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L.A. Opera announces 2009-10 season

January 15, 2009 |  1:45 pm

Placidobig As long anticipated, Los Angeles Opera's 2009-10 season, announced today, will be dominated by the company’s –- and the city’s –- first production of the “Ring” cycle, which is by far the largest undertaking within the standard repertory for any performing arts institution.

Three complete performances of the four Wagner operas that make up the "Ring'" will be given at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in a new staging by provocative German designer and director Achim Freyer, between May 29 and June 26, 2010.

The first two “Ring” operas, “Das Rheingold” (“The Rhine Gold”) and “Die Walkure” (“The Valkyrie”), are being done by L.A. Opera this season.  “Siegfried” will be unveiled Sept. 26, and “Götterdämmerung” (“The Twilight of the Gods”) on April 23, 2010. Each of the latter two will be given five performances before integrated into the full cycle. 

But with Wagner draining the budget in an uncertain economic climate, L.A. Opera has an otherwise reduced season of two beloved Italian comedies and two rarities.  Although general director Plácido Domingo has said that his intention is to present a new opera each season, the premiere of Daniel Catán’s “Il Postino,” which the company commissioned and with which it had been expected to open the season in 2009, has been postponed.

And unlike in recent years when L.A. Opera had a gala opening weekend of two operas, the coming season will begin Sept. 12 with one, a revival of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore” (“The Elixir of Love”).  The Steven Lawless production, though, boasts luxury casting with tenor Rolando Villazón, soprano Nino Machaidze, baritone Nathan Gunn and, in a rare U.S. appearance, veteran Italian bass Ruggero Raimondi.  The company’s music director, James Conlon, will conduct.

Gunn, currently starring in the company’s production of “The Magic Flute,” will also return in next season’s other Italian favorite, “The Barber of Seville,” on Nov. 29.  The production by Emilio Sagi comes from Madrid’s Teatro Real and will also star Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez and American soprano Joyce DiDonato, both known for their spectacular high notes.  Michele Mariotti will conduct.

The rarities are Handel’s “Tamerlano” and Franz Schreker’s “Die Gezeichneten” (“The Stigmatized”).  Handel’s opera will be imported from Washington National Opera, Domingo’s other company, and will star the tenor as Bajazet, the leader of the Turks who is conquered by the Tartar emperor Tamerlane, a countertenor role to be sung by Bejun Mehta.  William Lacy will conduct the production by Chas Rader-Shieber that will also feature soprano Sarah Coburn and mezzo-sopranos Patricia Bardon and Jennifer Holloway.  The first performance will be Nov. 21.

“Gezeichneten,” written in 1918, will be the latest in Conlon’s "Recovered Voices" project of reviving operas that were suppressed by the Nazis.  With an intensely dramatic score, the opera, which has never been seen in the U.S., has lately had notable successes in Germany and Austria, especially after a production at the Salzburg Festival in 2005 led by previous L.A. Opera music director Kent Nagano.  The Music Center’s new production, by Olivier Tambosi, will open April 10 and feature Robert Brubaker from the Salzburg cast as well as Anja Kampe, Martin Ganter and James Johnson.

Casting for the “Ring,” is almost complete with Vitalij Kowaljow (Wotan), Linda Watson (Brünnhilde), John Treleaven (Siegfried), Domingo (Siegmund) and Michelle DeYoung (Fricka).  Only Sieglinde remains to be announced.  Conlon will conduct all the performances.  A “Ring” Festival, with as many as 50 Southern California organizations participating, was recently touted to complement the 2010 cycle, but no further details were included in the season announcement.

Two recitals will complete the season.  Baritone Thomas Hampson will appear at the Chandler on Oct. 3 and soprano Renée Fleming on Dec. 12.

-- Mark Swed

Photo: Plácido Domingo in Seoul on Monday for a concert appearance. Credit: Kim Hee-Chul / EPA

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