September 17- October 16 2016: Macbeth
October 19-23 2016: Ted Hearne's The Source
October 29-31 2016: Nosferatu with score from Matthew Aucoin
November 5-27 2016: Akhnaten
December 2-5 2016 Bernstein's Wonderful Town (semi-staged)
January 28- February 19 2017: The Abduction from the Seraglio
February 18- March 19 2017: Salome
March 25- April 8 2017: The Tales of Hoffmann
April 22- May 13 2017: Tosca
June 15-18 2017: Kamala Sankaram's Thumbprint
Los Angeles Opera
September 17- October 16 2016: Macbeth
September 12- October 3 2015: Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci
October 8-11 2015: Song From the Uproar
October 30-31 2015: Dracula
October 31- November 28 2015: Moby-Dick
November 21- December 13 2015: Norma
February 13- March 6 2016: Die Zauberflöte
March 12- April 3 2016: Madama Butterfly
May 14- June 12 2016: La bohème
June 16-19 2016: Anatomy Theater
* Notes *
Los Angeles Opera presented a double bill of Dido and Aeneas (Paula Murrihy and Liam Bonner in the title roles pictured left, photograph by Craig Matthew) and Bluebeard's Castle last night. The juxtaposition of these two works is pleasantly odd. Conducted by Steven Sloane, the orchestra could have sounded slightly crisper in the first piece, but the lushness of playing for the second piece suited its atmospheric score.
Director Barrie Kosky's production is from Frankfurt Opera, and certainly looks it. The set is attractively minimal, a pleated wall and long bench rather far downstage for the Purcell, and a rotating slanted circular platform for the Bartók. The use of lighting and choreography rather than video projections is welcome.
Kosky certainly did not lack for ideas, though some were unsettling, especially in the first offering. Countertenors are employed as the Sorceress and Witches, and it is disconcerting that all three happen to be bearded African American men in unflattering gowns, while the protagonist is a trim, blond white woman. Dido stayed on stage for the last chorus and gasped as all the singers and orchestra members left the pit one by one. This is, of course, opposed to the text of Dido's last aria but certainly commands attention.
The singing for Dido and Aeneas was good. The chorus sounded sprightly. G. Thomas Allen (First Witch) sounded warm. John Holiday's countertenor is also rather resonant, and he made for a disturbing Sorceress. Kateryna Kasper sang Belinda with much clarity. Liam Bonner was a prettily reedy Aeneas. Paula Murrihy sang Dido with conviction. Her voice is lucid and beautiful.
The staging of Bluebeard is a similar mixture of concrete and abstract depictions. We see blood, tears, gold, and foliage, all referred to in the libretto. There are not, however, any actual doors. Instead three identically suited men show up at different points and all sorts of theatrics ensue. It is impressive how much glitter pours from one man's sleeves for the third door. All three men drip water from their jackets as a representation of the lake of tears behind the sixth door. All rather imaginative, but the movements for the two principals required a great deal of physicality, and seemed a lot to ask for as the piece has serious vocal demands as well.
Robert Hayward was a plaintive Bluebeard. There were brief moments when he was difficult to hear given the volume of the orchestra and how he was facing as the stage turned. Claudia Mahnke makes for a sympathetic Judith. Her voice is strong and piercing without being harsh.
* Tattling *
I was shamefully late for the performance, but was seated during "Ah! Belinda, I am prest with torment."
September 13-28 2014: La Traviata
October 25- November 15 2014: Dido and Aeneas and Bluebeard's Castle
November 22- December 20 2014: Florencia en Amazonas
February 7- March 1 2015: The Ghosts of Versailles
February 28- March 22 2015: The Barber of Seville
March 21- April 12 2015: The Marriage of Figaro
April 23-26 2015: Hercules vs Vampires
June 11-14 2015: Dog Days
September 21- October 6 2013: Carmen
October 11-13 2013: Einstein on the Beach
November 9- December 1 2013: Falstaff
November 23- December 15 2013: Die Zauberflöte
February 22- March 16 2014: Billy Budd
March 15- April 6 2014: Lucia di Lammermoor
May 17- June 7 2014: Thaïs
* Notes *
Los Angeles Opera gave a third performance of I due Foscari (Act II pictured left with Francesco Meli as Jacopo Foscari and Plácido Domingo as Francesco Foscari, photograph by Robert Millard) Sunday afternoon. The orchestra seemed comfortable playing under the direction of James Conlon. The clarinet was especially pretty. The chorus sounded full.
