Category: Opera

Stephen Colbert sings opera with Placido Domingo! [Video]

February 24, 2012 |  7:24 am

Stephen Colbert and Placido Domingo

Satirist Stephen Colbert showed off his singing skills on Thursday's episode of "The Colbert Report" as he teamed with tenor Plácido Domingo for a rendition of one of the most familiar tunes of opera, "La Donna E Mobile," from Verdi's "Rigoletto."

Domingo, who visited Colbert's show between performances of Los Angeles Opera's current production of "Simon Boccanegra," dueted the canzone after asking the tenor for a master class in singing opera.

Domingo sang sweetly in the higher ranges to Colbert's lower notes. Colbert was dressed in white tie and tails with a Pavarotti-style handkerchief in hand. Impressively, he held his own next to the man he earlier had called "the most famous opera singer in the world," flawlessly handling the Italian lyrics.

Before they sang, Domingo seemed delighted to be part of Colbert's schtick. The host praised opera, saying that because operas are so long "you get your money's worth."

When Colbert added "I love the way you opera people soak the snooty crowd with those ticket prices," Domingo seemed both horrified (a little) and amused (a lot).

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L.A. Opera tries new pricing scheme for 'Albert Herring'

February 20, 2012 |  2:53 pm

Lead"Downton Abbey" is over, at least until next season. But local Anglophiles yearning for more early 20th century nostalgia can get their fix in Los Angeles Opera's production of "Albert Herring" by Benjamin Britten, opening Feb. 25.

L.A. Opera recently has been rolling out new ticket-pricing strategies designed to attract new audiences. For next season, the company will introduce dynamic ticket pricing for the first time. For "Albert Herring," the company is trying something else -- $25 tickets designed to reel in new opera-goers.

The company said that ticket holders for "Albert Herring" can bring along friends who have never been to the opera before for just $25 per seat. The discounted tickets will be sold for just three days, Feb. 22-Feb. 24. The company said that a best effort will be made to seat friends together as part of the offer.

Ticket holders for "Albert Herring" can buy the reduced-price seats for a maximum of two friends. The opera will have six performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion from Feb. 25 to March 17. The offer applies to all performances except the March 11 matinee.

An L.A. Opera spokesman said the offer is part of the company's larger initiative to explore alternative pricing methods. "Albert Herring" is a lesser-known work and was last staged by the company in 1992.

The production opening later this month is new to the company and comes from Santa Fe Opera. Tenor Alek Shrader plays the title role of a meek young man in this comic story set at the turn of the century.


L.A. Opera goes for laughs with 'Albert Herring'

Opera review: Placido Domingo in L.A. Opera's 'Simon Boccanegra'

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

-- David Ng

Photo: A scene from "Albert Herring." Credit: Los Angeles Opera

Ben Heppner cancels 'Moby-Dick' performance in San Diego

February 20, 2012 |  7:42 am


Ben Heppner has canceled his Tuesday appearance in "Moby-Dick" at the San Diego Opera. The company said in a statement that the tenor was ill and that the role of Captain Ahab would be sung that night by Jay Hunter Morris.

"Moby-Dick," by Jake Heggie, is an operatic adaptation of the Herman Melville classic novel. Heppner originated the role of Ahab at the world premiere in 2010 at the Dallas Opera.

In recent years, Heppner, 56, has been noted as much for his cancellations as his appearances and some vocal travails in performances.

"It happens," he said flatly in an interview with The Times. "There have been some not-great moments in my more recent past. I'm working through it."

Of Saturday night's opening performance of "Moby-Dick," San Diego Union-Tribune critic James Chute wrote that Heppner’s voice "sounded strained and was inconsistent throughout his range (every time he went up into his high register, it sounded like an occasion, and not a good one)."

Heppner's last Los Angeles Opera appearance was in Wagner's "Lohengrin" in 2010. Critic Mark Swed wrote of Heppner, "You could never predict which notes or phrases would be clarion and which not."

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Riding to the rescue of the opera 'Moby-Dick,' baton in hand

February 15, 2012 |  5:33 pm

Due to illness, San Diego Opera’s resident conductor Karen Keltner has withdrawn from the company’s production of Jake Heggie’s opera “Moby Dick.”  She will be replaced by Kentucky Opera conductor Joe Mechavich, who recently conducted "Moby-Dick" in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Mechavich, who arrived in San Diego for rehearsal on Monday, was scheduled to conduct upcoming performances of Kentucky Opera’s “The Merry Widow,” but withdrew because Kentucky Opera management had decided to hire non-union players to perform for that production. The conductor has not resigned from his post as the Kentucky company’s resident conductor.

 “It’s been well over a year that there has been an impasse between the Louisville Orchestra Inc. and the union players in Kentucky and this has had adverse effects for Kentucky Opera,” Mechavich said in an interview Wednesday.  “On Feb. 2, I was informed by the management of Kentucky Opera that a group of non-union players had been organized with intent to perform for Kentucky Opera’s production of ‘The Merry Widow.’ On Feb. 10, I withdrew from the production.”

