Los Angeles calls upon star French designers for 'Figaro' opera

Wed May 22, 2013 7:06pm EDT
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Count Almaviva, muscles bulging and resplendent in white, struts like a peacock across the stage belting his baritone at his countess, who sits in a flowing red gown against a sparse backdrop of sleek, modernist lines.

It is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro."

But unlike the countless productions of the 1786 opera, the Los Angeles Philharmonic has handed the reins over to star French architect Jean Nouvel and fashion designer Azzedine Alaia for an unorthodox take on what is sometimes called the most perfect opera.

"Figaro," known as "Le Nozze di Figaro" in the original Italian, is part of the Philharmonic's three-year opera program that pairs top architects and fashion designers with Mozart's three operas with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. It runs through Saturday.

"These are the crown jewels of Mozart's operas," Los Angeles Philharmonic President and CEO Deborah Borda told Reuters, adding that the orchestra has no intention of turning into an operatic company.

The opera, set outside of Seville, Spain, tells the story of how Count Almaviva attempts to intercede in the wedding of his valet Figaro to the countess' maid Susanna so the count can take her as his lover.

Last year, the company produced "Don Giovanni" with architect Frank Gehry as set designer and costumes by local fashion house Rodarte. British architect Zaha Hadid and designer Hussein Chalayan have been tabbed for "Cosi Fan Tutte" in 2014.

The Philharmonic's Walt Disney Concert Hall is an architectural landmark in itself, designed by Gehry in his trademark metal-clad, free-form expressionist shapes.   Continued...

Soprano Dorothea Roeschmann (R) as Countess Almaviva performs as baritone Christopher Maltman as Count Almaviva share the stage during a performance of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's production of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" in this publicity photo taken May 17, 2013 and released to Reuters May 22, 2013. Craig Mathews for LA Philharmonic/Handout via Reuters