Five-Spot: What caught my eye on Feb. 16, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

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Each Thursday, I list five events (six today) that pique my
interest, including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at a minimum,
inexpensive tickets). Here’s today’s grouping:

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Tonight at 7:30
p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Los Angeles Opera:
Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra

As noted in my review (LINK), this is an excellent production
that features Plcido Domingo in his first true baritone role after more than
half a century as a tenor. There are other reasons to make the trip downtown,
especially soprano Ana Maria Martinez. Other performances are Feb. 21 and March
1 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 26 and March 4 at 2 p.m. Information: www.losangelesopera.com

 

Saturday at 2 p.m.
and 8 p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium

Pasadena Symphony

Bulgarian conductor Rossen Milanov leads the PSO in
Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances (from
which came the song Strangers in Paradise,
made famous in the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet);
Rimsky-Korsakov’s version of Scheherazade,
with concertmaster Aimee Kreston playing the solos that portray the Arabian
princess spinning tales for 1,001 nights; and Saint-Sans Piano Concerto No. 5 (Egyptian), with Colburn School graduate
Esther Keel as soloist. Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

Saturday at 2 p.m.
in local theaters

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

If you weren’t able to attend the performance of Mahler’s
Symphony No. 8 last week at the Shrine Auditorium, you can see and hear the
“Symphony of a Thousand” live in movie theaters from Caracas, Venezuela on Feb.
18 at 2 p.m. via the “LA Phil LIVE” series. Actually, this performance will
reportedly have more than 1,200 musicians as Gustavo Dudamel leads both the Los
Angeles Philharmonic and Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, eight
soloists and more than 1,000 choristers. Several local theaters will also show
an “encore” performance is set for Feb. 29.  Mark Swed of the Los
Angeles Times
is in Caracas and filed this preview story HERE. Telecast Information: www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 7 p.m.
at Civic Theatre, San Diego

San Diego Opera: Jake
Heggie’s Moby Dick

When Dallas Opera premiered this new operatic version of
Herman Melville’s famous novel in April 2010, it met with widespread audience
and critical acclaim (LINK). San Diego, one of the four commissioning
companies, gets its turn in the spotlight beginning Saturday night. Prior to Moby Dick, Heggie was best known for his
opera Dead Man Walking, written in
2000..

 

One of the world’s premiere tenors, Ben Heppner, who created
the title role in Dallas, is back on the deck of the Pequod again (and above it
– see HERE) but Karen Keltner, SD Opera’s Resident Conductor, has withdrawn due
to illness. Fortunately, Joseph Mechavich, who just finished conducting Calgary
Opera’s run of Moby Dick, was
available to step in, so things should be in good hands in the pit (LINK).
Other performances are Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 26 at 2 p.m.  Information:
www.sdopera.com

 

Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Olivier Latry,
organist

Latry, who is titular organist at the Cathedral of Notre
Dame in Paris, returns to Disney Hall for a recital that will surely spotlight
the WDCH organ’s power and many colors. To conclude the program, Latry will be
joined by Korean organist Shin-Young Lee for a performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, using an adaptation of
the composer’s four-hand piano arrangement of what was originally a ballet
score (when the ballet premiered on May 29, 1913, it caused a riot (literally)
in the concert hall). Information: www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 8 at La
Mirada

La Mirada Symphony

Russian music seems to be everywhere this weekend. Robert
Frelly leads his ensemble in Tchaikovsky’s 1812
Overture
(presumably, since it’s indoors, sans fireworks) and Variations on a Rococo Theme, with Kihae
Kim DeFazio as soloist. Also on the program is Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird Suite. Information: www.lamiradasymphony.com

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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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OVERNIGHT REVIEW: LA Opera opens Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra” last night at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

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Los Angeles Opera:
Verd’s Simon Boccanegra

February 11, 2012 Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Next performances: Feb. 15, 21 and March 1 at 7:30 p.m.;
Feb. 19, 26 and March 4 at 2 p.m.

