Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

In the Wings - June 09

May 27, 2009

The Wooster Group in Cavalli's La Didone
Photo: Wooster Group 2009

Like all Angelenos, I’ve come to recognize that June here is not so much the start of summer, but an ideal excuse to get out of town when everything is overcast and gray. It’s always summer, but it is rarely so gloomy as the first few weeks after Memorial Day. So where might one head out to this year? Well, for starters, to the Ojai Festival in all its downbeat modern glory. This year’s program which runs June 11-14 features many of the composers and artists we’ve come to know and love there over the years. Eighth Blackbird is curating and performing the wooden bench weekend this year with music from Steve Reich, Steven Mackey, Louis Andriessen, and Schoenberg (Pierrot Lunaire) to name just a few. Jeremy Denk will also make a couple of appearances, including a performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations on Saturday Morning. There are far more shows at various hours of the day than in recent years spread out among some other local Ojai venues. Sunday’s programming will wrap up with a three-part mega marathon concert with 14 works in about 5 hours including Reich’s Double Sextet. Bring extra padding, you’ve been warned.

Opera-wise my attention will be focused on two locales. First and foremost, Opera Theater of Saint Louis is kicking off a strong season with Mozart’s Il re pastore and a new scaled down version of John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles (above) in addition to La Boheme and Salome. Corigliano’s opera isn’t going to make it to the Metropolitan Opera for a revival next season, so this may be your only chance for a while to check out Corigliano’s now leaner, meaner stage work. Meanwhile, San Francisco Opera is taking no chances in its summer season with a Lofti Mansouri Tosca, Porgy and Bess with Eric Owens, and La Traviata, which will import Marta Domingo’s “flapper” production from L.A. and insert Anna Netrebko in a handful of the performances. I guess this will prove whether the strategy to raise money on the promise of bringing the biggest stars to town to perform in the oldest of war horses is a viable strategy after all.

Goran Bregovic

Of course, when I’m not sitting in an airport terminal, there will be things to catch up on here in Los Angeles as well as a few new entries before the summer outdoor stages really get to be warm enough to tolerate. Perhaps the biggest and best event in LA in June will be at the REDCAT which welcomes The Wooster Group following the announcement of the multi-year collaboration between CalArts downtown black box theater and the theater trailblazers. They will be presenting their wild science fiction staging of Cavalli's opera La Didone starting June 11 through the 21st. I saw it in New York last month and can tell you it should not be missed. Meanwhile in a far less experimental vein, the Mark Taper Forum will be presenting Mamet’s Oleanna with Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles while Dame Edna returns to the Ahmanson on the 9th. A little later, Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin will do a few performances together starting on the 24th in the same room after all of the purple glow has been cleared away.

Otherwise it’s here there and everywhere. Aretha Franklin will perform at the Hollywood Bowl on the 26th. Grizzly Bear (19th) PJ Harvey (20th) and Wilco (22nd, 23rd, and 25th) will all make stops at the Wiltern. UCLA Live will present Goran Bregovic’s Wedding and Funeral Orchestra on the 19th and 20th. REDCAT welcomes Yvonne Rainer in a pair of dance pieces over the weekend of the 25th. And lest we forget, Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion will be taped in LA on June 5th at the Greek Theater for broadcast. So, while the weather may be in a holding pattern, performance in town will definitely move on.


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