March 14, 2014 |
Who knew the sound of insanity could be so beautiful? We had the opportunity to sit in on a rehearsal of Los Angeles Opera's production of Gaetano Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor," which opens Saturday. The afternoon was the very first time cast or crew would be rehearsing with the rare, treasured instrument -- the glass harmonica -- that Donizetti intended for his tragic opera of love and madness. French musician Thomas Bloch had arrived from Paris only the night before, with the glass harmonica in tow. The scene being rehearsed was the climax of the Italian opera, in which the fragile, young Lucia -- played by Russian coloratura soprano Albina Shagimuratova -- goes crazy after being forced by her family to break ties with her lover and marry another man. Because of the range of sounds it makes, from hollow and deep to eerie and shrill, the glass harmonica was key to Donizetti's vision for the scene; in the 1700s, the instrument was even reputed to invoke insanity among listeners.
March 12, 2014 |
It is an opera that like its choruses rouses recriminations and unsettled ghosts. "The Death of Klinghoffer" by composer John Adams sets the Israeli-Palestinian struggle on a ship sailing with the histories and opposing realities of two peoples bound by the rage and agony of an unreconciled land. The opera, based on the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian militants who killed Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled American Jew, is also a deeper meditation on nationalist passions that for ages have set alight the world's conflicts.
March 10, 2014 |
Gerard Mortier, who died of cancer on Saturday at age 70, is being widely eulogized for the incalculable role he played in the opera world in the years he headed opera companies in Brussels, Paris and Madrid. Most notably he revolutionized the Salzburg Festival. I can think of no one more important than the crafty, brilliant Belgian impresario in making opera a uniquely telling, relevant, contemporary and meaningfully controversial art form in Europe. But it wasn't only Europe and it wasn't only opera in which Mortier's influence has proven pervasive.
February 24, 2014 |
A bellicose anti-war opera, Benjamin Britten's "Billy Budd" is a stifling shipboard drama with only strong male voices, a theater of testosterone. Manhood stands trial. In 1951, the year of its premiere, "Billy Budd" bravely evoked homoeroticism on the British lyric stage when homosexuality was outlawed. Britten further bravely insinuated disapproval of the military code when his country was recovering from World War II. Praise comes easily to "Billy Budd. " It is consummate music theater.
February 17, 2014 |
Woody Allen will team with tenor Plácido Domingo in a revival of the director's Los Angeles Opera production of "Gianni Schicchi" that will be produced in Madrid. The production will be part of the Teatro Real's 2014-15 season, which was announced this week. Allen first staged the short Puccini opera in L.A. in 2008. His staging was an homage to black-and-white Italian cinema from the 1940s and '50s. Domingo, who didn't star in the L.A. production, will play the title role in Madrid.
February 15, 2014 |
Under the Articles of War enacted by the British Navy in the 18th century, many crimes qualified as capital offenses, including mutiny, treason, robbery, sodomy and murder. Executions were often carried out by hanging, with the convict strung up from the ship's yardarm. By accounts from that era, these hangings were more a gradual strangulation than a snap of the neck. They were also complicated, requiring several men to hoist and secure the convict at a considerable height on a moving ship.