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New season, less opera: Chicago, LA in 2010-11

Tis the season for opera companies and orchestras to announce their upcoming seasons. And 2010-11 is a season of cutbacks; the Washington National Opera is not the only company tightening its belt.*

The Chicago Lyric Opera, for example, announced Tuesday that it is still presenting eight productions in 2010-11, but giving fewer performances of them (which is interesting; I always thought that the prevalent strategy was to perform an opera as many times as you could once you'd spent the money to mount it in the first place, especially since four of the eight productions are brand-new, and two more are new to the company. But you do have to be able to sell enough tickets to make money off of it).
(read more after the jump)

Chicago's program also, like Washington's, steers away from the offbeat to a certain extent. The most unusual (or, let's say, least canonical) works are new productions of Britten's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Handel's "Hercules" (both company premieres, both featuring David Daniels); "Hercules" is directed by Peter Sellars. In a smart piece of intramural play, Verdi's "Macbeth" (with Thomas Hampson and Nadja Michael) will be directed by Barbara Gaines, the artistic director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; I wish opera companies were generally better at playing together in this way with other organizations in their home cities. (In New York, the Met's much-vaunted announcement of its joint commissioning project with the Lincoln Center Theater has not yet brought tangible results.) Add Johan Botha and Emily Magee in "Lohengrin" and Sondra Radvanovsky and Stephanie Blythe in "Ballo in Maschera" and you have several operas worth seeing. In the Chicago Tribune, John van Rhein outlines some of the company's financial difficulties.

The Los Angeles Opera, WNO's half-sibling (since the two share a parent in the person of Plácido Domingo) has equally grave financial woes: even with the $14 million emergency bailout from the county that the company received late last year, it's cut back its season to 6 productions (down from 10 at its peak) and 42 performances. At the same time, the company is getting, in the calendar year 2010, two things denied to Washington: a complete Ring cycle at the end of the 2009-10 season (which may have been the last straw on the L.A. company's financial back), and a world premiere of a new opera from the Americas: Daniel Catan's "Il Postino," finally coming to the stage, after a postponement, to open the season in September and October, with Domingo in the role of Pablo Neruda. L.A. has something else Washington doesn't have: a dynamic music director in the person of James Conlon, who has, however, had to suspend one of his pet projects, the "Recovered Voices" series of operas written by composers who were censored by the Nazis.

The San Francisco Opera, which announced its season last week, is defying the financial climate by growing rather than cutting: adding a few performances more than it staged last season. It is also presenting the world premiere of the Zambello "Götterdämmerung" that Washington postponed indefinitely, and gets bragging rights by being the first company to present her "American Ring" complete. San Francisco is presenting its share of "Figaros" and "Butterflies," but it, too, has a dynamic new music director, Nicola Luisotti, in its favor, and is doing a couple of less-canonical operas (as mentioned in previous comments here): "The Makropoulos Case," with Karita Mattila (for whom Emilia Marty is probably a better fit than Tosca), and Alfano's "Cyrano de Bergerac," that confectionery showcase for the ubiquitous Domingo, who has not sung with the SFO since 1994.

The balance sheet? The recession may be taking its toll, but it's leaving glimmers of light as well, and it still seems to be hitting particularly hard in Washington (though it's hard to imagine how the Los Angeles Opera can survive that $14 million loan).

*(WNO has, incidentally, confirmed that Francesca Zambello will direct next season's "Salome," something that had not yet been finalized when the company announced its season on January 12.)

By Anne Midgette  |  January 28, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  national , opera  
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Comments

While it may have escaped your notice, I believe that most opera lovers will be most intrigued by the fact the Chicago Lyric Opera is bolding proclaiming on its site that next season will feature three English-language works in new productions next season: Handel and Broughton’s “Hercules”, Gibert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado”, and Britten and Shakespeare’s “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream”. (That is 37.5% of the operas.)

Didn’t the new Opera Society of Washington publicist, one of whose aliases here is OPERALOVE, proclaim in this public forum a short time ago that the former Washington National Opera was in the process of “rebranding” itself from being an aspiring national opera company with both company and General Director commitments to staging one American classical opera every season to being an “English-language” focused opera company?

Once again, the former Washington National Opera is lagging our great nation-at-large, and leadership toward a thriving and creative American operatic culture is coming from U.S. companies that don’t pretend to be national companies and which are not based on the banks of the Potomac River and housed in palatial culture palaces cut-off from their cities.

The American people are awaiting a ruling -- expected soon -- from opera-loving Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg as to whether the former Washington National Opera and its General Director Placido Domingo violated their commitments to Congress and to the American people to produce one American opera every season.

RE-NATIONALIZE THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA!!

Posted by: snaketime1 | January 28, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

"The American people are awaiting a ruling -- expected soon -- from opera-loving Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg as to whether the former Washington National Opera and its General Director Placido Domingo violated their commitments to Congress and to the American people to produce one American opera every season."

Really? Someone sued? Where was the suit brought? Who was the plaintiff? What was his/her standing?

For some reason this strikes me as way over the top, unlike your other comments, which are entertainingly over the top. Except when you're on about the aliases, which is a little creepy.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 28, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I stand by my comment in full.

I use only one alias here, as allowed under the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

Personally, Lindemann777, I find many of your comments in this forum, as well as your site as a whole, infantile, to say the least.

And I have never mistated in this forum the number of operas that I have actually attended live.

Posted by: snaketime1 | January 28, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Re aliases, I post under my own name because I believe in accountability for what is posted on the Internet.

Anne, SFO will have 12 Butterfly performances and 12 of Aida. Argh. Two casts in each and Nicola Luisotti conducting, but argh.

Posted by: LisaHirsch1 | January 28, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

"The American people are awaiting a ruling -- expected soon -- from opera-loving Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg as to whether the former Washington National Opera and its General Director Placido Domingo violated their commitments to Congress and to the American people to produce one American opera every season."

Yes. I am sure that Ginsburg and Scalia have nothing more pressing on their plates right now than the programming of the Washington National Opera.

And I imagine that Congress, amongst all this loud and angry populism, can't wait to start talking about that most elite and expensive of artforms, opera.

Why, I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned in last night's State of the Union!

Posted by: ianw2 | January 28, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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