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Blog entries posted during May 2012

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.

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!

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 

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!

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.

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…


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.