The cast seems ideal, rendering the opera rather engaging. Ievgen Orlov radiated evil as Loredano, so much so he was enthusiastically booed by the audience when he took his first bow. Though Marina Poplavskaya does have a gasping quality to her voice, it worked to her advantage as the fiercely angry Lucrezia Contarini. Francesco Meli sounded bright and plaintive as Jacopo Foscari. There was a certain rawness to his singing that had the right appeal for the character. Plácido Domingo was convincing in the baritone role of Francesco Foscari.
The production features an elaborate set with many moving parts. At times the direction seemed hampered and constrained by all that was on stage. On the other hand, the circus-like scene that opened Act III was spectacular, and the ending effective and disturbing.
* Tattling *
There was some light talking in the Grand Circle, but mostly from one rather elderly person who probably had no idea he could be heard. A woman in the Founders Circle caused more than once disturbance during Act II as she climbed over several people to exit the hall.
* Notes *
Peter Stein's production of Don Giovanni (Act II pictured left with Soile Isokoski as Donna Elvira, David Bizic as Leporello, Roxana Constantinescu as Zerlina, Joshua Bloom as Masetto, Julianna Di Giacomo as Donna Anna, and Andrej Dunaev as Don Ottavio; photograph by Robert Millard) for Lyric Opera opened at Los Angeles Opera yesterday. The direction, from Gregory A. Fortner, is sensible, but entertaining. The entrances and exits of various characters on stage are clearly motivated. Relying heavily on drawn curtains to change scenes, Ferdinand Wögerbauer's set is stark and serviceable. Moidele Bickel's costumes share this neat simplicity.
James Conlon had the orchestra zipping along, often ahead of the singers. The brass sounded exposed at one point in the overture, but was otherwise satisfactory. The chorus members made for cheerful peasants in Act I, and sang heartily in Act II.
The cast has many charming singers. Joshua Bloom is convincing as Masetto, oafish and silly, but with a pretty voice. Roxana Constantinescu is a lusty, vivid Zerlina, yet sang "Batti, batti" with tender appeal. Soile Isokoski has a mellifluous voice, but could sound perfectly hysterical as Don Elvira, as the role requires. Ievgen Orlov could have sung The Commendatore with more authority, as his voice seems fairly strong. Andrej Dunaev impressed as Don Ottavio, singing both his arias with good volume. Julianna Di Giacomo (Donna Anna) sounded bright but silvery. In fact, all the female voices were very distinct from one another.
David Bizic's Leporello was more charismatic than Ildebrando D'Arcangelo's Don Giovanni. Bizic and D'Arcangelo sounded somewhat similar, perhaps because the latter is a bass-baritone. D'Arcangelo lacked appeal in "Là ci darem la mano," and sang "Fin ch'han dal vino" without verve. He was extremely funny in Act II whilst pretending to be Leporello, and he did sing "Deh, vieni alla finestra" with beauty and sweetness.
* Tattling *
There was a tiresome amount of talking, singing, and snoring in the Grand Circle. The couple in Row P Seats 30 and 31 spoke to each other without regard to music or singing.
* Notes *
A revival of La Bohème (Act IV pictured left, photograph by Robert Millard) opened Saturday night in Los Angeles. The performance marked the Los Angeles Opera debut of conductor Patrick Summers, and the orchestra played clearly, with only a slight harshness in the brass at one point in Act II. The chorus sang perfectly well, as was the children's chorus, though the singers may not have been exactly together at all times.
