice President for Artistic Planning, Mr. Koelsch has demonstrated exemplary leadership of the LA Opera team.  Under the guidance of Plácido Domingo, he has helped produce over 30 new productions, including four world premieres, and seven television recordings including the two-time Grammy winning Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny . Additionally, he has been responsible for all aspects of artistic and strategic planning, overseeing the Company’s music administration, production, marketing, public relations and educational administration.

We are excited that his role within the Company is expanding and can’t wait to see what the future holds for LA Opera under Mr. Koelsch’s leadership.


El Armario de Musetta

Sólo faltan cuatro semanas para la gran apertura de Boheme del compositor Giacomo Puccini, y el vestuario de Musetta va a estar justo en tiempo, o eso esperamos!

Les presento el equipo responsable de todo el vestuario magnífico de Musetta.  La líder es Leslie Ann Smith, una de nuestros talentosas constructora de vestuario de damas en el Taller de la Opera de Los Angeles.  Leslie Ann ha trabajado con nosotros durante doce años, en realidad es la tercera vez que ha trabajado en esta producción de La Boheme, y ella me dice que es una de sus operas favoritas. A ella le encanta hacer vestuario del siglo XIX hasta la primera mitad del siglo XX.  Asi que este espectáculo esta a la altura de su mundo favorito.

Leslie Ann trabaja en estrecha colaboración con su asistenta, Jennifer Shaw. La Fashionista del equipo, Jennifer ha estado con la Opera de Los Angeles desde 2005. Ella se graduo con especialicion en la moda, pero prefiere trabajar con el vestuario de la opera y el teatro y le encanta ponérselos también.  Jennifer me dice “no hay problema con los trajes de epoca, tambien estaban de moda en su día!

Una vez que Leslie Ann ha estudiado los diseños, toma las medidas de la artista, luego hace los patrones.  Jennifer transfiere los patrones a las hermosas telas propias para el escenario,  corta todas las piezas y se las entrega a las costureras del equipo, Hortencia Santos y Ana Wong, que meticulosamente cosen todo y añaden los toques finales.

No podemos olvidarnos de Hallie Dufresne nuestra artesana principal en el taller.   Todos sabemos que no podemos completar el modelo sin los accesorios. Hallie completa el “look” de Musetta con sombreros y joyas.  Gracias Hallie .. Con todo este trabajo del  equipo, estoy seguro que Musetta será fabulosamente vestida con sus nuevos diseños.

Si no, entonces creo que Musetta en el desnudo también será un Grand éxito!  La Boheme abre 12 de mayo hasta 02 de junio .. nos vemos en el teatro ..


May is “Opera Month” in Los Angeles

Tourists come to LA to experience starry Hollywood, bubbling La Brea Tar pits, and great weather of course, but opera?   Well, that could all change in May when

Los Angeles’s young and thriving operatic culture takes to the stage in four very different productions.

Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez - La Boheme

In addition to LA Opera’s grand Herb Ross production of La Boheme opening May 12 starring Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez and conducted by Patrick Summers,  three other diverse operatic events will be presented in venues throughout Los Angeles during the month of May.

Mariusz Kwiecien as Don Giovanni (photo courtesy of Seattle Opera)

The Los Angeles Philharmonic will present Mozart’s Don Giovanni from May 18 to 26 at Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Conducted by Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, LA Phil’s epic three-year Mozart/ Da Ponte Trilogy begins with the duo’s masterwork Don Giovanni starring baritone Mariusz Kwiecien and  featuring costumes by Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy and stage design by WDCH architect Frank Gehry.  (www.LAPhil.com)

Garcia Lorca- Solo la muerte

On May 19 and 26, Long Beach Opera will present the west coast premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar with libretto by David Henry Hwang.  Based on the life of Spanish playwright and poet Federico Garcia Lorca, Ainadamar tells the writer’s story who was executed in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. A gripping reflection on the undying faith of a people, Aindamar ponders the moral duty of the artist and the relationship between artistic and political freedom.  (www.LongBeachOpera.org)

Crescent City - The Industry

A new experimental opera company, The Industry, will present its inaugural production from May 10 through 27: the Los Angeles premiere of Crescent City by composer Anne LeBarron and Douglas Kearney, staged at Atwater Crossing, an industrial space in Atwater Village. Featured twice in New York City Opera’s VOX showcase of new American opera, Crescent City tells a fantastical tale of a mythical city destroyed by one hurricane and the voodoo priestess determined to save it.

The Industry’s production takes place in an industrial space and immerses the audience in a 360-degree landscape comprised of visual artists’ responses to the six chief locations of the opera.(www.TheIndustryLA.org)

So, grab your surfboard, sunblock and opera glasses and come to LA and experience OPERA!

 


Color, Costumes and The Two Foscari

Costume design by Mattie Ullrich

Artist Georgia O’Keefe said “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way-things I had no words for.”  Whether it is a conscious choice or something you unknowingly do, we all assign feelings, emotions, and moods to colors. Some nights we want to feel elegant, and we throw on that little black dress or suit, while during the day maybe a playful palette of pastels is necessary. Many people believe that colors can even be healing. Dating back to the 900s, “color therapy” has even been used to treat illness and disease. Color clearly plays an important role in our lives and throughout history. Costume design is no different. Color helps set the mood, move the piece along, and it unifies the production.

As you may know by now, next season The LA Opera will be doing a production of Verdi’s The Two Foscari . The costume designer is Mattie Ullrich, who is based out of New York, so I sat and talked to the costume supervisor Misty Ayres about the production.

Misty informed me that Mattie’s design concept is a mixture of medieval and modern runway fashion. Mattie prefers to use solid colors rather than texture, pattern, and print. Misty excitedly told me that personally she sees this production as a “dark comic book.”

In any production, whether it has a “comic book feel” or is a strict period piece, the designer has to consider many different aspects before settling on the color palette. The colors of each costume must be complementary (or intentionally not complementary) to the other colors in the ensemble. In addition every character’s costume on stage must work together to convey a mood and bring out the essence of the piece. Color is also a great way to show the social ranking of a character. For example, during Act I of Foscari, the chorus men will be in red and black because they are “noble” and “wise”.

Colors can shift throughout the show, taking the audience on a visual journey and showing the transformation, evolution, or de-evolution of the characters.  You will be able to see the shift of Lucrezia’s mental state reflected through the changing of her color palette.

Color can also be a great way to change focus onto different characters or groups of characters. In Foscari during Act III most of the onstage cast will be in muted tones which will blend into the set. The exception will be the band of “players” who will be in a mostly jewel-toned palette so they stand out from the scenery and the other performers.

Misty also informed me of a fun fact: Mattie does not like buttons. (Your mission as the audience: see if you can spot any sort of closures on the garment during the production.)

The Two Foscari opens September 15, 2012.


Ana Maria Martinez Speaks to Vocal Students at Cortines High School

Music students at Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts were treated to a surprise visit and discussion with soprano Ana María Martínez, currently co-starring with Placido Domingo in Simon Boccanegra .

We asked Ms. Martinez about her experience with the students and what she hopes impress upon them. Her answers follow:

Why do you enjoy talking to students?

I am very interested in connecting with the students, at any age, what matters to them—their existential angst, their curiosities—and to share with them my perspective of the wonder of the theater/operatic world. They are our future on all levels and we must reach out to them, in their environment, in order to bring them closer to the arts.

What was the most intriguing question asked?

When I mentioned to the class that each voice is unique and requires a lifelong dedication in order to cultivate, nurture, and train, one young lady asked me, referring to a voice, “How do you know when a piece of charcoal can become a diamond?”

What would you want to impart to the students?

To dream BIG! Discover what your greatest passions are in life. Spend your life developing the gifts you were given, in order to reach your highest potential.


