I am an opera buff. Unlikely as that may seem, considering my upbringing in a rough Brooklyn neighborhood, I had the advantage of a wonderful father who loved that music (and he wasn't even Italian). A blue collar man with a limited education, he filled our home with the sound of great arias of the opera world. And many was the Saturday afternoon when we would go to the old Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan and purchase standing-room-only tickets to view the works of Verdi, Puccini, occasionally Wagner from the rear of the house. When I moved to Los Angeles, I occasionally went to the performances of the new (1986) fledging L.A. Opera company, but it wasn't until about ten years ago that I regularly began attending opening nights of every opera that they presented. I had the great pleasure of becoming friends with the late Edgar Baitzel, the creative genius beside Managing Director Placido Domingo in this opera company, having met him at the Sunday brunches at Fred Hayman's Malibu beach house. Edgar contributed to my education with discussions of music, politics, books and life. His unfortunate, quick demise at age 51 was a loss for all, and I still see his widow Christine at all of the opera events.
Which is prelude to my telling you about a magnificent new opera about to open at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which I am urging you to see in the next few weeks. I was privileged, thanks to the company's PR director, Gary Murphy, to attend a press luncheon and preview this week, and then will attend the opening night on Sept. 23rd of the world premiere performance of IL POSTINO, starring the incomparable tenor Placido Domingo as the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, in an original operatic work by the Mexican-born American composer/librettist Daniel Catàn.
Il Postino Composer-Librettist Daniel Catan.
You may recall the lovely, romantic Academy Award-winning Italian movie of 1994, ll Postino, directed by Michael Radford, a surprise hit with audiences around the world. It was the tale of the middle-aged prize-winning poet Neruda, exiled from his native Chile by an oppressive regime to a tiny Italian fishing village, who befriends a shy young postal clerk delivering his mail by bicycle, and how he encourages him in his pursuit of the beautiful tavern waitress and to follow his dreams. Pablo Neruda won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971, a poet revered from Latin America to Moscow to Minneapolis.
Soprano Amanda Squitiera plays the lovely tavern waitress.
At lunch the composer told me of how he had been germinating the story in his head for some ten years, going back to the original 1972 play, book, and film for source material, and when Edgar and Placido encouraged him to finish the work with a promise of a world premiere in Los Angeles, he buckled down and spent the past six years polishing it. The opera company's energetic Chairman, financier Marc Stern, told me that despite the hard economic times and the all-encompassing Wagner Ring of last year, they were determined to mount a first-class production of the new work... and did they ever!
Placido Domingo will be singing his 134th major role in Il Postino!
This is the 25th anniversary of the opera company here, and the 134th major role for the legendary and unbelievable talent that is 67-year old Domingo. Although the film was in Italian, the opera is being performed in Spanish, with subtitles, and Daniel told me that he composed it specifically with Placido in mind, thrilled that had the opportunity to work with him at last. (Gary noted that the opera audience in L.A. has increasingly included Spanish-speaking patrons, reflecting the polygot nature of our cosmopolitan city.) Director Ron Daniels, Brazilian-born and native of L.A., told me that he considers this An Angeleno Opera, a fascinating concept. After the company competes its performances here, they will do it in Vienna and Paris....and, I am certain, many other cities in years to come. Tenor Charles Castronovo sings the title role of the Postman, while Soprano Amanda Squitiera sings the role of the tavern waitress. Grant Gershon conducts the orchestra. Even if you are not an opera-goer, this is an opportunity to enjoy a stunning musical performance which will leave you breathless and delighted!
Opera Chairman Marc Stern with Placido and Composer Catan.
After the Sept. 23rd opening, performances are scheduled for Wed., Sept. 29th, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday October 2nd at 2 p.m.; Tuesday October 5th at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday October 9th at 2 p.m.; Saturday October 16th, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range in price from $20 to $270 and all performances take place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue. Tickets can be purchased online at www.laopera.com or at (213) 971-8001.
Placido is the General Director of the L.A. Opera.
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