Museop Kim moved gracefully as Schaunard, his baritone is pleasingly light. Colline was sung convincingly by Robert Pomakov, his voice has quite a lot of vibrato, but warmth and volume. Janai Brugger's Musetta was appropriately coy, but with a lovely bird-like sweetness. Though she maintained her composure, she did have some troubles with her train in Act II. Artur Ruciński (Marcello) sounds nice in the lower part of his voice and looked comfortable in his role. Stephen Costello strained a couple of times in Act I, however, his portrayal of Rodolfo was strong otherwise. Costello was particularly moving in the Act III quartet and at the end. Ailyn Pérez never sounded like she had to reach for notes as Mimi. She was not overpowering and had a certain delicate quality even though her bright voice could always be heard.
The production, created by Herbert Ross and directed by Gregory A. Fortner, is fairly conventional. Some of the direction was a lot of fun, as with the quartet in Act IV, in which Schaunard and Colline joust with brooms on bicycles. Other moments made less sense, as when Schaunard comes out on the roof at the end of Colline's "Vecchia zimarra." Colline has his back to Schaunard without facing him, somehow the former has divined that the latter is there. Gerard Howland's set makes use of vertical space without detracting from the voices.
* Tattling *
The parents and brother (Founders Circle Row P Seats 31-33) of one of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus members talked a great deal as she was on stage. I was grateful they decided not to return after intermission, and remained undisturbed for the second half of the opera.
* Notes *
The fourth performance of Los Angeles Opera's Albert Herring (Act II Scene 1 pictured left, photograph by Robert Millard) on Sunday boasted a balanced ensemble cast and fine musicianship all around. Conducted by Maestro James Conlon, the playing in the pit sounded taut and clear. The horn only made one slight error, but otherwise sounded quite agreeable. The singers all seemed perfect for their roles, and distinct enough from one another in sound. The diction was clear.
Liam Bonner (Sid) and Daniela Mack (Nancy) made for a nice, youthful pair. The various pillars of society sang humorously together, or against one another, as need be. As Superintendent Budd, Richard Bernstein was warm in contrast to Robert McPherson's rather bright Mr. Upfold. Jonathan Michie sang nimbly as Mr. Gedge. Though Stacey Tappan's voice is pretty and bird-like, her Miss Wordsworth still managed to be convincing. Ronnita Miller's acting as Florence Pike was confident, and her singing hearty. Janis Kelly played Lady Billows with the right amount of self-importance and hysteria. Her cold, brilliant voice is piercing. As for Albert Herring himself, Alek Shrader seemed ideal, it is hard to imagine a more suitable tenor for this role. Shrader's voice is lovely.
The production, directed by Paul Curran, was first seen at Santa Fe Opera last summer. The set and costumes, designed by Kevin Knight, are charming and sweet. The use of supernumeraries to change the scenes in various cunning ways made for good laughs.
* Tattling *
The performance was not particularly full. There was light talking in the Founders Circle, especially in the first half of the opera.
* Notes *
The third performance of Simon Boccanegra (Act I Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Robert Millard) at Los Angeles Opera on Sunday was quite good. The production originates from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and is directed here by Elijah Moshinsky. Michael Yeargan's set is sleek, and Duane Schuler's lighting did help frame the many scenes. The late Peter J. Hall's costumes are lavish and are a fine counterpoint for the relative simplicity of set.
The tempi taken by Maestro James Conlon were brisk, and occasionally the orchestra seemed somewhat rushed. The brass was fairly clean, there were no obvious sour notes. The chorus was not always right on top of the beat, but sang with passion.
The singing was solid. Stefano Secco (Gabriele) was uncharacteristically fervent, perhaps being broadcast live and sharing the stage with Plácido Domingo (Simon Boccanegra) brought out the best in the former. Domingo sounded rather like a tenor in the title role, his voice is, of course, just so resonant and beautiful. Some of his lower notes were not particularly rich. Ana María Martínez made for an ethereal yet girlish Amelia. Paolo Gavanelli made for a convincing Paolo, his voice is sumptuous. Vitalij Kowaljow (Fiesco) also has a weighty sound, and seems bottomless.
