BWW Interviews: HOUSE OF USHER Falls, Andreas Mitisek Rises

Related: Mitisek, Chicago Opera Theater, Long Beach Opera, Philip Glass, 'The Fall of the House of Usher'

Helping him accomplish his goals are grants to both his companies from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation website" href="">Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support works by American composers. Last year's $500,000 grant to COT provides part of the funding for "Usher" plus two more operas, in 2014 and 2015, one being a world premiere. (It will also help the company create its first cash reserve fund.)

Opera that "sings" to him

Of course, Mitisek doesn't need a grant to foster his interest in new works. Although he hails from one of the world's most famous musical cities, he found that the works being done at the Vienna State Opera didn't "sing" to him. Thus, he created his first company when he was still in his twenties, to present contemporary alternatives to Verdi, Mozart and the other stand-bearers of traditional repertoire. "I'm a very visual person and I found what I was seeing and hearing wasn't meaningful to me. So I decided to create a company that would get away from the kinds of clichés that opera conjures for many people."

Over the last 10 years in Long Beach, he has delved deeply into contemporary music, including such works as Glass's "Akhnaten" and John Adams's "Nixon in China." Dispensing with clichés has not only meant moving to new operas but productions that are site-specific; for example, Ricky Ian Gordon's "Orpheus and Euridice" was staged in a swimming pool. He's not yet doing this in Chicago, but the possibilities are already rumbling around in his head. While Verdi and Mozart have not been permanently banished from his companies-Verdi's fairly obscure "Giovanna d'Arco" ends the COT season-there will definitely be a good reason for one of their works to be in his future.


The Details

"The Fall of the House of Usher," an opera in two acts without intermission, by Philip Glass and Arthur Yorinks

Director...Ken Cazan

Conductor...Andreas Mitisek

Long Beach Opera, Warner Grand Theatre, San Pedro, January 27, February 2-3, 2013

Chicago Opera Theatre, Harris Theatre in Millennium Park, February 23, 24, 27, March 1, 2013

The Cast

Madeline Usher...Suzan Hanson (created the role in the World Premiere, American Repertory Theater)

Roderick Usher ...Ryan MacPherson

William ...Lee Gregory

Physician...Jonathan Mack

Servant ...Nick Shelton

The Creative Team

Set designer...Alan E. Muraoka

Costume designer...Jacqueline Saint Anne

Lighting designer...David Martin Jacques

More On: Edgar Allan, Philip Glass, Andrew W. Mellon, John Adams, Ricky Ian Gordon,

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Richard Sasanow Richard Sasanow is a long-time writer on art, music, food, travel and international business for publications including The New York Times, The Guardian (UK), Town & Country and Travel & Leisure, among many others. He also interviewed some of the great singers of the 20th century for the programs at the San Francisco Opera and San Diego Opera and worked on US tours of the Orchestre National de France and Vienna State Opera, conducted by Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein.

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