Los Angeles Opera / Music News & Info: Classical

My $0.02 on LA Opera’s 2016/2017 Season

Akhnaten-costumes-chorus-pThe good folks at Los Angeles Opera just announced their 2016/17 season (at the slightly curious time of 9pm-ish Pacific Time, midnight-ish Eastern, but no matter).  There are six mainstage productions, one semi-staged musical, three “Off Grand” productions, plus the regular community performances of Britten’s Noah’s Flood.  First, the details, with my general observations on the season below that:

Mainstage Productions

  1. Verdi — Macbeth (seven performances, Sep 17–Oct 16, 2016):  Plácido Domingo and Ekaterina Semenchuk star as the titular King and Lady from Verdi’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Scottish Play.”  James Conlon, LA Opera’s Music Director, conducts and Darko Tresnjak, last seen by the company leading the excellent production of The Ghosts of Versailles, directs this new production.
  2. Glass — Akhnaten (six performances, Nov 5–27, 2016; company premiere):  Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, and soprano Stacey Tappan appear in a new production directed by Phelim McDermott.  The company’s freshly minted Artist-in-Residence, Matthew Aucoin, conducts.
  3. Mozart — The Abduction from the Seraglio (six performances, Jan 28–Feb 19, 2017):  Aleksandra Kurzak plays Constanze and James Conlon conducts this rendition co-produced with six other opera companies — including the long-lost Opera Pacific
  4. R. Strauss — Salome (six performances, Feb 18–March 19, 2017):  Soprano Patricia Racette is back and so is Sir Peter Hall’s production from LA Opera’s first season.
  5. Offenbach — The Tales of Hoffman (six performances, March 25–April 15, 2017):  Soprano Diana Damrau makes her LA Opera debut and tenor Vittorio Grigolo returns in this redo of Marta Domingo’s production.  She directs and her husband, Plácido, conducts.
  6. Puccini — Tosca (seven performances, April 22–May 13, 2017):  Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky returns in the title role.  ‘Nuff said.

Other Productions

  • Hearne — The Source (five performances, Oct 19–23, 2016, REDCAT; West Coast premiere)
  • Aucoin — Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (two performances, Oct 29 and 31, 2016, The Theater at Ace Hotel; world premiere)
  • Bernstein — Wonderful Town (three semi-staged performances, Dec 2-4, 2016, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion)
  • Britten — Noah’s Flood (two performances, May 6, 2016, The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels)
  • Sankaram — Thumbprint (four performances, June 15–18, 2017, REDCAT; west coast premiere)

My $0.02 on the season

  • The 2016/17 season is an improvement over the rather dull 2015/16 season.  Granted, that’s a rather low hurdle to overcome, and but any improvement is a step in the right direction.
  • The big emphasis by LA Opera for the coming season is to present operas that haven’t been seen at the Dorothy Chandler in a while.  That’s something that should be applauded; even a warhorse like Hoffman hasn’t been performed by the company since 2002.  However, when shows by Verdi, Mozart, Strauss, and Offenbach are being offered up as rarities, the company still has a long way to go before it gets back to the artistic level seen before the great recession; the 2014/2015 season with its Dido/Bluebeard double bill and Ghosts of Versailles seems avant-garde by comparison.  We haven’t seen Wozzeck, The Fiery Angel, or Queen of Spades in a long time also, why not bring one of them back? The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky is still nowhere to be seen.  Ditto Janácek’s From the House of the Dead.  If those are too edgy, there are Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, or Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, both of which have been absent from the LA Opera stage.  There are at least two dozen more options, but alas, we’ll have to wait until the 2017/18 season or longer.  Almost makes one long for the days when the company had the cojones to stage a production of Strauss’s Elektra that featured, among other things, huge broken phallus on stage . . . on second thought, maybe it’s better if that one is left locked up somewhere.
  • Plácido Domingo, tenor-cum-conductor-cum-impressario-cum-baritone,  takes a stab at Macbeth (snicker snicker).  Good for him.  He may not be the perfect baritone, but may I never become so jaded that I don’t take look forward to hearing him sing.
  • Major kudos to LA Opera for stepping up to present Akhnaten.  I’m saying that despite not being a huge fan of Glass’s music;  however, I really liked Einstein on the Beach, so I’m looking forward to what Aucoin and McDermott do with this one.
  •  No Wagner opera.  Just sayin’.  I’m not a Wagner fan per se, but a major company like this one should be doing more of his works, shouldn’t they?  Even if they’re not yet ready to bring back the Ring cycle, how about some Parsifal or Tannhäuser?  Or a little Lohengrin?  Or to be really crazy, perhaps some Rienzi?  No??!!  Fine, be that way.
  • Tosca again.  Tosca. AGAIN.  Ugh.  For heaven’s sake, they just presented the same production with the same soprano in 2013.  Yeah, sure, I liked it the last time around, and it’s very nice to have the bad-ass Ms. Radvanovsky back in town.  Still, couldn’t they have found something else for her to sing, like Donizetti’s Anna Bolena with which she’s been blow doors off the Met?  Or maybe even bring in a different bad-ass soprano, just to change things up a bit? Or at least find a new production?  No??!!!!  Fine, be that way.  To paraphrase Scarpia in the First Act finale: “Meh, Tosca”.
  • I can’t remember the last time that Italian wasn’t the language of the majority — or even a plurality — of operas being performed at the Dorothy Chandler.  Just to be precise, there are two productions each in German and Italian, one in French, and one in a combination “English, Ancient Egyptian, Biblical Hebrew, and Akkadian.”
  • More statistics:  38 total main stage performances, 13 off site, and 3 semi-staged performances of Wonderful Town at the Dorothy Chandler.
  • One more number:  zero — as in the number of recitals this season, as well as the number of mainstage productions being conducted by Grant Gershon, LA Opera’s Resident Conductor; however, he is on the podium for Wonderful Town.
  • I remember a time not that long ago when there were seven to nine mainstage productions, with seven performances of a given production being a low number.  Perhaps we’re better off having the company’s resources devoted to their “Off Grand” performances since they have tended to be reliably interesting; I’m still giddy about their ¡FIGARO! (90210) from a couple of years ago.  Still, Los Angeles shouldn’t have to choose between a reasonably robust, varied, and compelling main stage season and more adventurous off-site fare.

