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An Astonishing and Brave 2021 Season From Long Beach Opera

May 19, 2020

Long Beach Opera will be entering an interesting interim season in the winter and spring of 2021, and not just because the schedule will be at the mercy of a pandemic. The season was planned by Interim Artistic Director Yuval Sharon, whose own company, The Industry, has made such a mark with its innovative, experimental opera productions.

LBO has tread some of the same path as The Industry for far longer, and this season brings together many of Los Angeles’s boldest performing artists in a “Season of Solidarity,” in which “repertory” does not mean what we usually think it means.

Not surprisingly, the 2019–2020 season’s postponed production of Peter Maxwell Davies’s The Lighthouse, which outgoing Artistic Director Andreas Mitisek had planned to set at the Honda Pacific Visions Theater in the Aquarium of the Pacific, leads off the schedule, Jan 23, 30, and 31, 2021.

Les enfants terribles, one of my favorite Philip Glass operas, gets an airing in late March (20, 27, and 28) at the Beverly O’Neill Theater. The production, directed by James Darrah and conducted by wildUp’s artistic director, Christopher Rountree, comes from the One Festival at Opera Omaha.

April’s offering is a staging of Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire (1912) performed by Peabody Southwell and directed and choreographed by Danielle Agami, who brings her Ate9 Dance Company with her. Dance afficionados know the highly acclaimed Agami, whose most recent major award (out of many) was a 2018 Virginia B. Toulmin Fellowship for Women Leaders in Dance. On the other half of the program is Kate Soper’s Voices From the Killing Jar (2012), an eight-song work that explores women characters in literature by men from Shakespeare to Haruki Murakami. Killing Jar is performed by Laurel Irene and directed by Zoe Aja Moore, whose work has been seen at the Prototype Festival, the Williamstown Theater Festival, REDCAT, and National Sawdust. Jenny Wong, the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s assistant conductor, leads the performances at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (April 17, two performances, and April 18).

Ready for the classic repertory part? The season wraps with one of Sharon’s own productions, Comet/Poppea. Composer George Lewis and librettist Douglas Kearney adapt W.E.B. Du Bois’s story “The Comet” into opera, and this production interweaves its scenes with scenes from Monteverdi’s classic The Coronation of Poppea. As the two works alternate and overlap, “a fractured narrative emerges, questioning values which shape the world both present and past. The rotating playing space is divided in two, as is the audience: one half of the stage takes us into an ancient world where power and sex eclipse morality, while the other half brings us to a 20th-century setting that takes on issues of race and love in the vacuum of an imagined apocalypse.” As always, Sharon is looking to shake up the narratives, stereotypes, and vocal/musical gestures that define opera. June 20, 26, and 27, venue TBA.

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.

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