Contemporary Opera’s Future at LA Opera

LA Opera has a long history of presenting new and unfamiliar contemporary opera on its stage. It is within the company’s mission to “produce world-class opera that preserves, promotes, and advances the art form while embodying the diversity, pioneering spirit, and artistic sensibility unique to Los Angeles”. Under the umbrella of the Contemporary Opera Initiative is Off Grand, a series of performances that take place in venues beyond the mainstage with a focus on experimental chamber work.

Thumbprint (2017); Photo: Larry Ho

LA Opera Off Grand and Beth Morrison Project’s production of Thumbprint (2017) (Photo: Larry Ho)

The 2018/19 season will mark the Contemporary Opera Initiative’s sixth season. Off Grand brings experimental and contemporary opera to performance venues beyond its home theater at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

The upcoming 2018/19 season will complete the company’s presentation of Philip Glass’ trio of portrait operas with performances of Satyagraha (1980) on the mainstage. The Off Grand season includes two performances of a unique opera/film mash up of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s landmark film, Vampyr, with a new score for chamber orchestra and singers composed by Joby Talbot at The Theatre at the Ace Hotel (October 27 and 31, 2018). The series will continue LA Opera’s established partnership with Beth Morrison Projects (BMP) to feature four performances of composer Ellen Reid and librettist Roxie Perkin’s Prism at the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater (REDCAT) (Nov. 29 and 30 and Dec. 1 and 2, 2018) and one performance of David T. Little’s Soldier Songs at The Ford Theatres (October 13, 2018). The Off Grand season will conclude with two performances of David Lang’s The Loser at The Theatre at the Ace Hotel (Feb. 22 and 23, 2019).

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s dreamlike 1932 film Vampyr is regarded as an important landmark of the horror genre. Filmed as a silent movie, with audio dubbed over, the film will take on new life with the world premiere of a new score by Joby Talbot. In a rare screening of this cinematic masterpiece Talbot will use his expertise in re-scoring silent films to reinvigorate this iconic vampire horror classic with a score played live by a chamber orchestra and sung by opera singers in sync with the actors. Matthew Aucoin, LA Opera’s Artist in Residence, will conduct two live performances on October 27 and 31. Vampyr will represent LA Opera’s fourth consecutive year of partnership with The Theatre at the Ace Hotel to bring these unique film and opera fusions to their diverse audience for sell-out performances during the Halloween season.

Next, LA Opera and Beth Morrison Projects combine forces for an exciting world premiere of Prism at REDCAT. Composed by Ellen Reid and libretto by Roxie Perkins, Prism tells the story of a mother and daughter who live an isolated existence, locking themselves away from the world. When the young girl begins to be confronted with the realization of her own memories, she questions the stories her mother has told her, and delves into the truth of her own reality. This psychological drama, examines the complexity of memories post-trauma. The piece will be conducted by Julian Wachner and directed by James Darrah, both in their LA Opera debuts. Performances will take place in REDCAT’s intimate 270 seat theater, which is part of a larger center for contemporary art within the Disney Concert Hall complex.

The second Beth Morrison collaboration during the 2018/19 season will take place at The Ford Theater with one performance of Soldier Songs. This multimedia production composed and written by David T. Little explores the realties versus the perceptions of soldiers in society. The libretto was inspired by recorded interviews with veterans from different wars in history, following one soldier through three stages of his life, as a child and youth prior to combat, as a warrior, and as an elderly veteran. The company has an established relationship with many veteran services organizations in Los Angeles and plans to invite many veterans to attend the performance as well as explore options for community engagement such as talk backs, to continue the discussion post-performance. The Ford Theater is a newly renovated 1,200-seat outdoor amphitheater in Hollywood. Prism and Soldier Songs mark the sixth consecutive season of LA Opera’s partnership with Beth Morrison Projects to bring new and experimental contemporary chamber opera to LA Opera audiences.

The fourth production will be the west coast premiere of Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang’s acclaimed opera, The Loser, which will take LA Opera back to the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in the winter of 2019. The opera, adapted from Thomas Bernhard’s book, stars baritone Rod Gilfry in a dynamic role he originated at the opera’s world premiere at Bang on a Can Festival in 2016. This one-man opera, is a pained contemplation of dreams unrealized with incredibly intimate staging in which Gilfry stands on what appears to be a suspended platform for the entirety of this one act opera. Composer and Librettist David Lang will also direct The Loser with scenic design by Jim Findlay, lighting by Jennifer Tipton and costumes by Suzanne Bocanegra. The Loser marks Lang’s second appearance with LA Opera, the first being four performances of his captivating Anatomy Theater in 2016.

LA Opera seeks to reach a wide and diverse audience for Off Grand performances. This includes enticing dedicated classical opera goers to expand their opera experience, reaching people who have a heightened interest in contemporary music and art of all disciplines, and attracting audiences that are entirely new to opera. For pieces such as Soldier Songs LA Opera plans to reach local veteran organizations and cultivate opportunities for veterans and civilians in engage in constructive dialogue and raise awareness of the military and veteran experience.

LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.
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