Los Angeles Opera

La Bohème at LA Opera

La-opera-la-boheme-2012* 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.


Albert Herring at LA Opera

Albert-herring-la-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.


Simon Boccanegra at LA Opera

Simon-boccanegra-la-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.


LA Opera's 2012-2013 Season

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.

2012-2013 Season | Official Site


LA Opera's Roméo et Juliette

Romeo-et-juliette-laopera* 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.


LA Opera's Così fan tutte

La-opera-cosi-fan-tutte-actii * 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.


LA Opera's Eugene Onegin

La-opera-eugene-onegin-acti * 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.


Il Turco in Italia LA Opera

La-opera-turco * Notes *
The opening performance of Il Turco in Italia at Los Angeles Opera was delightful. The production originates from Hamburgische Staatsoper, directed there by Christof Loy, with attractive costumes and sets from Herbert Mauerauer. Here Axel Weidauer directed the amusing action to good effect, the audience certainly was engaged. Even though the specifics of immigration and Orientalism are different between Hamburg and Los Angeles, the production still made sense to an American viewer. For example, the fear of both the Romani and the Turks is more keenly felt in Germany than the United States, but this did not detract from the our understanding of the opera.

As usual, the Los Angeles Opera orchestra was sounding its best under Music Director James Conlon. The brass soli were a bit tentative, perhaps occasionally sour, but not bad. The chorus had a particularly transparent sound.

Kate Lindsey made her Los Angeles Opera debut as Zaida, she was awfully spunky and sang with zest. Maxim Mironov's light, pretty tenor suited Narciso, though there were times when he was not audible over the orchestra. Paolo Gavanelli was most impressive as Don Geronio. His voice is luminous and warm, and he always embodied the role convincingly. Thomas Allen was charming as Prosdocimo, his comic timing perfect.

As Fiorella, Nino Machaidze looked stunning, and sang well. Her voice has a penetrating quality to it, just bordering on shrill. Simone Alberghini (Selim), the Turk of this opera, was comic and his voice had good volume. He does have a lot of vibrato, but this was fine for this role.

* Tattling * 
The performance was dedicated to Maria Altmann, who died last Monday.

There was some light talking from the audience on the orchestra level, but otherwise, everyone behaved acceptably. The slow moving zombie dancers in the background of many scenes were given great applause, though so were the singers, and Machaidze received a standing ovation.


LA Opera's 2011-2012 Season

September 17- October 9 2011: Eugene Onegin
September 18- October 8 2011: Così fan tutte
November 6-26 2011: Roméo et Juliette
February 11- March 4 2012: Simon Boccanegra
February 25- March 14 2012: Albert Herring
February 25- March 14 2012: La Bohème

Vittorio Grigolo has his LA Opera premiere in Roméo et Juliette opposite Nino Machaidze. Alek Shrader and Daniela Mack star in Albert Herring, while Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello sing in La Bohème. Plácido Domingo sings Simon Boccanegra, with Vitalij Kowaljow and Paolo Gavanelli. Sadly, the Recovered Voices program is still on hiatus.

2011-2012 Season | Official Site


LA Opera's Lohengrin

La-opera-lohengrin * Notes *
Yesterday's matinée performance of Lohengrin opened at Los Angeles Opera was the second of six. The new production, designed by Dirk Hofacker and directed by Lydia Steier, is exceedingly silly. The set is on a turntable and appears to be set amidst German ruins in a Prussian army camp. One especially enjoyed the fact that the swan that brings Lohengrin is a bed covered tent (pictured left with Soile Isokoski and Ben Heppner, photograph by Robert Millard). The choreography was not well-motivated and perhaps merely served the set, which was rotated at various points. At times it seemed that people rushed aimlessly around the stage and ended up at their marks too early.

Maestro Conlon kept the music going at a good pace. For the most part the woodwinds sounded pretty. The brass make a few mistakes, especially in Act II, but managed to be effective. The chorus was lovely, though again, as with Rigoletto, there were a few times when synchronization was a problem. "Treulich geführt" came off beautifully, sounding clear and together.

There were many familiar faces in the cast. Robert MacNeil and Greg Fedderly were the First and Second Noblemen, while Domingo-Thornton Young Artists Matthew Anchel and Museop Kim were the Third and Fourth. Baritone Eike Wilm Schulte was the Herald. All sang nicely.

Most of the principal singers were impressive. Dolora Zajick made for the perfect Ortrud, she sang with strength, richness, and with appropriate haughtiness. James Johnson played a tormented Friedrich von Telramund, his voice too is robust. Kristinn Sigmundsson sounded noble as King Heinrich.

