Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

In the Wings - May 09

April 26, 2009

Rusini Sidi, Eko Supriyanto, Astri Kusuma Wardani, Jessica Rivera, Russell Thomas
Photo: CAL Performances 2007

May is always a strange month on the performing arts calendar. The season is more or less over with, but the summer offerings—festival and otherwise—aren’t underway yet. It’s kind of a clearinghouse period, but there are some rewards to gather if you keep an eye out for them. Perhaps the organization with the best example of what I mean this year is the Los Angeles Philharmonic that carries on in the final lame duck, post-Salonen month of its season. Serious effort has gone in to scheduling interesting programs and guests for this dirty work, however. Foremost among these are two shows conducted by composer John Adams who will present local premieres of his Son of Chamber Symphony on May 12 and the semi-staged Peter Sellars-directed version of his most recent opera A Flowering Tree the following weekend. Adams’ music will also feature prominently on the weekend of the 9th when NY Philharmonic Associate Director Xian Zhang will conduct it, as well as Prokofiev’s 3rd Piano Concerto with Yefim Bronfman and Bartok’s Miraculous Mandarin. The season ends with two weeks under Christoph Eschenbach who will lead more Prokofiev (Symphony No 5) and Julia Fischer in Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto over Memorial Day weekend. The last show will feature Bruckner’s 7th Symphony starting May 28th.

From LAO's La Traviata
Photo: Robert Millard/LAO

All of this music will be bookended by two performances from the magnificent L.A. Master Chorale. On May 3rd, they will perform Haydn’s Heilig Mass paired with Messiaen’s Trois petites liturgies and they will wrap everything up on May 31 with the West Coast premiere of Roberto Sierra’s Missa Latina. Both are excellent chances to see this equally esteemed resident of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. And while we’re in that building, it’s worth noting one other musical event downstairs at the REDCAT where the annual celebration of the idiosyncratic world and instruments of Harry Partch takes place on May 29 and 30. There are a smattering of opera offerings to consider. Most unusual is the program from Long Beach Opera which will pair two one act works, Viktor Ullman’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis and Carl Orff’s The Clever One, for three performances to take place in the hull of The Queen Mary in Long Beach May 8 and 17th. On the more predictable side, L.A. Opera will kick off a revival of the first Martha Domingo production of Verdi’s La Traviata on May 21 with Marina Poplavskaya while San Diego Opera will get involved with Madama Butterfly starring Patricia Racette on the 9th. Just in time for all of the philistines whose senses have been so offended by Achim Freyer’s Ring productions last month. I will also be travelling up to Seattle for business on the 16th allowing me to catch their production of Le Nozze di Figaro with uber-hottie Mariusz Kwiecien as count Almaviva.

Ballet Preljocaj

Away from the music center, UCLA Live will present a return visit from Ballet Preljocaj on May 1 and May 2 with their always visually interesting take on things – this time out it's Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. There’s also quite a variety of theater to take in during May that I’ll be attending too. (Though, admittedly some of this opened up in April). The incredible shrinking CTG season roles on with a revival of Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Ahmanson theater, David Mamet’s Oleanna at the Mark Taper Forum, and the world premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo at the Kirk Douglas Theater. Since it appears two-thirds of L.A.’s major theater operation will be dark this summer due to the economy, this will be about all we’ll be seeing from them for a while. But there are plenty of other theater games here in town. Odyssey Theater will be staging Caryl Churchill’s A Number this month on the West Side, while downtown the East West Players will offer a double bill of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years with a Sondheim review, Marry Me a Little. The Geffen in Westwood continues to offer up Conor McPherson’s excellent The Seafarer while the smaller theater continues with Louis and Keely Live at the Sahara. In Glendale, A Noise Within is currently mounting
Anouilh’s The Rehearsal and down south, South Coast Repertory will revive Donald Margulies Collected Stories. And not to be forgotten, the Theater at Boston Court in Pasadena will present the world premiere of Laura Schellhardt's vampire drama Courting Vampires from May 9th.

So while it may not be a blockbuster, May certainly has its charms. And if all else fails, keep in mind that Fleetwood Mac will reignited some of their Southern California magic at the Staples Center on May 28th.


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