LA Opera Ups the Ante With 2020–2021 Season

Michael Zwiebach on January 28, 2020
A scene from LA Opera's 2007 production of Tannhäuser | Credit: Robert Millard

Los Angeles Opera announced its extremely newsworthy 2020–2021 season over the weekend: six fully staged operas (five in productions new to Los Angeles) and one concert performance, plus more Off-Grand excitement. While hewing to the repertory staples, the company continues to find ways to diversify its schedule.

Verdi’s Il trovatore, returning to LA Opera for the first time since 2004, starts the season off in blood-and-thunder mode, with Francisco Negrin’s production (which has bowed at Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Teatro Real Madrid, and Royal Danish Opera) starring Angel Blue (Leonora), Gregory Kunde (Manrico), Ekaterina Semenchuk (Azucena), and Vladimir Stoyanov (Count di Luna) and conducted by LAO Music Director James Conlon (Sept. 26 – Oct. 18). That’s followed by Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser (Oct. 17 – Nov. 7), also conducted by Conlon, and Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Nov. 21 – Dec. 13) conducted by Roberto Abbado, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Jan. 30 – Feb. 21, 2021), conducted by Conlon, all three in productions that are new to Los Angeles.

Kiera Duffy in the world-premiere production of Breaking the Waves | Credit: Dominic M. Mercier

Missy Mazzoli’s surprise hit from 2016, Breaking the Waves, appears in a production from Opera Philadelphia, directed by James Darrah and conducted by Grant Gershon. The cast includes rising star Sydney Mancasola, who’s also playing Bess McNeill at the Edinburgh Festival and in Adelaide this season; baritone Alexander Birch Elliott as Jan Nyman; and Melody Moore as Bess’s mother (Feb. 27 – March 21, 2021). At the other end of the repertory spectrum, Harry Bicket leads The English Concert in a concert performance of Handel’s Tamerlano. (April 30, 2021). Conlon also conducts a new orchestral song cycle by Kevin Puts, The Brightness of Light, based on the letters of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and starring Renée Fleming and Rod Gilfry (May 16, 2021). The season winds up with Verdi’s Aida, in a production designed by RETNA and directed by Francesca Zambello. James Conlon is once again on the podium (May 15 – June 5, 2021).

A scene from Francesca Zambello's production of Aida with SF Opera | Credit: Cory Weaver

The Off-Grand series, one of LA Opera’s successful innovations under President and CEO Christopher Koelsch, sees a Halloween screening of the horror film Get Out with live orchestral accompaniment from the LA Opera Orchestra conducted by composer Michael Abels, with the DC6 Singers, who performed on the original soundtrack. At The Theatre at Ace Hotel, Oct. 30–31.

Veils for Desire is a staged concert of arias that “veil” or transform an unspeakable desire into a new, mysterious form. Directed by Zack Winokur, the performance features countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, tenor Paul Appleby, and composer/pianist Matthew Aucoin, joined by musicians from AMOC (the American Modern Opera Company) and narrator Wayne Koestenbaum, whose playful, multi-layered texts — written for the occasion — weave these works together. At Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, March 31, 2021.

In Our Daughter’s Eyes, a new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun and writer/director Michael Joseph McQuilken, created with and starring baritone Nathan Gunn, envisions the journey of a man approaching fatherhood, through the journal he keeps for his unborn daughter. At REDCAT, April 8–11, 2021.

It’s a season that continues LA Opera’s recent history of matching ambition with fidelity to the core canon.