What do you get when you combine a bullfighter, a bandit and one of the most celebrated opera singers in history? LA Opera’s upcoming production of El Gato Montés: The Wildcat. This show really has it all: passionate melodies, flamenco dancers and drama that rivals your favorite reality TV shows.
Want to learn more? We’ve compiled what the most exciting parts of El Gato Montés: The Wildcat. Take a look for yourself below!
A scene from the Teatro de la Zarzuela’s 2017 Madrid production of El Gato Montés: The Wildcat. (Photo: Javier del Real)
Domingo passes the torch
Plácido Domingo as Rodrigo in LA Opera’s 2018 production of Don Carlo. (Photo: Cory Weaver)
Need we say more? Plácido Domingo, our very own Eli and Edythe Broad General Director, returns to the LAO stage for the second time this season as Juanillo, or “the Wildcat” in El Gato Montés. Fun fact: When LA Opera first performed El Gato Montés in 1994, Domingo sang the role of the bullfighter Rafael. He now passes the torch to tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz, who sings Rafael this time around.
Star soprano returns
Ana Maria Martinez in the title role of LA Opera’s 2017 production of Carmen. (Photo: Ken Howard)
You know who is also coming back? Soprano Ana María Martínez! She was last seen as Elisabetta in Verdi’s Don Carlo earlier this season, but she’s a beloved staple at LA Opera (having appeared in our productions of Carmen, Pagliacci and more.) She sings the love-struck Soleá in El Gato Montés, caught between her love for both Juanillo and Rafael.
Pasodoble El Gato Montes - YouTube
El Gato Montés maaaaaaay not be that well-known as a whole, but it does have some pretty recognizable music. The most famous is the pasodoble in Act II, which you’ve probably heard at some point in your life. If not, take a listen by clicking the YouTube link above.
A highly-anticipated return
Spanish conductor Jordi Bernàcer made his first LA Opera appearance in 2013’s Tosca and a concert of zarzuela and Latin American music. But he’s conducted all over the world, including Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, San Francisco Opera, Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova, and the Mozart Festival of La Coruña (just to name a few). He’s a true champion of Spanish music and we’re elated to welcome him back to the LAO stage.
Young Artists galore
Niru Liu as Mrs. Alexander in LA Opera’s 2018 production of Satyagraha. (Photo: Cory Weaver)
Our Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artists are the “secret sauce” in many of our shows. We have a few young but very talented singers in El Gato Montés, including baritones Juan Carlos Heredia (Hormigón) and Michael J. Hawk (Caireles) and mezzo-soprano Niu Liu (Shepherd).
Did we mention flamenco?
If great music and killer drama isn’t enough, come for the flamenco! The choreography in this show is by flamenco great Cristina Hoyos (who made her LA Opera debut choreographing 1992’s Carmen) and celebrated dancer/choreographer Jesús Ortega, who’ll lead the skilled group of Spanish dancers for El Gato Montés. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled on the blog and our social media pages in the coming weeks for behind-the-scenes footage of our flamenco dancers at work.
Have you heard the news? Ellen Reid, composer of “p r i s m” which had its world premiere at LA Opera Off Grand last year, won this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Music.
Photo courtesy of James Matthew Daniel
Established in 1917 by Joseph Pulitzer, the annual award recognizes achievements in newspaper, magazine/online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States.
Set to the libretto written by Roxie Perkins, “p r i s m” had its world premiere in November 2018 at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (or REDCAT) in a production directed by James Darrah and produced by Beth Morrison Projects. Per the Pulitzer committee, “p r i s m” was hailed as “[a] bold new operatic work that uses sophisticated vocal writing and striking instrumental timbres to confront difficult subject matter: the effects of sexual and emotional abuse.”
Reid shares her award with the Aretha Franklin, who was recognized posthumously for her achievements in American music.
