Long Beach Opera to Present the Southern California Debut of THE DEATH OF KLINGHOFFER, 3/16-22
Perhaps the most controversial opera of the 20th century makes its Southern California debut when Long Beach Opera (LBO) stages John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer on March 16 and March 22 at the Terrace Theater in downtown Long Beach. This powerful and unsettling work chronicles the 1985 hijacking of the Mediterranean cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists and the murder of disabled Jewish-American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer. LBO's production is a partner presentation of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's "Minimalist Jukebox" Festival.
Originally commissioned by a consortium of opera companies that included LA Opera, the rarely performed work was premiered in Brussels and received its US Premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1991, but the Los Angeles production was cancelled due to protests over the controversial dramaturgy of the work and accusations of anti-Semitism. A subsequent performance planned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra was cancelled after the attacks of September 11, 2001, prompting musicologist Richard Taruskin to defend the cancellation and generating further debate over the work. Klinghoffer did not return to the US in a fully staged version until 2011, when James Robinson directed the opera for Opera Theatre of St. Louis (OTSL) to critical acclaim.
LBO's production will also be directed by Robinson, who calls Klinghoffer, "A work of searing insight and painful reflection." LBO's Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek will conduct. In 2010, Mitisek was responsible for LBO's production of Adams' Nixon in China, after its 20 year absence from Los Angeles stages. He conducted those performances as well as Nixon's Italian and Austrian premieres.
The roles of Marilyn and Leon Klinghoffer will be performed by LBO veterans Suzan Hanson and Robin Buck. Lee Gregory will play the Captain, following his LBO debut in last season's The Fall of the House of Usher. The cast will also feature Roberto Perlas Gomez (First Officer/Rambo), Danielle Marcelle Bond (Swiss Grandmother/Austrian Woman/British Dancing Girl), Alex Richardson (Molqi), Jason Switzer (Mamoud), and Peabody Southwell (Omar).
The production staff features James Robinson (Stage Director), Allen Moyer (Scenic Designer), James Schuette (Costume Designer), and Gregory Emetaz (Video Designer).
Ticket prices range from $29 to $160. Purchase tickets by calling LBO Ticket Services at 562-432-5934 or by going online to the LBO website: www.longbeachopera.org.
Composer John Adams says of the work, "I knew that this subject would inevitably be a hot potato and likely draw us into any number of heated controversies with all sides of the Middle East conflict. But I found myself instantly drawn to the story, principally because the murder of this man, Leon Klinghoffer, possessed a strange, almost biblical feeling. On the one hand, having come to our attention through the strident medium of television, it had the nervous, highly charged immediacy of a fast-moving media event. On the other, the man's murder, played out against a background of impassioned claims of Jews and Palestinians alike, touched a nerve that went deep into the body politic of our lives as comfortable, self-satisfied Americans."
The late Marilyn Klinghoffer and her daughters, Ilsa and Lisa Klinghoffer, created the Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation in 1985 with the Anti-Defamation League. The Foundation combats terrorism through educational, legal and legislative means and recognizes and honors public officials who take action against terrorism with the Klinghoffer Award.
The world of theater and opera has always been populated with criminals, murderers, and thugs... But no other opera in the past two decades has been as controversial and as rarely seen as Adams' second opera, The Death of Klinghoffer. A work of searing insight and painful reflection, this is a brutal and beautiful work that examines the horrific events of the taking of the Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists and the senseless murder of the wheelchair-bound American Jew Leon Klinghoffer. The opera gives voice to the Klinghoffers, but also to the terrorists. It doesn't try to make sense of the events or attempt to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but it does make us confront some very frightening characters, and it begs us to hear all sides of the story, no matter how painful or grotesque. However, the opera does not force any opinion upon us other than the fact that the murder of Leon Klinghoffer was an act of unspeakable inhumanity. And perhaps that's the reason for the controversial history of this powerful work of art....I have tremendous respect for responsible, provocative and creative artists. I do not always agree with the choices of subject matter, interpretations, or performances. But I do believe the purpose of art in our society is to present all aspects of the human experience and allow us to decide if it's worthy of our attention.
Lee Gregory has sung Silvio, I Pagliacci (Arizona Opera, Opera Omaha); Nixon, Nixon in China (Eugene Opera); Schaunard, La Bohème (Michigan Opera Theatre); title role, Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Opera Theatre of the Rockies); Leporello, Don Giovanni and Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro (Eugene Opera); Junius, The Rape of Lucretia and Maximilian, Candide (Toledo Opera); Mercutio, Roméo et Juliette (Opera Columbus); William, The Fall of the House of Usher (Nashville Opera and LBO); Prince Paul, La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, (Opera Boston); Carl Magnus, A Little Night Music; Wilhelm in Ghosts of Versailles (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis).
Roberto Perlas Gomez returns to LBO after past portrayals of the title roles in Motezuma and The Emperor of Atlantis, the King in Die Kluge, Creon in Medea, Horemhab in Akhnaten, Drebednyev in Moscow, Cherry Town and the Theatre Director/Gendarme in The Breasts of Tiresias. He made his European debut as Chou en-lai in Nixon in China at the Arena di Verona, reprising the role at LBO. Mr. Gomez has performed with San Francisco Opera, LA Opera, and San Diego Opera. He has performed his signature role of Rossini's Barber with many companies and was in Manila to create the title role in Rizal, written to honor the Philippine national hero in the centennial anniversary of his death.
Alex Richardson returns to LBO, where he debuted in The Good Soldier Schweik. Recent career highlights include his work in Salome with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons conducting; additionally, Tom Buchanan (The Great Gatsby), Emmanuel Music at Tanglewood; Steuermann (Der fliegende Holländer) and Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Princeton Festival; Alfredo (La Traviata) with Festival de Belle-Île, France; and the title role (Werther) cover, Washington National Opera. Future engagements include: Beethoven concert, Tanglewood; title role of Alemto by Franco Faccio, Opera Southwest; and King Roger, Boston Symphony.
Known for his versatility as a singer and actor, Robin Buck has performed more than 50 principal roles in opera and musical theater with many companies, including NY City Opera, LA Opera, Theater Basel, Opernhaus Zürich, National Theater Mannheim, and the Really Useful Company. He has been a featured soloist in standard and contemporary concert works with organizations in the U.S. and Europe, including the LA Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, LA Master Chorale, Pacific Symphony, and the City of Birmingham Symphony (U.K.). Recent roles with LBO have included Edgar in The Tell-Tale Heart and the title role in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.