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L.A. Opera Style

May 01, 1988

I did not expect that Los Angeles Music Center Opera would be a carbon copy of the Metropolitan Opera or San Francisco but one which, over time, would develop its own distinctive personality. But neither did I want or expect daring individuality too soon.

What we have gotten could not be completely apparent during the first two seasons, but with the announcement of the 1988-1989 season along with a tentative schedule for 1989-1990, it has become quite apparent. General director Peter Hemmings has a liking for the rare and unusual and intends to force it down the Los Angeles throat come hell or high water.

This writer is not opposed to rare or unusual opera. I have seen "Wozzeck" at the Metropolitan Opera and found it interesting. I also noticed however that the house was about 20% empty, and for a Friday night at the Met, that was very unusual. The management of America's most important opera house takes pride in offering a number of lesser-known works, but was wise enough to schedule only four performances of "Wozzeck" while "Tosca" that year was scheduled for 14. I have seen Janecek's "Jenufa" in San Francisco, and am very aware that they only offer the opera once every eight to ten years whereas "La Boheme" is offered every three to four years.

The probable truth is that Los Angeles will not support an opera company, especially during its formative years, if as much as 80% of its repertory is made up of "Idomeneo," "The Fiery Angel, Alcina," "Katya Kabenova," "Orlando Furioso" and the likes. One had only to attend a Tuesday night "Macbeth" at the Music Center performed to a house that was more than 20% empty to know that it is probably still too soon for early Verdi.

This area can not sit back and watch Hemmings and associates endanger this youthful opera company. The upcoming season has only one opera from the popular repertory and that is a repeat from two years ago. This kind of scheduling will not sell subscriptions--not in New York, not in San Francisco and even more, not in Los Angeles.

JERRY FALKENHAGEN

Los Angeles

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