Anna Schubert as Bibi (center) in the world premiere of Ellen Reid’s “p r i s m” (Photo: Larry Ho/LA Opera)
“I am blown away and incredibly honored to receive this year’s Pulitzer Prize in music. Composing “p r i s m” was a challenging, rewarding and deeply personal experience, and I hope this opera will help shed light on the experience of surviving sexual assault. While Roxie and I did not plan for the timeliness of the subject matter, I am so grateful that it has resonated with audiences,” Reid told LA Opera.
She continued: “A massive thank you to the collaborators who are central to this work: Roxie Perkins, Beth Morrison and everyone at BMP, James Darrah, Julian Wachner and the folks at Trinity Church Wall Street, Chris Bordenave Rebecca Jo Loeb, Anna Schubert, Tatiana Barber, Charbel Rohayem, Gigi Todisco, Christopher Koelsch & LA Opera, Daniela Candillari, PROTOTYPE, Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Garth MacAleavey, Adam Rigg, Molly Irelan, Pablo Santiago, Eclipse Projects, Adam Lesser, Karen & Randy Reid.”
Reid also stated she would celebrate by “listening to some Aretha.”
Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera’s Sebastian Paul and Marybelle Musco President and CEO, also extended his congratulations, saying: “Few things are more gratifying than supporting the emergence of an exciting, exceptional and bold voice in the operatic scene,” said “We are so proud to have partnered with Beth Morrison for the world premiere of Ellen Reid’s insightful, incisive, wrenching, knowing, erudite ‘p r i s m,’ and thrilled that the piece resonated with the Pulitzer Prize committee. We can’t wait for her return to the LAO family.”
The world premiere of Henry Mollicone and Shishir Kurup’s Moses, presented through LA Opera and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, was a massive success when it premiered last month (in our humble opinion). Conducted by our very own James Conlon, Moses featured a cast and chorus of nearly 500 from Los Angeles-area community groups performing alongside LA Opera singers and orchestra members.
Every spring since 2007, LA Opera has opened its stage doors to all aspiring performers in the Los Angeles community—including singers, dancers and musicians—to perform along with opera professionals. The Cathedral at Our Lady of the Angels has generously donated their facility for the program’s use since its inception.
Take a look at some photos from the performance below!
Michael J. Hawk (center) as Moses with the chorus in the world premiere of Henry Mollicone and Shishir Kurup’s Moses (Photo: Taso Papadakis)
Of course, we couldn’t have done it without all the participating organizations that made Moses possible, including: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, East LA Performing Arts Magnet, Hamilton High School, Holy Family Catholic Church, Performing Arts For All, Pueri Cantores San Gabriel Valley, The Sacred Heart School Choir, The Colburn Community School of Performing Arts String Orchestra, The Master’s Ringers Lake Ave. Church, Urban Voices Project, and Zarzuela Project of LA Opera.
Let’s face it—watching YouTube videos of your favorite opera singers from the past just isn’t the same as seeing them live. We wish we could travel back in time to see those epic performances that changed history. Thankfully, BASE Hologram has brought the past to present day (with a touch of the future).
We’re so excited to team up with the LA Times Festival of Books and BASE Hologram to present Callas in Concert: The Hologram Tour starring Maria Callas herself. Well, sort of. It’s actually a very realistic hologram— and it’s so advanced, it even reacts to the audience.
Photo courtesy of BASE Hologram
But a concert featuring technology this advanced takes time. We talked with those who brought Callas back to “life,” and what steps they took to make the hologram as lifelike as possible. In our opinion, it’s pretty dang cool.
According to Marty Tudor, BASE Hologram’s CEO of Production, the process from start to finish took about a year to complete.
“Maria Callas was a very unique and special performer whose influence transcended her genre,” Tudor told LA Opera. “Her contributions to the field are nothing short of groundbreaking, which made her an ideal choice.”
BASE Callas Hologram Demo - YouTube
Even though no artificial intelligence is used, the team at BASE Hologram has developed a hologram that reacts to the audience with the use of a body double. Stephen Wadsworth, Director of Opera Studies at The Juilliard School, was tagged to develop the program and also work with a body double who mimicked Callas’ personal movements and performance style.
