Woody Allen Directs Placido Domingo in L.A. Opera's Opening Production!

all photos from LA Opera

Imagine this scene: a rehearsal room deep in the bowels of the L.A. Opera facility at The Music Center. The diminutive 79-year old comic genius, Woody Allen, is standing in front of the imposing 74-year old opera legend, Placido Domingo, trying to tell him how to improve his performance in the revival of GIANNI SCHICCHI, an opera which we first saw here in 2008. It's a short comic opera by Giacomo Puccini which will be the first half of the opening program of the L.A. Opera's 30th Anniversary Season on September 12th. You may recall my recent Huffington review of Woody's last film where actress Emma Stone said that Woody was so reluctant to actually give her and the cast any directions that he wouldn't even look at her or talk to her during the rehearsal. So imagining Woody in that rehearsal studio directing Placido is somewhat hilarious, at least to me.

Woody in that rehearsal hall.

The short opera 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 and that of the two young lovers. It's truly wonderful, and Placido is brilliant in the title role. After the intermission, Placido Domingo will then take the conductor's stand to direct Ruggero Leoncavallo's PAGLIACCI, a production which was designed by famed dirctor Franco Zeffirelli. I remember that it is an epic production which fills the stage with a lavish recreation of a contemporary urban landscape. It was seen here in 1996 and again in 2005. It brings real-life characters and emotions to the stage with such power that, seen once, it can never be forgotten. (Can any of us ever forget hearing Caruso singing the title song in our youth?) Canio, the brutal leader of a troupe of traveling players, finds that his wife Nedda is having an affair....and his jealousy erupts on stage before an unsuspecting audience as the play-within-a-play takes a tragic turn...the cuckholded husband taking revenge on an unfaithful, desperate wife who must fight for her life in front of a cheering, oblivious audience. Nedda will be sung by beautiful Puerto Rican soprano Ana Maria Martinez (who will also do Madame Butterfly here next March.) The tragic heartbroken clown, Canio, will be sung by Italian tenor Marco Beri.....and when he sings the title aria you will find yourself tearing up. Just magnificent. The double bill will run for a total of six performances from September12th through October 3rd, 2016, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (135 North Grand Avenue.) For tickets to this production, call 213-972-8001, go to the Dorothy Chandler boxoffice or online at LAOpera.org. Prices begin at $26....yes, everyone can afford a ticket..and you will never have more dramatic fun in a theatre than this.

Placido the actor in the opening production.

Pagliacchi, the tragic clown.

By the way, on opening night, September 12th, there is a gala invitational ball which is being underwritten by my dear friend Selim Zilkha in honor of Mary Haley, who has been on the opera board since 1993. It should be a ball. For ball information, call 213-972-3664 or visit LAOpera.org/OperaBall2015.

Placido, who is the Musical Director of the opera company, told me some details of the 30th anniversary season, and I can't wait to see some of the upcoming productions. He said: "Beginning with the company's inaugural production of Otello in 1986, I have had the honor of either singing or conducting on the opening night of L.A. Opera's season 19 times, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to do both on this opening night.....a milestone that I'm eager to celebrate." I'm looking forward to seeing the production of Moby Dick, which will be epic in scale, sumptuous and stunning. A favorite opera of mine, Norma, will feature Angela Meade as the ultimate diva. Mozart's The Magic Flute is a show to which you can bring the kids...but they can stay home when you come to see the ultimate love story, Madame Butterfly, in a production which is new to L.A. And the seaaon will end with the greatest love sory ever, La Boheme, an opera which I can attend a hundred times and never tire of seeing.

The Magic Flute is an opera for the entire family.

La Boheme is the ultimate tragic love story.

If you are an opera fan, you will be there for these. If you are not, now is the time to enrich your life by attending one, some or all of them. Oh, my, you will be so pleasantly surprised at the drama of it all.

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