LA Opera looks more interesting post-Domingo

LA Opera looks more interesting post-Domingo


norman lebrecht

January 27, 2020

The new season, just rolled out, is no longer singer-driven:

Il Trovatore
Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, conducted by James Conlon, starring soprano Angel Blue and tenor Gregory Kunde
Sept. 26 and Oct. 4, 7, 10, 15 and 18

Composed by Richard Wagner, conducted by James Conlon, starring Issachah Savage
Oct. 17, 25 and 29, and Nov. 1, 4 and 7

La Cenerentola (Cinderella)
Composed by Gioachino Rossini, directed by Stefan Herheim, conducted by Roberto Abbado, starring mezzo-soprano Serena Malfi and tenor Levy Sekgapane
Nov. 21 and 29, and Dec. 2, 5, 9 and 13

Don Giovanni
Composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, conducted by James Conlon, directed by Kasper Holten, starring bass Ildebrando D’Arcangelo
Jan. 30 and Feb. 6, 11, 14, 17 and 21, 2021

Breaking the Waves
Music by Missy Mazzoli, libretto by Royce Vavrek, conducted by Grant Gershon, starring soprano Sydney Mancasola and baritone Alexander Birch Elliott
Feb. 27 and March 6, 11, 14, 18 and 21, 2021

Tamerlano” (concert)
Composed by George Frideric Handel, with Harry Bicket conducting the English Concert and countertenor Bejun Mehta singing the title role
April 30, 2021

Composed by Giuseppe Verdi, directed by Francesca Zambello, conducted by James Conlon, starring soprano Liudmyla Monastryska
May 15, 23, 27 and 30, and June 2 and 5, 2021

The Brightness of Light (concert)
Composed by Kevin Puts, conducted by James Conlon, starring soprano Renée Fleming and baritone Rod Gilfry
May 16, 2021

This was so last season


  • Calvin says:

    I wonder if and when it also will roll out the independent investigation of Domingo conducted by a well-regarded international law firm (the preliminary findings of which apparently prompted him to suddenly skip town without making any claims about his contract rights).

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Given he has “left town” so that he won’t have to respond to questions, there may not be much that the investigation can actually report.

  • dinkrol says:

    I hope you understand that Domingo planned and engaged artists for this and obviously for the next season

  • Andy says:

    What an awfull programm. Of course Im not surprised, they now have a too non professional general manager. RIP LA Opera.

    • Emil says:

      What’s so awful about it?

      • david hilton says:

        What’s so awful about it, you ask? You might start with the decision to engage a 67-year-old Manrico for the Trovatore opening night; and to pair him with a 36-year-old Leonora? “Io fremo!”

    • Calvin says:

      I’m trying hard to to use Earth-logic to process these pro-Domingo comments: The programming is “awful,” so much so that it signals the demise of the LAO yet “Domingo planned” the programming “and engaged artists.”

    • Peter San Diego says:

      I can’t make out what’s so awful about the program, myself. Six operas from the historical repertoire, and two newish ones (one in a concert performance): seems like a fine balance to me. Too many operas in Italian, perhaps? No French opera?

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        And nothing before about 1800. But isn’t that very old already?

        “Dialogue des Carmelites”. What about that? Religious themes rub you raw? OK, what about something more politically correct and progressive then? Oh, wait…

    • Michael Landman-Karny says:

      While I don’t agree with many of Christopher Koelsch’s (LA Opera CEO) programming or casting choices, he is a very talented arts management executive. He also has an encyclopedic knowlege of opera.

      He has run LA Opera for years. Domingo was literally in town for 3 weeks a year.

  • Go 49ers says:

    That’s a whole lotta Conlon… Almost enough to make you think he isn’t much in demand anywhere else…

    • M2N2K says:

      If you think that four standard repertoire operas plus one single concert within a full year do not leave any time for James Conlon to do anything else, you are badly mistaken.

    • Bruce says:

      …but not quite enough to make you think this is his job, apparently.

    • Jedidiah says:

      I’d actually argue it’s probably an attempt to transition him more fully as the artistic leader of the company post Domingo.

      • Michael Landman-Karny says:

        Conlon’s contract was only renewed for one more year in 2020-2021. He makes over a $1M per year and the LA Opera (with its tight budget) will probably replace him with a younger, cheaper music director in 2021-2022.

