Entertainment & Arts

Los Angeles Opera’s 30th season to begin with ‘Gianni Schicchi’

Woody Allen
Woody Allen will direct tenor Placido Domingo in a return engagement of Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” that will kick off Los Angeles Opera’s 30th anniversary season.
(Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

In his most recent movies, Woody Allen has worked with actors including Emma Stone, Colin Firth and Cate Blanchett. This year, the filmmaker will team up with a different kind of star when he directs tenor Placido Domingo in a return engagement of Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” that will kick off Los Angeles Opera’s 30th anniversary season.

Allen created the production for L.A. Opera in 2008 and will direct Domingo in it in Madrid this summer before the opera returns in September to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where it will be presented on a double bill with a revival of Franco Zeffirelli’s staging of “Pagliacci,” which Domingo will conduct.

The 2015-16 season, which was announced Tuesday, will also include the company debut of Gustavo Dudamel, who turned 33 this week, only three years older than L.A. Opera. The Los Angeles Philharmonic music director will lead two performances of “La Bohème” next year.

The company will present a total of six main-stage productions for the season, including the L.A. premiere of composer Jake Heggie’s “Moby-Dick,” his 2010 adaptation of the Herman Melville novel previously seen at Dallas Opera, San Diego Opera and other companies.


As part of its extended 30th anniversary bash, L.A. Opera will also stage a special concert on March 18, 2016, with Domingo and soprano Renée Fleming.

Christopher Koelsch, the company’s president and chief executive, said in a recent interview that the 30th anniversary lineup is intended to celebrate the legacy of Los Angeles Opera and its history of collaborating with noted filmmakers.

“I think we’re in incredibly good shape. We’re creating a new model of what an opera company can be,” he said.

L.A. Opera has been focusing in recent years on bolstering its coffers following a period of financial difficulty that coincided with the recession and the company’s costly production of the “Ring” cycle. Since then, leaders have worked to control costs and increase fundraising.


For the fiscal year ending in June, L.A. Opera saw its net assets grow by 67% to $58.1 million, according to audited financial statements. The company spent $42.4 million for the year, with ticket sales and fundraising bringing in $64.6 million, up 22% from a year ago.

L.A. Opera is still operating on a reduced main-stage season of six productions, down from as many as eight several seasons ago. But Koelsch said that the company is expanding its Off-Grand series of edgier, smaller works that is intended to reach new and younger audiences.

This season’s Off-Grand slate will include appearances by Philip Glass and a recent work by composer David Lang.

L.A. Opera was conceived in 1984, though its inaugural production took place in 1986 with a production of Verdi’s “Otello” at the Dorothy Chandler.

Domingo is the company’s general director and recently turned 74. The tenor is currently performing in Europe and was unavailable to comment.

He will play the title role in Allen’s production of “Gianni Schicchi,” which received rave reviews in 2008 when it was presented with a different cast as part of Puccini’s “Il Trittico.” The staging was inspired by black-and-white Italian comedies of the 1940s and ‘50s, and it features sets and costumes by Allen’s longtime screen collaborator Santo Loquasto.

The double bill of “Schicchi” and “Pagliacci,” the latter of which was first seen in L.A. in 1996, will run Sept. 12 to Oct. 3.

“Moby-Dick” (Oct. 31 to Nov. 28) will be conducted by James Conlon, who is L.A. Opera’s music director, and will star tenor Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab.


The season is also to feature Bellini’s “Norma” (Nov. 21 to Dec. 13), starring soprano Angela Meade and conducted by Conlon, in a production from the Washington National Opera; a concert with bass Erwin Schrott (Dec. 12); and a return engagement of the cinematically inspired staging of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (Feb. 13, 2016, to March 6, 2016) from the Komische Oper Berlin.

In addition, L.A. Opera is to present a staging of “Madame Butterfly” (March 12-31, 2016) that comes from the Santa Fe Opera and stars soprano Ana María Martinez.

Dudamel is scheduled to lead two performances of “La Bohème” on June 10 and 12, 2016. The conductor has been adding more opera to his personal repertoire in recent years, including performances at La Scala in Milan, Italy, and semi-staged operas with the L.A. Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

L.A. Opera’s oft-revived production of “La Bohème” by the late filmmaker Herbert Ross is to star Nino Machaidze in the role of Mimi.The production is also scheduled to run May 14 to June 5, 2016, with conductor Speranza Scappucci.

As part of its Off-Grand series, the company is also scheduled to present Glass and the Kronos Quartet performing the composer’s score for the 1931 movie “Dracula,” starring Bela Lugosi, at three screenings (Oct. 29-31) at the Theatre in the Ace Hotel in downtown L.A.

The company is also to present composer Missy Mazzoli’s multimedia opera “Song From the Uproar” (Oct. 8-11) and Lang’s “Anatomy Theatre” (June 16-19, 2016), both at REDCAT.

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