* Tattling *
Watch alarms were heard at 3pm and 5 pm. A mobile phone rang in the middle of Act II from the Loge. The audience talked during the scene changes. A woman in Row E Seat 53 was especially loud, commenting that Domingo sounded "the same" as he always does as he was singing, and making other accurate but unhelpful comments to her husband in 54 and friend in 55.
During a pause, this friend mentioned that "in San Francisco we would have had five intermissions already" and that concessions must generate much income for that opera. An odd statement, given that this production has been performed in San Francisco twice (in 2001 and 2008), both times in two acts with one intermission. One will also note that Patina provides food and beverage for LA Opera and SF Opera.
September 15- October 9 2012: I due Foscari
September 22- October 14 2012: Don Giovanni
November 17- December 9 2012: Madama Butterfly
March 9-30 2013: Der fliegende Holländer
March 23- April 13 2013: Cenerentola
May 18- June 8 2013: Tosca
Plácido Domingo stars in I due Foscari. Oksana Dyka sings Butterfly with Brandon Jovanovich as Pinkerton and Eric Owens as Sharpless. Jay Hunter Morris is Erik in Der fliegende Holländer. Kate Lindsey and Ketevan Kemoklidze share the title role of Cenerentola. Sondra Radvanovsky is Tosca. Again, the Recovered Voices program seems to still be on hiatus.
The new logo of Los Angeles Opera is based on the design elements of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. LA Opera did a great deal of marketing research recently and more news will be announced soon.
* Notes *
Los Angeles Opera's last performance of the year was the matinée of Roméo et Juliette today. The production, directed Ian Judge, ran smoothly. John Gunter's tiered set elegantly framed the space and moved easily. At times the transparency of this set did not serve to create much of an illusion, as we could easily discern entrances and exits of the principal singers. Tim Goodchild's lavish costumes seemed to be of the period that the opera was composed, could have easily been for La Traviata or La bohème.
The orchestra, under Plácido Domingo, had more lovely, fleet moments than muddy, sluggish ones. The brass was not always clear. Though not always perfectly with the orchestra, the chorus did sound pretty.
Renée Rapier made a charming LA Opera debut as Stéphano, sounding light and boyish. Vitalij Kowaljow's warm, rich voice served him well as Frere Laurent. Nino Machaidze (Juliette) made a convincing case for love at first sight. Her "Je veux vivre" was a bit harsh, though she has a pretty darkness to her voice and she never sounds strained. Vittorio Grigolo gave a rather physical performance as Roméo. His acting was exaggerated, but could be amusing when appropriate. His voice is pretty and strong throughout his range, from top to bottom.
* Tattling *
As usual, watch alarms and hearing aids were heard during the music. It sounded like something in Row O of the orchestra level was being deflated for most of the second entr'acte.
* Notes *
Nicholas Hytner's 2006 Glyndebourne production of Così fan tutte (Act II pictured left with the Los Angeles Opera chorus, Aleksandra Kurzak as Fiordiligi, Saimir Pirgu as Ferrando, Ruxandra Donose as Dorabella, and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Guglielmo; photograph by Robert Millard) opened at Los Angeles Opera last Sunday. The scenic design from Vicki Mortimer involved a muted Rococo interior and a smooth modern patio complete with water feature. Mortimer also was responsible for the costumes, which had the standard traditional look and featured some gowns that looked inspired by cotton candy and peppermints. Ashley Dean directed straightforwardly enough, though the movement of furniture and the drawing of shutters was not always clearly motivated.
The orchestra played fleetly under the direction of Maestro James Conlon. The brass was uneven, and someone had particular trouble in Act II, Scene 4. One can only imagine that the horn must be one of the most stressful instruments to play. The chorus, however, sounded lucid and together for much of the opera.
