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Big names set for L.A. Opera sked

100 perfs planned for new season

L.A. Opera’s sole ownership of the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion became immediately measurable in the new numbers for the 2004-05 season: 100 performances, up from 67 in the current run, nine operas in the subscription series, plus one nonsubscription offering.

The 2004/5 season begins Sept. 8 with Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” conducted by the company’s music director, Kent Nagano, and with L.A. Opera’s general director, super-tenor/impresario Placido Domingo in the title role — their first collaboration locally. Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos” follows on Sept. 12, again led by Nagano and staged by film director William Friedkin.

A new production of Bizet’s “Carmen” comes in on Oct. 22, with Domingo conducting five of the 12 performances and with Milena Kitic and firebrand Catherine Malfitano alternating in the title role. The much-praised Herbert Ross production of “La Boheme” returns on Nov. 20, followed on Nov. 27 by the company premiere of Samuel Barber’s bittersweet “Vanessa,” with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in her L.A. Opera debut in the title role.

Verdi’s popular “Aida” returns on Jan. 27, followed on the 29th by the company premiere of Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette,” with this season’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Anna Netrebko, as Juliet.

After a longish break, the subscription season ends powerfully, first with the epochal performance of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” with bass-baritone Bryn Terfel in the title role (May 28), and the next night with Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier,” in a staging by Maximilian Schell.

These nine operas together account for 74 subscription performances. Before any of them takes place, however, there is a further major step forward, a nonsubscription run of 26 performances of yet more Sondheim.

Opening July 14 is the shimmering swirl of his “A Little Night Music” in the delectable New York City Opera production, with Jeremy Irons and Juliet Stevenson as the lovers and master-conductor John DeMain in charge.

Domingo and chairman-CEO Marc Stern announced with measurable pride a projected 2004-’05 budget of $48 million, brightened by the news that the company ended its last season in the black and “in a growth mode.”

The company has also concluded a five-year contract negotiation with the Musicians Union. “My history here,” Domingo added, “has been walk, run, fly.”

L.A. Opera will also present three recitals: Terfel will make his Los Angeles Opera recital debut on July 11; Renee Fleming sings Jan. 15, 2005; and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham debuts April 17, 2005.

The one trouble spot remains the perpetually postponed George Lucas-designed staging of Richard Wagner’s “Ring of the Nibelung” cycle, now promised for 2007. Equally lightly, Domingo mentioned two other slices of pie-in-the-sky: an “Alice-in-Wonderland” commissioned opera by award-winning Korean composer Unsuk Chin, and an opera by soundtrack maestro John Williams.

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