January 27, 2019
The world premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice; the return of Pelléas et Mélisande after an absence of 25 years, conducted by James Conlon; Du Yun’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera about human trafficking, Angel’s Bone; and a Broadway musical starring Renée Fleming — they’re all part of Los Angeles Opera’s 2019-2020 season that was announced Sunday. And of course: there’s Plácido Domingo.
It’s impossible to overstate Domingo’s importance since he helped guide the creation of Los Angeles Opera in 1987. His name alone has been a formidable asset — on stage, in the pit, behind the scenes as an administrator, and internationally as the company’s greatest ambassador.
Not surprisingly Sunday’s announcement includes yet another opportunity for Domingo to add to his list of roles sung. A year from now, he will appear for the first time as the Duke of Nottingham in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux. The production will also feature the L.A. Opera debut of Spanish soprano Davinia Rodriguez, as Queen Elizabeth, and conductor Eun Sun Kim. The role of Roberto Devereux will be sung by tenor Ramón Vargas.
Domingo is part of an artistic/administrative troika that includes Music Director James Conlon and President/CEO Christopher Koelsch. Their influence is as important as Domingo’s in terms of establishing programming, artist selection and maintaining ongoing associations with directors such as Barrie Kosky, whose new production of Puccini’s La Bohème will open the season Sept. 14. The production’s world premiere also took place Sunday at the Komische Oper Berlin.
“I’m exceedingly pleased with the range, volume, and diversity of our next season,” said Koelsch. “Six of the seven mainstage productions will be new to Los Angeles, including director David McVicar’s production of Pelléas et Mélisande [from Scottish Opera]. It’s been 25 years since it was last presented here. (That production, which updated the setting of the opera to Malibu and took place during the O.J. Simpson trial, was directed by Peter Sellars and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.) The upcoming production will welcome back Willard White in the role of Arkel. He was Golaud when he sang with the company 25 years ago.
“A cynic would say I’m obliged to be pleased with the productions, conductors, designers, directors, and singers we’ve put together, but I genuinely am. Do I want more? Of course! I’ll always want more,” Koelsch added with a laugh.
One of the most important associations and initiatives that Koelsch spearheaded allowed for the expansion of the company beyond the 3,200-seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center. With its “Off Grand” series, the company has established an ongoing relationship with New York-based Beth Morrison Projects, Cal Arts’ REDCAT Theater, and the use of a restored downtown movie palace now known as The Theatre at Ace Hotel. The series allows L.A. Opera to venture outside traditional repertory, attract new audiences, and offer more reasonably priced performances. The current season saw the premiere of Ellen Reid’s provocative opera, prism, and will soon present David Lang’s The Loser, starring Rodney Gilfry.
“Our essential mandate,” Koelsch explained, “is to do illuminating productions of the standard repertory. But we also want to expand the tradition of what the canon is by offering persuasive productions of pieces that are less familiar. You might assume that means our ‘Off Grand’ series, but it also applies to our mainstage. We feel we have an obligation to present the next generation of directors, singers, designers, as well as conductors, composers, and librettists.”
The coming season’s mainstage and “Off Grand” offerings will include the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s updated, feminist take on the Orpheus legend, Eurydice, with a libretto by Sarah Ruhl based on her play. Aucoin will conduct the performances that will feature Danielle de Niese in the title role. The director will be Mary Zimmerman. Aucoin, Ruhl, and Zimmerman are all MacArthur “Genius” grant recipients.
In conjunction with the premiere, L.A. Opera will present a county-wide event called Eurydice Found. There will be an art performance called the Orphic Soundwalk, a site-specific dance work, Underworld/Underpass, by Heidi Duckler Dance, staged under the historic 7th Street Bridge, as well as a song cycle by Ricky Ian Gordon for soprano, clarinet, and piano, to be presented at the Boston Court Theater in Pasadena.
Next season the company will expand its list of performance venues to include The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, where it will present Du Yun’s Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, Angel’s Bone, to a libretto by Royce Vavrek. The opera has been described as a “hard-hitting allegory of human trafficking in modern times.”
L.A. Opera will also venture into the realm of Broadway with a presentation of the Adam Guettel/Craig Lucas musical The Light in the Piazza. The marquee star of this semistaged production will be Renée Fleming, who last appeared in a dramatic role with the company in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Even more spare will be the concert version of Handel’s Rodelinda, with soprano Lucy Crowe in the title role and countertenor Iestyn Davies as Bertarido, featuring Harry Bicket conducting The English Concert in the pit.
Since its formative years, L.A. Opera has reached out to the entertainment industry, inviting Academy Award-winning film directors (such as Herbert Ross, John Schlesinger, and Woody Allen) and designers to take on their first operatic projects.
Continuing in the tradition, the company will present a new production of The Marriage of Figaro directed by James Gray (The Lost City of Z) with scenery by Santo Loquasto and costumes by Christian Lacroix.
Garibaldo: Brandon Cedel
Director: James Gray