The Festival Play of Daniel Through the eyes of Community Ensemble Participant, Rachel Staples

Community Ensemble Member Rachel Staples rehearsing for The Festival Play of Daniel

When you are a budding performing artist, the small perks are big perks!  Even though I live in the valley, it is totally worth the drive to downtown to rehearse at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  Something about being there inspires me, gives me hope, and encourages me on my performing artist journey.  Having my name on the comp list for parking at the Music Center downtown is always so thrilling, even though that may seem silly.  I feel really special driving in and putting my initials next to my name so I can park, as an artist, for free.  This is a small personal joy that embellishes my heart and makes me feel truly appreciated.  As we all piled into Rehearsal Room 4 for our first official rehearsal of The Festival Play of Daniel, I felt an exciting thrill. There were faces from last year’s opera, new faces I had never seen before, as well as faces of alumni from the performing arts college I work for.  This was very awesome to see.  I am very impressed by the young dancers, actor and singers.  The community ensemble is filled with all levels of talent, age, and experience.  It is an honor to be among such a group.

I must admit, one of the most exciting parts about the first rehearsal was hearing the main stage opera chorus rehearsing.  As we were going over the beginning announcements, we kept hearing impeccable voices echoing through the floors of the Dorothy Chandler.  Hearing these astonishing voices was especially enthralling to me as a young performing artist.  I love opera!  I love the powerhouse of sound!  Hearing the main stage chorus rehearsing was like getting a fast-blast-backstage-pass.  It was the icing on the cake for our first rehearsal.  Everyone in the room responded to these sounds.  Everyone smiled as their voices ticked our eardrums.

Listening to the Director of the LA Opera Education Programs, Stacy Brightman, speak about the integrity of the show and the expectations all of the performers was a confirmation of why I love being an opera singer – because I get to work with some of the most amazingly accomplished professionals in the performing arts industry.  Stacy sure knows her stuff and I love hearing her speak!  She has a remarkable poise that could get anyone in the world excited about opera.

Eli Villanueva directing Rachel and the cast of The Festival Play of Daniel

When we began to work with Eli Villanueva, the Stage Director, my passion for opera was once again strengthened and renewed.  Eli has a way of articulating direction that ignites the fire inside each person in his cast.  Eli speaks in ways that everyone (even the smallest of roles) feels appreciated, included, and important.  We all learn from his exemplified professional demeanor, and it is such an honor to be a part of his cast.  I am always on the edge of my seat to hear each resonant word he speaks.

I cannot wait until the next rehearsal, and I most especially cannot wait to be a part of the experience of the final community product – The Play of Daniel!


You Give A Little Love and it All Comes Back to You

Music is truly an undeserved gift that we, as a collective people, are capable of harnessing. Some are more talented than others in various aspects of the music world, but we all share it.

Sometimes I don’t think we share it enough.

Music today is really about a perception. To perceive one, or a group, as a value instead of recognizing the experience for what it is. Unless multiple dollar symbols are attached to a name we rarely give a second glance. Unless the performance is up to par in our minds we could care less, we boo them off stage, we turn down the radio, we turn of television shows that make millions on dreams of those who truly love music.

But if you saw a new mother, or father, singing to their newborn child would you take notice? Would you watch, and inhale, the genuine experience of an elderly husband holding the hand of his decaying wife while humming the song they first danced to? Would you smile tenderly on an older brother teaching his younger sister the lyrics to the school pageant that she will be missing due to a last minute procedure?

I guarantee you hospital visitors, volunteers and personnel do just that.

LA Opera this Holiday Season discovered this lack in musical allocation and sent out a clan of singers to various Los Angeles Hospitals to sing Holiday Carols. I was apart of this fantastic group of the most talented, warm hearted and genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and we gave the gift of music to those in the hospital… but in return we received so much more.

Most hospital stories share grief, pain, hurt, loneliness and sorrow and while we saw what could have been; instead, with music, we saw laughter, we saw joy, we saw happiness and we saw interest. Genuine interest. How many times can you hold a conversation with a person and know they are truly interested? We, as humans, have lost a personal connection through out technological age especially in conversation. But, sing to someone and you would both be lost, together, in a splotch of time that could never be repeated. Music brings forth a feeling that truly nothing else has the power to do. Whether you are a trained musician, or an avid listener, music is emotional. Singing at the hospitals was emotional.

Walking into a particular room of a War Veteran and seeing the laughter of an elderly gentlemen, with no teeth, but enough gumption to request carols brought widening smiles by the second. Seeing families hovering around the beds of their sick, or dying, loved ones while their mouths gently danced along with the music brought tears to our eyes. Seeing the eyes of children widen and hands come to mouths to stifle their laughs while singing a goofy rendition of jingle bells could only instill the giggles of any onlooker. Every nurse working the long and tiring battles they face daily wouldn’t take their eyes off of us begging for more to keep this state of tenderness alive in their minds just a bit longer before the battle would rage again.

Music did this. Sharing music.

Walking through the hallways of the hospitals and seeing faces of every race, shape and size reminded me that music is powerful enough to transcend any barrier we still fight today. Music creates a peace, an inner harmony, that can truly connect everyone in the room. The dynamic swells, the melodious tunes, the gut wrenching harmonies – this is what the holidays are all about. Sharing these immense feelings of joy, the joy of music, can only bring about a spirit that the holidays harness.

So even if you can’t carry a tune… sing. Sing to your neighbor, sing in the car, sing to your spouse, sing to your child, sing to your father, mother, cat, dog, grandfather or grandmother because I guarantee they will always remember the time you sang to them. The time you thought of them enough to share the glory that is music.

I will never forget this hospital caroling tour and only hope it will be a tradition that returns year after year after year.


Announcing LA Opera’s College Advisory Committee

We are thrilled to be forming our first-ever College Advisory Committee.  To kick off what we are sure is to be a really successful group of student leaders, LA Opera hosted an Information Meeting on November 16, which was a blast! We had a great group of students who battled rain and traffic to get to the meeting; everyone was really enthusiastic and asked tons of questions and had lots of ideas. LA Opera’s Director of Education and Community Programs, Stacy Brightman, started off the meeting with an overview of the department, a history of the company, and a brief explanation of what the College Advisory Committee is all about – helping LA Opera develop programs and marketing strategies geared towards college students, preparing participants to become opera ambassadors on their college campuses, and developing special marketing projects to coincide with main stage productions.

Stacy later opened up the floor to the students, and the ideas and suggestions were flying! Some had ideas on how to incorporate opera into their school curriculum, while others talked about using social media to advertise events happening at LA Opera and elsewhere in the city. There were groups of students who told us how they were already promoting opera, by creating community outreach programs and opera clubs on their college campuses. Everyone agreed that it was important to spread the word about opera to more Los Angeles communities.

So far, we have sixty-eight interested students representing twenty-five colleges and universities across the Southland, studying everything from music to economics to microbiology. There are native Angelenos, out-of-state, and international students. Some have been opera lovers since childhood; others have been fans for just a few years. But they are all passionate about opera, and want to spread their passion to their classmates, their schools, and their communities. We are so excited to work with these students!

And if you’re interested in joining the committee, let us know! Please e-mail us at educom@laopera.org or call (213) 972-3157 for an application.  Applications are due this Friday, December 9, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving From LA Opera

LA Opera has so much to be grateful for. Since the beginning of the season we have been invited into the lives of people and organizations from all over Southern California, and welcomed even more of you into our “home” to experience the wonderful world of opera together:

  • the 12 elementary schools throughout LA County and beyond, whose students, teachers and principals worked with us to produce an original opera at their schools for their community;
  • the 156 teachers who selflessly spent their Saturdays with us here to learn more about opera (for no pay) to take back to their students;
  • the 6,003 folks who attended our first ever Open House filling the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with joy and laughter;
  • the more than 20 senior centers who journeyed across town for our annual senior center matinee;
  • the 20 college professors who connected over 500 of their students to an inside look at the behind the scenes magic of orchestra tech rehearsals;
  • the 30 high school students and their guardians who attended the first opera of their free “mini subscription” as winners of the LA Opera 90012 program;
  • the tireless volunteers and company members who gave selflessly of their time to welcome nearly 2,000 students to dress rehearsals this fall as part of opera prep… and the list continues to grow.

