Los Angeles Opera Preview: GIANNI SCHICCHI & PAGLIACCI (LA Opera)

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by Tony Frankel on September 7, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles


The biggest names in opera, cinema, and classical music converge for the opening of LA Opera’s impressive 30th anniversary season. The double bill which opens Saturday is one of the fastest selling events in memory, and with good reason: The program begins with director Woody Allen’s riotous staging of Giacomo Puccini’s only comic opera, Gianni Schicchi, followed by director and designer Franco Zeffirelli’s epic production of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.


LA Opera General Director Plácido Domingo, who has achieved one of the greatest opera career rebirths in history—moving effortlessly from tenor to baritone—will show his stuff as both singer and conductor. First, he takes on the title role in Gianni Schicchi, which will be conducted by the indefatigable Grant Gershon, who has turned the Los Angeles Master Chorale into one of the top choruses in the world. After the intermission, Mr. Domingo will conduct Pagliacci.


Inspired by a character mentioned briefly in Dante’s Inferno, Gianni Schicchi is a sardonic masterpiece about disinherited relatives conspiring to alter a deceased kinsman’s will. Summoned to help, the trickster Gianni Schicchi eagerly seizes the opportunity to outwit the greedy family for his own benefit. Andriana Chuchman and Meredith Arwady will make their company debuts respectively as Lauretta and Zita. The large ensemble cast of squabbling relatives includes tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Rinuccio, tenor Greg Fedderly as Gherardo, soprano Stacey Tappan as Nella, and bass-baritone Craig Colcough as Simone.


Pagliacci is a classic example of verismo, bringing the story of real-life characters and emotions to the stage. Canio, the brutal leader of a troupe of traveling players, finds out that his wife Nedda is having an affair. His jealousy erupts onstage before an unsuspecting audience, as the play-within-a-play takes a tragic turn. The tremendous soprano Ana María Martínez (who will perform Madame Butterfly at LA Opera next year) plays the faithless Nedda. Italian tenor Marco Berti is Canio, the iconic heartbroken clown (Algerian tenor Yusif Eyvazov takes on the role Oct. 3). The cast also includes baritone Liam Bonner as Nedda’s secret lover Silvio and Georgian baritone George Gagnidze as Tonio, a rejected suitor whose humiliation sets a deadly plot in motion.

Peabody-Southwell-as-La-Ciesca-in-GIANNI-SCHICCHI.-Photo-by-Craig-T.-Mathew-LA-Opera.The double bill will run for a total of six performances from Sept. 12 through Oct. 3, 2015, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. To ensure that no one has a reason to miss a performance, LA Opera offers inexpensive seats for each performance. In addition, the exciting opening night performance will be broadcast live at 6pm on Classical KUSC (locally 91.5fm), and streamed online for audiences around the world at KUSC.org. The broadcast will be hosted by Duff Murphy and Alan Chapman.

On closing night, both operas will be captured by nine cameras at the Chandler and shown simultaneously on a huge LED screen on the Santa Monica Pier. The live video broadcast—a.k.a. Opera at the Beach—is free through the support of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who represents Santa Monica. Patrons should reserve advance tickets or visit the Chandler box office to avoid long ticketing lines on the night of the broadcast. For 20 bucks (30 at the “door”), you can sample wines from a multitude of wineries at The Wine Terrace (open from 6pm to 9pm). Kuehl describes this experience best: “It’s a fantastic combination of the beauty of opera and the natural splendor of our California coastline at dusk.”


George-Gagnidze-top-as-Tonio-with-Ana-Maria-Martinez-as-Nedda-and-Brenton-Ryan-as-Beppe-in-PAGLIACCI.-Photo-by-Craig-T.-Mathew-LA-Opera.photos by Craig T. Mathew / LA Opera

Gianni Schicchi Pagliacci
LA Opera
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 North Grand Ave
Saturday, September 12, 2015, at 6
(Live Broadcast)
Thursday, September 17, 2015, at 7:30
Sunday, September 20, 2015, at 2
Thursday, September 24, 2015, at 7:30
Sunday, September 27, 2015, at 2
Saturday, October 3, 2015, at 7
(Opera at the Beach)
for tickets, 213.972.8001 or www.laopera.org

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