The singing was all pleasant. The singers sounded best when they sang together, and it seemed they were listening to one another. The acting was also strong, perhaps because most of the cast looked youthful and as if they could really be these characters. Roxana Constantinescu made for a cute Despina, she swallowed a few of the notes, but was winsome. Lorenzo Regazzo (Don Alfonso) did not have much heft to his voice, yet his comic timing was precise. Regazzo got laughs at the correct spots, even if most of the audience presumably does not understand Italian.
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo sang Guglielmo emphatically. There was half a phrase in the duet "Il core vi dono" where his voice disappeared, but the rest of his performance was quite nice. Saimir Pirgu's Act I aria as Ferrando ("Un'aura amoros") was especially pretty, and sounded almost like a lullaby. Pirgu does not have a huge voice, and can sound a bit pinched when singing at full volume. Ruxandra Donose sounded cold and bright as Dorabella, her breathing were noticeable in "Smanie implacabili." Aleksandra Kurzak (Fiordiligi) was perhaps the strongest. Her low notes may have not projected well in "Come scoglio," but her high notes were not shrill or effortful.
* Tattling *
The center of Balcony B was much more full for this matinée than for opening night. Oddly, the audience was quieter, only the people in Row M Seats 43 and 44 were unacceptably noisy. This couple tried sitting elsewhere during the overture, only to return, causing a lot of discussion. They spoke during much of Act I, but did find seats with a better view for Act II.
* Notes *
The 25th season of Los Angeles Opera opened with Eugene Onegin (pictured left with the Los Angeles Opera chorus, Ronnita Nicole Miller as Filipievna, Margaret Thompson as Madame Larina, Oksana Dyka as Tatiana, and Ekaterina Semenchuk as Olga; photograph by Robert Millard) last night. The 2006 production originates from Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, directed there by the late Steven Pimlott, and was co-produced by Finnish National Opera. Francesca Gilpin directs these performances with simplicity and directness. At first, Antony McDonald's costumes and sets employ a pleasing color palette of pale greens, bright reds, and crisp whites. This develops into further bold contrasts in other scenes, all quite smart. The only misstep was the use of three paintings projected on the scrim, not only did the back curtain get caught on the scrim twice, the effect was a bit obvious and detracted the drama. Otherwise, the set was especially charming, especially the use of water and the final ball scene as an ice skating party.
Maestro James Conlon kept the music going at a fine clip, and the Los Angeles Opera orchestra sparkled. There was a brass blooper in the overture, but the sounded lovely in the Letter Scene. The singers of the chorus were not always perfectly together but sang gamely.
Much of the singing was pretty and heartfelt. James Creswell was vocally convincing Prince Gremin, though did not appear particularly elderly in his movement. Ekaterina Semenchuk made for a hearty Olga, and in some of the early ensembles along with Ronnita Nicole Miller (Filipievna), Margaret Thompson (Madame Larina) it seemed a bit as if they were in a sing-off, so powerful were all the voices. Tenor Vsevolod Grivnov (Lensky) has a pleasantly creaky voice with brightness that cut through the orchestra. His big aria in Act II went well.
Oksana Dyka sang Tatiana with vitality. Her lack of restraint in the Letter Aria was the perfect foil for her self-posession in Act III. Dyka had some throatiness and slight shrillness in Act I, but nothing inappropriate. Dalibor Jenis (Eugene Onegin) also nuanced his voice from one scene to the next. He was abrasive in the early scenes, but showed sweetness when necessary.
* Tattling *
Some electronic sounds were noted during the performance, a few mobile phones and hearing aids could be clearly heard. There was talking all around me in Balcony B. For Act I, a woman directly behind me just had to mention how "awesome" the set was, not once but twice. During the second half, the woman in Row L Seat 38 would not cease her talking during the recitatives. I hushed her, and her husband chuckled, and at least tried to keep her quiet. After the performance, she mistook Maestro Conlon for the director, and insisted that he must not have read the libretto in English translation.