Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Opera Notes

January 18, 2009

General scene from LAO's upcoming Das Rheingold
Photo: Monika Rittershaus 2009

A return visit to L.A. Opera’s current production of Die Zauberflöte was in order this weekend if for no other reason than to take a look at the other very fine cast the company assembled for this run. On the plus side, you had Nathan Gunn’s Papageno which is as unsexy as you can imagine in the bright yellow feathered get up he's forced to wear in this production. I think I rather preferred Marie Arnet’s Pamina to Erin Wall’s last week, but could have done without L’Ubica Vargicova’s Queen of the Night. I have little else new to say on the topic but would reiterate my point from last week that both casts are strong enough, that you could go either way on this one and have a great time.

Of course, Mozart was only half the story for L.A. Opera this week after the announcement of the 09/10 season. As has already been widely reported elsewhere, the company is hunkering down and scaling back due to the dreadful state of affairs facing everyone these days. Only 47 regular performances will be offered next season (including 12 over the course of three Ring Cycles in 2010) as compared to 64 this season. That 25% reduction brings it down to only six regular season productions (not including the Ring Cycle performance revivals). But while of course this is bad news on one level, there is a bit of a silver lining. The company deserves kudos for sticking to its guns artistically. In recent years, LAO has sometimes overrelied on frequent and very recent revivals of 4 or 5 shows. However, next year, despite all the bad economic news, it is these very shows that seem to have been cut from the line-up. Instead the company is going through full steam ahead with its two major programming initiatives – the completion of the new Achim Freyer-directed Ring Cycle with runs of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung as well as the next presentation in James Conlon’s “Recovered Voices” project - Franz Schreker’s Die Gezeicheneten. The other half of the season will feature well cast productions of operas that have not been seen at LAO for a while: a Rolando Villazon-led L’Elisir, a Gunn/Florez/DiDonato Barbiere, and general director Placido Domingo reprising his performances in Tamerlano seen in Washington last year. While this may be an abbreviated schedule compared to the 8 or nine offerings of recent years, let’s face it – throw in a couple of rehashes of Butterfly, Tosca, or Boheme, and you would pretty much have the typical LAO season of the last few years anyway. So maybe smaller is better for now. Of course, there is always next year to worry about…



yes, hooray for no verdi/puccini repeats!
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