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Special Seasoning

January 31, 2011

Alek Shrader and the cast of Albert Herring from Santa Fe Opera in 2010 Photo: Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera 2010

After a week of teasers on Facebook, the Los Angeles Opera will announce its 2011/2012 season line-up tomorrow. It’s a very good, and relatively well-balanced season overall and should definitely be attractive to both regular subscribers and new patrons alike. (At least I know that I’m excited about it and think you should be too.) Still coping with ongoing economic realities, the company will again offer six productions, three in the Fall of 2011 and the rest in the Winter/Spring of 2012. Best of all, the company has avoided the pitfall of the last decade by offering up mostly operas that are either new to the company or haven’t been seen in the last five years.

The season opens on Sep 17 with the company premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, starring a predominantly Eastern European/Russian cast including Dalibor Jenis in the title role and Oksana Dyka as Tatiana. James Conlon will conduct these performances as well as those of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, which will be playing in repertory at the same time. Cosi will welcome the local debuts of Aleksandra Kurzak and the über-hawt Ildebrando d’Arcangelo among others. November will bring a revival of Ian Judges’s production of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, last seen here in 2005 with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon. And while those days are not coming back, this revival will come about as close as you can get with the Juliette of Nino Machaidze (who has sung the role to great acclaim in Salzburg and elsewhere) and the Romeo of one of opera’s other hottest male commodities Vittorio Grigolo. The company’s artistic director Placido Domingo will conduct.

James Conlon will return in the Spring to conduct two more productions. First will be Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra featuring Placido Domingo doing his much-lauded tenor turn in the title role. The cast also includes Ana Maria Martinez, Vitalij Kowaljow (as Fiesco), and Paolo Gavanelli (as Paolo Albiani). Opposite this Boccanegra will be Benjamin Britten’s comedy Albert Herring in the very well-received Paul Curran production from the 2010 Santa Fe Opera Festival. As there, the ensemble cast will center on the handsome rising star, Alek Shrader in his company debut. The season will close out with a revival of Puccini’s La Boheme, opening on May 12 under the baton of Patrick Summers. And while this is certainly a familiar quantity to LA Opera regulars, the casting of young soon-to-be-superstars Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez may not be. This real life couple has won accolades around the country in both Dallas and San Diego, and their appearances here is a smart move for the company.



You know, I have the announcement, I have a posting up already, and I managed to miss Gavanelli's participation in the season. Wow, they got one of the great Italian baritones of our day to take a role as short as Paolo? Presumably he's also covering the title role.

I dunno, I'm glad you're excited, but....
I bet you're right about the cover situation. And I'll admit this is not a big season or one filled with new productions or groundbreaking stuff. However, in terms of the last decade and thinking about what local audiences have and haven't seen here, this is pretty darn good. Only 2 of the three operas have been seen here any time since 2000 and one of those, R and J, is being revived for the first time. This is far preferable to where things were 6 or 7 years ago where we had some combination of Boheme, Butterfly,or Traviata appearing year after year.
Patrick has talked some sense into me, and I'm planning to stand down instead of recoiling every time I see an opera season that doesn't consist of, say, Janacek, Handel, Berlioz, Ades, Britten, Monteverdi, and Birtwhistle, which is what I want to see and four other people in the world want to see.

Oh, and Schreker, of course.
Hey, sign me up as the first subscriber to the Lisa Hirsch Opera Company because you are so speaking my language.
You're on!

In the mid-90s, a friend and I roughed out what it would cost to have an opera company where everyone, including the singers, was on salary. Even without paying very much - we were talking about $50,000/person - we hit $7 million really fast, and I think that did not include, say, RENT and SETS.

Opera is expensive. But if I were Bill Gates, or even Sergei Brin, I would so have an opera company.
Well, duh, *of course* Schreker!

Seriously though, I'm not naive, I know that in the US and in this economy, risks are going to be few and a season of all 20th century stuff is a non-starter. It's just I'm sick of Domingo vanity projects and his "conducting", *another* Boheme and an opera that is totally unsuited for the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Domingo walked away from a mess he helped create in Washington and I wish he'd do the same here.

What are they thinking doing Britten's two chamber operas in a barn like The Dot? It was sad at the Turn of the Screw years ago, I was in the Founders Circle and could barely hear the music and the voices.

Why spread out the season like that? It's not as if The Dot is packed with events from September to June since the Philharmonic left, do 'em September to November like San Francisco does, they might even get some tourist dollars from people who'll go to something in SF and here.

And again no Die Tote Stadt as promised in the Recovered Voices hype when the series started (it was actually supposed to be done in 2010-11).

*sigh* I found an old LAO t-shirt the other day, from the 90-91 season: Turn of the Screw, Fanciulla, Cosi, Elektra, Orefeo & Euridice, Idomeneo, Nixon in China and Fidelio.
Now THAT is a season.
Saw Ana Maria as Amelia in SF and she was outstanding. She and Placido sing really well together so that is going to be an absolute treat for Domingo & Martinez fans. By the way, most Washingtonians are going to miss Domingo's leadership. That is the buzz amongst the opera goers anyway but unfortunately only the whiners comments seem to appear in the blogs. Since many have been affected by the terrible economy, they realize that blaming him is really unfair. Most people say - so it is his fault that the housing market is so bad, that there is so much unemployment - come on. He is part of a team.
Domingo appears to be something of an absentee manager, and his two companies are in worse financial trouble than other major opera companies. Can you think of anyone else who has the time for a full schedule of singing & conducting AND running two opera companies?
While it is true that Domingo's work load and schedule is unique in the opera world, I'm not so sure that the balance sheets of the two companies he's led in recent years are the best measure of his leadership. Artistically, I think LAO has been far more interesting than virtaully any other company its size in the US since at least 2004 in terms of both repertory and staging.

Furthermore, the companies have had much more access to Domingo as both performer and conductor. In contrast his first appearance in SF in 17 years was hailed as a major event selling out houses and garnering special rules for exchaning tickets into his performances. He has, and continues to appear annually for both houses with performances that are still garnering a lot of positive atention.

Is this the best of all possible worlds? No. But I think there is a trade off and I don't know if LAO is necessarily that much worse for the wear. They are still open for business and with a season that I still feel is better than much of what's on offer elsewhere. Heck he must be doing something right considering that the marketing highlight of SFO's next season is a wholesale import of Lucrezia Borgia with Renee Fleming (again with thorny exchange rules)- a production and star package that came out of WNO. Plenty of opera copanies who don't have Mr. Domingo at their helm still seem pretty eager to take whatever handouts he's willing to give.
The balance sheets are a significant measure of leadership, though. First do no harm, and all that. I am caught between gratitude that LAO did the Freyer Ring and tearing my hair out over some of the evident errors, like spreading each cycle out over more than a week, which may have had an impact on ticket sales.

You're certainly right about access to Domingo, and I have no idea why it took so long for SFO to get him back, though I would bet on money. We had an awful lot of mediocrities coming through during the Mansouri and Rosenberg eras.

Mmm, well, Lucrezia might be the marketing high point for next year, but the musical high point will surely be Nixon in China.
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