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L.A. Opera sets 'Two Foscari,' Renee Fleming for new season

February 9, 2012 |  2:30 pm

  Plácido DomingoLos Angeles Opera will continue its recent scaled-back approach to programming with a new season featuring six productions with 37 total performances -- the same tally as the current season. Among the highlights will be the company premiere of Verdi's early opera "The Two Foscari," starring Plácido Domingo, and a joint recital performance by Renée Fleming and Susan Graham.

All six productions for the 2012-13 season will be new to L.A. Opera, with one original production and the rest imported from other companies. At its high, the company mounted 10 productions with 75 total performances in 2006-7.

Domingo, who serves as the company's general director, said in a phone interview that the L.A. Opera board "wants us to be prudent until the economic situation improves... It's not my intention to continue with six productions. I'm really looking forward to a time when we can change that."

Stephen Rountree, president of L.A. Opera, said the company "is trying to be fiscally responsible and very conservative in terms of managing our budget."

L.A. Opera has been hit hard by the economy and its $31-million production of Wagner's "Ring" cycle operas two seasons ago. It recently paid back $7 million of a $14-million emergency loan that was approved by the county in 2009.

Marc Stern, the company's chairman and CEO, said the lineup for the new season was partly a "function of the economy" and added that he would like to see a return to a larger offering "just as soon as it is fiscally responsible to do so."

"The Two Foscari," an early Verdi opera rarely performed in the U.S., will open the season (Sept. 15 to Oct. 9) in a new staging for the company directed by Thaddeus Strassberger and conducted by music director James Conlon.

Domingo will star alongside tenor Francesco Meli in a story about a 15th century Venetian Doge and his son. It will be Domingo's first time performing the opera as well as another baritone role for the Spanish tenor, who will explore his lower register in the company's production of "Simon Boccanegra" opening Sunday.

"I'm looking for tenor parts and some new baritone parts," said Domingo, 71. "I'm also looking for parts closer to my age. All the young lovers tend to be tenors."

Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya, who made her company debut to great acclaim in "La Traviata" in 2009, will costar. The new staging is a co-production with the Palau de la Música in Valencia, Spain; the Theater an der Wien in Vienna; and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.

Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (Sept. 22 to Oct. 14) will return in a production originally directed by Peter Stein for the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2004. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, who made his company debut earlier this season in "Cosi Fan Tutte," will play the title role. Conlon and Domingo will share conducting duties for the production.

Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" (Nov. 17 to Dec. 9) will return in a staging by Ron Daniels for the San Francisco Opera. Soprano Oksana Dyka will star in the title role, with Grant Gershon conducting. The company's Robert Wilson production of the opera isn't being retired and will return in the future, said Stern.

The season will also include Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman" (Mar. 9 to 30, 2013), conducted by Conlon, in a staging by Nikolaus Lehnhoff for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera; and Rossini's "La Cenerentola" (Mar. 23 to Apr. 13, 2013), also conducted by Conlon, directed by Joan Font for the Houston Grand Opera and Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

The season will conclude with Puccini's "Tosca" (May 18  to Jun. 8, 2013), conducted by Domingo, in a production from the Houston Grand Opera directed by Tony-winner John Caird. Sondra Radvanovsky will sing the title role.

The joint recital with Fleming and Graham will be a co-presentation with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and will take place at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Jan. 19.

In recent seasons, L.A. Opera has been staging works by Benjamin Britten in honor of the centenary of the composer's birth. But the new season won't feature any Britten operas on the main stage. The company said it was a question of balance and finding operas more popular with audiences.

Recovered Voices, the company's series devoted to composers whose careers were cut short by the Third Reich, has been on quasi-hiatus and won't return to the main stage in the new season. Stern said that the series will continue in various forms each season, such as the recent performances at the Colburn School.

RELATED:

L.A. Opera to start dynamic ticket pricing next season

L.A. Opera makes early $7-million payment on county loan

Opera review: 'Romeo and Juliet' at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

-- David Ng

Photo: Plácido Domingo on the Music Center plaza.  Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.

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