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The Domingo Factor

Los Angeles Opera's new artistic director outlines his strategy for putting the company 'on the map.'


"I was very lucky to get a yes from Kent Nagano, an extraordinary conductor, and he will be with us every season, doing either two or three operas, [functioning as] almost the equivalent of a music director," Domingo told The Times. "I also have a promise from Gergiev to come and do one big Russian opera every year."

The first of the Gergiev outings will be Tchaikovsky's "The Queen of Spades," featuring Domingo and co-produced with Madrid's Teatro Real and Washington Opera (where Domingo is also artistic director), to open the 2001-02 season. It represents L.A. Opera's first presentation of a Russian-language opera.

Other companies that will co-produce with Los Angeles Opera include, primarily, Gergiev's Kirov Opera, along with La Scala and Paris' Thea^tre du Cha^telet. Among shared productions scheduled so far are Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffman" and Mussorgsky's "Boris Gudonov" set for 2002-03 in Los Angeles; and Prokofiev's "The Love for Three Oranges," with Ian Judge directing and Gergiev conducting, and Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin," also conducted by Gergiev, slated for 2003-04.

In financial matters, Domingo announced a new pledge from recently installed L.A. Opera board member Alberto Vilar, the founder and president of high-tech oriented Amerindo Investment Advisors, who is widely thought to be the leading donor to opera companies today.

Vilar's first gift to Los Angeles Opera was $400,000, to underwrite the current production of "Aida," and he has now pledged an additional $2 million for the 2001-02 season alone, earmarked for a new staging of Wagner's "Lohengrin" and other productions.

Vilar will also back Domingo's intention to beef up the company's resident artists program, with increased coaching and training for the participants.

Vilar is expected to announce further financial commitments, some of which may involve Los Angeles Opera, at a press conference today.

"I can say only for the moment the first season," said Domingo, "I want to leave it for him to talk about the rest."

Additionally, Domingo announced the formation of Domingo's Angels, a new program for contributors who will give $1 million over the course of four years. Founded by L.A. Opera board Chairman Leonard Green and board member Marc I. Stern, the fledgling campaign has already lined up 10 donors.

For the Spanish-language audiences of L.A., Domingo will include both English and Spanish performances of some works (Lehar's "The Merry Widow" is planned for 2001-02), as well as the future addition to the repertory of the Spanish operetta form known as zarzuela. Domingo's parents were zarzuela singers and he has proved a tireless promoter of the genre. "I see doing one every two seasons," he said, "and I would like to create a company for zarzuela that would be separate and permanent. One of my big dreams is to provide something cultural that will make the Spanish-speaking people feel at home."

The 2001-2002 Season

The first season to be programmed entirely by Domingo begins in September 2001 and runs through June 2002. It will feature eight full productions and one opera in concert. Significantly, only two of the nine operas are revivals of works previously staged at Los Angeles Opera.

Running in repertory with "The Queen of Spades" will be the Vilar-funded new production of "Lohengrin," to be conducted by Nagano and staged by veteran actor Maximilian Schell.

Nagano will also conduct the new Berio-completed "Turandot," and lead Berlin's Deutsches Symphonie Orchester, where he is just beginning his tenure as music director, in a single-concert L.A. premiere of Schoenberg's "Moses and Aron." The concert will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the composer, who spent the final years of his life in Los Angeles.

Domingo will sing in a Zurich Opera staging of "The Merry Widow," conducted by Opera Pacific artistic director John DeMain in December in English and in January in Spanish. Achim Freyer's 1996 staging and design of Bach's Mass in B Minor, conducted by Peter Schreier, will be presented. And film director William Friedkin will stage a double bill of Puccini's "Gianni Schicchi" and Bartok's "Duke Bluebeard's Castle."

The season will also include revivals of Los Angeles Opera's production of "La Traviata," conducted by Domingo and directed by Marta Domingo, and Peter Hall's staging of "The Magic Flute," with designs by Gerald Scarfe.

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