Long Beach Opera

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Long Beach Opera is a Southern California opera company serving the greater Los Angeles and Orange County metroplex. Founded in 1979, it is the oldest continually running opera company in the L.A. area. Though small in size, the company has surveyed a stunning breadth of repertoire in 42 seasons—from its adventurous exploration of lesser known works to its daring interpretations of established operas – offering an alternative vision of opera even before L.A. had its own operatic mainstream. In June 2019 LBO presented the world premiere of The Central Park Five, an opera by Anthony Davis with libretto by Richard Wesley, about the Central Park jogger case. The opera won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in May 2020. [1] [2]

Contents

Mission and Vision Statement

Mission Statement

Engaging people through provocative meaningful experiences that challenge, connect and inspire. [3]

Vision Statement

Communities connected and minds opened through shared artistic experiences. [4]

History

The company, originally known as Long Beach Grand Opera, was a venture sponsored by the Long Beach Symphony Association to mark the inaugural season of the city’s Terrace Theater. Michael Milenski, formerly of the San Francisco Opera and San Jose Opera, was tapped to mount the first production in March, 1979, Verdi’s La Traviata starring Metropolitan Opera stars Benita Valente and Louis Quilico. The success of that production led to the company’s formal incorporation independent of the Long Beach Symphony with Milenski as its executive director. Past Orchestra Managers include John Van Houten and Timothy Loo. Robert Schumitsky currently holds the position.

Following a period of early growth marked by the presentation of repertory staples, Long Beach Opera took a radical departure from the operatic mainstream. Under Milenski’s guidance, the company developed an alternative vision for opera – to present striking visual drama that would speak directly to contemporary audiences while maintaining the highest musical standard. That new era was launched by two important productions in 1983-84: Britten's Death in Venice and Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea starring Catherine Malfitano, a production the Los Angeles Times' chief music and dance critic Martin Bernheimer called LBO's "wild, wonderful Poppea." Both operas were staged by the maverick director Christopher Alden, whose career was given major impetus by his partnership with LBO.

Celebrated singers who have sung with LBO include Jerome Hines, Cesare Siepi, Ruth Ann Swenson, James Morris and Jerry Hadley, but the company has a longstanding tradition of tapping talented singers on their way up.

In 2004, Michael Milenski retired after 25 seasons at the helm of LBO and was succeeded by Austrian conductor Andreas Mitisek, who continued LBO’s longstanding artistic philosophy of presenting an expanded vision of opera. His programming emphasized contemporary opera composers (Philip Glass, Ástor Piazzolla, Michael Nyman, Arvo Pärt, Grigory Frid) as well as placed a strong Austro-German imprint on the company repertoire.

Mitisek left the company in 2020 to pursue other directing opportunities and Yuval Sharon became the Interim Artistic Advisor for the 2021 season.

Productions

Significant LBO productions during Milenski's tenure included Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès, Richard Strauss Elektra (which was televised in Germany), Janáček's From the House of the Dead , The Beaumarchais Trilogy and the complete operas of Claudio Monteverdi. Several American premieres have been presented on the LBO stage, including King Roger by Karol Szymanowski, Mozart’s, Schoenberg’s Die Jakobsleiter, Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Turning, I Saw Great Injustice and John Cage’s Europeras 3&4 (issued in a commercial recording).

Under Mitisek, LBO's significant works include Richard Strauss' The Silent Woman , Mitisek's own stage concept combining Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther with Schubert's Winterreise and Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in the abridged version by Jonathan Dove. LBO's 1997 world premiere production of Hopper's Wife was praised by the Los Angeles Times for offering "a notion of one possible direction for American opera into the next millennium." [5] In March 2009, Mitisek staged a highly original production and American premiere of Vivaldi's long-lost opera Motezuma. [6]

LBO is well known for its site-specific operas. Past productions include The Diary of Anne Frank, staged on various nights in a small synagogue in Hollywood, the parking lot of Sinai Temple, and the parking lot of Long Beach City Hall. [7] LBO’s 2008 production of Orpheus and Euridice was staged in the Belmont Swimming Pool, [8] and the company’s 2012 production of The Paper Nautilus was staged inside the Aquarium of the Pacific. [9]

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic LBO turned to virtual programming, including a series of Community Conversations and a seminar on music history and social justice activism through the arts. In November of 2020, LBO held The 2020 Songbook, a virtual fundraiser event that featured 20 world premiere pieces from emerging composers. The pieces were centered thematically around the year 2020 and incorporated a variety of styles. [10]

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References

  1. The Central Park Five, by Anthony Davis - The Pulitzer Prizes
  2. 'Central Park Five' composer Anthony Davis wins the Pulitzer Prize for Music - Yahoo News
  3. "Culture Monster". Long Beach Opera Gives American Premiere to Vivaldi's Motezuma. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 August 2011.