L.A. Phil, Salonen to premiere 'lost' Shostakovich opera 'Orango'
The story of how the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its emeritus conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, landed next week's world premiere of "Orango," a long-lost opera by Dmitri Shostakovich is -- to quote Winston Churchill's famous line about Russia -- a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
It's a detective story, in which the Russian musicologist Olga Digonskaya discovered a fragment of the 1930s opera buried in a Moscow archive, in 2004, and brought it to the attention of the late composer's widow.
It's also a political cautionary tale. "Orango," a brutal satire of bourgeois manners centered on a grotesque half-man, half-ape newspaper magnate, was written by Shostakovich during the heady, experimental days of the early Bolshevik state. Irreverent in tone, "Orango" is a mash-up of Modernist stylings that express the exuberant spirit of early 1930s Soviet culture.
But with Salonen back in L.A. to conduct the Phil, with staging by his frequent collaborator, director Peter Sellars, "Orango" will receive a new breath of life. Its world premiere will take place in three performances, Dec. 2, 3 and 4 at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
For more about the opera and its remarkable journey from dusty page to Disney stage, read the Sunday Arts & Books story here.
-- Reed Johnson
Photo: Dmitri Shostakovich. Credit: Shostakovich Family Archives