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Opera for Los Angeles

October 12, 1986

The fates that have plagued opera in Los Angeles for a century almost got the upper hand Tuesday night when the curtain momentarily refused to rise on the premiere performance of the city's new Music Center Opera. But rise it did, and "Otello" went on, giving hope to the audience at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and to opera lovers everywhere that Los Angeles would finally fill the operatic lacuna in its cultural life.

Over the years, there have been many fits and starts, but grand opera has never quite taken hold here. We'll leave it to the sociologists and cultural historians to figure out why, but the history has been more opera bouffe than something to be proud of.

Now Thomas Wachtell, who presides over the Music Center Opera's board of directors, and Peter Hemmings, the opera company's executive director, are overseeing an ambitious but realistic plan that has a very good chance of succeeding. They are aided by the tenor Placido Domingo, who sang on opening night. He is described as an artistic consultant to the company, but he has made no secret of his desire to be its co-director, at least.

There is an audience for opera in Los Angeles, and this new company promises to mount productions that will draw its attention and support. "Opera should be an integral part of the metropolitan life of any great city," Hemmings says. The truth of his words is self-evident.

The operatic seeds have been sown, but they cannot thrive in infertile soil. Now is the time for those who love opera to get behind this endeavor. It is Los Angeles' best chance in years to have a first-class opera company it can call its own. The country's second largest city should have no less.

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