Long Beach Opera

Last updated

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]


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]


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.


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]

Related Research Articles

Anthony Davis, is an American pianist and composer. He incorporates several styles including jazz, rhythm 'n' blues, gospel, non-Western, African, European classical, Indonesian gamelan, and experimental music. He has played with several groups and is also professor of music at University of California, San Diego.


Motezuma, RV 723, is an opera in three acts by Antonio Vivaldi with an Italian libretto by Alvise Giusti. The libretto is very loosely based on the life of the Aztec ruler Montezuma who died in 1520. The first performance was given in the Teatro Sant'Angelo in Venice on 14 November 1733. The music was thought to have been lost, but was discovered in 2002 in the archive of the music library of the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin. Its first fully staged performance in modern times took place in Düsseldorf, Germany, on 21 September 2005.

Opera Omaha is a major regional opera company in Omaha, Nebraska. Begun in 1958, the professional company is widely known for the International Fall Festival events it held in the 1980s and 1990s, which garnered international attention and served as the U.S. and world premieres for a number of notable works. One of these performances, the 1990 U.S. premiere of the 1841 work Maria Padilla, was among the primary debuts for noted soprano Renee Fleming. "I’ve been calling all my singer friends and saying, 'You’ve got to sing for this company.'" Fleming said at the time. It has "a lot of vision." In 2007, the Toronto Star said "Opera Omaha has grown into one of the continent's most enterprising regional opera companies."

<i>Lincoronazione di Poppea</i> Opera by Claudio Monteverdi

L'incoronazione di Poppea is an Italian opera by Claudio Monteverdi. It was Monteverdi's last opera, with a libretto by Giovanni Francesco Busenello, and was first performed at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice during the 1643 carnival season. One of the first operas to use historical events and people, it describes how Poppaea, mistress of the Roman emperor Nero, is able to achieve her ambition and be crowned empress. The opera was revived in Naples in 1651, but was then neglected until the rediscovery of the score in 1888, after which it became the subject of scholarly attention in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the 1960s, the opera has been performed and recorded many times.

Pinchgut Opera

Pinchgut Opera is a chamber opera company in Sydney, Australia, presenting opera from the 17th and 18th centuries performed on period instruments. Founded in 2002, Pinchgut stages two operas each year in Sydney's City Recital Hall. It also performs concerts in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Garsington Opera

Garsington Opera is an annual summer opera festival founded in 1989 by Leonard Ingrams. For 21 years it was held in the gardens of Ingrams's home at Garsington Manor in Oxfordshire. Since 2011 the festival is held in Wormsley Park, the home of the Getty family near Stokenchurch in Buckinghamshire, England. After Ingrams's death in 2005 Anthony Whitworth-Jones became its General Director until 2013 when Douglas Boyd became Artistic Director.

Michael Chance CBE is an English countertenor and the founder and Artistic Director of The Grange Festival.

Chicago Opera Theater

The Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is an American opera company based in Chicago, Illinois. COT is a resident company at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago's Millennium Park and is currently in residence at the newly renovated Studebaker Theater in the historic Fine Arts Building. In addition to productions of selected operas from the core opera repertoire, COT has an emphasis on American composers, Chicago premieres, and producing new contemporary operas for a 21st century audience.

Victor Michael Milenski founded the Long Beach Opera in 1979, and was its general director for 25 seasons, retiring in 2004. Though local opera companies had been organized in the 1920s and 1960s in metropolitan Los Angeles, under Milenski’s direction the Long Beach Opera became the first professional opera company to take root in the modern era and survive. Having predated the formation of Los Angeles Opera and Orange County's Opera Pacific, Long Beach Opera is the Los Angeles area's oldest standing professional opera company.

Max Emanuel Cenčić

Max Emanuel Cenčić is a Croatian countertenor, currently based in Austria. He was a member of the Wiener Sängerknaben.

Musica Angelica is an internationally renowned Baroque orchestra based in Long Beach, California and led by music director Martin Haselböck, award-winning organist, conductor, and composer. Musica Angelica is dedicated to the historically informed performance of Baroque and early Classical music on period instruments. Its programs include a mixture of known masterworks by composers such as Bach, Handel and Vivaldi, along with rarely heard ‘musical gems’ by lesser-known composers.

Christopher Alden is an American theater and opera director. He is the twin brother of David Alden, also an opera director. Both brothers belong to a generation of modernist directors that includes Robert Wilson and Peter Sellars. and are known for staging revisionist productions of opera.

David Alden is a prolific theater and film director known for his post-modernist settings of opera. He is the twin brother of Christopher Alden, also an opera director in the revisionist mold. The two brothers have covered much of the same repertoire in their long careers, but whereas Christopher's operatic settings place greater emphasis on his characters' emotional range, David's protagonists are more broadly caricatured and his productions far more politically charged. Another distinguishing feature between them is that David has been more active in Europe throughout his career, having enjoyed a particularly close creative partnership with Sir Peter Jonas for more than two decades, at both the English National Opera and the Bavarian State Opera.

Boston Baroque is the oldest period instrument orchestra in North America. It was founded in 1973 by the American harpsichordist and conductor, Martin Pearlman, to present concerts of the Baroque and Classical repertoire on period instruments, drawing on the insights of the historical performance movement.

Barrie Kosky is an Australian theatre and opera director.

Cincinnati Opera Non-profit organisation in the USA

Cincinnati Opera is an American opera company based in Cincinnati, Ohio and the second oldest opera company in the United States. Beginning with its first season in 1920, Cincinnati Opera has produced operas in the summer months of June and July with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's providing orchestral accompaniment.

Andreas Mitisek is the Artistic and General Director of Long Beach Opera, a position he has held since 2003 and from 2012-2016 was the General Director of Chicago Opera Theater. Since his conducting debut with the company in Henry Purcell's The Indian Queen in 1998, Mitisek has since served as conductor, stage director and designer for many Long Beach Opera productions.

Jennifer Rivera is an American mezzo-soprano who has had an active international performance career in operas and concerts since the early 2000s.

Kangmin Justin Kim is a Korean-American countertenor specializing in the Baroque, Mozart and contemporary music repertoire.

The Central Park Five is a two-act American opera composed by Anthony Davis with libretto by Richard Wesley. It premiered on June 15, 2019, at the Long Beach Opera Company in California. The premiere was directed by Andreas Mitisek and conducted by Leslie Dunner. Davis was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music for the opera on May 4, 2020. An earlier, shorter version, titled Five, was premiered in Newark, New Jersey, in 2016 by the Trilogy Company. A staged concert production has been announced by New York City Opera for 2021.


  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.