We look forward spending our holidays touring Cosi Light with our Domingo Thornton Young Artists and caroling with our friends at hospitals all over the city.
We have an embarrassment of riches and are thankful to have so many wonderful community partners. Thank you all for making LA Opera part of your world.


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!


Musetta’s New Clothes

Only four more weeks until the opening of Puccini’s La Bohème and Musetta’s wardrobe seems to be right on schedule, or so we hope!

Meet the team responsible for all of Musetta’s magnificent costumes:   The team leader is Leslie Ann Smith, one of our talented Drapers here at the LA Opera Costume Shop.  Leslie Ann has been with the company for twelve years. This is actually the third time she’s worked on this particular production of La Bohème, and says it’s one of her favorite shows. She loves making costumes from the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century, so this show is right up her alley.

Leslie Ann works closely with her Assistant Draper, Jennifer Shaw. The Fashionista of the team, Jennifer has been with the LA Opera since 2005. She holds a degree in fashion, but prefers to work with costumes (and wear them too). What’s wrong with wearing period clothes, they were fashionable in their day!  Mrs. Shaw provides great support to the team.

Once Leslie Ann has studied the designs, she measures the performer, and then makes the patterns.  Jennifer transfers the patterns onto the beautiful stage worthy fabrics, cuts it, then hands it to the team’s Seamstresses, Hortencia Santos and Anna Wong, who meticulously stitch everything together and add the finishing touches.

Let’s not forget Hallie Dufresne (Senior Craftsperson), we all know you can’t complete an outfit without the accessories. Thanks Hallie! With the work of this team, I’m sure Musetta will be fabulously dressed in her new designs.

If not, then I guess Musetta in the nude will also be a great hit! La Bohème opens May 12 and runs through June 2nd. See you at the theater!


Ailyn Perez Wins The 2012 Richard Tucker Award

Congratulations are in order for Ailyn Pérez who was awarded the 2012 Richard Tucker Award. This prestigious prize, with a cash award of $30,000, is presented annually by the Richard Tucker Music Foundation to an American opera singer at the threshold of a major international career. Previous winners are a who’s who of the Opera world, including Renée Fleming, Deborah Voigt, David Daniels, Joyce DiDonato, Richard Leech, Patricia Racette and Dolora Zajick.

Ailyn also has the distinction of being the first Hispanic singer to receive the award in its 34 year history! Speaking on the phone from Atlanta, where she is making her debut with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra singing Poulenc’s Gloria, Ms. Peréz commented: “The Richard Tucker Music Foundation is extraordinary: it enriches American operatic culture and promotes and connects young American artists. Watching the Richard Tucker gala performance when my husband was announced the winner, and seeing international opera stars come together to honor the memory of one of America’s legendary artists at these galas are an incredible source of inspiration to me. I am truly grateful and thrilled to receive such an honor, and I am excited to be another voice to carry on his legacy.”

The 2009 Richard Tucker Award, which has been called “the Heisman Trophy of Opera,” went to Ms. Pérez’s husband and frequent collaborator, tenor Stephen Costello, so her award renders the couple dubbed “America’s fastest-rising husband-and-wife opera stars” (Associated Press) the first to have two Richard Tucker Awards on the mantelpiece – one for each.

Ailyn Perez first appeared with LA Opera in 2006, in the world premiere of Lee Holdridge’s multi-media concert work Concierto para Mendez. She returns to LA Opera as Mimi in La Bohème (May 12 through June 2), the final production of LA Opera’s 2011/12 season, appearing opposite the Rodolfo of her husband, Stephen Costello, who will make his Company debut.


Musetta’s New Look for La Bohème

We often find that the stage is a reflection of real life. Though Puccini’s “La Bohème” is set in Paris in the mid-1800’s, most of us can identify and even empathize with Mimi and Rodolfo’s struggles in life and in love. Period pieces are great reminders that throughout the ages, no matter the time or location, we are all united in having similar concerns, wants and needs.  But as French classical author François de la Rochefoucauld said, “The only thing constant in life is change.”  While our upcoming production of “La Bohème” is the same classic love story, it will be undergoing some small changes and evolving into a more updated version of the timeless tale.

Original Musetta Costume - LA Bohème

One of the principal characters, Musetta, will be getting a new wardrobe.  The new costume designer Jeannique Prospere (who also doubles as the costume supervisor for the show) had this to say, “We’ve focused on the details for Musetta’s new costumes. Her character is as multi-layered as her costume and each item is a glimpse into her story and her personality.”

Musetta's New Dress for Act 2 - La Bohème

Jeannique re-designed Musetta using a palette of colors that stay true to the time period that “La Bohème” is set in. We will be seeing Musetta in fiery orange, burgundy, gold, and off-white. Part of Jeannique’s job is to make sure that the re-designs she does will keep to the original designer’s vision for the production so that the show works as a whole.

Musetta's New Coat - La Bohème

In general, the whole show will be getting “refreshed”.  There will be more accents and subtle sparks of color that will breathe a new life into the classic production that we know and love. “Viva La Vie Bohème”!”

Musetta's New Dress for Act 4 - La Bohème

“La Bohème” opens Saturday May 12 and runs through June 2.


Musetta’s New Look in La Bohème (en Español)

A menudo encontramos que el escenario es un reflejo de la vida real.  París, 1800, la mayoría de nosotros nos podemos identificar y empatizar con Mimì y Rodolfo en la lucha de la vida y el amor.  Un autor clásico francés, Francois de La Rochefoucauld, dijo, “lo único constante en la vida es el cambio”.  Nuestra próxima producción de La Bohème de Puccini es la misma historia clásica de amor, con varios cambios, más actualizada.

Original Musetta Costume - LA Boheme

Jeannique Prospere, nuestra diseñadora del vestuario me dice que Musetta en nuestras ultimas producciones, con su vestido amarillo, su vestuario era mas como una cantante de cabaret.  El director, Greg Fortner, tiene una nueva visión para Musetta.  El interpreta a Musetta menos cabaret y mas como una chica rica..

New Musetta costume from Act 2 - La Boheme

Con la visión de Greg, Jeannique a diseñado un nuevo vestuario para Mussetta manteniendo el sabor de la epoca.  Utilizando una gama de colores más cálidos, vamos a ver a Mussetta vestida en color naranja intenso, rojo vino, tonos dorados y crema  Parte del trabajo de Jeannique es mantener los diseños originales integrando la visión del nuevo director.

Musetta's New Coat - La Boheme

En general, todo el espectáculo va a obtener una apariencia más fresca, habrá más detalles, con chispas sutiles de color, dando nueva vida a la producción clásica que conocemos y amamos, Viva la vie boheme!.

Musetta's New Dress for Act 4 - La Boheme

La Boheme abre el sábado 12 de mayo y se extenderá hasta 02 de junio .. nos vemos en el teatro.


Color, Costumes and The Two Foscari (Spanish Version)

 

Costume design by Mattie Ullrich

Artista Geogia O’Keeffe Dijo “encontre una forma de comunicarme con colores y figuras  que no puedo explicar con palabras” Concientemente o sin darnos cuenta  usamos color como una manera de expresar como nos sentimos dia a dia.. Color claramente juega un papel importante en nuestras vidas, diseño de vestuario no es diferente..

