Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Libera me

September 10, 2007

Adrianne Pieczonka with Domingo
Photo: Rick Loomis/LAT 2007
LA Opera’s opening gala weekend concluded on Sunday with a one-night only performance of Verdi’s Requiem, which, despite its shortcomings, provided a moving counterpoint to the previous night’s opening performance of Fidelio. The performance was dedicated to Edgar Baitzel, LA Opera’s longtime Chief Operating Officer and a close friend of General Director, Placido Domingo. Baitzel died suddenly earlier this year and this performance was organized to recognize this loss to the whole company. Of course, Mr. Domingo lost another friend this week with the death of Luciano Pavarotti providing yet another reason for the performance of this peculiarly operatic form of memorial service. Domingo himself conducted the LA Opera orchestra and chorus emphasizing his personal place in these events.

It hardly seems fair to criticize such a performance under these circumstances. Much has been written about Domingo’s recent forays into conducting both here and in New York. And while it is true that his prowess as a conductor is nowhere near that of his vocal work, this hardly seems the time or place to grind an ax. Let it be said, however, that regardless of any issues with musical interpretation, the soloists enlisted for this afternoon could not have been any better. Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, mezzo Stephanie Blythe, and bass René Pape are at the top of their games and their singing was extraordinary and extraordinarily moving. I have strong positive feelings about all of these performers from prior viewings, especially Blythe whom I’ve heard in this piece before as recently as last year under James Conlon with the San Francisco Symphony. The originally scheduled tenor, Jonas Kaufmann, backed out at the last minute resulting in the appearance of a recent Operalia winner Arturo Chacón-Cruz. In such esteemed company, the pressure on a young singer must be tremendous and it should be said that despite some minor cracking along the way, he was more than sufficient and at times quite lyrical. The chorus sounded great and while it is still early, the performances this weekend bode well for Grant Gershon's tenure with the organization.

So even with all the rough edges, it was a Requiem to remember in that it was felt deeply by many for those that are missed.


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