Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Look out. Here it comes.

August 17, 2008


I was recently asked what I was looking forward to seeing this Fall and I have to admit, this doesn't look like the most stimulating season opening with many of the more pressing Los Angeles-based performance highlights on hold until Spring. On the opera front, Los Angeles and San Francisco seem to be hedging their bets for bigger and brighter things down the line. LAO will open it’s season on September 6 with a well-cast, new Il Trittico directed largely by William Friedkin, but with some thoughts from upstart new-to-opera director Woody Allen thrown in for good measure. The next night is the U.S. premiere of Howard Shore’s The Fly after having received decidedly mixed reviews earlier this summer in Paris. Not to be outdone, San Francisco Opera is offering its own decidedly underwhelming new opera idea in Stewart Wallace’s adaptation of The Bonesetter’s Daughter. This will be performed in repertory with a well-cast, but likely unattractive, Simon Boccanegra and probably the real highlight of the entire San Francisco opera season, Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt. There are some various Carmen, Butterfly, and Boheme performances as well, which aren't worth spending any more time on.

The L.A. Philharmonic starts its fifth season at Walt Disney Concert Hall on the first of October for what will be Esa-Pekka Salonen’s last season as music director before handing over the reins to the overrated Gustavo Dudamel. Most of the big gun Salonen shows, which will focus heavily on Stravinsky, won’t arrive until spring, but there will be some worthwhile shows in November including a Peter Sellars semi-staged performance of Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments with Dawn Upshaw, Thomas Adès conducting Berlioz and his own Tevot, and Christine Brewer singing Struass’ Four Last Songs with presumably exuberant assistance from Dudamel. Dudamel will conduct another program the following week with Strauss' Alpine Symphony and from what I saw at the subscriber exchange day, these may be rather tricky tickets to get if you don't have them already. Not to worry, though - the glow of this honeymoon will wear off I suspect in the not too distant future making these shows much more accessible in future seasons. The Los Angeles Master Chorale will also fill the Walt Disney Concert Hall with two programs prior to their usual tried and true Christmas routine in October with Rachmaninoff's Liturgy of St John Chysostom, and in November with works from Lou Harrison and a world premiere from Chinary Ung.

Theater-wise, the Center Theater Group will be presenting a number of local premieres including the touring production of Spring Awakening, the local premiere of Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed with Julie White, and the world premiere of the Dolly Parton musical 9 to 5, which could at the very least be one of those very entertaining train-wrecks. The Mark Taper Forum will also reopen after its year-long renovation with John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves and Peter Whelan’s The School of Night. However, if you want the good stuff, you may want to head over to the Westside for this year’s International Theater Festival at UCLA Live, which will feature among others a return of both Robert LePage/Ex Machina with The Blue Dragon and the wild, woolly, and wonderful Volksbühne from Berlin who will again mine the Russian canon with a production of Chekhov's Ivanov. There will be a number of other West Coast premieres before year's end worth seeing including The Blank Theater's production of Stephen Karam's Speech and Debate, South Coast Rep's version of Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cellphone, and REDCAT's import of The Sound and The Fury, April Seventh 1928 from New York's own Elevator Repair Service.

But wait, there’s more. A bevy of pop shows could be worth your time including local visits from Radiohead, Sigur Ros, RATATAT, Tricky, My Bloody Valentine, Madonna, and why-the-hell-not Celine Dion. Of course, there are some out-of-town events in the offing on my personal schedule as well, including the Dessay/Kaufmann Manon and Berg’s Lulu in Chicago, Fleming’s turn in Lucrezia Borgia in Washington, and several worthwhile offerings from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, which will be capped with easily the operatic event of the Fall, John Adam’s Doctor Atomic. Somewhere in there I hope to squeeze in revivals of Equus and The Seagull— and if my luck holds out, I’ll get to catch New York appearances from Pina Bausch’s Tanztheatre Wuppertal at BAM.

So, there you have it. My work here is done. The rest is up to you. Details for all of these events and others can be found via the links on the left.

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