“We started with a body double who worked closely with [Wadsworth], and then we took the results of that and worked on it digitally along with, in many cases, cleaned up and re-mastered cuts of the songs,” Tudor said. “The technology has evolved so the team can for the first time strip out the vocals and separate the tracks from both orchestra and other singers.”
After the body double’s performance was recorded, BASE Hologram married the audio with digital and laser imaging, followed by CGI techniques to create the project. A full image of Callas was then fleshed out and finalized for the stage.
“Her music was always best experienced in intimate settings which makes her a natural fit for this type of experience. She also was and still is, the definitive name in opera and the original diva.”
Tudor, as well as the BASE hologram team, are thrilled with the response from audiences. From longtime Callas fans to music lovers in general, this type of production defies the limits of technology and art. Combine that with LA Opera’s award-winning orchestra and the memories will basically make themselves.
“We are fusing artistry with extraordinary theatrical stagecraft to leverage this amazing new type of technology that wasn’t around even a just few year ago. It is a state-of-the-art spectacle.”
Can’t wait to experience all the operas in our 2019/20 season? Or do you have one favorite opera that you can’t get enough of? (It’s okay, we have our favorites too). You’ll have to wait until opening night to see the magic live onstage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t immerse yourself in the stories and histories behind your favorite operas in the meantime.
To kick off the LA Times Festival of Books, we’ve rounded up the books our 19/20 season favorites are based on. Read the play that helped spark both the French Revolution and Mozart’s imagination – The Marriage of Figaro. Or pick up a copy of Psycho: A Novel, the book that Alfred Hitchcock based his film on (and that he famously purchased all copies of to prevent avid readers from spoiling the surprise of the classic film).
La Vie de bohème by Henri Murger
Puccini Without Excuses by William Berger
Bohemian Paris by Jerrold Seigel
The Light in the Piazza
The Light in the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer
The Italians by Luigi Barzini
Musical Theater: An Appreciation by Alyson McLamore
The Magic Flute
Mateki: The Magic Flute by Edmund Shern
The Magic Flute Unveiled by Jacques Chailley
Mozart the Freemason by Jacques Henry
Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl
Georgics by Virgil
Metamorphoses by Ovid
The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir
Donizetti and His Operas by William Ashbrook
The Unhappy Favourite: or, the Earl of Essex by John Banks
Pelléas et Mélisande
Pelléas et Mélisande by Maurice Maeterlinck
Claude Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande by Roger Nichols and Richard Langham Smith
Debussy: A Painter in Sound by Stephen Walsh
The Marriage of Figaro
The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
Mozart and His Operas by David Cairns
Memoirs by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Handel’s Operas 1704-1726 by Winton Dean and John Merrill Knapp
Handel by Christopher Hogwood
Handel and his Singers by C. Steven Larue
Psycho: A Novel by Robert Bloch
Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello
A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann by Steven C. Smith
The Essential Abolitionist: What You Need to Know about Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery by John Vanek
Reconfiguring Myth and Narrative in Contemporary Opera by Yayoi Uno Everett
Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery by Siddharth Kara
Sure you can find these books online, but a visit to your favorite local bookstore has its own special magic.
At LA Opera, we’re not just invested in putting on a great show—we also care about making long-lasting memories. So why not take advantage of your trip to Downtown Los Angeles with an evening (or afternoon) full of dining, dancing or even a giant slide that overlooks the city?
We’ve been in downtown for a long time, and we’re so excited with all the new happenings going on in our neighborhood. We got you covered with a list of fun activities all within a mile or two from the opera house—so whether you’re a student looking for fun cheap thrills or really want to treat yourself, there is something for every opera-goer on any budget.
LA may be expensive, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any hidden gems at a discount price. Below are options for a night out that’ll make your evening perfect (and also make your wallet sing).
Grand Central Market
If you’re trying to save on cash, check out Grand Central Market (only an 11-minute walk from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion) for some affordable yet tasty treats. You can check out places like Belcampo Meat Co. for burgers, Ana Maria for tacos, and more for great food in a low-key atmosphere.
