LA Opera’s productions of rarely performed works as part of the Company’s Recovered Voices series conducted by Music Director James Conlon were filmed for release on DVD and Blu-ray. The 2008 double-bill of Alexander Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg (The Dwarf) and Viktor Ullmann’s Der zerbrochene Krug (The Broken Jug) is available now, and the 2009 presentation of Walter Braunfels’ Die Vögel (The Birds) will be released on November 16, 2010. The videos, released on the Arthaus Musik label, will be distributed by Naxos Music.
James Conlon conducts all of LA Opera’s Recovered Voices presentations, an initiative that began when he became Music Director of the Company in 2006. “The creativity of the first half of the 20th century is far richer than generally known,” said Mr. Conlon. “We have taken an important step toward reviving the music of those composers whose lives were impacted and whose music was banned by the Third Reich between 1933 and 1945. For complex reasons much of it remained unplayed after the war and we are committed to bringing this music back into the repertory where it belongs.”
“These important video releases, recorded live in performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion feature productions from LA Opera’s acclaimed Recovered Voices series, which is devoted to presenting the works of composers who were affected by the rise of the Third Reich,” said Plácido Domingo, LA Opera's General Director. “The striking beauty and incredible diversity of these works has made their neglect during the last eight decades one of the great injustices in music history. LA Opera is the only major American opera company to regularly program the works of these nearly forgotten composers, so I am proud that audiences around the world will now be able to enjoy these wonderful productions.”
The double bill of Der Zwerg and Der zerbrochene Krug conducted by James Conlon and directed by Darko Tresnjak, features tenor Rodrick Dixon, soprano Mary Dunleavy and baritone James Johnson, and the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The production of Die Vögel is also conducted by James Conlon and directed by Darko Tresnjak, and features soprano Desiree Rancatore, tenor Brandon Jovanovich, and baritones James Johnson and Martin Gantner, as well as the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices are $29.99 (DVD) and $39.99 (Blu-ray).
With its racist ideology and systematic suppression—particularly, although not exclusively, of Jewish musicians, artists and writers—the Nazi regime silenced two generations of composers and, with them, an entire musical heritage. The sup press ion of these composers and musicians caused the greatest single rupture in what had been a seamless transmittal of German classical music. While the operas of Richard Strauss (1864-1949) are often thought of as the final flowering of the great German opera tradition, a number of his contemporaries also enjoyed enormous critical and popular success, but fell victim to the anti-Semitic and ultraconservative policies of Nazi Germany, and are little known today. In an effort to raise public consciousness to the significance of these works of composers, Mr. Conlon has devoted himself to extensive programming of this music in North America and Europe . The Orel Foundation (www.orelfoundation.org), which Mr. Conlon established, provides extensive background information on these composers and their music. Mr. Conlon recently wrote an in-depth article on the subject for Opera magazine: www.losangelesopera.com/production/0809/thebirds/article.02.aspx.
LA Opera’s Recovered Voices series was inaugurated in the 2007 with a concert that included operatic excerpts from works by Walter Braunfels, Erich Korngold, Ernst Krenek, Franz Schreker, Erwin Schulhoff and Viktor Ullmann, as well as a complete concert performance of Alexander Zemlinsky’s Eine florentinische Tragödie. In the 2008 season, LA Opera presented a double bill featuring fully-staged performances of Ullmann’s Der zerbrochene Krug (a U.S. premiere) and Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg. The series continued in 2009 with the U.S. premiere of Braunfels’ Die Vögel and in 2010 with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten (The Stigmatized), the first staging of any of Schreker’s operas in the United States. LA Opera’s Recovered Voices series was made possible by LA Opera Board Member and Los Angeles philanthropist Marilyn Ziering, who has contributed $4 million to the project and has personally raised an additional $850,000 from several leaders and supporters of the LA Opera to fund the project.