National radio broadcast of NEA's opera awards will elude L.A.
There will be a recurring California motif at the National Endowment for the Arts' second annual NEA Opera Honors ceremony on Nov. 14 -- but there are no plans for the national radio broadcast of the musical proceedings and award presentations to grace Southern California's airwaves.
Composer John Adams, who is based in the Bay Area and has close ties to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Lotfi Mansouri, former general director of the San Francisco Opera, whose wide-ranging career began in L.A., will join mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, former New York City opera conductor Julius Rudel and director-librettist Frank Corsaro as honorees at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C. Each will receive a $25,000 prize.
Placido Domingo, general director of both the Los Angeles Opera and the Washington National Opera, will offer greetings via video, and Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will be on hand to present Adams' award.
The WFMT Radio Network, based at Chicago classical station WFMT, aims to send the live broadcast to more than 150 radio markets, but Steve Robinson, the station's senior vice president, says it's unlikely Los Angeles will be among them. That leaves area opera buffs with the online option: wfmt.com will carry the proceedings live starting at 4:30 p.m. PST on Nov. 14, but Robinson said the program won't be archived for later listening.
"We already do a lot of opera programming, so it's tough to add another one to the schedule," said Brenda Barnes, president of L.A.'s classical station, KUSC-FM (91.5). The station offers weekly Saturday morning and Sunday night opera programs, as well as broadcasts of performances by Los Angeles Opera and the Metropolitan Opera.
The NEA Opera Honors show will feature musical tributes from soprano Angela Brown and baritone Gordon Hawkins, as well as a video encomium to each recipient. Andre Previn will be the presenter for the Iranian-born Mansouri, who launched his career in opera as a student, then a professor, at UCLA, and went on to lead the San Francisco Opera from 1988 to 2001. Broadway and concert singer Barbara Cook will do the honors for Horne, soprano Shirley Verrett is Rudel's presenter, and composer Carlisle Floyd, who collaborated often with Corsaro, will present his award.
Floyd was one of the four inaugural NEA Opera Honors recipients last year, along with soprano Leontyne Price, conductor James Levine and opera administrator and advocate Richard Gaddes.
Adams' operas include "Nixon in China," "The Death of Klinghoffer" and "Doctor Atomic." His new symphony, "City Noir," was inspired by classic Hollywood film noir and had its premiere last month at Walt Disney Concert Hall, with Gustavo Dudamel conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dudamel has appointed Adams as the orchestra's creative chair, and the composer is curating "West Coast, Left Coast," a three-week festival opening Nov. 21 that's the first such event of Dudamel's tenure as music director.
Among Adams' selections for the festival dedicated to California's classical music scene are a Dudamel-conducted program of "City Noir" and Esa-Pekka Salonen's "L.A. Variations," a new-music program featuring the Kronos Quartet, in which Adams will conduct excerpts from Frank Zappa's "Yellow Shark," and a "Songs of the Sun" concert by L.A. pop music eminences Brian Wilson and Dave Alvin.
-- Mike Boehm
Photos: John Adams and Gustavo Dudamel on stage last month at Disney Hall (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times); Marilyn Horne (Stephen Chernin/Associated Press).