Did you know that Angels Flight railway will take you steps away from LA Opera? Live your La La Land fantasy and take Angels Flight from Olive Street to Grand Avenue (after dining at Grand Central Market, of course). Fares are only $1 (and 50 cents for Metro/TAP card holders)…
Walk through Grand Park
…or to save on even more cash, simply walk to the performance through Grand Park! They often host their own events, so check out their events calendar to catch festive holiday displays or live music while on your way to LA Opera.
Got some hard-earned cash to spend? Downtown LA has recently seen a boom in upscale restaurants and bars, and they’re all a stone’s throw from the opera house. Below are some activities that’ll show off your fine taste (and give your credit card a workout).
Kendall’s Brasserie is a Music Center classic. Located right below the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (underneath those iconic red umbrellas), Kendall’s offers hearty meals and great cocktails just steps away from the stage—which means you can wolf down an extra cocktail or two and still make it on-time.
One of LA’s hottest spots is Perch LA’s rooftop lounge on Hill Street, which overlooks all of Downtown LA. Open until 2 a.m. on weekends, it’s the perfect place for your nightcap following a performance at LA Opera. They also serve food, so if you prefer to eat after the show, Perch LA has you covered.
Want more music with your music? For something a little more lively, head to bluewhale for live jazz and art after the opera (they’re also open until 2 a.m.). Located in Little Tokyo, it’s only half a mile from the opera house. Balance your opera with some jazz!
Bringing the whole family to the opera? Be sure to attend on one of our Domingo Family Days! We pick performances from the most family-friendly operas we have in a season and do lots of fun activities, like meeting the cast, cookie decorating, games and more. Here are some activities to accompany your Family Day experience.
(Our next Family Day is for El Gato Montés: The Wildcat on Sunday, May 19.)
Gizmo’s Cereal Bar
Start your afternoon in LA with a bite to eat at Gizmo’s Cereal Bar, Downtown LA’s first restaurant devoted entirely to—you guessed it—cereal. With delicious treats at low prices (and only a little over a mile from the opera), it’ll satisfy cravings for both children and adults.
The Skyslide at Skyspace is a 45-foot glass slide on the exterior of the US Bank Tower, about a half-mile away from LA Opera. You can ride the slide at about 1,000 feet above Downtown LA. It’s perfect for kids (and adults) who crave adventure. Click here for ticket information to Skyspace.
Regardless of how you spend you time at the opera, we hope you’ll remember your trip to the opera for a lifetime. Will we see you there?
Work hard, play hard? Not at Opera Camp. We have so much fun that we forget it’s work. Samuel Bindschadler, a past camper, tells us about his experience from a few years ago in Then I Stood Up: A Civil Rights Cycle (which also happens to be this summer’s production). Read what he has to say below.
Find out about this summer’s Opera Camp (now a three week program!) here.
Envision yourself on stage. You’re in character, singing a role you love, and connecting with hundreds of audience members. You’ve worked hard for this moment and it’s more wonderful than you could have ever imagined. It also doesn’t feel like work, because you’ve enjoyed every minute.
This is how I feel every year during LA Opera’s summer youth program, Opera Camp. It’s some of the most rewarding “work” I’ve had the pleasure of doing. This year, I will participate in the camp for the fourth time, for which I am immensely grateful. Over the past few years, I have learned so much from amazing teaching artists and directors (particularly Eli Villanueva, Leslie Stevens, and Karen Hogle Brown) and even Maestro James Conlon.
The camp only lasts two weeks, but it is an intense two weeks. It never ceases to astound me how quickly the camp passes and how much I learn in such a short period of time. Few words can do justice to how working with Eli, Leslie, Karen, and all of the other magnificent performers and teaching artists enhance my (and other kids) knowledge of acting, singing, performance, and an artist’s responsibility. Whether through the lyrics of Hans Krása in Brundibár—in which, in 2011, I played “Little Joe,” a young man, who seeks out aid from unwilling adults to save his ailing mother—or Then I Stood Up—in which, this year, I will play the role of Pastor Jim—LA Opera always makes sure we learn both about performing and the history behind each opera.
