LA Opera’s production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (through Mar. 6 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion) is surprisingly cartoony. It makes extensive use of animation; at its best it’s as wild and surreal as the work of Tex Avery. At other times it’s downright silly, too much so for my taste. But the fact that much of it seems created with children in mind isn’t a bad thing—after all, where is the next generation of opera lovers going to come from? The kids in attendance last weekend obviously had a great time.
The production design, created by Suzanne Andrade, Barrie Kosky and animator Paul Barritt, was largely influenced by silent movies; Monostatos (portrayed by Brenton Ryan), the villain of the piece, was made up to resemble Nosferatu, Germany’s silent era Dracula. The leads, Marita Solberg (Pamina) Ben Bliss (Tamino) and Jonathan Michie (Papageno) were in fine voice, though they played second fiddle to the pervasive design of the show. Conductor James Conlon was in top form as usual. Upcoming at LA Opera: “Madame Butterfly” (Mar. 12-Apr. 3).
Yuja Wang cut quite a figure last week at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, in a bright lime green floor-length dress. She may be a looker in the field of classical music but she knows she’s judged by her handling of the keyboard, and she more than met expectations in her rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2. From the pastoral passages of this quirky, demanding piece to its thrilling crescendos, Wang delivered on behalf of the Philharmonic Society of OC.
Nor did the Russian National Orchestra disappoint the crowd in its performance of Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture” or Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.” From first chord to final march-like downbeat, the piece with which Stravinsky made his mark as a young composer at the behest of ballet impresario Serge Diahilev was a perfect choice for RNO’s 25th anniversary tour. Among the goodies the Philharmonic Society has up its sleeve at SCFTA: Joshua Bell and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (Mar. 7) and the Polish Baltic Philharmonic in an all-Beethoven program (Mar. 15).
Meanwhile, SCFTA welcomes two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer David Crosby tonight on the first stop of his West Coast tour this month. It’s not business as usual for the singer-songwriter—he’ll be performing intimate solo acoustic for the first time on tour. Crosby’s repertoire will reportedly span his entire career, including selections from his 1971 solo debut album, new songs from his acclaimed 2014 solo album, The Byrds, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. “This is about the songs. The tale telling,” Crosby stated. “Taking you on a voyage to my world for a moment.”
This writer is reminded of a Neil Young concert at the Forum decades ago, which began with a superb acoustic set. Then he plugged in his guitars and amps and literally blew us out of the place in about 10 minutes. The L.A. Times’ music critic said it best the next morning, observing Young’s second set had all the subtlety of a jackhammer.