Soile Isokoski gleamed as Elsa, and sounded particularly sublime in "Einsam in trüben Tage." Some of her lower notes in Act II were not as lucid as her high ones. In the title role, Ben Heppner struggled. From the start the production did not make him seem heroic. When he emerged from the tent he hardly cut a fine figure, as his coat was unbuttoned, which was not a flattering look. If Heppner was in good voice, this would not have mattered, but unfortunately this was not the case. He had a few good moments, his voice has a warmth to it, and volume. However, he wailed his way up to high notes that were strained and rough. It was painful to hear him hail Elsa in Act II and he even cracked badly in the last act.

* Tattling * 
Nearly every type of unpleasant behavior was on display from the audience members in Balcony B. The couple in K 40 and 41 talked nearly every time a soloist was not singing, so even during the famous Bridal March. The woman in L 37 unwrapped cough drops and incessantly scratched herself during Act I, but had the good sense to leave, as she clearly was not feeling well. Someone in Row M tapped her stiletto heels against the concrete floor distractedly, while someone else in Row L quietly sang along. A mobile phone rang during Act II, but it was on so low that he or she did not even hear it, and did not turn it off. There was periodic beeping, perhaps from a recording device. Flash photographs were taken during the ovation. The worst offender was a person at the back of the house with a very loud phone, which rang at the end of the opera on four separate occasions.


LA Opera's Rigoletto

La-opera-rigoletto * Notes *
Rigoletto opened at Los Angeles Opera last night. San Francisco Opera's production, designed by Michael Yeargan and directed by Mark Lamos, takes inspiration from the painter Giorgio de Chirico. The stage looked clean, and Mark McCullough's lighting was effective in defining the various spaces, but garish at times. Constance Hoffman's attractive costumes did not seem to take as much from the scuola metafisica art movement founded by De Chirico, except for the color palette, perhaps.

Music Director James Conlon kept the orchestra together, and the brass sounded more focused than usual. The flute may have had some harsh moments, particularly in "Caro nome," but the oboe was sweet and clear, especially in "Tutte le feste al tempio." The cello solo in "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata" was also strong. The chorus sounded clear, but was not always with the orchestra.

Many of the smaller roles were filled by Domingo-Thornton Young Artists, including Matthew Anchel (Count Ceprano), Janai Brugger-Orman (A Page), Valentina Fleer (Countess Ceprano), Carin Gilfry (Giovanna), and Museop Kim (Marullo). All aquitted themselves well, but Carin Gilfry's lustrous voice stood out, even against Sarah Coburn's brilliant Gilda.

As Maddalena, Kendall Gladen acted convincingly, but was somewhat difficult to hear in the quartet of Act III, her voice blended too well with the orchestra. Andrea Silvestrelli was threatening as Sparafucile, his voice has such an endless richness to it. Daniel Sumegi sounded in character for the elderly Count Monterone, gravelly and shaky. Sarah Coburn had a burnished warmth as Gilda, but also a pleasing bird-like quality. She hit a sour note in "Caro Nome," but was otherwise great. Gianluca Terranova was dashing as the Duke of Mantua, he did started off barking a bit too much, but sang more legato as the night wore on. His voice is not meaty, but he sparkled above the orchestra effectively without screaming. George Gagnidze was fairly subtle in the title role. He was behind the orchestra in the "la ra, la ra" part of Act II. He was moving in the final scene, the duet ("V'ho ingannato!") with Coburn was beautiful.

* Tattling * 
One was amused to see that the dancers in the opening scene had their bosoms revealed again, as they had been covered up in San Francisco's last revival. There was not a huge amount of talking from the audience in Balcony B. I had a coughing fit during Act I Scene 2, and someone was kind enough to give me a cough drop. The woman next to me in J36 had her leather jacket draped over the arm rest. I should have said something but it was difficult to get her attention, she was ill and engaged in conversation with her companion. After the performance ended, she swung her jacket against me as she put it on, and I could only laugh at how ridiculous this was.


On the Upcoming Fortnight (Terfel & Heppner)

Tonight I am off to the third performance of San Francisco Opera's The Makropulos Case. It is so wonderful, I regret not being able to attend every performance. During the fourth performance on next Saturday I will be in Berkeley hearing Bryn Terfel sing Schumann, Finzi, and Ibert. Since I have never heard Terfel before, I am making an exception about recitals, which I generally disdain. For the last performance of Makropulos I will be hearing at Los Angeles Opera for Lohengrin. The cast includes Ben Heppner in the title role, and as I have never heard him live either, it may be worth missing the Janáček.

Byrn Terfel at Cal Performances | Lohengrin at LA Opera