BRITTEN 100/LA Celebration Comes to a Close with LA Opera's BILLY BUDD, 2/22-3/16
Conductor James Conlon, Music Director of LA Opera, concludes his three-year commemoration of the centenary of composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) and brings the Britten 100/LA celebration to a close in Los Angeles with LA Opera's production of Billy Budd, which opens on February 22 and continues through March 16, 2014. For more information about this production, visit www.LAOpera.org.
In the weeks before that production opens, Mr. Conlon continues his commitment to music education and to bringing Britten's work to the community with performances of The Little Sweepat the Los Angeles High School of the Arts, lectures on Britten operas at UCLA in conjunction with the "Benjamin Britten and Literature" conference, and a talk prior to an American Cinematheque screening of Peter Ustinov's 1962 film adaptation of Billy Budd.
Throughout his homage to Britten, Mr. Conlon has devoted much of his time to working with young musicians in Southern California's music schools such as the Colburn Conservatory, USC and UCLA, including his critically acclaimed performances of Britten's War Requiem performed by students from the Colburn Conservatory, USC and other university choruses from the area. He has also contributed to the intellectual community, frequently lecturing on Britten at these schools and at other venues throughout Los Angeles.
Mr. Conlon said, "The personal rewards that I have enjoyed throughout the Britten 100/LA celebration have been many. It is particularly gratifying to think that more than 90 organizations joined together to make this celebration possible. I thank all of the institutions, universities, schools theaters and nonprofit organizations for their contributions to bringing Britten's work to the forefront in Los Angeles."
Events in Mr. Conlon's Britten 100 Celebration will include:
The Little Sweep - February 7
On Friday, February 7, Mr. Conlon will conduct two performances, at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., of Britten's children's opera The Little Sweep at the Los Angeles High School for the Arts (LACHSA). The production is directed by Stephanie Vlahos, with vocalists from the LACHSA Music Vocal Department's Full Circle Opera Project and musicians from LACHSA's Symphony Orchestra. One of the numerous works Britten wrote for children, The Little Sweep is the second component of a two-part work titled An Entertainment for Young People that begins with the playLet's Make An Opera. During the play the characters write and rehearse the opera, The Little Sweep, and then perform their creation. The work is often referred to as the operatic counterpart to The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra.
Since 1985, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts has been one of the top arts high schools in the United States. Ranked in 2013 by Newsweek as the "number one public high school in Los Angeles," LACHSA's artists-scholars receive the best college-preparatory academics combined with conservatory-level arts training. LACHSA maintains the tradition of being 100% tuition-free and students hail from every corner of Los Angeles County.
Performances take place at Caroline's LOFT at LACHSA. The matinee performance is open to LACHSA students only. Tickets for the evening performance are $25 ($20 for students) and are available at www.LACHSA.net.
"Britten and Literature" Lectures and Conference - February 6-21
Mr. Conlon will give the keynote address for a two-day conference taking place on February 20 and 21 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Prior to the conference, he will give two introductory lectures on Britten operas at UCLA's Royce Hall. The first lecture on Thursday, February 6, at 7:00 p.m. will focus on Peter Grimes and Gloriana and the second lecture onThursday, February 13, at 7:00 p.m. will center on The Turn of the Screw and A Midsummer Night's Dream. These lectures are open to the public and free of charge.
In conjunction with the opening of Billy Budd, UCLA professors RoBert Fink (Department of Musicology), Efrain Kristal (Departments of Comparative Literature and Spanish and Portuguese), and Kenneth Reinhard (Departments of English and Comparative Literature) have organized the conference on "Benjamin Britten and Literature" at UCLA.
Mr. Conlon, a UCLA Regents' Professor, will present the keynote address for the conference at5:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 20. The Britten conference will feature distinguished musicologists and literary scholars from Europe and the U.S. who will present talks aimed at both a scholarly and general audience on operas by Britten including Billy Budd, Death in Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Peter Grimes, and The Turn of the Screw.
Some of the most distinguished Britten scholars, both younger and more established, will participate in the conference, including Ryan Minor (Stonybrook), Christopher Chowrimootoo (Notre Dame), Heather Wiebe (King's College London), Arman Schwartz (Birmingham), Jonathan Neufeld (the College of Charleston), Mitchell Morris (UCLA), and Seth Brodsky (Chicago).
Four talks are scheduled for each day, with the keynote by Mr. Conlon concluding the first day. The conference will be of interest to academics at universities across the region, undergraduate and graduate students in Music, Ethnomusicology, Musicology, Comparative Literature, English, European Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, and to the general public.
Professor Reinhard will offer an undergraduate seminar at UCLA in "Britten and Literature" in Winter Quarter 2014, and the students in the class will attend Mr. Conlon's lectures, a rehearsal of Billy Budd at LA Opera, and the conference.
The conference continues the collaborative relationship between UCLA and LA Opera. Last year, Mr. Conlon gave a highly acclaimed series of Regents' Lectures on Verdi and Wagner and a UCLA Master Class. Over the last five years Mr. Conlon has spoken at many UCLA conferences on topics that include 'Wagner and Anti-Semitism', the "Recovered Voices" operas, and 'Shakespeare and Opera'.
The two-day conference is open to the public and free of charge. For more information go to www.complit.ucla.edu.
Talk and Screening of Billy Budd - February 21
The final Britten 100/LA event prior to the opening of LA Opera's production of Billy Budd will take place on Friday, February 21, at 7:30 p.m., at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, where Mr. Conlon and actor Michael York will have an on-stage talk about Benjamin Britten's legacy, Billy Budd and the relation of the opera to the Herman Melville story. The talk will take place prior to American Cinemathque's screening of the 1962 Peter Ustinov movie adaptation of Billy Budd, starring Terence Stamp.
Tickets are $11 ($7 for members). For information and tickets visit www.AmericanCinemathequeCalendar.com.
LA Opera Presents Billy Budd - February 22-March 16
LA Opera concludes its year-long celebration of British composer Benjamin Britten's centenary with a revival of his masterwork, Billy Budd, conducted by Music Director James Conlon.
Based on a novella by Herman Melville, the 1951 opera, with a libretto written by E.M. Forster and Eric Crozier, depicts an unstoppable chain of events-set off by an officer's uncomfortable obsession with the handsome newcomer-that leads to a devastating tragedy. Britten's music suggests a sexual tension slowly coming to a boil in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the ship.
The cast is led by baritone Liam Bonner in his role debut as Billy. Mr. Bonner will return to LA next season as Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas. Tenor Richard Croft performs the role of Captain Vere and bass Greer Grimsley makes his LA Opera debut as John Claggart. The cast also include British baritone Anthony Michaels-Moore as Mr. Redburn and Australian bass Daniel Sumegi as Mr. Flint.
The production, first seen in Los Angeles in 2000, was created by Francesca Zambello, one of the most dynamic directors on the international opera scene. The production features scenery and costumes designed by Alison Chitty. LA Opera's 2014 performances will be staged by Julia Pevzner in her LA Opera debut. The lighting designer will be Alan Burrett and the chorus master will be LA Opera's Resident Conductor, Grant Gershon.
Billy Budd will be sung in English with projected captions. Tickets are on sale now and begin at $19. For a complete cast list, artist bios, synopsis and background material, visit www.LAOpera.com/BillyBudd.