  • Dalledu Alletre says:

    This guy Issachah Savage is quite something. Speaks his name as “izakaya,” like the Japanese snack bar. Calls Bacchus, as in Ariadne, “Mr. Bacchus.” Sings with an effortless top. All very sweet. Needs to work though on his German and on his operatic gravitas.

    Nice to see Rodney Gilfry’s still working.

    There’s too much of Conlon here. A great opera company needs strong guests.

    I can never understand why large companies take on operas by composers who have not proven their theater credentials in smaller places. It’s almost always one huge waste of resources after another.

    • MWnyc says:

      “I can never understand why large companies take on operas by composers who have not proven their theater credentials in smaller places.”

      Wait, are you talking about Kevin Puts and Missy Mazzoli?

      Puts has written three operas already, and all of them have been produced in multiple venues. His first, Silent Night, has had 20 productions.

      Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves has already been produced in Philadelphia, New York, metro Los Angeles (Orange County) and San Francisco (Berkeley), and Edinburgh. It’s being produced this winter and spring in Adelaide, Houston, and Brooklyn, where it’s being done by no less than the Met Opera with Yannick conducting.

      L.A. Opera is not exactly taking a blind leap into the unknown here.

      • Dalledu Alletre says:

        It’s hard to dialog here now with the long and unknown delays of moderation for everyone, but thank you. I am in Europe and had no knowledge of these many stagings of the works of Puts (barely on my radar in any capacity) or Mazzoli.

    • Michael Landman-Karny says:

      The LA Opera orchestra is not a full-time orchestra. It is mostly staffed by excellent musicians who make most of their money by playing on film soundtracks.

      Until Conlon, the orchestra was pretty bad. The musicians were under-rehearsed and unmotivated. Kent Nagano tried to get the orchestra up to par and didn’t succeed. Conlon, on the other hand, has been pushing the players hard and the results have been superb. Under guest conductors, the results have been variable.

      I am frankly worried about their upcoming Roberto Devereaux conducted by Eun Sun Kim. The players may slack off.

  • Emil says:

    That’s a solid season. Lots of top-drawer soloists (Blue, D’Arcangelo, Mehta, even Fleming), top-flight directors (Holten, Abbado, Herheim), and a good mix of repertoire staples and new works. For an American house, it’s a great season.

    • Yes Addison says:

      Especially when juxtaposed with the recently announced slate of San Francisco Opera. Now THAT’S a dreary season. It’s only good news if you’re near death and desperately want to see the company’s recently staged productions of Rigoletto, La bohème, and Barber of Seville again, and now can have them all in the same season.

      • fflambeau says:

        Do you know what they are playing?

        Yes to Rigoletto, La bohème, and Barber of Seville (which most opera companies produce) but also Così fan tutte PLUS, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Der Zwerg with music by Alexander Zemlinsky. That’s a good lineup too. A nice blend of old and new.

        Good conductors also including: Speranza Scappucci, Thomas Søndergård, Henrik Nánási and Sir Mark Elder.

        It’s a very strong seasonal lineup.

      • Michael Landman-Karny says:

        San Francisco Opera’s programming and casting have been quite disappointing in recent years. They are an opera company way past their heyday. LA Opera has a much smaller budget but has a much more interesting season.

  • Let’s call it like it is!!! says:

    Of course things are looking up at the LA Opera. It will only get better now that The Groper has left town. He never did a blessed thing during his tenure.

  • Joel Stein says:

    I heard the brightness of light at Tanglewood -more a song cycle than an opera

    • SMH says:

      It’s being presented by LA Opera in concert form…..

      “The Brightness of Light (concert)
      Composed by Kevin Puts, conducted by James Conlon, starring soprano Renée Fleming and baritone Rod Gilfry
      May 16, 2021”

  • MacroV says:

    I know LA was late to opera, and while it might be too much to expect it to operate on a scale comparable to the MET, I’m still surprised it hasn’t become a busier place. Lots of money in LA, and lots of people. Plenty to support a very busy orchestra just across the street.

    • SMH says:

      There is a lot of money in Los Angeles, but quite a bit of it is made by folks in entertainment. While they get some big paydays, the next is never assured. Arts philanthropy suffers.

      As far as the LA Phil they have a huge money maker in the Hollywood Bowl. People forget that. Opera is also exponentially more expensive to produce than symphonic concerts.

  • BrianB says:

    Not all that thrilling really. Except for Issachah Savage as Tannhauser; winner of the 2014 Wagner competition he is on his way to greatness if not there already–something Gelb as usual fails to see.