Taymor-Directed New Opera Grendel Delays Debut in L.A. for Technical Problem

News   Taymor-Directed New Opera Grendel Delays Debut in L.A. for Technical Problem
Grendel, an original opera by Tony Award-winning director Julie Taymor and longtime collaborator, composer Elliot Goldenthal, will now bow June 1 at the Los Angeles Opera New York in 2006.

The first performance of the work was originally scheduled to play May 27 but was canceled due to technical and mechanical problems. Ticket holders may exchange tickets for later shows.

"The technical rehearsals ceased on May 23 when computer malfunctions caused a large pivoting platform, central to scenery designer George Tsypin's large-scale set, to stop working, causing the platform's internal mechanisms to break," according to a release. "The platform, which uses 28 individually operating motors to move horizontally and vertically and pivot a full 360 degrees at a variety of speeds, must bear the weight of up to 15 performers at a time. Solving the malfunction of the computer system and correcting the failure has severely compromised the rehearsal time necessary for the success of the production, which demands extensive technical work."

"On a technically elaborate new production like Grendel, there are inevitably challenges that need to be surmounted," said Taymor in a statement. "In commercial theater, there are always preview performances where any problems that arise can be solved. Opera, however, is different, and we expect everything to be worked out by the first performance. LA Opera's commitment to this work has resulted in the additional time we need to complete our work." The June 1 and 3 performances will be considered previews and the work will officially open June 8.

The new work, based on the Beowulf epic, debuts on the California stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion before heading to be part of New York's Lincoln Center Festival at the New York State Theater, July 11-16. At L.A. Opera, it plays in repertory with Marta Domingo's new production of La Traviata through June 17.

"Based on John Gardner's 1971 novel of the same name, the opera is inspired by the Beowulf legend and is a darkly comic retelling of the classic story from the monster's view," reads show materials. Taymor, who is co-librettist with J. D. McClatchy, directs the first ever co-commission and co-production between L.A. Opera and the Lincoln Center Festival. Eric Owens returns to L.A. Opera in the title role of Grendel opposite Denyce Graves (as the Dragon), Laura Claycomb (Queen Wealtheow), Jay Hunter Morris (Unferth), Richard Croft (Blind Harpist), Charles Austin Roberts and Raymond Aceto (alternating in the role of King Hrothgar) and Desmond Richardson (Beowulf). The ensemble also features Hanan Alattar, Maureen Francis and Jessica Swink (as Dragonettes) David Gagnon, Jonathan Hays and Charles Temkey (as Shadow Grendels). Kyle Hampson appears as Child Grendel / Boy Shaper, Sean Sullivan as Prince Hrothgar and George Stern as The Propagandist.

The approximately three-hour production (with one intermission) will be led by debuting conductor Steven Sloane (with Lionel Friend at certain performances) and features the design team of George Tsypin (set), Constance Hoffman (costumes), Don Holder (lighting) and puppet design by Julie Taymor and Michael Curry. Angelin Preljocaj serves as choreographer and the projection art director is Karin Fong.

Taymor made history in 1998 as the first female director to earn the Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical for her staging of The Lion King — albeit mere moments after Garry Hynes became the first woman to win a Tony Award for Direction — for The Beauty Queen of Leenane. She also earned the Tony for Best Costume Design that night as well. The multi-genre director has lined her resume with Broadway credits (Juan Darien and The Green Bird), film work ("Titus" and "Frida") as well as opera productions ("Oedipus Rex" and the current Metropolitan Opera run of "The Magic Flute").

This work reteams her with constant collaborator Goldenthal. The composer, himself a multi-faceted artist, has created works for orchestra, theatre, opera, ballet and film. He has worked with Taymor on "Titus," "Frida," Juan Darien and The Green Bird. His other film scores include "The Good Thief," "Batman and Robin," "Batman Forever," "Michael Collins," "A Time to Kill," "Cobb" and "Interview with the Vampire."

For tickets to Grendel at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Music Center, 135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, call (213) 972-8001 or visit the website at www.laopera.com.

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