The Sunday afternoon concert on September 9 — in place of the annual "Plšcido Domingo and Friends" gala, L.A. Opera presented the company premiere of Verdi's Requiem — featured Domingo as conductor and a powerhouse lineup of soloists including soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, mezzo Stephanie Blythe and bass Ren_ Pape. The announced tenor was Jonas Kaufmann, a German whose combination of voice and good looks has won him a rapidly growing reputation and fan base.
According to an L.A. Opera spokesperson, Kaufmann withdrew due to illness last Tuesday (Sept. 4), shortly before rehearsals were set to begin. This was an even bigger difficulty than it would normally have been: in addition to the usual season-opening whirl of activity, there was major news last week both at the company itself and in the larger opera world to be dealt with.
As is so often the case, Domingo's ubiquitous connections solved the problem. A young Mexican tenor named Arturo Chac‹n-Cruz, who was a winner of Domingo's Operalia competition in 2005, happened to be at the other company Domingo runs, Washington National Opera: he was in rehearsals for the upcoming production of Puccini's La Bohme, in which he is sharing the role of Rodolfo. Chac‹n-Cruz was hired by Thursday, flown across the continent to Los Angeles on Thursday and in rehearsals by Friday.
The performance of the Requiem — dedicated to the memory of Domingo's colleague Luciano Pavarotti and of Edgar Baitzel, the late chief operating officer of the company — went off smoothly. The first reviews appeared today: while space seems to have been somewhat limited, both Mark Swed of The Los Angeles Times and Alan Rich for Variety had warm, if brief, words for Chac‹n-Cruz.
By now the young tenor is back in rehearsal for Washington National Opera's Bohme at the Kennedy Center Opera House, where he sings Rodolfo on September 19, 25, 27 and 30.