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L.A. Opera Sets 2002-03 Season

The Arts* Artistic director Placido Domingo cites Sept. 11 as a cause for some schedule changes.


When tenor Placido Domingo unveiled his plans as new artistic director of Los Angeles Opera in September 2000, he announced an ambitious, multiyear growth strategy for the 2001-02 season and beyond.

Among his plans: to present a world premiere each season starting in 2002-03, including a new opera by Luciano Berio starring Domingo in the story of his own life in 2002-03, and major entertainment-industry collaborations, including the company's first-ever "Ring" cycle, to be presented at Shrine Auditorium with special effects by George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic.

But the 2002-03 opera season, announced Tuesday at the Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion--the second season to be programmed under Domingo's leadership--shows as much caution as ambition, realizing some goals and scaling back others.

"The events of Sept. 11 caused us to lose almost half a million dollars on the first three shows [of the 2001-02 season], with people being afraid to come to the theater for the moment," Domingo said Tuesday in an interview with The Times. "But now, sales are back to normal; both 'The Merry Widow' and the Bach Mass in B minor [opening Saturday] will exceed expectations [in ticket sales], so this is happy news."

As previously announced, the "Ring," estimated to cost as much as $60 million, has been pushed from spring 2003 to 2006. Domingo said the new plan is to present the entire cycle in the late spring and early summer, rather than spreading its four works over two seasons. "All at once, this will make us save money," he said.

Fund-raising for the cycle is ongoing; Domingo says the project will likely be co-produced in Hong Kong.

Though the postponement of the "Ring" represents the biggest retooling of plans, the 2002-03 program includes other changes.

The company will fulfill Domingo's promise to present one world premiere per season--with Berio's new orchestration of Monteverdi's "The Coronation of Poppea," with Domingo and Frederica von Stade performing, Jan. 11-19, 2003. However, the opera will be presented in concert form, rather than as a fully staged production. Domingo said the composer suffered an accident and so was behind in delivering the new orchestration. The new Berio opera about Domingo's life, originally announced for 2002-03, is now on for 2006.

While the 2002-03 schedule features no entirely new operas, Domingo said that plans remain in place for new work in upcoming seasons, including a new composition by former New York City Opera composer-in-residence Deborah Drattell, to be conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich, for 2003-04; one by John Williams in 2004-05; and a new production in 2005-06 from director Julie Taymor and composer Elliot Goldenthal. Domingo defended the opera company's commitment to new commissions by saying that such projects take time to develop.

The 2002-03 season does include one new production originating in Los Angeles: "Don Giovanni," scheduled for May 31-June 22, 2003. The director and cast are still to be determined.

The season also includes two company premieres: Verdi's "Nabucco" and Prokofiev's massive "War and Peace"; neither will originate with L.A. Opera. "Nabucco" is a production purchased from Lyric Opera of Chicago, and "War and Peace" is a Kirov production, with casting yet to be specified, that also opens at the Met next month. The upcoming season's "Tales of Hoffman" is also a co-production, directed by Marta Domingo, with Washington Opera (where Placido Domingo serves as artistic director) and the Kirov.

The opera will open its season Sept. 4 with a gala performance of Puccini's "Girl of the Golden West," a Bonn Opera production new to L.A. Opera, starring Domingo and Catherine Malfitano, with baritone Falk Struckmann and conductor Simone Young, music director of Sydney's Opera Australia, making their company debuts.

Two revivals are on the agenda: "The Barber of Seville," Feb. 7-23, 2003; and Taymor's restaging of her controversial 1995 production of "The Flying Dutchman," March 22-April 8, 2003. Von Stade will appear in a recital, June 15, 2003.

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