John Steinmetz

bassoonist, composer, writer, satirist, speaker

L.A. Opera to Commission Tale of Fateful Trip

By Mort Swat, Times staff writer

Los Angeles Opera CEO Mark Stern announced on Tuesday that the company has plans to deepen its ties to southern California’s media industry. After successful collaborations with film directors and designers and new operas from film composers Elliott Goldenthal (last year’s “Grendel”) and Howard Shore (“The Fly,” scheduled for 2008-09), L.A. Opera will begin September 2009 with a new opera based on “Gilligan’s Island.”

“With television such a huge part of our national consciousness, we at L.A. Opera feel that it’s time for an operatic treatment of these timeless themes of loyalty and hardship,” Stern said.
Music Director James Conlon described the project as “a perfect ensemble piece.” He confirmed that tenor Placido Domingo will create the role of The Skipper, whose personality will be captured in an aria titled, “Okay, Little Buddy.” Other cast members include tenor Greg Fedderly as Gilligan, and soprano Catherine Malfitano as socialite Mrs. Howell. Conlon said, “Catherine has been interested in the role since we first approached her, and she signed up right away when we agreed that she should play castanets in her big number, “Oh Thurston, Does This Dress Make Me Look Too Old?”

Domingo, who is General Director of L.A. Opera, spoke with the Times from his private jet, somewhere between Thailand and Botswana. “I am very, very hoppy,” he said, “that this project is going forward.” Asked whether “Gilligan’s Island” will include the nudity and explicit sexuality that have become hallmarks of L.A. Opera productions, Mr. Domingo said, “Of course! This is opera, after all. Just wait until you hear who we cast in the role of Ginger.” He explained that the new work will begin with a “Storm at Sea” prelude and a choir of topless mermaids singing the opening chorus, “If Not for the Courage of the Fearless Crew.”

The librettist, production designer, and costumer were not announced on Tuesday, and L.A. Opera would neither confirm nor deny persistent rumors that the composer of the opera will be Sting.