Back in October the LA Opera held their second annual Opera at the Beach performance at the Santa Monica Pier. And though the air has turned cooler since that balmy fall night, from how the performance went the opera is already considering next year’s performance.
“Working with the Pier and Santa Monica has been fantastic,” said senior director of production, Rupert Hemmings. “I’m quite sure we’ll be back. I personally loved it. And it is all around a good experience I think.”
On Saturday, Oct. 3 the LA Opera’s final performance of “Gianni Schicchi” and “Pagliacci” was simulcast from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to the Santa Monica Pier for free.
Plácido Domingo starred in “Gianni Schicchi,” Woody Allen’s staging of Puccini’s comic masterpiece, conducted by Grant Gershon. The opera tells the story of greedy relatives who descend upon their kinsman’s deathbed, and enlist Gianni Schicchi to rewrite the will to their benefit. But handed the opportunity, Schicchi turns the tables, securing the future happiness of two young lovers in the process. Plácido Domingo conducted the conclusion of the double bill, Franco Zeffirelli’s production of “Pagliacci.” Starring Marco Berti, Ana María Martínez and George Gagnidze, the opera is about a cuckolded husband who takes his revenge, and his desperate wife who must fight for her life in front of a cheering, oblivious audience.
Hemmings said that this being LA Opera’s second year at the Santa Monica Pier he thinks the turn out was great, with upwards of 4,000 people in attendance for the event, which began at 7 p.m. with pre-event picnicking starting at 5 p.m. Hemmings said it is an event that shouldn’t be missed, especially for those who have never experienced opera before.
But the logistics of pulling off this kind of event are extreme, with Hemmings and production and technical manager, Michelle Magaldi, having worked on the presentation for close to seven months.
“There is a downtown LA part of the logistics, the film unit of cameras, the Santa Monica based part of it setting up the venue. The screen. The sound.”
But Hemmings said since their first event last year things are going smoother.
“I mean there’s definitely a learning curve. It’s always tricky to present opera in this way. It’s designed to be done without any amplification. Especially in a venue that has no reflective surfaces. But Michelle and I are a lot more confident this year, though last year didn’t go bad either.”
Though both Magaldi and Hemmings hope to be back at the beach next year, Magaldi said the scheduling will play into their planning decisions.
“We like to get there while the weather is still good,” Magaldi said. “The first year we did it, it was a week night, and we decided that a Saturday night would be a better night for something like this.” Magaldi said the Opera would never do their opening night of a production because there would be too many logistics involved.