LA Opera does this from the very first day, where it quickly becomes clear singing just scratches the surface as to what your job is as a performer. Students learn the historical context behind the reason each and every character decides to pursue the courses of action that they do, and what the historical significance is behind their actions. Students even have the rare opportunity of visiting some of the most prominent museums in Los Angeles County, including, but not limited to, the Japanese American National Museum and the Museum of the Holocaust.
LA Opera’s staff thoroughly provides insight on the lives of those to whom the operas reference, whether they be historically fictitious characters from the very real life of artist and educator Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (Friedl), or the fantastical lives of Akiko and her spirit companions in the extreme conditions of the Arizona desert, wherein government officials wrongfully imprisoned thousands of Japanese Americans in inadequate internment camps (The White Bird of Poston). Some of the people in the stories we share have had family in the country for decades; some are only first generation citizens; and some are newly-arrived immigrants; notwithstanding their legal status, these people are all people nonetheless—a truth some have difficulty accepting, motivating us to share their stories and discourage further prejudice.
The educational journey is nothing short of a phenomenon, considering that the people portraying these disenfranchised citizens of a country founded on freedom are children. In the summer of 2015, LA Opera put on an abridged rendition of Then I Stood Up: A Civil Rights Cycle. It explored every aspect of the four works, respectively, and it also exceeded my wildest expectations of the capabilities of adolescent performers, myself included. It is my dearest hope that Opera Camp will continue to gather a following of like minded individuals, intent on sharing the stories they have come to know over the course of an ephemeral but memorable two weeks—weeks which I, myself found to be some of the most enriching weeks of my life.
Seventeen-year-old Samuel James Bindschadler is eager to return for his fourth year at LA Opera’s youth program, Opera Camp, and has the honor and privilege of being a part of the debut of LA Opera’s original composition of Then I Stood Up. Hailing from Venice Beach, California, the young artist aspires to pursue a career in the performing arts, and to continue his studies in conducting, piano, and other keyboard instruments.
Think that living on the West Side, taking public transportation, needing ADA services, and being new to classical music should keep someone away from the magic of LA Opera? If so, let us introduce you to Adele Little, our LA Opera supporter who defies what most consider obstacles.
Three years ago, Little decided to treat herself by subscribing to her first season at LA Opera. She tells us that her commitment to making the lengthy trek for each performance is “one of the best things [she’s] have ever done.”
After traveling via bus from the West Side, she is greeted by our guest services, who accompany her to James Conlon’s pre-performance lectures, which “help a lot to know what to look and listen for,” she says.
Though Little tells us that she has loved every production she has seen, her favorite LA Opera productions have been Salome, Akhnaten, and Satyagraha (we also love that bold list). After learning about the immense care that we have for our costumes and wigs at a donor event, Adele gained a new understanding of the financial support required to make an opera come alive.
“Even though I do not have a lot of money, I do what I can when I can. I always make sure to save $100 to become a Friend, and then anything more than that, I do when I can,” Little said. “I figure, if I am donating $100, and someone else is donating $100, then that all adds up, right?”
She added: “I feel bad that I didn’t donate when I was growing up – I saved everything for retirement, but if I went back and was the same person, I would have donated to the opera.”
Thank you, Adele.
Not only does Adele want Los Angeles to be known for its world-class opera, but she also wants others to learn about how much LA Opera relies on charitable donations. To make a tax-deductible contribution and join Adele in supporting the future of opera in Los Angeles, click here.
Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong sings her first Mozart role in LA Opera’s The Clemency of Titus. She gave us her thoughts on the character Sesto, a Roman patrician who is caught between his love love for another and his loyalty to Emperor Titus (you know, the ultimate “pals before gals” dilemma).
Elizabeth DeShong as Sesto in LA Opera’s 2019 production of The Clemency of Titus (Photo: Cory Weaver/LA Opera)
Is this your role debut as Sesto? What drew you to interpret this character?