Information: www.losangelesopera.com

58450-Domingo-Martinez.jpg

Plcido Domingo and Ana Maria Martinez star in Los Angeles
Opera’s production of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra,
which opened last night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Photo for LAO by
Robert Millard.

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Simon Boccanegra
isn’t the least performed of Verdi’s operas but it’s not at the top of the list
of the Italian composer’s favorites, either. It was given, to quote Thomas
May’s article in the printed program, “a lukewarm premiere” when it debuted in
Venice in 1857 and, again according to May, subsequent performances in Florence
and Milan were “outright fiascos.” In 1881, Verdi — who had by then ostensibly
retired from the writing opera — revised the work, and the success of that
revival led him to write his final two — and greatest — operas: Otello and Falstaff.

 

What Verdi created in Boccanegra
was somewhat formulaic; even though the two plots are different, I had the
feeling I was reliving last season’s Rigoletto
all over again. Part of the reason for the familiarity may be that Michael
Yeargan designed both productions, Rigoletto
originally for San Francisco and Simon
Boccanegra
for Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

 

Nonetheless, wonderful music pours out of every page of Boccanegra and the ensembles he wrote –
trios, quartets and, in particular, a marvelous sextet to conclude the first
Act — the famous “Council Chamber” scene — are quite special.

 

For Los Angeles Opera, the major reason for mounting Simon Boccanegra is that Plcido Domingo
wanted to undertake the title role. After a century as one of the world’s great
tenors, Domingo (who turned 71 on Jan. 21) has discovered the joys of once
again being a baritone (he actually began that way as a young adult). Actually,
it’s quite a rare feat; normally a tenor voice doesn’t have the heft necessary
for baritone roles but Domingo has always been unique.

 

Last night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Domingo’s lower
register wasn’t as deep as many who have been baritones all of their adult
lives, but the glorious ring that has characterized his more than 130 tenor
roles remains very much in evidence. Moreover, he brought an anguished pathos to
the role of an elder statesman struggling to unite his country while wrestling
with personal demons, as well.

 

So, if you’re hesitating whether to attend one of the six
remaining performances, hearing and seeing Domingo’s riveting performance in
his “new life” is worth the price of a ticket. Besides, there’s no guarantee
that he can keep going; Domingo has already announced that he’ll perform in
Verdi’s even more rarely heard I Due
Foscari
to open LAO’s 2012-2013 season in September (yet another baritone role),
but the clock is, regrettably, ticking.

 

Fortunately, Domingo is not the only reason for making the
trip to downtown Los Angeles; the balance of the cast is uniformly strong and,
in a couple of cases, better than that. For me, the highlight of the evening
was soprano Ana Maria Martinez, who in her fourth appearance with LAO sang the
role of Amelia with a rich, lustrous tone and tossed off a spiffy trill at the
end of the sextet to boot. She also brought deep emotion to her acting.

 

Vatalij Kowalijow’s portrayal of Jacpo Fiesco echoed the
nobility that the Ukranian bass brought to his portrayal of Wotan in LAO’s Ring cycle three years ago, Stefano
Secco made an impressive LAO debut as Gabriele Adorno a gleaming top tenor
range. The balance of the cast included Paolo Gavanelli as Paolo Albiani (and
didn’t have to worry about remembering his first name), Robert Pomakov as
Pietro, Sara Campbell as Amelia’s maid, and Todd Strange as a captain. The LA Opera Chorus was effective in the crowd scenes.

 

To no one’s great surprise — he has conducted 25
performances of three productions of Boccanegra
before last night — James Conlon conducted with assurance and sensitivity and
the LA Opera Orchestra played beautifully; it would be a shock if either were
otherwise but such skill is not to be taken lightly or for granted. David Washburn sparkled as a one-man banda.

