Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Fall Preview

September 01, 2010

Esa-Pekka Salonen Photo: Nicho Soedling

Yes, it’s September already. And while you’re adjusting to that news, let me tell you about the bright side – there is a Fall line-up of performances across the country that should provide more than enough excitement before we find ourselves in 2011. I’ll be saying goody-bye to the Summer of 2010 over Labor Day weekend in Ashland, OR, where I’ll be checking in on this year’s installment of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, including a new production from L.A.’s own Culture Clash, American Night, and a stage adaptation of Kirosawa’s Throne of Blood, which will travel to BAM in a few months. But more on that later. For now let me leave you with the Out West Arts top ten picks for this Fall’s must-see performances and stay tuned for full details right here all season long.

1. The return of Esa-Pekka Salonen to the podium with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Don’t believe the hype. Artistically, it’s been rough going since Salonen’s departure from Los Angeles in Spring 2009 and he’s returning to L.A. at last to remind us what conducting is all about for two weeks at the end of November with a program featuring Lindberg and a concert performance of Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (Nov 19) followed by Hindemith and scenes from Wagner with the incomparable Bryn Terfel (Nov 26).

LePage's big rotating wall for the Met's new Ring Photo: Brigitte Lacombe/Met Opera 2010

2. Like everyone in the opera world, I’m hotly anticipating the new Robert LePage Ring cycle that will kick off with Das Rheinold on September 27 (but which I’ll be in the house for on October 9) at the Metropolitan Opera. Will all the technology amount to great opera? Time will tell, but even if it’s a bust, the big New York house will additionally be offering new productions of Boris Godunov (Oct 11) and Verdi’s Don Carlo (for me on Dec 18). All three of these productions are also on the Met’s Live in HD broadcast theater schedule for this Fall as well, so even if you’re not in New York, check them out.

A scene from LAO's production of Lohengrin Photo: Ken Howard/LAO

3. On the local opera scene, my pick for the Fall is Los Angele Opera’s revival of Wagner’s Lohengrin (Nov 20), which will be conducted by James Conlon and stars Ben Heppner in the title role as well as Dolora Zajick in her first Ortrud. Of course, it’s not the only highlight of the LA Opera season which opens on September 23 with the world premiere of Daniel Catán’s operatic take on Il Postino, starring Placido Domingo as poet Pablo Neruda.

4. The theater event I’m most looking forward to this Fall is a revival of the Elevator Repair Service’s production of GATZ at the Public Theater in New York City (for me on Oct 10). This day long event is less of a play and more of a theatrical reading of the entire text of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. ERS’ similar technique for the first chapter of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury at L.A.’s REDCAT was one of the most exciting non-musical things I’d seen in 2008 and the return of their Gatsby to the stage is well worth a trip to New York.

Scott Shepherd and Ari Fliakos in The Wooster Group's Vieux Carré Photo: Franck Beloncle/The Wooster Group 2010

5. Speaking of REDCAT, the Cal Arts-associated downtown venue will continue their collaboration with The Wooster Group starting December 1 with the U.S. premiere of Vieux Carré. Now that one of New York’s premiere theatrical troupes has a home-away-from-home on the West Coast, it would be foolhardy to miss this chance to see them in one of L.A.'s best venues for music or theater.

6. Besides the return of Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Los Angeles Philharmonic is offering one other essential concert this Fall over the weekend of October 14 when Salonen’s replacement, Gustavo Dudamel, will hopefully wind his way successfully through Messiaen’s monumental late 20th-century masterpiece, Turangalila-symphonie. One doesn’t get a chance to hear this great music that often, and frankly even a mediocre performance (banish the thought) would likely be worth seeing more than once at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

From Jeffreys' Bugles at the Gates of Jalalabad in Part 1 of The Great Game: Afghanistan Photo: The Tricycle Theater Photo: Nicho Soedling

7. The bay area, as usual, will be offering up a number of things worth a cross-state excursion this Fall, and the thing I’m most excited about is the U.S. premiere of the three part The Great Game: Afghanistan at the Berkeley Repertory Theater (Oct 24). This series of 12 mini-plays by various contemporary playwrights on the history and culture of Afghanistan is imported from London’s Tricycle Theater where it played to rave reviews and will eventually get to New York as well later this year.

8. This appears to be the season for massive theatrical events in that also high on my list of must-sees is the Signature Theater’s revival of Kushner’s Angels in America (for me on Oct 8 and 9). Born in L.A., Kushner’s masterpiece hasn’t been seen much in a live theater since its original West and East Coast runs, so its return to a New York stage is being met with a lot of anticipation and sold out houses.

Karita Mattila in another of her signature Janacek roles, Jenufa Photo: Robert Millard/LAO

9. Although decidedly less time consuming, equally exciting for me is the highlight of the San Francisco Opera’ fall season, a revival of Janacek’s The Makropulos Case starring Karita Mattila under the direction of the most important living conductor of Janacek’s works, Jiri Bělohlávek who will lead performances starting on November 10 (and I'll see on Nov 13).

10. And finally, while it may be a touring production, I’m still excited to see the L.A. premiere of Kitt and Yorkey’s Pulitzer-prize winning Next to Normal, which will reach the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles on November 23. Alice Ripley will reprise her award-winning performance in the musical, and here’s wishing the production a big success here in Los Angeles. Who knows? While L.A. may not have a Pulitzer committee to check out the show the night before prize deliberations, you never know when a performance might sway Hollywood types in these parts.



According to reliable sources, Turangalila was completed in 1948 which makes it closer to an EARLY 20th century piece than "late". Well, "mid-XX-century" would probably be a fair designation.
Interesting that you had that experience with Salonen in LA. Personally, his performances in the UK have failed to ignite for me (bar a marvellous Mahler 7). His Wozzeck was clean and cold in concert a year ago.

Karita Mattila as Emilia Marty, however... that should be amazing. I look forward to reading your report.
To be fair, I 'm rather a fan of the clean and analytical approach over a more "warm" and demonstrative sound which may explain my fondness for Salonen's conducting to begin with. I don't think that it's the right approach for everything (one approach is never right for everything) but I think that with enough intensity, it's the way to go particularly with 20th century music.
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