Yes, this is my role debut as Sesto. Honestly, when I first accepted the contract, I was only familiar with the piece in relation to my familiarity with Sesto’s arias and the opera’s topic of clemency.
How has your understanding of Sesto progressed from when you started learning the role, to now?
My first impression, when beginning my study of Sesto, was not a positive one. I had a difficult time caring about his plight. How could he be so weak? Who would attempt to kill their best friend for an emotionally abusive lover? Even the two arias felt oddly similar, self-serving and spineless. Then, I realized, the problem wasn’t him, it was me. I was drawing conclusions without empathy. Emotional abuse tangles the mind and distorts perspective. It is precisely the love through clemency that Titus shows Sesto that solidifies the fact that he will never act in the same way again. That said, the text and music, at face value, weren’t enough to convince me of his suffering and worthiness of a second chance. It became my challenge, and subsequent reward, to convey his internal conflict and the truth of his devotions, however misguided at times, through my chosen ornamentation, dynamic variations, and physical responses to the other characters. I had to find a way to portray Sesto that would warrant Titus’ clemency.
As an artist who sings music from many different eras of opera, what about Mozart’s music stands out to you?
This is my first Mozart role, oddly enough, so we are still in the “getting to know you” phase, operatically speaking. I, of course, know The Magic Flute, Così fan tutte, and The Marriage of Figaro as a listener, but my familiarity with Mozart, as a performer, has been from his concert works. The ‘Lacrimosa’ movement from Mozart’s Requiem is a personal favorite of mine. For me, it is Mozart’s ability to distill music to its essence, easily understandable rhythms and frameworks, and then infuse it with such a rich harmonic language, that makes it unique and singularly effective.
This is the second time you’ve sung with LA Opera. How has your experience been returning to the company?
It is always a pleasure to return to LA Opera. And, yes, I know that is what I’m “supposed” to say. It just happens to be true. LA as a city has such a unique energy and there are certainly worse places to be in the winter. What really makes LA Opera special, however, are the people behind the scenes! The stage management team, music staff, and wigs/makeup/costuming folks are all AMAZING! We singers get the applause at the end of the night, but much of it is owed to the hard work of the lovely people back stage.
What are your favorite things to do while visiting Los Angeles?
I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface here in Los Angeles. With our busy rehearsal schedules and then performances, it can be difficult to get out and explore. I did make a trip to The Last Bookstore and loved it. That said, people watching from my downtown balcony provides quite a bit of entertainment! To anyone reading this, feel free to Tweet some recommendations to @egdeshong! I’d love some insider tips!
Our new production of The Clemency of Titus features some pretty realistic stage effects. Like setting the entire stage on fire (yeah, you read that right). It took a team of 100 more than a year to create these state-of-the-art effects, and the results are mind-blowing.
Through a series of three behind-the-scenes videos, take a look at how we created stage magic in The Clemency of Titus. Can you guess how many sheets of gold leaf are meticulously applied onto the stage walls? The numbers may surprise you.
A scene from LA Opera’s 2019 production of The Clemency of Titus (Photo: Cory Weaver/LA Opera)
We can get pretty crafty at LA Opera. For example, we used a mixture of silk organza fabric (approximately 150 feet of it) and projected video images to create the realistic fire effects at the end of Act I. Pretty cool (err… hot?), right?
CLEMENCY OF TITUS Inventing Fire A - YouTube
Building the Set
All good things take time. And The Clemency of Titus is no exception. A team of about 100 production staff members created the brand new set in about 16 months. And that includes everything from the preliminary sketches to actually building the set itself.
CLEMENCY OF TITUS Building The Set A - YouTube
Not everything is what it seems, and the chandeliers we constructed are no exception. We used a combination of plywood, pine steel and paint to get that 3-D effect. They were traced, cut out, laminated and finally cleaned up, all before they finally lit up the stage.
CLEMENCY OF TITUS Optical Illusions - YouTube
Now you know our secrets to creating stage magic. Will we see you at the show?