Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Are you ready for the Sunshine?

May 20, 2008


May comes to L.A. as warm, sunny skies give way to more warm, sunny skies and car dealers all over town busily remind us that in fact Memorial Day is here and we are crossing over into what we’ll call summer for the time being. Of course, performance-wise there’s plenty to look forward to, and, while there is plenty going on abroad, there’s a plethora of worthwhile events here at home on my schedule as well. Details for any of the mentioned events can be found in the calendar to the left

As always, summer is the time for the L.A. Philharmonic's annual pilgrimage from the beauty and exquisite sound of the WDCH to the ersatz dinner theater and flight-path obstacle we affectionately refer to as the Hollywood Bowl. It’s the usual grab bag of crowd pleasers and lightweight pop concerts this year and I have to admit that with a few exceptions it’s the weakest season there in a while. There is a concert performance of Carmen with Denyce Graves, a Philip Glass program led by Leonard Slatkin, and the typical appearance from Jean-Yves Thibaudet. Probably the "classical" highlight will be the Salonen-led performances of Mahler’s 8th symphony in the first week of September. On the pop side, the L.A. Phil will sponsor performances from Feist, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and Diana Ross, which will undoubtedly be a double-edged sword of an evening. Radiohead will stop by as well for two sold-out evenings as will Stevie Wonder. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Opera, on the other hand, has almost completely abdicated it's summertime programming and will offer only revival performances of Tosca which opened last weekend and La Rondine with Patricia Racette.

The Ojai Festival will again take place the first weekend in June with a typically strong program featuring appearances by Steve Reich, Dawn Upshaw, So Percussion, Signal, and this year's festival director David Robertson. The programs will include the works of Reich, Elliott Carter, Messiaen, and Ligeti. Unfortunately, I’m only going to be able to attend the opening evening on June 5th before heading out of the country, but expect a full report. As always, Ojai remains one of the highlights of the summer season.

Of course, it wouldn’t be summer without doing my bit to drive up the price of gas even further by driving out of town around the U.S. Up in San Francisco, David Gockley continues to stab around in the dark for a new vision for SF Opera (last Fall it was a “singer’s house”, last month it was an “Italian house”, what'll he think of next?) with Das Rhinegold in the American-themed production from Francesca Zambello after its Washington NO run. Natalie Dessay will also be appearing in a non-Mary Zimmerman Lucia, and an exceptionally strong cast (though now without Ewa Podles) will make the most of what looks to be a rather dismal John Copley production of Handel’s Ariodante. Maybe it’s a “keep your eyes closed” house after all. In Santa Fe, Richard Gaddes has put together a very strong season to follow last year's mixed bag with dem geilen Teddy Tahu Rhodes starring in Billy Budd, a new Radamisto with David Daniels, Falstaff, Figaro, and the U.S. Premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Adriana Mater with the Peter Sellars production imported from Paris now staring Monica Groop in the title role and Pia Freund. Between it’s penchant for inventive staging and beautiful scenery, Santa Fe may be the antidote for San Francisco.

Last but not least however, I’m going to make the trek to New York over the 4th of July weekend not just for theater, but also for the Lincoln Center Festival's performance of Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten. How can you miss out on a 20th century opera with mobile seating? And so another summer is about to begin. But first there is that matter of the Salonen Piano Concerto….


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