Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

In the Wings - September 09

August 31, 2009

Angelica Torn, Estelle Parsons, and Libby George in August: Osage County
Photo: Robert J Saferstein/CTG 2009

At last the Fall is here in Los Angeles with its high temperatures and wildfires. But there is good news with the opening of the music and performing arts seasons around town with suddenly oodles to choose from. On top of the pile, of course, is the opening of the opera season and, like most houses around the country, L.A. Opera is playing it safe with their season opener, Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore on the 12th with Giuseppe Filianoti, Nino Machaidze, and Nathan Gunn. The bigger story though will come at the end of the month on the 26th with the third installment of Achim Freyer’s staging of Wagner’s Ring cycle with Siegfried starring Linda Watson and John Treleaven. Watson is turning out to be much more watchable than I initially thought, and Freyer’s phantasmagorical vision is sure to make this another unforgettable night at the opera. L.A. Opera has also launched the dedicated site for the Ring Festival LA,which highlights all of the associated arts events around town taking place in conjunction with the performances of complete cycle next Spring.

Opera out of town offers some standard if well-cast fare. Both the Metropolitan Opera in New York and Lyric Opera Chicago will kick things off in September with productions of Puccini’s Tosca. New York’s staging is new from Luc Bondy and will star Karita Mattila while Chicago will be calling upon Deborah Voigt. Up in San Francisco, new music director Nicola Luisotti will arrive with an opening production of David McVicar’s Il Trovatore from the Metropolitan Opera earlier this year with much the same cast, plus Stephanie Blythe as Azucena. It’s solid and definitely has some vocalists worth hearing. San Francisco will follow closely on these heels with Puccini’s Il Trittico with Patricia Racette in all of the soprano roles and Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.

Director Achim Freyer
Photo: Monika Rittershaus 2009

Los Angeles theater looks to be pretty lively in September as well with a number of promising shows with good pedigrees. At the Ahmanson, the touring production of Tracy Lett’s stupendous August: Osage County arrives with Estelle Parsons in her very well-regarded turn as Violet Weston. Just across the plaza, the Taper will kick off with one of the jewels of their year, a revival of Jason Robert Brown’s Parade with former Grey's Anatomy star, TR Knight. Across town, the Getty Villa will present their annual all-too-brief-run of a classic that will hopefully not fall prey to the antics of mentally unstable neighbors as in years past. This time out, it's a staging of Aristophanes’ comedy Peace in an adaptation from local theater legends Culture Clash. Meanwhile, Orange County’s South Coast Repertory will present a revival of the Sondheim review musical Putting It Together opposite the latest effort from Julie Marie Myatt, The Happy Ones. What else? The Geffen will present a world premier comedy from Blair Singer Matthew Modine Saves the Alpacas which pretty much says it all, and East West Players downtown will present Yasmina Reza’s Art. But not to be outdone by any of the above, UCLA Live will open their International Theater Festival on the 23rd with a first for them - a new production of their own commission. The play is Euripides’ Medea with the bloody honors going to none other than Annette Bening.

To be honest, though, the theater event I'm secretly most looking forward to is out of town. It's the world premiere musical from Green Day and Michael Mayer American Idiot opening up on the 4th in Berkeley at the Berkeley Repertory Theater. With the co-collaborator of Spring Awakening and the energy of Green Day, it's bound to be interesting even if it's a failure. I'll also be returning to Ashland, OR for the first time in a couple of years on the 10th for three days of catching up with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival now that it's firmly under the direction of long-time South Coast Repertory collaborator Bill Rausch.

Christine Brewer

Back in town meanwhile, REDCAT will also start off the fall with a number of shows of note. September 16th will bring an interactive theater and musical event called A Counterpoint of Tolerance: Ah! An Interactive Opera No-Opera. It's brought to you from a consortium of CalArts folks and you can read more about it here. On September 23, this season's dance programming will start off with a collaboration entitled Maybe Forever from European choreographers Meg Stuart and Philipp Gehmacher in a rare West Coast appearance. And, of course, when we're talking about REDCAT, it's important not to overlook their fantastic film program, which this Fall will start with a "projection performance" from Bruce McClure.

Sadly, September will continue to be a slow month musically as the Hollywood Bowl season peters to a close with a grab bag including Berlioz’ Requiem on the 10th and some of the predictable fare you'd expect. If you want L.A. Philharmonic excitement, the best you’re going to do is the release of another iTunes/DG recording on September 22 when one of the highlights of last season, the premiere performances of Arvo Pärt’s Symphony No 4 under the direction of our beloved and much missed Esa-Pekka Salonen, first becomes available. There is a small glimmer at the end of the month, though, when Christine Brewer will arrive in the local area on September 30 down in Cerritos on her current recital tour. Don’t miss your chance to hear one of the country’s leading sopranos.


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