Bottomline:  Not a bad season, but it could/should be so much better.  Here’s hoping that by June 2017, the individual productions make me feel differently about it all.


The official Los Angeles Opera preview trailer and press release:



LA Opera Announces
2016/17 Season

Highlights include a major company premiere, a superstar debut
and four foundational works not presented in more than a decade

(Los Angeles) January 25, 2016 – General Director Plácido Domingo has announced the repertory and artist roster for the company’s 2016/17 season. Created by Mr. Domingo in collaboration with Music Director James Conlon and President and CEO Christopher Koelsch, the season will include six mainstage productions and a classic musical presented at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. A total of 40 performances will take place in that venue, while an additional 13 performances will be presented elsewhere through the company’s Off Grand initiative.

The season will open on September 17, 2016, and will run through June 18, 2017.

“LA Opera’s 31st season emphasizes operas that have long been absent from our stage,” said Plácido Domingo, who will open the season in the title role of Macbeth and later conduct a revival of The Tales of Hoffmann, starring soprano Diana Damrau in her company debut. “It includes four foundational works that haven’t been presented here in 13 years or longer, as well as the company premiere of Akhnaten, a major 20th-century work by Philip Glass. The season also features several multi-season programmatic initiatives. Macbeth will mark my fourth collaboration with James Conlon since 2012 in a Verdi masterwork. Akhnaten will be our third Philip Glass project since 2013, with more works by this hugely important composer planned for the future. In addition to our mainstage programming, Wonderful Town will inaugurate a three-season celebration of Leonard Bernstein, perhaps the most influential American composer of his generation. We expect our tribute to encompass four different Bernstein works by the time we reach his centenary in 2018.”

“The coming season affords me the opportunity to conduct four important operas that I haven’t yet conducted in Los Angeles,” said James Conlon. “The German operatic repertoire is an artistic legacy that is very important for the company and to me personally. After emphasizing Wagner in the seasons surrounding the Ring cycle, it is logical for us now to turn our focus to the operas of Richard Strauss, which haven’t been performed here in more than a decade. I’m especially looking forward to Salome, the first Strauss opera I will conduct at LA Opera, as well as The Abduction from the Seraglio, last performed here in 1995. Above all, I am thrilled to continue my ongoing collaboration with Plácido in our season-opening Macbeth, our offering to the international recognition of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The diversity of the season’s repertoire affords ample opportunity for the LA Opera Orchestra and Chorus to display their extraordinary talents.”

Complete casting and additional information can be found at LAOpera.org or by clicking on the titles below for more details.

(performed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion)

Macbeth (Sep 17–Oct 16, 2016) — Giuseppe Verdi
Plácido Domingo stars as Macbeth with Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth in a new production conducted by James Conlon. LA Opera’s first staging of Macbeth since 1987 will be directed by Darko Tresnjak (The Ghost of Versailles, 2015). Costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb, known for her work in such films as Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, will make her operatic debut.

Akhnaten (Nov 5–27, 2016; company premiere) — Philip Glass
Matthew Aucoin, LA Opera’s incoming Artist in Residence, conducts a new co-production with English National Opera, directed by Phelim McDermott and starring countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo in the title role.

The Abduction from the Seraglio (Jan 28–Feb 19, 2017) — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
James Conlon conducts LA Opera’s first performances in 21 years of Mozart’s comic gem. Set aboard the “Orient Express” in the Roaring Twenties, the production is directed by James Robinson, featuring soprano Aleksandra Kurzak in the leading role of Konstanze.

Salome (Feb 18–March 19, 2017) — Richard Strauss
Soprano Patricia Racette returns to perform the title role in Peter Hall’s iconic production, first presented in LA Opera’s 1986 inaugural season. James Conlon conducts a cast that also includes baritone Tómas Tómasson as John the Baptist and renowned Wagnerian soprano Gabriele Schnaut in her company debut as Herodias.

