A fully American grand opera
Los Angeles Opera stages the seldom-produced "Vanessa"
By John Farrell
Special to U-Entertainment
Thursday, November 25, 2004 - Los Angeles Opera has been steering its productions the last few months right down the middle of the operatic road.
With productions of Bizet's "Carmen' last month and Puccini's "La Boheme," which opened last weekend, the company has been reaching for an audience which knows what it wants, and what it wants isn't anything new and different.
On Saturday, however, when the company opens its first-ever production of Samuel Barber's 1958 Pulitzer Prize-winning opera "Vanessa," with superstar Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in the title role, it veers far from the norm.
"Vanessa' was a big hit when it premiered at the Metropolitan Opera, earned the Pulitzer and was revived for several seasons at the Met. It was also the first American opera to be performed at the Salzburg Festival. Gian Carlo Menotti, one of the 20th century's most successful opera composers (his opera "The Saint of Bleecker Street' won the Pulitzer in 1954), wrote the libretto for "Vanessa."
But after that original notice, it hasn't been heard from often. One reason lies in what Dimitri Mitropoulos, who conducted the premiere of the opera, said: "At last, a fully American grand opera!'
And that it is. The scale of "Vanessa," with an on-stage orchestra as well as that in the pit, and an unseen chorus, makes the work difficult and expensive to perform.
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Kiri Te Kanawa — VANESSA
Lucy Schaufer — ERIKA
Rosalind Elias — BARONESS
John Matz — ANATOL
David Evitts — DOCTOR
David Babinet — NICHOLAS, THE MAJOR-DOMO
Peter Nathan Foltz — A FOOTMAN
Synopsis of Vanessa