The medieval music drama “The Festival Play of Daniel” will be presented by LA Opera March 16 and 17 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
The production --- conducted by James Conlon, bringing together several hundred volunteer and professional performers --- is presented in cooperation with LA Opera’s Education and Community Programs department. The performances, at 7:30 p.m., will be offered free of charge as a special gift to the community.
“The Festival Play of Daniel” replaces a previously announced world premiere production of “Jonah and the Whale” by Alexander Prior and Velina Hasu Houston, which has been postponed in order to give the creators more time to complete their work. Since LA Opera intends to revive its Cathedral production of Benjamin Britten's “Noah’s Flood” in 2013, in celebration of the centenary of Britten’s birth, “Jonah and the Whale” will be presented in 2014.
LA Opera’s annual performances at the Cathedral are a key feature of the Company’s community outreach programming. “Across America and around the world, classical music is fighting to keep its audience and to introduce new audiences to classical music in every form from chamber orchestras, opera and string quartets to full symphonies,” said Plácido Domingo, LA Opera’s Eli and Edythe Broad General Director. “Presenting community opera performances that Los Angeles families can enjoy together is one way for us to do this.”
LA Opera previously presented “The Festival Play of Daniel” in 2010, following its successes with “Noah’s Flood” and Handel’s “Judas Maccabaeus” at the Cathedral, as large crowds cheered the charm and spectacle of familiar biblical stories. LA Opera’s community performances at the Cathedral were among the first initiatives Conlon brought to the Company after his 2006 arrival as music director.
“I am thrilled that Los Angeles families have responded to our community productions at the Cathedral with so much enthusiasm and appreciation,” he said. “‘The Festival Play of Daniel’ gives us another wonderful opportunity to work with singers and musicians of all ages, and I hope that everyone involved will enjoy this great example of LA Opera’s outreach to the entire community.”
Like LA Opera’s previous productions at the Cathedral, The Festival Play of Daniel will bring amateur singers and musicians together with professionals, with nearly 400 performers in total. Stage director Eli Villanueva translated the original Latin libretto into English and scored the music for student orchestra musicians performing alongside a professional chamber ensemble.
Dating from the early 13th century, “The Festival Play of Daniel” is a liturgical drama with music, first performed by monastic students at the Cathedral of Beauvais, north of Paris. The original composers and writers are unknown, but the work --- recounting the Old Testament story of the courageous prophet Daniel --- has been described as “nothing less than an earlier operatic masterpiece.”
The cast includes five current members of LA Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program: tenor Ben Bliss as Daniel, bass Erik Anstine as Belshazzar, tenor Alexey Sayapin as King Darius, soprano Tracy Cox as the Queen and baritone Museop Kim as the Third Noble/Advisor.
Musicians will include members of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, the Hamilton High School Academy of Music Orchestra, the Colburn String Orchestra and LA Children’s Orchestra. The performance will also feature both child and adult singers, drawn from the Colburn Children’s Choir, Pueri Cantores San Gabriel Valley Children’s Choir, the Musical Youth of California Children’s Choir, the combined choirs of St. Timothy Church and the City of Angels, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Choir.
This production was made possible by a generous grant from the Dan Murphy Foundation, as well as support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs.