Opera League News & Articles

Maestro on the Double

LA Opera's James Conlon recovers voices.

By Gary W. Murphy

Launched in 2007 by LA Opera’s then recently arrived music director, Maestro James Conlon, the Recovered Voices initiative ensures the power of art triumphs over historical neglect and censorship.

Up to now, Recovered Voices has focused on music suppressed by the Nazis and/or created by composers who died in the Holocaust. For its 2023–2024 season, LA Opera has expanded the Voices’ reach.

From February 24 to March 17, Maestro Conlon will conduct a double bill of Alexander Zemlinsky’s The Dwarf and William Grant Still’s Highway 1, USA.

Alexander Zemlinsky was an Austrian Jewish composer who escaped Nazi persecution by fleeing to America. Still was a mid-20th-century African American composer whose long-ignored works are attracting a long-overdue second look.

“My interest is in bringing back neglected music,” Conlon says. “Particularly music where we know the composer was, to a greater or lesser extent, neglected because of political or racial prejudice. So, it is an extension of the same concept. Because of prejudice, this music is not as well-known as it deserves to be.”

William Grant Still was a trailblazing artist often referred to as “the Dean of African-American Composers.” Composed in the 1940s but unperformed for decades, Highway 1, USA portrays a hardworking couple (soprano Nicole Heaston and baritone Norman Garrett), determined to build a better life, who discover that their years of sacrifices have been misguided. The new production is staged by director Kaneza Schaal and production designer Christopher Myers, who made last season’s impressive LA Opera debut of Omar.

The Dwarf is a gothic tale of one-sided love in a decadent Spanish court. Tenor Rodrick Dixon stars in the title role opposite audience favorites Erica Petrocelli, soprano, and Kristinn Sigmundsson, bass. Based on the Oscar Wilde short story, “The Birthday of the Infanta,” Zemlinsky’s lush and romantic The Dwarf was previously staged at LA Opera in 2008. Tony-winning director Darko Tresnjak conjures a royally opulent production, with costumes from fellow Tony Award winner Linda Cho.


Opera League members won’t want to miss our seminar on The Dwarf and Highway 1, USA featuring Maestro James Conlon as our featured speaker. Join us on Wednesday, February 7 at 6pm.

Click here for more details and to buy tickets.


Author: Thomas Lady

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