There will be blood. And poison.
Edward L. Doheny, L.A.’s original oilman (and inspiration for Paul Thomas Anderson’s film) left behind the Greystone Mansion and its lush gardens, which are now a public park in Beverly Hills. In his lust for oil, Doheny bled Mexico of its underground riches, too. So it would be hard to think of any other site quite as symbolically or captivatingly appropriate for presenting Daniel Catán’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter” Saturday and Sunday at dusk.
Premiered in Mexico City in 1991, this is the first opera by the late Mexican composer who immigrated to Los Angeles and whose sexually enchanting and politically barbed “Il Postino” was a Los Angeles Opera hit in 2010.
“Rappaccini” is based on Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz’s only play, a rewriting of Nathanial Hawthorne’s tale about a mad scientist with a poisonous garden, bewitching daughter and plot to infect the world.
Catán then weaves further musical seductions by combining Debussyan lyricism, the exotic glamour of Indonesian gamelan, the mysteriousness of ancient Japanese Noh theater and touches of Mexican modernism. In some ways his most far-reaching score, “Rappaccini” was later rescored by the composer, revising his rich orchestration for the glitter of pianos, percussion and harp (which will be played at Greystone by his widow, Andrea Puente).
The production comes by way of Gotham Opera in New York, a feisty, movable-feast opera company that has mounted Haydn’s “Il Mundo della Luna” (Man of the Moon) in a planetarium and Baroque opera in a downtown Manhattan nightclub. Gotham originally staged “Rappaccini” at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last month.
The inspiration to bring it to Beverly Hills was Broad Stage in Santa Monica, which is presenting the production and has plans for further collaborations with Gotham.