Si ya saben o no las noticias de la  proximo temporada.. L.A Opera va a presentar una production del compositor Verdi, Los Dos Foscari. La disenadora de vestuario es Mattie Ullrich, que tiene su sede fuera de Nueva York.   Me communiqué con Misty Ayres supervisora de vestuario, para platicar un poco de la production.

Misty me informa que los diseños de Mattie son una mezcla de la epoca de la edad media y la moda que esta ocurriendo hoy. Mattie prefiere los colores solidos, trabajando junto con textura y figuras.. con entusiasmo Misty me dijo que la gama de colores del diseño le recuerdan de los libros comicos.

Los colores pueden cambiar durante todo el show, llevando a la audiencia en un viaje visual, que muestra la transformacion y evolucion de los personajes. Usteds seran capaz de ver el estado mental de Lucrezia reflejado a traves del cambio de la gama de colores en su vestuario.  El color es tambien una manera de mostrar  el estado social de un personaje. Por ejemplo, durante el acto 1 en foscari, los hombres del coro visten de rojo y negro porque son nobles y sabios.

Color tambien ayuda a destacar  ciertos grupos de personajes. En foscari durante el acto 3 la escenografia tiene tonos apagados, integrando el conjunto, a excepcion de los artistas del circo, que seran en colores llamativos, distinguiendolos de los otros artistas en el escenario.

Misty tambien me informa algo interesante y divertido de esta produccion.. a Mattie no le gustan los botones.  Cuando vengan a ver Foscari  a ver si detectan cualquier otro tipo de cierre en el vestuario..

Los Dos Foscari se abre el 15 de septiembre,, nos vemos en el teatro..


Calling All Opera Virgins – LA Opera Wants You!

Albert Herring is a rollicking comedy about the only virgin left in a tiny English town, a meek mama’s boy who has a night he’ll never forget. Our upcoming production of Albert Herring (which opens Saturday, February 25), which is sung in English, is a perfect introduction to opera for those new to the experience. If you’re an “opera virgin,” you’re in for the time of your life, too!

We’re offering $25 tickets to all “opera virgins!” If you’ve never been to the opera before, we hope you’ll take advantage of this special opportunity to see Albert Herring. You can even be a shining example of unblemished purity and bring along an additional opera neophyte for only $25 too! The three-day sale lasts from Wednesday, February 22 through Friday, February 24.

The Albert Herring “opera virgins” offer is available for five performances only:

Saturday, February 25, at 7:30pm
Saturday, March 3, at 7:30pm
Thursday, March 8, at 7:30pm
Wednesday, March 14, at 7:30pm
Saturday, March 17, at 2pm

For tickets, visit the box office in person or call Audience Services at (213) 972-8001 or go online at www.laopera.org and use promo code: operavirgin.

(Already a ticket holder or subscriber? Bring an Opera Virgin friend for $25! Just call Audience Services purchase tickets for your neophyte friends!)


Best. Letter. Ever.

One of the things we’ve heard people buzzing about in the hallways  over and over again during Simon Boccanegra performances is how convincing Placido Domingo is as a young Boccanegra in the Prologue. In fact, one young man was overheard saying “I kept looking for Placido Domingo onstage when I heard his voice, but then I realized it was him – he WAS the young guy! How awesome is that?”

So it came as no surprise when the following letter from a patron arrived:

 

Dear Mr. Domingo,

As a longtime supporter of LA Opera, I would like to thank you for your wonderful work.

I attended the premiere of Simon Boccanegra last night… It seemed to me and my wife, as well as the people in the row in front of me and behind me that you did not appear in the Prologue. Who did play Simon Boccanegra in the Prologue? If a substitution was made, why wasn’t the audience notified?

Sincerely,

[redacted]

 

Definitely a testament to Mr. Domingo, his stellar acting ability, and his command of the material (as well as his incredible voice)! So we just wanted to reassure you all… every time you see Simon Boccanegra on stage – you are looking at the one, and only, Placido Domingo. Even in the Prologue. How awesome is that?


Meet the Artists of Simon Boccanegra on March 1

Got plans on Thursday, March 1? Well, drop them and come to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to see Simon Boccanegra instead! (And if you’ve already seen it, come back and see it again.) Immediately following the March 1 performance, we’re hosting a special reception for all ticket holders in the Oval Bar where you can meet the artists from this spectacular, critically and popularly acclaimed production!  Plácido Domingo, Maestro James Conlon, Ana Maria Martinez, members of the orchestra and chorus will all be on hand to meet and greet fans!

There will be complimentary coffee and deserts and the bar will be open for additional purchases.

For tickets, visit www.laopera.org and we’ll see you on March 1!


Saturday Mornings at the Opera

As rain pours from the darkened heavens, the young hero, desperately trying to survive a pit of certain eradication, does the unbelievable and defeats the evil snake. Good defeats evil once again. Reconnecting with his forest friends, after his grand triumph, the bear, panther, and human live happily ever after with only the bare necessities

At least I think that’s how I remember it.

The audience erupts with youthful cheers in delight. The lights come up letting us know it is time to leave. We all shuffle out to the lobby only to be met by those heroes and villains that were just on stage. Flashes of light emit from handheld polaroids as hundreds of children pose with the main stage characters.  Out the main doors, and into the blazing sun, I look to my brother then up to my mother whose guiding hand leads us safely to our old Toyota van.

That was the very first theatrical performance that I can recall attending. My mother took my brother and me to these plays in the summer, and I can remember, in a fuzzy recollection of my past, most of the shows: Babar the Elephant, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Jungle Book and numerous others. The funny thing is, I remember this all through the eyes of a three year old. I remember they all occurred at the University of Houston. I remember the stage. I remember the entrance hallway. I remember the costumes. And I definitely remember, so clearly, Mowgli’s battle in the rainy pit with Kaa.

When I was asked to write a blog for LA Opera Education and Community Programs Saturday Mornings at the Opera, my first inclination was to write about how much fun the program was, how many different activities we offered to families, or how music can “take you anywhere you want to go”, as it says in The Magic Dream (LA Opera’s children’s opera based on W. A. Mozart’s The Magic Flute). But as I wrote I recalled my summertime theatre adventures, my brother, my mother, a stage, lighting, costumes, audience members, and music – everything that encompasses theatre and everything that my life has revolved around since – kept flashing through my mind. I quickly called my mother to chat about these old performances and although we’re thousands of miles away, I could hear her voice light up. She remembered it just as I did, but from the perspective of a young mother. We shared a beautiful moment twenty years later doting on a seemingly insignificant moment in time. And it hit me… these experiences – theatre with family, with friends, in a communal experience, just like Saturday Mornings at the Opera and The Magic Dream, affect you. My experience with my mother and brother in the theatre affected me deeply. Not only a fond memory we can all relive together, but both my brother and I lived, and breathed, the theatre growing up and now it is a part of my job to bring theatre to families, students, teachers and communities. We may not realize it every day, but because we here at LA Opera have programs like this we are planting seeds for the future. We hope to effect change within the community that we serve. We hope to instill knowledge and a love for the art form we hold so dear to our hearts. Our objective is to show our Los Angeles community that opera encapsulates numerous art forms all on one stage… LA Opera truly is greater than the sum of its arts.


The Reviews Are In!

Were you here on Saturday for the company premiere of Simon Boccanegra? What a spectacular evening! Everything was perfect… from the orchestra, to the singers, to the crowd response. It was truly one amazing night of opera in Los Angeles. But don’t take my word for it… the reviews speak for themselves…

From the LA Times:

“[Placido] Domingo was a commanding vocal and dramatic presence…”

“Ana Maria Martínez looked ravishing and sang with a slender, silvery soprano, negotiating the trills in the pleas for peace with confidence.”

