Overall opera is a difficult art to appreciate. While some opera's are easily watched and enjoyed, such as Butterfly and Turandot, more often than not they are challenging, complicated, hours long and require simultaneous reading while watching the events on stage if you aren't familiar with the story or fluent in multiple languages. James Conlon's production of Franz Schreker's 'The Stigmatized' was one of these difficult operas but definitely worth seeing.
The story is set in fin-de-siecle Genoa with a plot that is marked by the Freudian undertones of the outside appearances and the internal decadence of the characters. There is ugliness and beauty and lust in the story, and of course a completely naked girl in a simulated rape scene on stage....because this is the LA Opera, and there are always naked girls and sex on the LA Opera stage.
The score is rich and romantic and sounds more like a film score than an opera. There are no snappy arias that you can hum to yourself later. While the Viennese Schreker is compared mostly to Strauss, I felt that his music was more akin to that of Korngold whose work was used both in opera and in film. Certainly Korngold must have been influenced by Schreker.
The singing by German soprano Anja Kampe, as the artist Carlotta, was extraordinary. She blew everyone away, including the lead tenor Robert Brubaker, as the crippled aristocrat. The set design was kept purposely simple in order to act as a background for a rich lighting design with elaborate projections. It was very beautiful production visually.
Here's the description from the LA Opera.
World-renowned conductor James Conlon continues the critically lauded, groundbreaking Recovered Voices series with the first-ever production in the Western hemisphere of any opera of Franz Schreker. The New Yorker commented that the work "vacillates between melodies of Mediterranean grace and textures of otherworldly complexity...One scene melts into another with cinematic ease."
Sadly, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center wasn't full and the average age of the audience was about 65. For a new generation raised on film, video games, twitter and instant gratification, I'm afraid that opera will be a lost art.