Los Angeles Opera Theater




Johanna Dordick
Founder & General Director

LAOT History
Johanna Dordick Johanna Dordick Johanna Dordick Johanna Dordick
Johanna Dordick Founder/Artistic Director Los Angeles Opera Theater

The LOS ANGELES OPERA THEATER (LAOT) was founded in 1978 by Johanna Dordick, herself an opera and musical theater singer. By 1982 Los Angeles Opera Theater had emerged as the city’s resident opera producing company. This attempt at grass roots opera for Los Angeles was thought by many to be impossible, as several other people had already tried and failed. Los Angeles Opera Theater’s performances and critical reviews helped prove the skeptics wrong.

From its first performance, A Concert of Opera, featuring the Pasadena Symphony in September 1979, the company’s artistic growth was remarkable. Its first fully staged production was Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring in the spring of 1980. The 1981 season brought Mozart’s Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail to the Los Angeles Music Center (featuring the Young Musicians’ Debut Orchestra). Ariadne auf Naxos (featuring the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra), and La Boheme (the first production with the Los Angeles Opera Theater Orchestra) were performed on the stage of the intimate 1,250 seat Wilshire Ebell Theater. Later that year brought Viva VerdI! – a special one-performance concert of opera by Verdi, presenting a then-unknown young soprano named Aprile Millo and bass-baritone Harold Enns. 1982 brought new productions of Cosi fan Tutte, La Traviata and Madama Butterfly.

In 1983 Los Angeles Opera Theater presented the American premiere of lain Hamilton’s Anna Karenina in an exciting multimedia production designed by Ron Chase. (Lord Harewood of the English National Opera was so impressed with the production, he engaged LAOT’s conductor and two leading baritones to repeat their roles in London.) Next came a new production of Donizetti’s L'Elisir d’ Amore that received glowing reviews, followed by a highly controversial staging of Puccini’s Tosca by world-famous theatrical designer Beni Montresor.

Los Angeles Opera Theater’s 1984 season opened in April with a new production of Die Fledermaus, directed by Hans Neugebauer, a renowned Strauss authority. October brought Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier with three of America’s most exciting young singers performing their roles for the first time: Winifred Faix Brown, Susan Quittmeyer, and Cheryl Parrish. The new production was staged by the legendary European director, Hans Hartleb, and was attended by the great Elizabeth Schwartzkopf who declared that “Strauss himself would have been very pleased!” The season closed with a new cast in Madama Butterfly, the company’s first major revival.

Then in July 1985, Los Angeles Opera Theater presented a new, critically acclaimed production of Mozart's Don Giovanni directed by Hans Hartleb, at the historic, newly renovated Wiltem Theater.

During its six seasons:

* The operational budget grew from $146,000 (1979 -
80) to $1.3 million in 1985 - 86.

* The number of annual performances had grown from
four to 16 with the schedule including three free annual
performances to students of Los Angeles City and
County high schools.

* The company doubled its audience from 1981 to 1982.
In 1983, the season ticket subscribers tripled the 1982
level. 1984 and 1985 continued the same dramatic
increases in subscribers and ticket sales.


Johanna Dordick
Johanna Dordick at the Wilshire Ebell Theater

Los Angeles Opera Theater productions featured internationally recognized conductors, stage directors, and designers (i.e. Fabrizio Melano, Hans Hartleb, Richard Pearlman, Beni Montresor, Myung-whun Chung, Henry Holt, Chris Nance, Hans Neugebauer, Miguel Romero and Nananne Porcher), who created productions for major opera houses all over the world.

The singers presented by Los Angeles Opera Theater also performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alIa Scala, Royal Opera Covent Garden, English National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and New York City Opera, as well as the opera companies of Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Zurich and Vienna.

Singers included Ellen Shade, Emily Rawlins, Winifred Faix Brown, Thomas Hampson, Jonathan Mack, Susan Quittmeyer, Michael Gallup, Michael Sylvester, Richard Leech, Robert McFarland, Eric Garrett, Roger Roloff, Jeffrey Wells, Kevin Langan, Donna Robin, Robert Grayson, Marie Robinson, Cheryl Parrish, Pamela Porter-Arnold, Gail Dubinbaum, Delcina Stevenson, Lawrence Cooper, Aprile Millo, Kathryn Gamberoni, Karen Altman, Kay Griffel, Richard Cowan, Alfred Dennis, Geraldine Decker, Michael Crouse, Judith Christin, Michael Myers, Catherine Lamy, Maria Abajian, Evan Bortnick, Gary Bachlund and John Fiorito.

Pip Dordick
Pip Dordick
(LAOT Executive Assistant)