Review: LA Phil revives Harrison’s “Young Caesar,” staged by Yuval Sharon

Posted on: June 16, 2017

“After various unsuccessful attempts to turn Lou Harrison’s opera ‘Young Caesar’ into a real opera, the Los Angeles Philharmonic finally and triumphantly did so with the work’s first professional production Tuesday night in Walt Disney Concert Hall,” writes Mark Swed in Thursday’s (6/15) Los Angeles Times. The opera had its premiere in 1971 in Pasadena. “L.A. Phil artist-collaborator Yuval Sharon created a new version … that uses the most workable aspects of the composer’s rewrites over the years, trims about 45 minutes from the score and finds a viable dramatic structure. Sharon, in conjunction with his opera company, the Industry, mounted a fanciful, visually stunning, endearingly mercurial, marginally risqué, momentarily over-the-top and ultimately touching production. The L.A. Phil New Music Group, conducted by Marc Lowenstein in the final Green Umbrella program of the season, was sensational, revealing layer upon layer of sheer musical gorgeousness capable, from the first bars, of lifting the spirits…. Unlike gay operas that came before (and have come since), Harrison’s is not a tragic tale about the anguish of being an outsider…. [The work] was always thought, however great the charm, an impossible mess. What Sharon and crew came up with … is not a mess but a celebration.”

Posted June 16, 2017

Pictured: Adam Fisher portrays the title character in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s staging of Lou Harrison’s 1971 opera “Young Caesar,” featuring animated projections and shadow puppets. Photo by Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times