Los Angeles Opera's season-opening festivities last weekend hit a major last-minute snag when the star tenor withdrew from the company's annual concert gala on short notice.
The Sunday afternoon concert on September 9 — in place of the annual "Plácido 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 René 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.
As is so often the case, Domingo's ubiquitous connections solved the problem. A young Mexican tenor named Arturo Chacón-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 Bohème, in which he is sharing the role of Rodolfo. Chacón-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 Chacón-Cruz.
By now the young tenor is back in rehearsal for Washington National Opera's Bohème at the Kennedy Center Opera House, where he sings Rodolfo on September 19, 25, 27 and 30.