L.A. Opera has direct link with Hollywood

Ice Cube will make the transition to Christian rock before we see Mandy Patinkin singing Otello or Barbra Streisand screaming Elektra in a Los Angeles Music Center Opera production.

But it's not so hard to imagine a couple of Hollywood directors and an actor or two lending a hand with a Mozart comedy or a Gilbert and Sullivan satire. It's been happening for 10 years.


The L.A. Opera has often looked to Tinseltown in an effort to juice up the repertoire, tapping Dudley Moore for a production of "The Mikado" (his Ko-Ko was not so bad on the ears), Jean Stapleton for the role of Aunt Eller in "Oklahoma!" and Dom DeLuise as Public Opinion in the comedic "Orphee aux Enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld)."

Film directors also have found some work in the L.A. Opera. Sir Peter Hall ("Never Talk to Strangers") directed productions of "The Magic Flute" and "Cosi fan tutte." Herb Ross ("Steel Magnolias") directed "La Boheme," while theater man Hal Prince ("Phantom of the Opera") staged "La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West)."


Even Gerald Scarfe, the man responsible for the cover of Pink Floyd's album "Off the Wall," designed a production of "The Magic Flute."

The Hollywood touch surely doesn't hurt at the box office.

" 'La Boheme' sold like gangbusters, like it always does," said Patricia Mitchell, L.A. Opera's executive director. "But [with] Herb's position in the industry, we got an enormous amount of press attention, more than the usual amount."

The company already is negotiating with John Schlesinger ("Midnight Cowboy," "Day of the Locust," "The Falcon and the Snowman") to direct an upcoming production.

And what about a Patinkin type in a famous tenor role? Don't bet on it.

"We do opera. To be a Broadway belter it's a different approach to the art of singing," Ms. Mitchell said. "To be a Broadway singer, one can be enormously capable and talented in singing of that type and not be able to pull off operatic singing, where the requirements are different."

Besides, the opera's advance schedule doesn't permit a great deal of leeway with actors.

"We're planning now for 1998 and 1999 seasons. There isn't a movie star in the business who would make the commitment now to then. What if they get a movie?"