The Tales of Hoffmann (March 25–April 15, 2017) — Jacques Offenbach
Superstar soprano Diana Damrau makes her LA Opera debut as all four heroines opposite tenor Vittorio Grigolo as Hoffmann. Plácido Domingo conducts Marta Domingo’s production, last presented in 2002.

Tosca (April 22–May 13, 2017) — Giacomo Puccini
Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky returns as Tosca with tenor Russell Thomas as Cavaradossi and baritone Egils Silins as Scarpia. James Conlon conducts John Caird’s thrilling 2013 production.

(at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion)

Wonderful Town (Dec 2–4, 2016; company premiere) — Leonard Bernstein
Kicking off a three-season celebration leading up to the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, LA Opera’s Resident Conductor Grant Gershon conducts three special performances of one of the greatest treasures of Broadway’s Golden Age. (All-star cast to be announced this spring.)

(at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion)

On October 8, 2016, LA Opera will celebrate its 30th birthday by opening its doors and inviting everyone to enjoy the magic of opera. All events will be free to the public. Highlights will include appearances by Plácido Domingo and James Conlon, performances featuring members of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, several additional performances for families, art workshops for children, costume and scenery demonstrations, backstage tours and much more. (Additional details will be announced later in the year.)


The Source (Oct 19–23, 2016; west coast premiere) — Ted Hearne
The Source dives into the media hysteria surrounding Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, the Army private at the center of the WikiLeaks scandal. The west coast premiere of The Source launches a third season of collaborations with Beth Morrison Projects.

Presented at REDCAT (631 W. Second Street, Los Angeles, 90012)

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (Oct 29 and 31, 2016; premiere)
Matthew Aucoin will create and conduct a new score for director F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent screen classic. The film will be screened as Mr. Aucoin leads a chamber orchestra in live performances of the score—incorporating music by composers of Murnau’s time and new music composed by Mr. Aucoin himself.

Presented at the Theatre at Ace Hotel (929 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, 90015)

Thumbprint (June 15–18, 2017; west coast premiere) — Kamala Sankaram
A true story told through Hindustani and European musical influences, Thumbprint explores the deep family ties and tribal traditions that empowered Mukhtar Mai to become the first female victim of gang rape to bring her attackers to justice in Pakistan.

Presented at REDCAT (631 W. Second Street, Los Angeles, 90012)

Noah’s Flood (May 6, 2017) — Benjamin Britten
James Conlon will conduct two free community performances on May 6, featuring hundreds of students and amateur performers collaborating with LA Opera’s professional artists and musicians.

Presented at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (555 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles, 90012)

For more information about LA Opera’s Off Grand initiative, visit LAOpera.org/OffGrand.

Additional Comments

“This announcement comes at the midpoint of LA Opera’s 30th Anniversary Season and I can’t wait to see what the next 30 years have in store for us,” said Marc Stern, Chairman of LA Opera’s Board of Directors. “The incredible team of Plácido Domingo, James Conlon and Christopher Koelsch are dedicated to fulfilling the bold vision of our founders. Their accomplishments would not have been possible without the extraordinary generosity and leadership of our board members, and I am also grateful to our audiences for their devoted support. I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of the company.”

“With three mainstage productions that are new to our stage, as well as a variety of contemporary works of every scale, the 2016/17 season reflects our ambition to be known as one of the most forward-thinking companies in America,” noted President and CEO Christopher Koelsch. “Two of our presentations, Akhnaten and Nosferatu, will be especially notable for the participation of Matthew Aucoin, the brilliant composer-conductor who will begin his residency as our first ever Artist in Residence. Our ongoing series of contemporary chamber works, in collaboration with Beth Morrison Projects, continues to expand the boundaries of the art form, with powerful performances in the intimate environment of REDCAT. The important new works to be presented there in the 2016/17 season—The Source and Thumbprint—address raw contemporary subjects, WikiLeaks and the role of women in contemporary Pakistan, issues that are in the news today. Our Off Grand initiative continues to be a major draw for new audiences, as half of those in attendance at those performances are completely new to our company.”

Subscription Ticket Information

Season subscription tickets for the 2016/17 season are now available, starting at $99 for all six mainstage operas. Tickets for The Source, Nosferatu, Wonderful Town and Thumbprint are currently for sale only with subscription packages. For further information, please visit LA Opera’s website at LAOpera.org or call LA Opera’s box office at 213.972.8001.

Unless otherwise specified, performances take place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, 90012).

Please visit LAOpera.org for updated casting information and performance dates.

Artist headshots and production photographs are available on the LA Opera Press Gallery: LAOpera.org/press/Press-Photos

All programs, artists and dates are subject to change.

LA Opera is a non-profit organization
dedicated to serving the greater Los Angeles community.

Yamaha is the Official Piano of LA Opera.


LA Opera Media Contact
Fran Rizzi, Director of Public Relations
frizzi@laopera.org / 213.972.7554

2 thoughts on “My $0.02 on LA Opera’s 2016/2017 Season

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