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'Cupcake Wars' takes on Los Angeles Opera's 'La Boheme'

February 14, 2012 |  2:00 pm

Ever wanted to see a classic opera reinterpreted with baked goods? The Food Network’s competition show “Cupcake Wars” earlier this week had four bakers compete for a $10,000 prize and a chance to showcase their treats at a party to celebrate the Los Angeles Opera’s upcoming revival  of “La Boheme.”

The challenges included a flavor tribute to opera’s birthplace, Italy, a lavishly dressed cast of cupcakes inspired by different “La Boheme” characters and a 1,000-cupcake final opus with plenty of candied broken hearts.

The episode will repeat on Wednesday.

Soprano Ailyn Perez, who will be L.A. Opera's Mimi, served as a guest judge, and husband-and-wife-run bakery Casereccio Cakes from Florida took home the grand prize. “La Boheme” will be on stage  May 12-June 2 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, but the cupcakes have made their final curtain call.

The Food Network has the winning recipe, featuring bubbly and buttercream. 


L.A. Opera announces 2011-12 season details 

New York City Opera 'La Traviata' eerily invokes Whitney Houston

Opera review: Placido Domingo in L.A. Opera's 'Simon Boccanegra'

--Jamie Wetherbe

Photo: Champagne cupcakes with Italian butterceam were served at the L.A. Opera party. Credit: Food Network.

New York City Opera 'La Traviata' eerily invokes Whitney Houston

February 13, 2012 |  8:40 am

Laquita Mitchell
A striking African American woman with a big voice who dies too soon.

Little did New York City Opera know when they cast Laquita Mitchell in the lead role of “La Traviata” ("The Fallen Woman") the significance it would have on the company’s opening performance on Sunday afternoon at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Less than 24 hours after the death of pop-star Whitney Houston, the color-blind casting of Violetta Valery — a woman done in by a combination of good looks, notoriety and ill-advised love — gave the 159-year old opera a jolt of relevance.

As a YouTube clip from 1994 featuring Whitney Houston, Luciano Pavarotti, Sting and Elton John riffing on Verdi makes clear opera is an artform that thrives on the unexpected. 

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Grammy Awards 2012: Gustavo Dudamel, L.A. Philharmonic win

February 12, 2012 |  3:33 pm


Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic won a Grammy Award on Sunday for their recording of Brahms' Fourth Symphony. It marked the first Grammy win in Dudamel's career.

No single album dominated the classical categories this year, but the list of winners featured a few major names, including composer John Adams, singer Joyce DiDonato and the group Eighth Blackbird.

The classical awards were handed out Sunday afternoon as part of a pre-show ceremony at Staples Center that was broadcast online.

Full Coverage: 54th annual Grammy Awards

The L.A. Philharmonic's album of Brahms' Fourth Symphony was released last year by Deutsche Grammophon. The recording was part of the orchestra's Brahms Unbound series last season at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic are currently on a concert tour in Venezuela and were not present to accept their award.

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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.

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Influences: Soprano Ana Maria Martinez

February 7, 2012 |  1:47 pm

Ana María Martínez remembers the struggle she went through to find -- and commit to -- her calling. Now she is becoming one of the world’s acclaimed operatic sopranos and, especially in the Spanish-language press, a star. But it did not come easy. 

Born and raised in Puerto Rico before moving with her family to New York, Martínez was educated at Juilliard and won the Plácido Domingo International Voice Competition. Martínez's mother, Evangelína Colón, sang opera on the side while working as a biochemist and later taught music and voice; her father, Dr. Ángel Martínez, is a psychoanalyst.

Today Martínez lives in Houston, which keeps her close to Houston Grand Opera, an institution with which she has a long relationship. Winner of a Latin Grammy for an album of Isaac Albéniz’s music, Martínez –- whom Opera magazine has said "requires ranking among the top lyric sopranos of the day” –- performs the role of Maria in Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” starting Saturday. She has performed with Domingo (who sings the title role here) many times, but this is their first staged opera together.

The soprano spoke about her influences.

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Meryl Streep explains how her opera training helps vocal control

February 7, 2012 | 10:52 am


Among the many pleasures of Meryl Streep's "Fresh Air" interview that aired Monday on NPR is the actress' discussion of her operatic training during her youth. Streep studied with Estelle Liebling, a highly respected voice teacher whose students included Beverly Sills.

Streep's voice has been much analyzed by critics for its versatile qualities, especially her facility with accents and her vocally uncanny impersonations of Margaret Thatcher and Julia Child. In the NPR  interview, Streep spoke about the importance of voice in her training and subsequent career.

"I loved singing and I had a very good coloratura voice," Streep told "Fresh Air" host Terry Gross. But it's a "voice I don't have anymore."

The actress acknowledged that as a teenager, she hated opera. "I liked cheerleading and boys," she said.

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