James Darrah
Long Beach Opera Artistic Director James Darrah

Long Beach Opera is going to the edge — or perhaps over it — with this weekend’s LBO Film Festival. It’s the inaugural event of what the organization hopes will be an annual summer festival.

The two-day affair, July 16–17 at the Art Theatre, reflects the interests of LBO Artistic Director James Darrah in the intersection of opera and film and features several live performances. It’s co-curated with Bradford Nordeen of Dirty Looks, an organization that describes itself as a “nebulous collective” and “a platform for queer film, video, and performance. Using film and time-based art to illuminate queer histories and liminal spaces across Los Angeles and New York City, Dirty Looks traces contemporary queer aesthetics through historical works, presenting quintessential GLBTQ film and video, alongside up-and-coming artists and filmmakers.”

The festival opens day one (which runs from noon to midnight) with two very long works of experimental film, the first being Ulrike Ottinger’s surreal Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press (1984). Among other things, the movie uses a made-up Baroque opera to symbolically suggest that human society consists of performances. If you can sit through all 144 minutes of Werner Schroeter’s over-the-top Eika Katappa (1969), which is a campy collage of cliches from the best and worst moments of opera, you should get a prize. However, says the magazine Time Out in its review, “Just when it appears to be drawing its threads together, it launches into a tragic gay love story likely to cause a massive increase in Kleenex sales.”

Of highest interest to tradition-minded opera fans might by Gallant Indies, directed by Clément Cogitore for the Opéra National de Paris, which merges urban dance styles and Jean-Philippe Rameau’s 1735 opera-ballet Les Indes galantes.

Short films counterpoint these big investments, some of them as brief as four minutes. These include (on July 17, at 2 p.m.) a set of Long Beach Opera films, including a section of Missy Mazzoli’s Vespers, filmed by Darrah; a live-performance music video of Arnold Schoenberg’s song “Erwartung”; and the world premiere of an LBO-commissioned short, titled “Entry.”

Live performances are by Julianna Barwick, a truly special singer and composer, who will be providing accompaniment to a classic avant-garde short film; Dorian Wood, a genderfluid multidisciplinary artist who contributes an original, live score to Teo Hernandez’s 65-minute Salome (1976); and performance artist Ron Athey, who will be leading a processional from Fourth Street into the theater prior to the world premiere of his and Hermes Pittakos’s digital video Pasiphaë.

For a full list of films and show times, see the Long Beach Opera website.

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