Dorothy Chandler Pavilion experiences storage squeeze

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Anyone driving past the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion these last few weeks has no doubt seen various opera sets and props sitting forlornly outside the building. Some of them are protected from the elements by tarps; some are not.

As the Los Angeles Opera embarks on its biggest season in its nearly 23-year history, the company is running up against a perennial problem: a space crunch that forces the technical crews to store sets and other movable equipment on the veranda facing 1st Street.

The squeeze is a result of a lack of storage space at the 3,200-seat venue, which opened 45 years ago and currently serves as the home of the opera company.


‘When we have a number of productions on stage at the same time, often all of the physical elements don’t fit in the building simultaneously,’ said Jeff Kleeman, technical director of L.A. Opera. ‘So we use the sides of the buildings basically as a back lot for scenery that you have involved in the current repertory.’

He added that the alternative would be to take some of the sets apart, ship them elsewhere and bring them back in time for performances or rehearsals. ‘So we roll it outside by our loading doors in as big of pieces as possible. It takes the least amount of time,’ he said.

Currently, the company is juggling productions of Donizetti’s ‘The Elixir of Love’ and Wagner’s ‘Siegfried,’ which opens today.

L.A. Opera said the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which for many years served as the home of the L.A. Philharmonic and the Academy Awards ceremony, doesn’t have large underground storage for sets that is common at larger houses such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Logic would suggest that L.A. Opera’s technically ambitious ‘Ring’ cycle will be particularly taxing on the building, especially in 2010 when the company mounts three complete cycles of Wagner’s four-opera epic. But the company said that because director Achim Freyer uses many of the same sets for the operas, the need for storage won’t be great.

The busiest period for the company occurred at the beginning of the 2008-09 season, during the simultaneous productions of Puccini’s ‘Il Trittico’ and Howard Shore’s ‘The Fly.’ In addition, the company was rehearsing the Robert Wilson production of Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ at the time.

‘That was by far the busiest time for us,’ Kleeman said.

-- David Ng