Like, it's Pagliacci, dude!
Now that it has a home of its own, Los Angeles Opera is poised to revitalize opera for audiences.
To the rest of the world, Hollywood may mean "the movies." But even though the Oscars are just a month away, the hot ticket in Tinseltown right now is the opera.Skip to next paragraph
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First and flashiest, there's Baz Luhrmann's updated Parisian love story "La Bohème," a great example of how stylistic verve can revitalize a venerable art form. It opened this week in a downtown theater and is already sold out in its only US venue this year.
But the hottest opera news is happening downtown. The Los Angeles Opera, which has had to share space with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the past 18 years, finally has a home of its own: The famed Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
The opera company, led by tenor superstar Placido Domingo for the past three seasons, has had to work its productions around the symphony's demanding schedule since Day 1. No more. Now that the snazzy new Disney Concert Hall has opened, the Philharmonic has handed over the Pavilion keys to Mr. Domingo.
Many opera watchers believe that the new, permanent stage marks the arrival of Los Angeles as a world-class opera town. From its new base, and under the guidance of its influential general director, the up-and-coming company now looks to tap into the extraordinary talent pool in its own backyard as a way to capitalize on the steady renaissance of the art form across the country.
"I've long said that L.A. was one of the crucial opera cities of the future," says John Dizkes, author of "Opera in America: A Cultural History."
The nation's second-largest city has every reason to be a leader in the opera world, he says. First and foremost are the natural resources of talent at hand. L.A. is also hugely important due to its population, sheer wealth, and possibilities for growth.
The company is already making rapid strides to expand. Four of the season's unprecedented nine productions (up from eight this past year) are new. In support of this expansion, the board has commmitted to raising the budget from $36 million to $48 million.
"They've begun to realize that potential," says Mr. Dizkes. "They are emerging as a leader in terms of conducting new works and attracting the best talent."
While opera may be a tough sell in the shadow of the international movie factory, tapping the city's entertainment industry is an obvious move.
So far, Domingo has not been shy about using his marquee status to bring talent on board. "We have to find ways to reach out to many audiences," says the musical director.
Domingo is a longtime friend of Mr. Luhrmann's (he provided the voice of the Moon in the Australian movie director's "Moulin Rouge"), and is in talks with the film director to create an opera. It's just one project in the company's ongoing mambo with the movies: The fall season will be previewed with a summer run of the Sondheim musical, "A Little Night Music," starring Jeremy Irons, and will include another Sondheim show, "Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street." The opera company has also invited two movie directors, William Friedkin and Maximilian Schell, to direct productions. But, without question, the pièce de résistance of the season's announcements hovers on the horizon like summer lightning, sending a bolt of excitement through the city: plans for a $60 million production in 2007 of the Wagner "Ring Cycle" in conjunction with George Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic special-effects company.