Two opera companies--the Deutsche Oper of West Berlin and Opera Theatre of St. Louis--will perform this year under the auspices of the Music Center Opera Assn., it was announced Wednesday.
At the same time, tenor Placido Domingo, who will appear at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in September in "Tosca" in the Berlin production, was named artistic consultant by the opera association, along with Richard Gaddes, general director of the St. Louis company.
In the third disclosure by the association, Executive Director Peter Hemmings said at a well-attended press conference at the Music Center downtown that the company intends to mount its first productions in 1986.
"We are hoping to commence staging our own productions toward the end of 1986 and to build a company . . . on a par with" the other resident companies including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Center Theatre Group and the Joffrey Ballet, Hemmings said.
The Berlin Opera will give 11 performances at the Pavilion, including three operas--Puccini's "Tosca," Korngold's "Die Tote Stadt" and Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro"--and three operetta concerts. The schedule runs from Sept. 9-22, with the Berlin contingent arriving here 10 days early to rehearse.
Performing with both the Berlin and St. Louis operatic companies will be an enlarged Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and various-sized choruses drawn from the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Both Robert Elias and Robert Willoughby Jones, executive directors of the respective groups, attended the press conference. "Tosca," Jones told The Times afterwards, would draw the largest chorus membership--75 out of its 120 singers.
The St. Louis Opera will stage "The Beggar's Opera," John Gay's 18th-Century masterpiece, at the Embassy Theatre at 8th Street and Grand Avenue downtown. There will be 10 performances from April 25-May 4.
Hemmings appeared to take particular delight in the use of the Embassy--a "beautiful, beautiful place," he called it, with "good access" and "good parking." The 1,600-seat house, he said, had been used for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's first concert in 1919. Ticket prices, he added, would be considerably cheaper. He said the top price in the Embassy, which would make opera more attractive to the general public, would be $25, and that there would be 600 seats available at $10.
Opening night prices for the Berlin performances will be $100, but after that the top ticket drops to $60.
Hemmings noted that at this point both the resident chamber orchestra and the chorus are "sufficient" for the Music Center Opera Assn.'s needs, and that any possible expansion was not a priority.
In "Tosca," Teresa Zylis-Gara will sing the title role, with Ingvar Wixell as Baron Scarpia and Domingo as Mario Cavaradossi. It will be conducted by Jesus Lopez-Co bos, the Spanish conductor resident in Berlin, and is designed by Filippo Sanjust. When asked the age of the production, Hemmings could not recall, adding it was "not old." (Of the 945 members of the German company, Hemmings said that 100 will appear here.)
"Die Tote Stadt" will offer two American principals--James King and Karan Armstrong, who began her career in Los Angeles. Heinrich Hollreiser will conduct. Goetz Friedrich, director of the Berlin company, will stage the opera. (Friedrich and Armstrong are husband and wife.)
"Le Nozze di Figaro" will be conducted by Christof Perick, staged by Friedrich, and will present Manfred Roehrl in the title role, Wolfgang Brendel as Count Almaviva, and American singers, Lucy Peacock and Helen Donath as Countess Almaviva and Susanna respectively.
As for Domingo's other role behind the scenes as artistic consultant, Hemmings said that Domingo would be "helping to find singers both locally and internationally." Noting that Domingo already has served for two years as a member of the board of directors of the MCOA, Hemmings said he had "conversations" with Domingo about the opera company even before he himself took over as executive director in November. Hemmings, 50, a British citizen, was managing director of the London Symphony before assuming his position here.
At the same time, with the finesse of a politician, Hemmings refused to speculate, as others have done, on a more involved role for Domingo. "I don't want to look into a glass bowl," he retorted.
He added that there never had been an intention to bring Domingo to Los Angeles for the press conference. Domingo is currently appearing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in "Otello."
Hemmings also declined to talk about rumored productions beyond 1985--specifically "Wozzeck" in 1986 and "Tristan und Isolde" in 1987. "I can't say beyond this year at this stage."
As for the long-term future of the Music Center's opera company, Hemmings sidestepped any number of questions--"I will not be pinned to the wall to make promises," he said.
Finally, he allowed that "we are involved in a gradual 10-year build" for the company to bring it to the same number of performances as the San Francisco Opera. He explained that he could not offer the same kind of 52-week schedule that the Met has. Last year, San Francisco gave 98 performances.
Asked about competition from the new Orange County Performing Arts complex, Hemmings said he has already to spoken to David DiChiera, the new general director of Opera Pacific, and that DiChiera assured him that his company and the Music Center company would be associated with each other.
When pressed about the possibility of Beverly Sills' New York City Opera coming to Orange County, much like the Joffrey comes here, Hemmings said initially that he last spoke to Sills in August, before any speculation about an impending arrival had taken place.
Hemmings then confided that he would be seeing Sills at the end of the week in New York and over the weekend at the annual Opera America conference in Washington, D.C.
Thomas Wachtell, president of the board, sat quietly next to Hemmings, who stood during most of the press conference. Until Hemmings' appointment, Wachtell had acted as spokesman.