Q&A: Josh Shaw Is Staging a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opera in Highland Park

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Josh Shaw is the founder and artistic director of Pacific Opera Project (POP), which has staged over 10 operas in Highland Park since 2012.

His latest project is La gazzetta, a rarely performed Rossini opera that will open on June 28 for a five-night run at the Ebell Club on S. Avenue 57. This will be the West Coast premiere of La gazzetta and a world premiere of the orchestral arrangement commissioned by POP for the performances. Here is what he had to say about the project to the Boulevard Sentinel’s Mary Lynch:

Why La gazzetta? I spend days on end each year trying to decide the upcoming season. At some point around this time last year, I found Gazzetta on a list of Rossini operas. The plot and cast size seemed to be a good fit for POP and when I found a recording, I just loved the nature of the music. It’s so fun and light.

La gazzetta hasn’t been performed much since 1816, when it premiered in Naples. What has it been like to try to stage a largely overlooked, unexplored opera? Finding the music for the show was incredibly difficult. As far as I can tell, you can’t just buy a piano-vocal score anywhere in the world, which is odd for a piece that is a hundred years past copyright! There is an Italian publisher who will rent you the vocal scores for a few months – after you rent the rights to the production and the orchestral arrangement.

It was all highly unusual and very expensive. So, I decided we’d do the score and the orchestration ourselves.

How did you even know where to start? Thanks to friends on staff at Occidental College, I was able to track down a very, very old score – actually, the copy of a very old score — from the University of Chicago. It was sent out here and I made a copy of that. Later I got a copy of a score from a singer who had actually done the opera in 2013 in Boston, when it was performed for the first time in the United States. From those, we pieced together a new piano-vocal score.

That was the easy part. Using the piano vocal score and recordings, Brooke DeRosa [who will conduct the show] painstakingly arranged the opera for a 10-piece orchestra.

  It is our hope that other opera companies will rent this arrangement from POP for more productions of La gazzetta.

So, you’ve got the score and the arrangement. What about the singers? The talent POP is able to get for these operas is unbelievable. Singers from our productions are now making their debuts at the Met, LA Opera, San Francisco Opera and other large houses in this country. We’ve had some truly world-class voices.

What do you say to people who have never been to a POP performance? To be able to sit four feet from these kinds of singers, in a house that seats fewer than 200 people, with orchestra, food, and wine for less than $40 a person — I often think to myself “nowhere else in the WORLD can you experience this.” This talent, this intimacy, this atmosphere — only at POP. With La gazzetta, there’s the added bonus of seeing an opera that you will probably never, ever get to see again in your lifetime. Not too shabby for a scrappy little company from Highland Park.

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