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San Diego Has Room For Two Kinds Of Opera Fans

January 05, 1986|MARC SHULGOLD

After 2 1/2 years as general director of San Diego Opera, Ian Campbell knows what his audience wants--the old reliables.

In discussing the recently announced 1986-87 season (which opens in October with "Tosca," followed by "Norma," "Fliegende Hollaender," "Barbiere di Siviglia" and a Menotti double-bill of "The Medium" and "The Telephone"), he readily agreed with the suggestion that operatic adventure is missing from the repertory.

"The lineup of standard works is deliberate," he said. "All opera audiences are basically conservative. Oh, there may be small pockets (of adventurous opera-goers) here and there, but still, even after 25 years, the opera crowds here are relatively inexperienced." Campbell insisted that those "small pockets" are encouraged to visit the opera--but in a separate hall. "We extract the unusual and do them in the Globe Theatre," he noted, a reference to the Menotti evening in 1987 and Peter Maxwell Davies' "The Lighthouse," scheduled for this season (May).

The advance sales for Davies' work--far more "unusual" than the Menotti offerings--has encouraged Campbell. " 'The Lighthouse' has already sold 60% in subscriptions (in a 300-seat house). I figure about one in four subscribers from the Civic Theatre season will go to the Globe."

Segmenting his audience doesn't seem to faze him. "It doesn't cost us," he said. "And it will eventually lead to diverse audiences."

Campbell is interested not only in audiences diverse in taste, but in age. That's why he created the San Diego Ensemble, he explained. "It's an outreach ensemble of about six or seven singers from the area. Their job is to bring the highest quality opera to the schools. The first year, they'll be doing (Donizetti's) 'Don Pasquale.' We're targeting the junior and senior high schools, but we'll go anywhere--senior citizen centers, libraries, whatever."

Of the 1986-87 Civic Theatre season, Campbell apologizes that only one production--"Hollaender"--will be new. "Ideally, every production would be new. But costs prevent that. With 'Hollaender,' the cost is actually modest, around $90,000."

Campbell's motivation for mounting a new "Hollaender" is simple: "I couldn't find a physical production I wanted to do." And the look of the production? "It's the sort of opera you can really abstract," he responded. "I'm not sure which way this will end up, though I thought of setting the whole thing on a crazy mystery vessel."

PHILHARMONIC AND LISZT: In terms of composer anniversaries, last year was one for the books--it was the Berg Centennial, the Bach-Handel-Scarlatti Tricentennial and the Schuetz Quadricentennial. But what of 1986?

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Furtwaengler's birth and the 200th for Weber. And exactly 100 years ago this July 31, Franz Liszt died. The Philharmonic is currently in the midst of a two-week remembrance of the Liszt anniversary, with Andre Previn and Andre Watts on hand to honor the composer with the second program of works for piano and orchestra.

Wednesday through Friday, and again next Sunday afternoon, Watts will be soloist in the rarely heard "Malediction" for piano and strings (finally published in the early 1900s) and the Concerto No. 2. Previn will also conduct two English orchestral staples: Vaughan Williams' "Thomas Tallis" Fantasia and Elgar's "Enigma" Variations.

The orchestra's new music director, incidentally, will wear a couple of new Philharmonic coats this year--as chamber music player and as composer--when the Los Angeles Philharmonic Chamber Music Society presents a three-concert series at Gindi Auditorium. On Saturday, Previn will appear as pianist in Mendelssohn's D-minor Trio, joined by violinist Alexander Treger and cellist Daniel Rothmuller (music by Mozart and Barber are also scheduled). And Previn as composer? The concluding Chamber Music Society event (on May 7) will include a performance of his "Four Outings" for brass, as well as works by Poulenc and John Harbison. A program of sonatas by Brahms, Prokofiev, Debussy and Beethoven rounds out the series on March 17.

FLEISCHMANN, CONTINUED: In the midst of Philharmonic Executive Director Ernest Fleischmann's recent goings (to Paris Opera) and comings (back to the Philharmonic), one wonders what the French thought of all this.

Questioned by Alice Sedar of The Times' Paris bureau, Le Monde opera critic Jacques Lonchampt suggested that "pressure from the Los Angeles Philharmonic" forced Fleischmann to remain in California. Fleischmann, Lonchampt noted, "had time during his recent visit to evaluate the problems clearly," despite the Philharmonic official's insistence that, after his Paris meetings, he "hadn't had time for second thoughts."

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