“Vitalij Kowaljow sang Jacopo Fiesco, Boccanegra’s implacable nemesis, with lustrous power and dignity…”

“The hero of the evening was conductor James Conlon, who emphasized the transparency, grace and lyricism in the score…”

From Out West Arts:

“This is musically, and more importantly dramatically, compelling Verdi with more than just a pulse, but a raging earnest heartbeat that can be heard and felt at great distances. ”

“James Conlon… led the orchestra in a propulsive, lusty performance…”

From Variety:

“ James Conlon navigates smoothly between Verdi’s outbursts of passion and his delicate impressionism, most beautifully rendered by [Ana Maria] Martinez, who easily dominates the big ensembles and displays a genuine trill.”

There are 6 shows left and great seats are still available!

More info on Simon Boccanegra 


Moda en el Teatro

Mas que nada el ensayo general de Simon Boccanerga el miercoles 8 de Febrero estuvo para chuparse los dedos. El maestro Placido Domingo (Simon Boccanegra) cantó como un angel.  Y no podemos olvidar a Paolo Gavanelli  (Paolo), Stefano Secco (Adorno), y la senorita Ana Maria Martinez (Amelia)… Wow… su voz como pajaritos enamorados… me volvi a enamorar…  no se pierdan SIMON BOCCANEGRA que abre el sabado 11 de Febrero y la ultima funcion es el 4 de Marzo. a las 2 de la tarde.

A veces los que no han venido a la opera me preguntan que me pongo, como es el vestuario???

Facil, si es una Gala, es otra historia… las Galas son un desfile de modas… pero un ensayo general o cualquiera otra funcion… un par de slacks o jeans de moda para los caballeros, no se les olvide la chaqueta.

Para las damas, simple pero siempre elegantes… aqui les doy una muestra  de la moda en el  teatro…

Nos vemos en el teatro, con mi chaqueta…

Manuel Garcia
Assistant Production and Stock Coordinator


The Magic Dream, Day 7 – Dress Rehearsal

The Magic Dream, Day 7 – Dress Rehearsal Day! from LA Opera on Vimeo.

Dress rehearsal day, at last! And with it, the addition of the rest of our orchestra, with Vivian on midi and Salpy on flute. Just these two instruments supplementing the piano add so much to our little show. With the midi we suddenly have magic wand sounds, mock-glock(enspiel), and even an “audience applause” for our game show scene. And of course, you can’t have The Magic Flute (or Dream, in this case) without, well, a flute.

We sing through a few numbers with the band, tweaking a few musical cues here and there, and then we go right into our run. The cast is on fire – it’s amazing how a show tightens up when you get an orchestra and a few audience members in attendance. Suddenly new ideas pop into your head, the dialogue is snappy, and even singing feels better with more instrumental support.

This show came together really fast – in just a week of rehearsals we’re ready to go. We’re still doing some of this on the fly, though. Tomorrow’s first performance will also be our first technical rehearsal, done live in front of hundreds of children (hopefully rapt with attention and joy). It will also be the first time we get to perform in our finished costumes.

This afternoon the set will be loaded out by our capable crew and driven up to Malibu for our first two shows at the Smothers Theater at Pepperdine University in Malibu. Waking up at 5:30 AM aside, I can think of worse ways to prepare for a performance than winding my way through Las Virgenes Canyon as the sun burns off the last of the morning chill, waiting for the first sapphire gleam of the Pacific Ocean to strike my eye.

See you on the flip side!


Boots By any other color

Since I started working in costumes over 10 years ago I have had a hard time accepting things for what they are. I have closets of clothing, shoes, and accessories that are the “wrong” size, “wrong” color, and “wrong “ shape and style. That is nothing though compared to the “other side”…when you cross the dark divide of my closet area into the land of desperation. A land inhabited by clothes that have lived a hard life and show it. This is where I store away items requiring a little more love, serious repair, and encouraging words. I refuse to give up on any of them. It’s not hoarding, at least not in my eyes.

Every now and then there is a beautiful, joyous moment when a situation calls for one of the items that I’ve been clinging to, and I get to declare that this not a disorder or something that my friends should worry themselves about, but rather, this quirky attribute is actually an asset. This moment occurs a lot more in the costume shop where we have ample storage space, but in both situations, it is a satisfying feeling.

In the upcoming “Simon Boccanegra,” the designer’s vision called for red boots, (Cordovan to be exact), for the character “Pietro.” Of course they are a specific type of period boot, and they needed to be a men’s boots, no less, in a certain size. Lucky for us we found the exact boot we needed in our stock…but they were white.

That is where Sondra in our crafts department stepped in. She began by removing all existing finishes already on the boot, and then she re-painted the boots with an acrylic based leather paint that she had to mix herself.

After letting the boot dry, she had to dull down the shine, and go back in and add depth.

Throughout the process Sondra had to check the color of the boots under stage lights that we have set up in one of the fitting rooms.  Our shop is lit with fluorescent lighting which adds different tones and makes colors read differently than the warm stage lighting does. The whole process only took an expert like her 45 minutes.

On a side note, Sondra says she first thought of doing crafts when she was just a little kid dying Easter eggs.  Now her daily routine involves dying, painting, making hats, accessories, and anything else that may come her way, and believe me, a lot does.  I am hoping that she will pay a visit to my closet of misfit rags next.

Simon Boccanegra opens February 11.


Estas Botas Son Para Cantar (These Boots Were Made For Singing)

El proseso de capturar el color exacto del diseño en nuestro taller de vestuarios.  Con el internet en las manos y poco tiempo y poco dinero, a veces no podemos encontrar las cosas que deseamos.. El diseño requiere botas rojas pero no cualquier rojo, un rojo que captura  el color de  SANGRE ..  ademas  las botas  necesitan capturar la epoca cuando los hombres usaban mallas… si mallas… Con suerte encontramos las botas en nuestro propio taller, pero las encontramos en color crema…..no rojas!

Con la ayuda de Sondra Veldey (la asistente artesana ) capturamos los deseos del diseño..  2 tipos de rojo, una gota de café se convierte en sangre o el color Cordovan.   Le pregunto a Sondra cuanto tiempo le tomo el proseso de cambiar el color.  Sondra me dice 45 minutos, pero antes de aplicar el color, las botas necesitan un proceso.

Primero hay que remover cualquier residuo y luego aplicar una crema de cuero para limpiar las manchas.  Finalmente  logramos el color sangre…o Cordovan.

Digo, Sondra nos salvo de uno de nuestros diarios dilemas que suceden a menudo en el taller… No se lo pierdan!  Las botas color sangre y la production Simon Boccanegra, que se entrena febrebro 11..

Nos vemos en el teatro..


The Magic Dream, Day 6 – In Which Katherine Finds her Funny

The Magic Dream, Day 6 from LA Opera on Vimeo.

I found my funny.

I didn’t know I was looking for it, but this show has certainly brought it out in me.

I had always been sort of serious growing up. Not that I didn’t have fun, but I was always a thinker, future-focused. When I went to theater school and received comment cards from my professors that read, “Katherine is a committed performer, but she seems serious in class,” I got so angry! “I’m just paying attention,” I would cry silently to myself.

Then I got into opera, into roles like Pamina, Violetta, and I got to suffer. I love to suffer onstage! I told myself that I was okay at comedy, and great at suffering.

I suffered happily for many years, until I was hired to play Gina in The Magic Dream, here at LA Opera. Gina is essentially a mash-up of three different characters in Mozart’s The Magic Flute: Papagena, First Lady, and First Spirit. That means she serves to forward the plot, deliver information, and act as comic relief.

In our version of the story, she’s really a magician, and since it takes place inside a dream, anything goes. Perhaps it’s knowing that these performances are meant to be for children, but I’ve felt such a tremendous freedom in exploring this character in all of her aspects, especially her voice and her physicality.

