By Jane Rosenberg
Los Angeles may be suffering the effects of a drought, but the year was a deluge of notable performances in opera and dance.
Team a dynamic conductor, James Conlon, with a great coloratura soprano, Albina Shagimuratova, and add the glass harmonica played by rare musical instrument soloist, Thomas Bloch. The result: Lucia di Lammermoor’s mad scene and one of the most memorable moments in LA Opera’s history.
But this performance wasn’t the only brilliant turn in 2014. Baritone Liam Bonner in Benjamin Britten’s wrenching Billy Budd was a standout with his beautifully modulated voice and truthful portrayal. The LA Opera orchestra and chorus along with the superb cast of principals made this a production to remember. Bonner returned as Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas and his supple baritone and charismatic presence were again worth noting.
We had a wonderfully varied year of opera, with the addition of the bluesy romanticism of Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire starring the incomparable Renée Fleming, for whom the opera was created. Plácido Domingo, the general director of LA Opera, astonished all with his transition from tenor to baritone. Performing the role of Athanaël in Massenet’s Thaïs, he sang with expressive warmth and was thoroughly convincing as the tormented monk.
In 2013, Los Angeles was treated to Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach at the LA Opera. In 2014, UCLA’s Art of Performance series at Royce Hall brought us Wilson’s musical and theatrical high jinks in The Old Woman, based on the absurdist writings of the Russian poet, Danill Kharms, and blessed with the vaudevillian antics of Mikhail Barishnikov and Willem Dafoe. How lucky can one city get – unless, of course, we can arrange another Wilson offering in 2015?
On the dance front, BalletBoyz gave us all male, tour-de-force dancing in pieces by Liam Scarlett and Russell Maliphant.
Romeo and Juliet, choreographed by Alexi Ratmansky to Prokofiev’s magnificent ballet score, was presented by The National Ballet of Canada and lingers in the mind with its glorious sets and costumes by Richard Hudson. Ballet Preljocaj’s Les Nuits, inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, was a magic carpet ride of a ballet, exploring not only the mythic, but also woman’s role in society and our cultural prejudices. And the inimitable Paul Taylor and his company gave us a diverse program of elegant and uplifting dance in Airs, antiwar sentiments in the heroic Banquet of Vultures, and delightful insect humor in Gossamer Gallants.
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To read more dance and music reviews by Jane Rosenberg click HERE.
Jane Rosenberg is the author and illustrator of SING ME A STORY: The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children. Jane is also the author and illustrator of DANCE ME A STORY: Twelve Tales of the Classic Ballets.