When we talk about The Birds, we don't mean Hitchcock's horror classic. We're talking opera — one that you'd probably never get to see if it weren't for L.A. Opera conductor James Conlon and his laudable Recovered Voices Project. For the past three years, this incredible undertaking has been devoted to exploring and restoring forgotten operas by the lost generation of composers who suffered under the Nazis and their notorious “Degenerate Art” witch hunt that sent so many brilliant artists and intellectuals to the concentration camps and execution chambers. One of those victims was Walter Braunfels, a popular German composer who was forced to withdraw from public life due to his part-Jewish heritage, and whose works were banned and subsequently fell into oblivion. Braunfels composed Die Vogel in 1920; the composers described his free-wheeling adaptation of the Aristophanes play The Birds as an “airy play of imagination … everything here is a game, a metaphor.” The Birds established Braunfels as the most important composer of German opera next to Richard Strauss, and this week, L.A. Opera presents the West Coast premiere of this delightful work, with soprano Désirée Rancatore in the role of the Nightingale and tenor Brandon Jovanovich, winner of the 2007 Richard Tucker Award, as Good Hope. The cast also includes soprano Stacey Tappan and baritones James Johnson, Martin Gantner and Brian Mulligan. James Conlon conducts the new production staged by Darko Tresnjak.

Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., April 24, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., April 26, 2 p.m. Starts: April 11. Continues through April 18, 2009

LA Weekly