Most performers tend to have a “way in” to their character. Some create whole biographies for their characters, some need to find a quality they already possess in common with the character, and some don’t feel at home until they get into costume and make up. For me, it’s usually a mixture of all of the above, but something magical happened in the middle of our dress rehearsal when Eli, our director, walked onto stage in the middle of our kooky nightmare-gameshow scene and handed me a pair of diamond-encrusted, 1960s cat-eye glasses, à la Marilyn Monroe in How to Marry a Millionaire. Suddenly, I knew exactly who this crazy girl was, and my body naturally adopted her mannerisms: her extreme awkwardness with her limbs and her habit of pushing her glasses back up on her face when she’s excited.

I know my performance is waaaaay over the top, but I think children naturally have a highly developed sense of the absurd. No matter how big I get though, I always try to mean it, which is what I think makes it funny for the adults in the room.

I remember something else from theater school: comedic characters never think they’re funny. To them, everything is life-or-death.

As you can see in the photo below, I just wish people would take me more seriously.


The Magic Dream, Day 5 – On Stage

I have a confession to make: I snuck onto the main stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion.

Ok, well, I didn’t exactly sneak, I more ambled up the staircase on stage right, and poked my head around the corner to see if the stage was in use. It was empty, and the house lights were up, affording me a gaping view of the four-tiered hall.

Apparently the second most common fear, after death, is public speaking. That’s right, death, and public speaking. For a performer who’s used to getting up in front of people, this can seem a little strange. But looking out into the dazzling ruby hall of the Chandler that afternoon, I was awestruck. I was tempted to try my voice out in the hall, but that seemed a little too much like a scene out of Fame, so instead I let the silence seep into me.

Can you imagine the thrill and the profound responsibility that comes with being on a stage like that? The strange thing is, it’s usually scarier for a singer to perform in front of an intimate gathering than a darkened grand hall. When we step in front of an audience, we are gifted with the chance to be a conduit of divine transcendence. I don’t mean in a religious sense, but as a via of pure, sublime beauty. Or tragedy; or even humor. Every time I perform, it is my fervent wish that at least one person in the room walks out having lived, even for a moment, something outside of their regular experience.

I know our little show isn’t necessarily grand; it’s a retelling of Mozart’s The Magic Flute designed to introduce children to opera. But it isn’t lost on me that one of those children might walk away with what could be the defining memory of the moment they fell in love with music. I know I’ve walked away from certain performances (or films or ballets or photography exhibitions) thinking, “I’ll never forget that.” I hope to do the same for someone else.

I will never forget standing on the stage of the Dorothy Chandler.


The Magic Dream – Day 4

The Magic Dream – Day 4 from LA Opera on Vimeo.

 

Question: How many tenors does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer: One. He holds the lightbulb and the world revolves around him.

 

Opera singers are often plagued with stereotypes, even within our profession. One could easily substitute “soprano” in the joke above (apparently mezzo-sopranos are less prone to ego trips).

 

Scarves, Zicam, and water-with-no-ice aside, I wish for a moment to stand up for my fellow singers and address the most pernicious and cruel stereotype of all: singers are terrible musicians.

 

I suspect this assertion often comes from conductors, pianists, or instrumentalists frustrated with singers’ frequent musical sloppiness. We drop beats, we mistake accidentals, we ignore cutoffs. Don’t ask us to honor or care about the harmonic context within which we are singing. We don’t care. In fact, all we really care about is “how do I sound?”

 

Are we singers often guilty of this behavior? Sure. Is there any excuse for being a sloppy or careless musician? Absolutely not.

 

But if I could put this into perspective for a moment: singers are operating on a different paradigm than that of many other musicians. Instrumentalists are specialists; singers are synthesists. Singers are multi-taskers. We have to deal with music, words (usually in a foreign language), stage business, acting and reacting to our fellow singers, creating a believable character, and watching the conductor. And we have to do it all from memory.

 

Now, I’m not trying to belittle the work of the instrumentalist. On the contrary, I think we singers could take a cue from their attention to detail and the awe-inspiring commitment to hours upon hours of tireless practice, next to which most opera singers look downright lazy.

 

But it’s also important to remember that, while most instrumentalists have been working their craft since they were children, most singers can’t begin real operatic training until they’re about eighteen. That means that when a thirty year-old singer performs with a thirty year-old pianist, the pianist probably has about ten years more of expertise under their belt. When a singer drops a beat or seems obsessed with their own voice, it’s probably because so much of their attention is still absorbed by just trying to make their voice work.

 

Operatic singing is really hard. It takes most people about ten years before they can know with some certainty that the music that’s in their heads will come out of their mouths. Most singers I know have masters degrees, meaning they have committed at least six years of full time work on singing, language and diction, repertoire, stage craft, art song, theory, pedagogy, and rehearsal.

 

Singers, to sing well, can’t be stupid. And, like any art form, the closer you get to the best singers in the world, the less likely you are to find sloppiness or carelessness of any kind.

 

To make my point in a more lighthearted way, in the video above I put a camera on my head during rehearsal and noted how many separate events of stage business I had to accomplish in about 45 seconds of music. From memory. The count: 16. That’s an average of one move, which has to be synced to the music (meaning we have to listen and count!), every 3.5 seconds.

 

I hope that by bringing non-singers inside our experience, even just this little bit, we can, through understanding, begin to dispel this stereotype. I also, just as fervently, encourage every singer out there to go out and take some lessons in an instrument besides the piano.

 

In the end, singers and instrumentalists alike could be well-served by absorbing the best traits of the other.

The Magic Dream – Day 3

The Magic Dream – Day 3 from LA Opera on Vimeo.

Three days of staging down, and we’re two numbers shy of having the whole show on its feet.

Watching the video footage from today’s rehearsal, the word that kept coming into my mind was ensemble.

Let’s face it, you can’t do opera by yourself. Singing in the shower aside, there’s very little you can accomplish without another person there. We need pianists, orchestras, conductors. And most importantly, audiences!!

Part of the joy of staging an opera is that you get out of the (sometimes coffin-sized) practice room and into the rehearsal room. When you get a great group of people together, ideas start bursting like popcorn. The director guides, filters, shapes, the performers bounce off one-another (in this production, sometimes literally!), and a show begins to emerge. What you get is something greater than what any one person could conceive of by themselves.

The other joy is that every show brings together a new group of people. Some faces will be familiar, some will be new. By the end of the show you have a handful of new acquaintances, and it’s safe to say at least one new true friend. As life goes on and career paths diverge, you find you have comrades all over the world. I know if I was traveling I would have a couch (or better yet, guest bedroom!) to crash on in at least seven countries. And the door swings both ways: I have two separate “opera” friends who will be staying with me in Los Angeles in February alone.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: what’s special about opera isn’t just what we give to the audience, it’s about what we give to each other as well.


The Magic Dream – Day 2

 

The Magic Dream, Day 2 – Meet the Cast from LA Opera on Vimeo.

I know opera has a reputation for being “heavy,” “long,” “serious,” and – dare I say it? – BORING.
I have to say though, that in the seven years that I have been part of this strange musical world, I have never met such a crew of boisterous, good-natured, good-humored, creative, silly, and passionate people. Maybe it’s because everything about this art form is so, well, BIG: big sets, big costumes, big voices. I guess it takes some pretty big personalities, too.
Our little opera, The Magic Dream, is pretty silly, as you will see. I was going to write a little introduction of our cast and creative team, but I think, in this case, video speaks a thousand words.

The Magic Dream, Day One – Rehearsal

The Magic Dream – Rehearsal Day 1 from LA Opera on Vimeo.

The Magic Dream
Day 1

There’s really nothing cooler than bypassing the towering glass facade of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, curving around towards the underbelly of the Music Center, and turning into the unassuming doors that are the artists’ entrance of LA Opera.

This is the big time.

