On Friday evening, May 17, there will be a spectacular musical event at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center (1310 11th Street, Santa Monica (310) 434-3200 or www.The BroadStage.com), the first of six performances through June 9 of a new full-length opera, Dulce Rosa, based upon a celebrated short story by the famed Chilean author, Isabel Allende. Composer Lee Holdridge and librettist/director Richard Sparks have created the work, which will be conducted by the L.A. Opera's director, Placido Domingo. Though the opera is in English, there will be projected English supertitles.
Allende's short story, "Una Venganze" ("An Act of Vengeance"), provides the basis for DULCE ROSA, a tale of romance and ruin, of revenge and redemption set in a South America country in the early 1950s. In the aftermath of a violent political uprising, a young woman plans her revenge against the merciless guerrilla who murdered her father. "What he did was unspeakable, and she knew they would meet again" is the theme of Allende's story. It is a grim subject with tragic contemporary relevance as a weapon of conflict in war-torn counties -- even in the present day. Yet, much to my surprise, it becomes a unique love story. Placido will conduct the L.A. Opera Chorus and Orchestra in five performances (opening night is sold out) on May 25, May 28, June 3, 6, and 9 (all at 7:30 p.m., with the latter a 4 p.m. Sunday performance conducted by Grant Gershon. Ticket prices range from $20 to $150).
The title role will be performed by Uruguayan soprano Maria Eugenia Antunez, making her L.A. debut, while Mexican baritone Alfredo Daza plays Rosa's nemesis Tadeo, while the media art director and set designer is Yael Perdes, with costumes by Durinda Wood, lighting by Anne Militello and projections by Jenny Okun. The latter happens to be a close friend of mine and I have seen some of the 230 photographs she has taken for the projections... and they are astonishing. Her husband, Richard, is also an old friend. Richard tells me that Lee Holdridge and he began planning this venture -- their sixth commission for the Los Angeles Opera -- almost 10 years ago. Once Maestro Domingo had approved the production, things moved ahead very quickly by opera standards. In early 2009 Richard began the first draft of the libretto, which he completed in five months. Once Lee began composing, the work evolved over the next three years, during which they put the opera-in-progress through three full-cast workshops. Lee, who was born in Costa Rica and speaks fluent Spanish, had a father who was a tree scientist in the rain forest there. This opera is the inaugural project of the L.A.Opera Off Grand series devoted to new and eclectic opera works presented in venues away from the company's home at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
I must admit that I am very excited about seeing this opera, since I am a huge fan of many of the people involved... from the astonishing writer, Isabel Allende, to Placido to Richard Sparks, Lee Holdridge and Jenny Okun... as well as Dale Franzen and the staff of the Broad Stage. "L.A. Opera's ongoing partnership with Lee and Richard dates back nearly five decades," says Mr. Domingo:
We had great success with their multi-media concert piece, Concierto Para Mendez, which had its premiere at L.A. Opera in 2007 and was televised on KCET. They are also the creators of several operas for young audiences that have been performed throughout Los Angeles County for tens of thousands of appreciative students -- most of whom were experiencing live opera performance for the very first time. It is, of course, a great honor for us to collaborate on their newest opera with one of the most important literary figures of our time. Not only is Isabele Allende perhaps the world's most wide-read Spanish language author, she is also a formidable human rights advocate dedicating her time and energy to the protection of women and children through the Isabel Allende Foundation.
I recently had lunch there on the stage of The Broad Stage to celebrate its fifth anniversary, and am astonished at the progress the theatre has made in winning over the hearts and minds of fellow Angelinos. And the drive to Santa Monica is sure more pleasant than that nightmare trek downtown to the Dorothy Chandler or Disney Hall. So book your tickets now for Dulce Rosa and I will see you at one of the performances.
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