"Why are you so passionate about opera" was a question thrown at me today, and I puzzled for a response. It certainly was not something which came naturally to me from my environment, for I was a street kid growing up in a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn a million miles figuratively from the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan. But by some strange happinstance, my father - who was a blue-collar guy who never went to college and wasn't Italian - loved opera, and he dragged me to many a Saturday afternoon opera at the Met, when we had the cheapest seats or even stood at the back to watch. Opera is theatre tenfold. It is passion, drama, over-the-top emotion and mostly glorious music. I know that many of my Huffington readers have never been to an opera, like most Americans, so I have a wonderful suggestion. Get some tickets immediately to the opening opera of the 2014 L.A. Opera season at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center. It is Guiseppe Verdi's LA TRAVIATA, along with "Carmen" my favorite opera, and it is the perfect one to initiate your opera-going experience. It features glorious music, a storyline which is easy to follow, and sheer emotional drama which will leave you breathless and replaying some of the arias (songs) in your head long after. The fact that you will also see the greatest opera singer of our generation, Placido Domingo, in a role is a big plus.
He is singing the role of a character named Giorgio Germont, and opposite him will be a lovely soprano, Nino Machaidze, who will be making her debut in the role of Violetta. The production will be conducted by the opera's Musical Director, James Conlon. This version of the opera was seen here some years ago (2006) and was created by director/designer Marta Domingo, Placido's wife. A Mexican tenor named Arturo Chacon-Cruz will sing the role of Alfredo Germont. La Traviata will open on September 13th and l have a total of six performances through September 28th, so I really urge you to make plans now to see it. You will become an aficionado of opera, of that I am sure.
I had a chance to discuss the opera with Maestro Domingo, and he told me: "I first performed in La Traviata when I was starting out as a young tenor, singing the role of Gastone in the first year of my career and then moving up to Alfredo, a role that I sang many times. Back then I never once imagined that I would someday sing the baritone role of Giorgio Germont. But whenever I performed Alfredo, I was always mesmerized by that powerful scene between Violetta and Giorgio - the centerpiece of the opera really - as I waited offstage during the second act. In recent years, when I seriously began to explore the possibility of singing Verdi baritone roles, Giorgio Germont was one that stood out for me. I can really identify with Verdi's deeply-moving 'father' roles, and the music that he wrote for Giorgio is an absolute joy to sing." And as a member of the audience, I can attest to the fact that it is an absolute joy to listen to. He mentioned that he had made his operatic conducting debut with this opera, and we recalled the 2001 performance when this occurred.
Not convinced yet to come. Let me tempt you even more with some stuff about this upcoming event. Director Marta Domingo has set the opera in the giddy, glitzy world of Paris in the Roaring Twenties. We see a naïve young man falling head-over-heels for a glamorous 'party girl.' Together they trade the fast life for an idyllic love nest far from the city...until an unexpected visitor threatens to split them apart. The powerful romantic drama, illuminated through Verdi's soaring arias and passionate duets, have long made this opera one of the most popular in the world. Incidentally, he mentioned proudly that his wife had also designed the scenery and costumes for the production. It is being sung in Italian, but you will be following it with the simultaneous English translation projected over the stage.
You can get tickets, which start at $19, at the boxoffice, 135 North Grand Avenue. Or call (213) 972-8001....or go online at www.LAOpera.org. Please trust me, you will not be sorry. You will thank me for exposing you to one of the most exciting theatrical works ever. It will place a song in your heart.
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