 

The production features a simple unit set with columns to
symbolize Italy and a moveable back wall alternating two different styles of
graffiti with Trajan-style letters, each trying to figure out clever ways to
slip Simon Boccanegra’s name among the other words. The costumes, originally by
Peter J. Hall, ranged from colorful to nondescript and the lighting design by
Duane Schuler was suitably atmospheric for the most part. Elijah Moshinsky
directed the six scenes skillfully.

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Hemidemisemiquavers:

The opera ran just under three hours including one
intermission.

Conlon revealed in his printed-program article that Simon Boccanegra was among the first
operas he saw, at age 13 from the standing-room area of the old Metropolitan
Opera House in New York City.

The large banners of Domingo and Conlon that used to hang
from atop the Pavilion are no longer present. They were destroyed in big
windstorms in December.

In addition to the remaining Simon Boccanegra performances, LAO’s production of Britten’s Albert Herring opens Feb. 25 for six
performances through March 17. Information: www.losangelesopera.com

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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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Five-Spot: What caught my eye on February 9, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Each Thursday, I list five events that pique my interest,
including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at a minimum, inexpensive
tickets). Here’s today’s grouping:

 

Tonight at 8 p.m.,
Zipper Hall, Los Angeles

Tuesday at 8 p.m. at
Huntington Library, San Marino

Camerata Pacifica

This traveling group (each concert plays in venues in four
different cities) brings its latest program to Zipper Hall at The Colburn
School in downtown Los Angeles tonight and to the Huntington Tuesday night. The
program is a mixture of old and new: John Harbison’s Variations for Clarinet, Violin and Piano; Sheng’s Seven Tunes Heard in China for Cello; Schuman’s
 Mrchenbilder (Fairy Tale Pictures), for Viola and Piano, Op. 113;
and Beethoven’s Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano No. 4 in B-flat Major, Op.
11, Gassenhauer. Information: www.cameratapacifica.org

 

Saturday at 9:00
a.m. in local movie theatres

Metropolitan Opera in
HD: Wagner’s Gotterdamerung

If you’ve wondered what has caused all the kvetching
vis–vis the Met’s new Ring cycle,
here’s your chance to see the last part of the cycle: Gotterdamerung. The reviews have been generally negative not only
of this production but also pretty much of all four productions, although
there’s been lots of praise for Fabio Luisi’s work in the pit leading the Met
Orchestra. However, as we learned from Siegfried,
what comes across on the big screen may be quite different from the
experience in the Met. Personally, I’d vote for L.A. Opera’s production of
Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra (see below)
but if you’re a glutton for punishment, you have time to do both with dinner in
between. Also, take note that Gotterdamerung
runs six hours. An “Encore” date has not been announced. Information: www.metoperafamily.org

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Los Angeles Opera:
Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra

Plcido Domingo performs the title role, which was written
for a baritone and fits Domingo’s voice at this stage of his career. James
Conlon conducts and gives a pre-concert lecture one hour before the
performance. Elijah Moshinsky directs this production from Royal Opera, Covent
Garden (Brian in Out West Arts has
one of his informative “10 Questions” features on Moshinsky HERE). There are
six other performances, beginning Wednesday. Information: www.laopera.com

 

Sunday at 7:00 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Master
Chorale: Bruckner and Stravinsky

Music Director Grant Gershon leads 115 members of his
Chorale and a wind orchestra in Anton Bruckner Mass in E Minor and the motet Os Justi, along with Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. Should be a real
treat in the Disney Hall acoustics.  Information: www.lamc.org

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Sunday at 6 at St.
James Episcopal Church, Los Angeles

Edward Tipton, who from 1989-2010 was Canon of Music at the
American Cathedral in Paris and is now Minister of Music for St. John’s
Pro-Cathedral in Los Angeles, appears on St. James International Organ Laureate
Series. The recital will follow an Evensong service at 4:30 p.m. and will be
played on a historically important instrument (read about it HERE). The church
is located on Wilshire Blvd., two blocks west of Western Ave. and is reachable
via a short walk from the Metro Purple Line’s Wilshire/Western station. Information: www.saintjamesla.org

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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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