‘Faust’ to Open Opera Season : Music: L.A. Opera will stage eight works this season, one more than last year. The financial bottom line is making co-productions necessary.


A Peter Sellars production of Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande” conducted by Simon Rattle and a rare look at Handel’s “Xerxes” highlight a 1994-95 L.A. Opera season otherwise full of operas and productions familiar to the company’s audiences.

Eight operas are once again scheduled (after a drop to seven last season) and 54 performances. The only new production to premiere locally will be a “Faust” with a director and designer to be announced.

Placido Domingo appears only in five performances of “Otello,” an opera he’s sung here twice before. Contemporary opera is once again absent--unless you count “Porgy and Bess”--and the prospects for Wagner (represented by only one opera in the company’s history) remain “bright but distant.”


The schedule for the ninth season of Music Center Opera was announced by General Director Peter Hemmings at a press conference Tuesday in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.


“Times are extremely hard for the arts generally,” Hemmings said, “not just in L.A. or America but all over the world.” He said the company’s subscriptions sales had increased during the previous season but ticket purchases for “unfamiliar pieces” remained a problem, as did the ongoing search for contributed income.

The financial bottom line makes co-productions a necessity, and the delay in announcing the “Faust” creative team was attributed by Hemmings to one of the two unnamed other theaters that plan to share the staging not yet confirming the arrangement. He said the information should be available in the next few weeks.

Other notable partnerships: “Xerxes” (originally “Serse”) will be the company’s contribution to another “U.K./L.A. Festival,” he said, and the “Pelleas” (set in Malibu) will be in association with the L.A. Philharmonic.

Hemmings cited “Porgy and Bess” (a new production, funded with 11 other presenters, including the Houston Grand Opera) and this season’s “El Gato Montes” as “operas that appeal to audiences other than conventional operatic audiences” and thus a way to help enlarge the company’s potential public. The cast for “Porgy” “s currently being auditioned,” he said.


Beyond the season itself, the company is producing a videotape of “El Gato Montes,” Hemmings said. Shot during three performances last month, the videotape is currently being edited and will probably be seen on PBS, he said.


The following is a listing of the productions scheduled (names separated by slashes indicate that those artists will alternate):

“Faust” (Gounod): Sept. 9, 11, 16, 18, 21, 24, 28. Conducted by Lawrence Foster, director and designer to be announced, with Veronica Villarroel, Jorma Silvasti, Barseg Tumanyan, Rodney Gilfry, Suzanna Guzman.

“Elektra” (R. Strauss): Sept. 10, 13, 17, 20, 23. Conducted by Randall Behr, production by David Pountney (stage director: Clare West), designed by John Bury, with Marilyn Zschau, Ealynn Voss, Leonie Rysanek, Jonathan Mack, Richard Bernstein.

“Don Giovanni” (Mozart): Sept. 27, 30, Oct. 2, 5, 8, 11, 14. Conducted by Foster, production by Jonathan Miller (stage director: Karen Stone), designed by Robert Israel, with Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Joanna Kozlowska, Paula Rasmussen, Thomas Allen/Gilfry, Thomas Randle, Paul Plishka, John Atkins, Louis Lebherz.

“Xerxes” (Handel, in English): Oct. 29, Nov. 2, 5, 8, 12. Conducted by Roderick Brydon, directed by Stephen Wadsworth, designed by Thomas Lynch (sets), Martin Pakledinaz (costumes), with Lorraine Hunt, Gwendolyn Bradley, Susannah Waters, Rasmussen, Brian Asawa, Atkins, Jan Opalach.

“Pelleas et Melisande” (Debussy): Feb. 4, 7, 10, 12, 1995. Conducted by Simon Rattle, directed by Peter Sellars, designed by George Tsypin (sets), Dunya Ramicova (costumes), with Elise Ross, Francois Le Roux, Willard White, Kenneth Cox, Delia Wallis, Gaele Le Roi.


“Don Pasquale” (Donizetti): March 18, 21, 23, 26, 29, April 1, 1995. Conducted by Evelino Pido, directed by Stephen Lawless, designed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, with Inva Mula Cako, Claudio Desderi/Michael Gallup, Greg Fedderly, Gilfry.

“Otello” (Verdi): May 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 20, 23, 1995. Conducted by Behr, production by Gotz Friedrich, designed by Gunther Schneider-Siemssen (sets), Jan Skalicki (costumes), with June Anderson, Placido Domingo/Vladimir Bogachov, Gregory Yurisich, Rasmussen, Fedderly, Lebherz, Daniel Ebbers.

“Porgy and Bess” (Gershwin): June 7-18, 1995 (12 performances). Conducted by John DeMain, directed and choreographed by Hope Clarke, designed by Ken Foy (sets) and Judy Dearing (costumes). Casts to be announced.