James Darrah
James Darrah

Long Beach Opera has always been known for its adventurous productions of unusual and contemporary opera. Now, with James Darrah setting the course, the company is making art that expands our ideas of what the medium can be. In addition to new music, the season inaugurates a three-year collaboration with the Martha Graham Dance Company and brings in Shelley Washington as composer-in-residence.

Following on 2021’s Voices From the Killing Jar, the company welcomes back composer Kate Soper with a world premiere production of her Romance of the Rose, directed by Darrah and led by Music Director Christopher Rountree, Fen. 18–25, 2023. This is Soper’s setting of the famous 13th-century French poem in all its comic breadth. The text’s variety of tone is a good match for Soper’s eclectic musical style, and Darrah promises a production set in multiple spaces of the Warner Grand Theatre, with the orchestra joining the singers in the center of the action.

Kate Soper
Kate Soper | Credit: Jim Gipe

Choreographer and dancer Chris Emile, who worked on 2021’s Les Enfants Terribles, is back in the new season with a conceptual work titled The Horse. Developed with and commissioned by LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division), the new work “evokes the supernatural experience of spiritual possession. In Vodun tradition, a ‘horse’ describes a person who has been possessed and is being ‘ridden’ by a possessing deity.” Cody Perkins’s score is played by multi-genre performer Alevonallure, accompanied by a West African-style drum circle, “with guidance from Vodun practitioners.” The production runs at Rancho Los Cerritos in Long Beach, March 4–12, 2023.

The Martha Graham Dance Company features in The Feast, an outdoor production, based on George Frideric Handel’s 1726 opera Alessandro. According to the company, this is a musical production within an actual Baroque banquet: “Following an hour of cocktails and performances, audiences will be led by the Graham Company to an open-air banquet where they will continue drinking and feasting to live music and dance performances that envelop and disrupt the banquet’s proceedings in surprising ways.” In a casting coup, LBO has secured the services of star countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński, in his Southern California stage debut. The show runs May 20–21, 2023 in an as-yet-undisclosed location.

The LBO Opera & Film Festival returns for a second year at the Art Theatre in Long Beach, June 24–25, 2023. Headlining this year’s showcase is the world premiere of The Recital, written and directed by Darrah and inspired by Luciano Berio’s Recital I (for Cathy). The new score, by Christopher Rountree, is built around pieces from the repertoire of the film’s star and co-creator, soprano Measha Brueggergosman. The festival will also feature a live performance of Schubert’s song cycle Die schöne Müllerin, staged by Tom C.J. Brown and Raviv Ullman, alongside Brown’s animated short film Christopher at Sea. More festival events will be added later.