Opera UCLA Presents the World Premiere of Richard Danielpour’s The Grand Hotel Tartarus at the Freud Playhouse

3 min read

New opera blends the talents of professional vocalists with students from The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and the UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television.

Opera UCLA, a collaboration between The Herb Alpert School of Music and the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television, will present the world premiere of Grammy Award-winning composer Richard Danielpour’s new opera, The Grand Hotel Tartarus. This provocative, socially relevant, and darkly comic opera follows the story of six guests arriving at a mysterious and ornate hotel.  As the guests are offered the opportunity to have their unique earthly desires fulfilled, they agonize over the consequences.  Previews take place May 17th and 19th, followed by performances on May 21st and 23rd at 8pm at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse.  Admission is free.

“The idea for the opera came to me after a disastrous three day stay at a Las Vegas hotel which eventually left me bedridden with the flu and fever. Two weeks later, Los Angeles and the entire country went into lockdown due to the pandemic. It was at that time that I began to write the libretto for the work,” said Danielpour, who composed the music and wrote the libretto. “Ultimately, The Grand Hotel Tartarus is an allegory about the ‘diseases’ and addictions of our time, but it is also a story about the power of forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as a cautionary tale about greed and the insatiable desire to fulfill unfulfillable cravings.”

The six guests at The Grand Hotel Tartarus are not certain how they arrived at the gilded and somewhat gaudy hotel. Each has committed seemingly grave and unpardonable sins; some grapple with their guilt, while others contend with their pride.  As their aristocratic and gracious host urges the guests to delight in sensual pleasures, each becomes aware that they must make a choice, not just about what to do, but fundamentally about who they are. 

“I knew the minute I heard the first iteration of Richard [Danielpour]’s score that this would be a great opera,” said The Grand Hotel Tartarus director Peter Kazaras, who has directed opera productions at the Seattle Opera, Dallas Opera, Washington National Opera, Tanglewood Music Center and Los Angeles Opera. “The music recalls Leonard Bernstein in its craft. It’s infectious, rhapsodic and it stays with you. I am so pleased with the artistic team. This is a professional-level production. The sets are gorgeous, Nicola Bowie is a graceful and exciting choreographer, and we are showcasing some extraordinary professional singers and new talent.”

The Grand Hotel Tartarus is directed by Peter Kazaras and choreographed by Nicola Bowie. The cast include professional singers and undergraduate and graduate students in the voice program at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and the UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television. Music will be performed by UCLA Philharmonia under the direction of Neal Stulberg and Jakub Rompczyk.

Richard Danielpour is a Grammy Award-winning composer and has established himself as one of the most sought-after composers of his generation. His list of commissions includes Yo-Yo Ma, Jessye Norman, Susan Graham, Dawn Upshaw, Emanuel Ax, Gil Shaham, Frederica von Stade, the Guarneri and Emerson String Quartets, and institutions such as the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony. He has received two awards from the American Academy and Institutes of Arts & Letters, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, a Guggenheim Award, the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, two Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships, and The Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. Danielpour is one of the most recorded composers of his generation and his most recent album, Songs in Three Languages, features Soprano Hila Plitmann and the Iranshahr Orchestra led by Shahab Paranj. It will be released in June on Naxos Records. 


The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music prepares students for twenty-first century music careers. Home to renowned musical scholars, music industry experts and world-class musicians, educators and composers within one institution, the school of music offers students an interdisciplinary education that prizes music performance and scholarship while also emphasizing active engagement in the greater Los Angeles community. Esteeming all musical traditions as vital expressions of an evolving global society, the school of music boasts over 40 musical ensembles performing music from around the globe. 

Founded as a stand-alone school of music in 2008 with a naming gift of $30 million from Herb Alpert, the school originally comprised the departments of ethnomusicology, music, and musicology and are now joined by interdisciplinary programs in global jazz studies and music industry, and the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance. Herb Alpert School of Music graduates and faculty members are recipients of prestigious MacArthur fellowships, Grammy Awards, and Emmy Awards, and are leaders as composers, musicians, educators, scholars, and innovators in the music industry. Learn more at www.schoolofmusic.ucla.edu

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Russell Kelban
(310) 486-8953