Tag Archives: James Conlon


Leonard Bernstein’s operetta CANDIDE (1956)—musical theater’s polymorphous masterpiece—started out as a Cold War retort against McCarthyism, with a libretto by Lillian Hellman, and lyrics by film writer James Agee (which were dropped), Richard Wilber, John Latouche, and Dorothy Parker. In the 1970s, a book by Hugh Wheeler—truer to Voltaire’s satire—replaced Hellman’s (who had prohibited use of her work in any revivals).

The acclaimed production now at the Music Center—directed by Glimmerglass Festival general director Francesca Zambello, and conducted by James Conlon—is a co-production of Glimmerglass, the Opéra National de Bordeaux, and Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, and features the John Caird libretto from his 1999 Royal National Theatre staging.

Jack Swanson stars as Candide, the disillusioned optimist, and Erin Morley as his elusive love Cunegonde. Broadway legend Christine Ebersole plays the Old Lady, and Kelsey Grammer performs double duty as Voltaire and the misguided Professor Pangloss.



Thursday, February 8, at 7:30 pm; Sunday, February 11, at 2 pm; Thursday, February 15, at 7:30 pm; and Saturday and Sunday, February 17 and 18, at 2 pm.

DOROTHY CHANDLER PAVILION, Music Center, downtown Los Angeles.


From top:

Erin Morley, Brian Michael Moore, and Danny Lindgren in CandideL.A. Opera, 2018.

Morley, Jack Swanson, and Christine Ebersole in Candide, L.A. Opera, 2018. Photographs by Ken Howard.




In the busy, declamatory plays of Simon Stephens, the most interesting characters explosively stake their claims on a loveless, transactional playing field with little regard to the consequences of their actions. Vulnerability is sneered at—often by the most vulnerable themselves—or dismissed as a form of mental illness.

In CARMEN DISRUPTION (now at City Garage, directed by Frédérique Michel), Stephens kicks the major characters from Bizet’s opus to the curb of a large, unnamed European city. Micaela is bereft at the loss of her 62-year-old boyfriend, the taxi driving Don Jose. Escamillo has gone from bulls to bull markets as a high-stakes trader, and Carmen is a male prostitute who survives a rape but whose days may be numbered.

The players are alone in their traumas—the text is Bizet as a Gary Indiana monologue. With scant acknowledgement, they occasionally cross paths in bars and on bridges. They are lost and they’re definitely screwed, but with drollery intact, they’re not quite doomed:

“I take out a Viagra and swallow it right in front of him. There’s a fake log fire in the corner of the room.” — Carmen.

Across town—in the title role of the L.A. Opera production of CARMEN at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion—Ana María Martínez perfectly insinuates herself on a large, crowded stage and takes command as the only adult in the room. While the men bluster and parade, playing soldier and tormenting livestock, Carmen never abandons her policy of generosity and love con gusto. She knows her value, and doesn’t waste time nursing fragile martinet egos back to health. Naturally, her independent attitude must be punished.

In addition to Martínez, Liv Redpath as Frasquita and Kelley O’Connor as Mécèdes are particular stand outs. James Conlon conducts.


CARMEN DISRUPTION, through October 15.

CITY GARAGE, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica.


CARMEN—L.A. OPERA, September 17, 20, 23, 28, and October 1.

DOROTHY CHANDLER PAVILION, Music Center, downtown Los Angeles.


Top: Ana María Martínez (on table) in Carmen, L.A Opera 2017. Photograph by Ken Howard.

Bottom: Lindsay Plake, Kimshelley Lessard, Anthony Sannazzaro and David E. Frank in Carmen Disruption at City Garage, 2017.

Ana Maria Martinez in the title role of LA Opera's 2017 production of "Carmen".



“What Camp taste responds to is instant character… [which] is understood as a state of continual incandescence—a person being one, very intense thing.”Susan Sontag, “Notes on ‘Camp’ “*

SALOME is an opera of instant character, and its exaltation of lust remains undiluted. Bodies and things are transposed, and the protagonists begin and end the narrative as unattainable objects of desire: Herod will never possess his step-daughter Salome, and Salome will never possess the prisoner Jochanaan (John the Baptist).

“Jochanaan, you were so beautiful….Your body was like a garden….You saw your God, but you never saw me.” — Salome

In 1905, Richard Strauss adapted Hedwig Lachmann’s German translation of Oscar Wilde’s play (which was written in French), and the first hour of the opera is a modern fever of polyrhythms and bitonality (the “Salome scale”). As the fatal obstinacy of Salome and Jochanaan hardens, the swift pace gives way to measured deliberation. In the current L.A. Opera production, beautifully conducted by James Conlon, soprano Patricia Racette embodies Salome—voice, body, and soul—and brings down the house.



Saturday, February 25 at 7:30 pm; Thursday, March 2 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, March 5 at 2 pm; Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, March 19 at 2 pm.


*”Notes on ‘Camp’ ” was published in the Fall, 1964 issue of Partisan Review, and is included in the Library of America edition Susan Sontag: Essays of the 1960s & 70s.

Note on the illustration: In 2016, the L.A. Opera and the philanthropic initiative GRoW@Annenberg invited students from Southern California colleges to participate in the opera company’s first ever art contest. Marshall Dahlin of Cal State Fullerton was the first place winner, and his design illustrates the cover of the Salome program. The artwork is a less-epicene nod to Aubrey Beardsley’s drawings for the first English translation of Wilde’s play (and Marcus Behmer’s for the German edition), and locates the decapitation-as-castration theme of the piece.

Marshall Dahlin, Salome Image credit: LA Opera

Marshall Dahlin, Salome. Image credit: LA Opera