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L.A. Opera brings a bit of Britten to downtown's cathedral in a free opera

March 18, 2011 |  6:00 am

Flood
You can feel Los Angeles Opera music director James Conlon’s deep connection to the music of Benjamin Britten as he leads performances of “The Turn of the Screw” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (through March 30). And music lovers should expect something similar Saturday, when Conlon leads a collection of professional opera musicians with dedicated amateurs and children in two performances of Britten’s “Noah’s Flood” at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown L.A.

Click here to read all about "Noah's Flood."

But Conlon’s bond with Britten is no recent crush. It goes back to the conductor’s youth. “I’ve loved his music since my first acquaintance,” Conlon said recently from his office at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. He recalled with relish hearing a now-legendary 1967 Metropolitan Opera production of the composer’s “Peter Grimes” while still in high school. And he twice heard Britten himself play the piano, accompanying his muse, the tenor Peter Pears.

“I will never forget those two recitals,” he said. “They were simply the most overwhelming experience of art song in my youth. The personal charisma of Peter Pears could not be captured by a recording. It was extraordinary. But the pianism of Benjamin Britten was breathtaking — the magic, the liquidity of sound. He was extraordinary. The playing was so moving. I’ll never forgot that.”

With the centenary of Britten’s birth coming in 2013, Conlon is only increasing his performances of the composer’s music. In November, he cross the street to Disney Hall to lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program that includes “Sinfonia da Requiem.” And next season at the opera he’ll conduct “Albert Herring.”

“I believe I will do five Britten operas in the next three years, some here and some elsewhere,” Conlon said. Then he teased a bit, hinting at yet more Britten coming to L.A. Opera:

“There will something very special in 2013, but I can’t say what right now.”

RELATED:

Opera review: "The Turn of the Screw" at L.A. Opera

James Conlon extends contract with L.A. Opera through 2012-13 season

— David Mermelstein

Photo: James Conlon (in black) joins the company in the bow at the end of the 2009 "Noah's Flood." Credit: Robert Millard.

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