In the room next door, Maestro Conlon is conducting the first sing-through of the upcoming Recovered Voices project. You get the sense of being part of something really big, really exciting.

And then the fist sing-through starts, and you finally get to hear what were, until now, imagined voices in your head. You’re part of a team with a common cause – the music!

Staging has already begun, and I can tell you now, this is a seriously talented – and seriously goofy – group of artists.

This is going to be fun.

A Look Back at “The Prospector”

The Prospector

The warming rays of the sun pass through my windshield as I head in south on the I-5 freeway. The glamour of nearby Hollywood and Los Angeles has dissipated as more gravel is added between them and my vehicle. What becomes of the surrounding geography is industrial. I find myself veering off the freeway and driving into a territory I am unfamiliar with. “Pioneer,” I call myself, as I bravely venture forth; coincidentally, Pioneer is the name of the street that leads me to my destination. I arrive at an elementary school glowing with generations of experiences, hopes, dreams, failures, successes and life-changing direction. Unbeknownst to me, my being would become a part of the layers of life-changing direction.

It is my experience at Cesar Chavez Elementary in Norwalk, California, with the Elementary in School Opera that has tainted my soul for its betterment.

I gaze upon this school, the oldest in the Norwalk-La Mirada School District, with such curiosity. The architecture is something out of an episode of Leave it to Beaver, and for a moment I feel I can actually smell the mischievous ways of golden child Eddie Haskell. Built in 1923, this building has served dutifully as a city hall, Norwalk’s school district central office, and an elementary school under numerous pseudonyms with a common goal – to educate the people of tomorrow. There is no sea-breeze, no bustling streets, no cacophony of yells, horns or construction. There is only quiet, not silence, just quiet. Walking into the beautifully aged school I am told to follow the sounds of laughter by a pleasant office worker and sure enough, just around the bend, a line of children and parents stretch out to the blacktop savior of teachers, and students, known as the playground.

They have all come to see The Prospector, which requires the collaboration of some of the hardest working people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. There are no words I can place on paper, or the internet, that would give justice to anyone who worked on this beautiful project.

Squeezing into the double doors, I found myself in the quintessential elementary school cafeteria thinking on the struggles all of our public schools are facing today. Since Spring of 2011 over 26,000 pink-slips have been distributed to teachers by the California State Government. There has been a 5% decrease in funding per student from 2007-2008 and the fear of dropping to a 10% decrease is gradually becoming more of a reality. The arts, what we at the Opera House live and breathe, are being tossed to the curb by schools in order to focus funding on bettering assessment test scores in order to increase school funding. Catch-22. However, this school in Norwalk, California, has a faculty dedicated to incorporating as many arts programs as they can.

The cafeteria is dark, with relatively low ceilings, and its inhabitants are squeezed shoulder to shoulder with each individual squirming for any space they can find. I glance to the wall checking the fire code posting on the legal limit of people allowed inside – we might be over. As I made my way to the back securing my corner to stand in and the storm had finally settled… my breath was gently ripped from my lungs. Just over 60 young students, dressed as coyotes, sit quietly in front of a decorated stage on miniscule risers patiently waiting direction from their director. How glorious.

A man calmly takes control of the audience. From the instant he speaks the crowd listens. He is obviously respected and from his interactions with the students, teachers and parents his position of principal is worn well.  Immediately words on the importance of the arts emit from his lips. He shares his gratitude with the teachers who pushed incorporating this program. Applause erupts. The lights dim slightly and the director of The Prospector commands the audience with a simple “Hi.” He is obviously a singer as his low resonant sound caresses the ears of the inhabitants in the packed cafeteria. He gives a brief synopsis of the soon to be performed opera while incorporating the perfect amount of goofiness to engage the children sitting Indian style in front of the performers.

The show starts.

What happened next is something, a welling emotion, I am honored to be part owner of.

This collaboration of peoples have taken a sinking ship, patched it up amidst a storm and created a new North for its precious cargo to follow. It was the epitome of what performance art should be. For a short amount of time, The Prospector, created a communal experience that instilled feelings of happiness, sorrow and escapism for its audience and performers. The hardest of hearts could not withstand this magnificence.

Applause erupts.

The show ends.

Tears stream down my face and I let them rest for a while as they have deserved to share this 10 week journey ending with this unforgettable experience. A soft spoken teacher gently places her hand on my shoulder. “You are walking on water. You are changing people’s lives.”

I am so honored to receive this message, although I feel completely undeserving. All of the gratitude should be to those who put this opera on. They are the ones who created this memorable experience. They are the ones who changed lives. I was just lucky enough to be able to watch the show unfold from its beginning to the end – and for that I am grateful.

All of us there have become extensions of that school, of that show, of that experience.

We are an opera company and we have impacted lives for the better.

I am grateful for LA Opera. I am grateful for the Education and Community Development department. I am grateful to be a part of a team that desires to change lives.

From the bottom of my heart, Thank You.


La Moda del Coro

Pruebas, pruebas …Y mas pruebas!

Durante las dos últimas semanas hemos estado probando el vestuario de los miembros del coro de Los Ángeles Ópera!  Ahora que las cosas se han  tranquilizado un poco, tengo tiempo de informarles todas las noticias por Blog.  Por lo tanto, estén atentos. No se pierdan nada.

El objetivo de dos semanas de pruebas es capturar la visión de la diseñadora y no cambiar nada. Y hasta el momento todo va bien ..
Acto 3, El Pueblo de Venecia, déjame decirte … FA.BU.LO.SO!

Laina Babb y Reina Alirez están construyendo trajes para el coro de hombres, Leslie Ann Smith y Jennifer Shaw para el coro de mujer. Ambos equipos están haciendo ver a todos tan moderno que podríamos confundirlos con modelos de pasarela!  Pero todos sabemos que los modelos no cantan …

En nuestro equipo de sasteria, Sharon McGunigle y Wing Cheung están construyendo trajes para el Consejo de los Diez y los miembros de la Giunta.  No se pierdan ver como están resueltas las estructuras para hacer que los personajes parezcan una obra de arte en movimiento.

Las monjas de esta producción son fantasmales. Gracias a Heather Bair y Allison Achauer, que han captado la visión de la diseñadora tan bien que el público podría asustarse un poco, pero eso es lo que se pretende.

Y, por supuesto, no nos olvidemos de nuestro equipo de artesanía, Hallie Dufresne y Camilla Hanson: Dónde estaríamos sin los accesorios? Incompleto!  Ahí es donde.  Estas dos chicas están construyendo todos los maravillosos sombreros, así como la capa  pintada a mano de Lucrecia que se vera en esta producción.

Mattie Ullrich, la diseñadora de vestuario ha venido desde Nueva York para las pruebas del coro y se ha emocionado con cada pieza del vestuario. Todos están contentos al ver que el esfuerzo valió la pena.  Naturalmente habrá pequeños cambios aquí y allá, como en todo proceso creativo. Todo se está desarrollando en la fechas previstas, hasta el momento todo en orden … Los Dos Foscari se estrena el 15 de agosto 2012.

Nos vemos en la Ópera!


Music Center or Bust

With the recent opening of the new portion of the Metro Expo Line, getting to Downtown LA is easier than ever. Writer Sarah Spitz found out how easy when she and a friend took the train to see the May 20 matinee of La Bohéme. In her first person report (originally published in the Santa Monica Daily Press, she shares how easy and convenient it was to take the train to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Read on…

MUSIC CENTER OR BUST

by Sarah Spitz

My friend and I managed to avoid a zoo of a completely different sort on Sunday, as we made our way to downtown L.A. during a day of apocalyptic predictions about traffic. Three sports playoffs, a bike race and a parade were all scheduled for the same day, and rather than tempt fate and try to drive, let alone park downtown with all the street closures, we decided to take the Metro Rail to see “La Bohéme” at L.A. Opera.

