Yesterday afternoon, the good folks at Los Angeles Opera opened up their doors to the media for a behind-the-scenes peek at preparations for their season opening production of Bizet’s Carmen.
Christopher Koelsch (President and CEO) gave a brief welcome before Rupert Hemmings (Senior Director, Production) led us onto the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to watch tenor Brandon Jovanovich (Don Jose) and bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (Escamillo) discuss and walk through their Act 3 knife fight. Mr. Hemmings then led us backstage, pointing out interesting details and tidbits about this production (purchased from the Teatro Real, Madrid and being used here for the third time). Of note: it is one of the largest sets utilized by LA Opera, extending almost 60 feet deep. It was also interesting to see the attention to detail paid to many of the props: a poster advertising Escamillo’s bullfight, pottery with faux nicks and chips, and many other small things that people in the audience would be hard-pressed to actually see.
There was then a brief Q&A with Plácido Domingo, LA Opera General Director and conductor for most of the run of this Carmen. Among the highlights:
- Even though he has sung in many season opening productions, this will be the first LA Opera opening night which he will conduct.
- He was clearly very excited about this Carmen.
- Moreover, he was happy about the company’s ability to once again present as many as eight different operas during the 2013-2014 season, with an eye towards soon offering as many as ten different productions in future years.
- He thanked the members of LA Opera’s Board for their continued generosity, and stated how he wanted to strengthen the connections with the Hollywood community.
Finally, Mr. Domingo stepped onto the podium in the orchestra pit. He began with quick run-throughs of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the Carmen overture before finally rehearsing Act 3. As with any rehearsal, he keyed on specific things that were important to him:
- Asking for four bars that had been cut to be re-inserted into the score to create a clearer transition from one moment to another.
- Working with Concertmaster Roberto Cani to get more articulation out of the strings during one specific passage.
- Offering blocking and acting (both physical and vocal) suggestions to young soprano Pretty Yende (Micaëla) during her aria.
While the performers did their thing, the rest of the crew worked away: technical issues were being addressed, sets were touched up, and costumes refined.
Throughout it all, we got unhindered access to the proceedings, even being allowed to take photos and video of whatever we wanted. Below are some of the shots I took, and on my Instagram page are a few video snippets:
- Mr. Domingo conducting the overture
- Patricia Bardon (Carmen) and Brandon Jovanovich (Don Jose) singing part of their duet
- Mr. Domingo passing along some of his thoughts to Pretty Yende (Micaëla)
I’ll be back at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion this Thursday to live tweet the final dress rehearsal and then again on Saturday, Sept 21, to review opening night.
(NOTE: As is usually the case, the thumbnails below may not all show up if you use Google Chrome as your browser. If this is the case, select one of the thumbnails you actually can see, then scroll through each of the pictures and all of them can be seen.)
Photo credits: CK Dexter Haven