 
Save these tips for future use, they’ll save you time and frustration. The Expo line runs every 12 minutes or so. Pick it up at Jefferson and La Cienega boulevards (parking is free) and ride to the end at Metro Center/Seventh Street. Then grab a Red or Purple line toward Union Station, hop off at the Civic Center exit, and walk two blocks — OK, I admit it, uphill — from First and Hill streets to Grand Avenue. Maybe they’ll put in a mini-funicular some day.

 
We bought day passes for only $5 (parking alone at the Music Center is $9), left the Westside at 11:12 a.m., arrived at around 11:40 a.m., took an eight-block walk to Cole’s for lunch (they still claim the mantle of the original French dip and I believe them since the restaurant’s been there since 1908), walked back to Metro Center and arrived at the Music Center at 1:20 p.m., with plenty of time for a leisurely drink on the plaza before the 2 p.m. matinee.

 
And here’s the best part: no hassle with the traffic getting out of the parking lot, and the walk to the Civic Center station is downhill from The Music Center!

 
Oh, how was the opera? Well, come on, it’s “La Bohéme!” One of the most recognizable, tragic romantic stories, popularized on film (Baz Luhrmannn’s spectacular “Moulin Rouge”) and in countless opera productions, and this one is sumptuous.

 
How can you go wrong when a real-life husband and wife play the lovers? Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello are as lovely to look at as they are to hear, and the supporting cast is stellar.

 
As Musetta, Janai Brugger stole the show. In March, she competed against 1,500 other singers to win the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and is a member of L.A. Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist program. And Artur Rucinski, making his L.A. Opera debut, as Musetta’s hot-headed jealous lover, Marcello, sings and acts the role to perfection.

 
Although I agree with New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley that standing ovations have become almost meaningless, this opera deserves the lengthy standing ovation it received. There are only three more performances through June 2; visit laopera.org

Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She reviews theatre for L.A. Opening Nights.


And The Winner Is… Janai Brugger and the National Council Finals

by Gail Eichenthal, KUSC

My name is Gail Eichenthal and I am a Metropolitan Opera Western Region auditions junkie.

Perhaps, given KUSC’s close involvement in broadcasting the finals concert each year, this was inevitable. My great late friend and former colleague Gene Parrish had forged a wonderful bond with the organization and its remarkably talented contestants going back more than 20 years.  Rich Capparela has effortlessly (well, it’s actually quite challenging work!) taken over for the past three years, and our association with the Western Region has only grown closer; they even honored KUSC at the 2011 Finals Concert in the fall. On top of that, I’m a lifelong choral singer and the proud (stage) mom of a fledgling baritone studying voice in college.

Still that warm Saturday afternoon of October 22 was more thrilling than usual, even for an admitted Western Region groupie.  I had previously heard some of the phenomenally gifted singers the year before; they had also made it to the 2010 Finals. One of them, a brilliant L.A. soprano and alumnus of the Merola program, had stolen the show at the USC Thornton School’s glittering Charles Dickens Dinner, its grand yearly Christmas benefit at the Biltmore’s Crystal Room: you know who you are, Marina Boudart Harris.

As always, all the singers were exquisitely polished and professional; none exhibited the slightest sign of the tremendous pressure they no doubt felt. It was beginning to seem an impossible task for the judges to eliminate even one of these gifted artists from contention. Then, as the invincible longtime Western Region leader Molly Siefert put it later that day, the contestants ran into “a buzzsaw”, a beautiful beaming buzzsaw named Janai Brugger. The soprano, originally from Illinois, broke hearts, pulled tears, provoked gasps, and, well— won.  Her sheer unmitigated joy in singing was infectious. Her pure, soaring tones, almost defied belief.

To none of our surprise, but to all of our delight, she went on to the National Metropolitan Opera Finals this past March. (Go Western Region! Baritone Joseph Lim, another Thornton alum, won the year before, as well!) The 2012 National Met Finals concert airs tomorrow at 10am on Classical KUSC.  Don’t miss it! As for me? I’ve been waiting by the radio for days.

P.S. Please cry no tears for Marina Harris, one of the buzzsaw-afflicted! The Thornton alum has landed a coveted spot in the San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Adler Fellows program. And if my stage mom instincts are right, hers is also a name you will soon come to know on the KUSC airwaves, as both her voice and her major career take flight.)

P.P.S.  Catch soprano Janai Brugger, an LA Opera Domingo-Thornton Young Artist, currently singing the role of Musetta at several performances of the company’s current production of Puccini’s La Boheme. She carried us away at the dress rehearsal, and will do the same tomorrow (May 12) evening and on Sunday, May 20 at 2pm. The May 20 performance of Boheme, conducted by Patrick Summers, will be broadcast live by KUSC, a special edition of LA Opera on Air.

Janai Brugger
Soprano (Darien, IL. Winner of the Western Region)
Age 29

Janai Brugger

Janai Brugger is a second-year artist with Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program. This season’s highlights include Musetta in La Bohème with the Los Angeles Opera, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette for her debut with the Palm Beach Opera, and the First Lady in Die Zauberflöte at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Last season she appeared in Los Angeles as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro and the Page in Rigoletto. She holds a bachelor’s degree from De Paul University and recently received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan (where she sang Tatiana in Eugene Onegin).

In 2009 she sang Adina in L’Elisir d’Amore with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in the “Opera in the Neighborhoods” Program and the following year joined the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program. She was a 2011 finalist in the Loren Zachary Competition and a Midwest Regional (Detroit district) winner of the 2008 Met National Council Auditions.


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.


LA Opera On Air Begins July 7 on WFMT

LA Opera is collaborating with Classical KUSC to produce the sixth consecutive season of LA Opera on Air, a weekly broadcast series of performances recorded live at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Hosted by Duff Murphy, the series will feature all six operas from LA Opera’s 2011/12 season.


The series will syndicated throughout the United States and internationally on the WFMT Radio Network. Broadcast dates and times on the WFMT Radio Network vary in differing media markets; please visit WFMT for more information.

 
Broadcast Schedule
Eugene Onegin
WFMT: Saturday, July 7, 12pm CDT
Young and impassioned, Tatiana (soprano Oksana Dyka) hastily writes a love letter to the brooding aristocrat Onegin (baritone Dalibor Jenis). She unwittingly sets off an unstoppable series of events, leaving Onegin forever regretting the love he so casually spurned.

Così fan tutteWFMT: Saturday, July 14, 12pm CDT
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s delightfully comic battle of the sexes comes to life with ravishingly beautiful music and sparkling wit. The cast includes soprano Aleksandra Kurzak and bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo.  

Roméo et Juliette
WFMT: Saturday, July 21, 12pm CDT
Soprano Nino Machaidze and tenor Vittorio Grigolo star as the world’s most famous lovers.  

Simon Boccanegra
WFMT: Saturday, July 28, 12pm CDT
Plácido Domingo sings the title role of Giuseppe Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, a grand-scale study of power and treachery that finds an emotional center in the tender bond between father and daughter. 

Albert Herring
WFMT: Saturday, August 4, 12pm CDT
Benjamin Britten’s comedy takes place in the English countryside, where meek mama’s boy Albert (tenor Alek Shrader) reluctantly becomes his village’s first May King when no maidens of sufficient virtue can be found. Soprano Christine Brewer stars as the formidable Lady Billows.  

La Bohème
WFMT: Saturday, August 11, 12pm CDT
In this rebroadcast, a poet discovers true romance with a lovely, fragile seamstress among the evocative rooftops, cafés and garrets of Paris. Soprano Ailyn Pérez and tenor Stephen Costello, fast-rising young singers who are married in real life, star as Mimi and Rodolfo.  

LA Opera on Air is made possible by generous grants from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, spearheaded by the efforts of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.