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.
Mezzo-Soprano Peabody Southwell returns to LBO after several memorable roles. Her recent work includes Barrie Kosky's Magic Flute with LA Opera and James Conlon; her debut as Agrippina for Opera Omaha, a New World Symphony tour with Michael Tilson Thomas, Schoenberg's Book of the Hanging Gardens at Boston Court, and her debut with Chicago Opera Theater in the title role in María de Buenos Aires. She was also recently seen in LA Opera's Dulce Rosa conducted by Plácido Domingo; made her San Francisco Symphony debut; and appeared in two premieres with WildUp in LA. Her upcoming appearances include Semele with Pacific Musicworks, La Traviata with James Conlon at LA Opera, and the title role in Frau Schindler, a new opera to premiere in Germany, 2016.
With LBO, soprano Suzan Hanson's recent roles include Lady Macbeth (Macbeth), Madeline (The Fall of the House of Usher, also for Chicago Opera Theater), Mrs. P (The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat), Margarita (Ainadamar), Medea (Medea), Mrs. Williamson (The Difficulty of Crossing a Field), Pat Nixon (Nixon in China), and Brünnhilde (Siegfried, Götterdämmerung). She has premiered works by Philip Glass, Rinde Eckert, Michel LeGrand and Henry Mollicone and sung at several other opera companies including San Francisco, Connecticut, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Verona, Tel Aviv, Madrid, Spoleto and Florence. Her theatrical appearances include roles at the Old Globe, Denver Center, San Jose Rep, to name a few. She has recorded The Tender Land by Koch.
James Robinson is the Artistic Director of Opera Theatre of St. Louis where he staged this production of The Death of Klinghoffer in 2011 and also directed the American premiere of Alice in Wonderland, The Ghosts of Versailles and the world premieres of The Golden Ticket and Champion. He previously directed the world premiere of Dolores Claiborne, L'Elisir d'Amore and Il Trittico for San Francisco Opera, Nixon in China for Canadian Opera, Nabucco for Dallas Opera, Bernstein's Mass and Honegger's Jeanne d''Arc for the London Symphony. He has directed numerous new productions for Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera and Santa Fe Opera. His work has also been seen at Opera Australia, the Wexford Festival, Welsh NationalOpera and Washington Opera. Later this year, he will direct the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon's 27 for Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the American premiere of Huang Ruo's Dr. Sun Yat Sen for Santa Fe Opera.
Andreas Mitisek was LBO's principal conductor from 1998-2003 before becoming Artistic and General Director in 2004. Named an LA Tastemaker by the Los Angeles Times Magazine and one of LA Weekly's "2012 People," Mitisek's worldwide conducting credits include appearances at the Wiener Volksoper, the Komische Oper in Berlin, the festival "Wien Modern," the Wiener Konzerthaus and Musikverein. He conducted Joruri in Tokyo, Eugene Onegin at the Teatro Municipal in Santiago de Chile, and the Austrian and Italian premieres of Nixon in China. As a guest conductor in North America, he led productions for the Seattle Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Vancouver Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater and Opera Theatre of St. Louis, among others. In 2012, Mitisek also became General Director of the Chicago Opera Theater.
Composer, conductor and creative thinker-- John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works, both operatic and symphonic, stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. Over the past 25 years, Adams's music has played a decisive role in turning the tide of contemporary musical aesthetics away from academic modernism and toward a more expansive, expressive language, entirely characteristic of his New World surroundings.
In 1985, Adams began a collaboration with the poet Alice Goodman and stage director Peter Sellars that resulted in two groundbreaking operas: Nixon in China (1987) and The Death of Klinghoffer (1991). Produced worldwide, these works are among the most performed operas of the last two decades. Five further stage collaborations with Sellars followed: the 1995 "songplay," I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, with a libretto by June Jordan; El Niño (2000), a multilingual retelling of the nativity story; Doctor Atomic (2005), about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the first atomic bomb; A Flowering Tree, inspired by Mozart's Magic Flute and premiered in Vienna in 2006; and the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012), written for Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
John Adams is a much sought-after conductor, appearing with the world's major orchestras in programs combining his own works with a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Beethoven and Mozart to Ives, Carter, Zappa, Glass and Ellington. With the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he holds the title of Creative Chair, he will conduct his "Naive and Sentimental Music" and the world premiere of Terry Riley's new Organ Concerto as part of that orchestra's Minimalist Jukebox festival, of which he is also curator.
Born 1958 in St. Paul, Minnesota, American poet Alice Goodman was raised as a Reform Jew and is currently an ordained Anglican priest serving in England. She was educated at Harvard University and Cambridge, where she studied English and American literature. She wrote the libretti for two of John Adams' operas, Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. Goodman began collaborating with John Adams on Doctor Atomic, however, she withdrew from the project after a year. Goodman married the noted British poet Geoffrey Hill in 1987. In 2006, Alice Goodman took up the post of chaplain at Trinity College, Cambridge, UK.
Long Beach Opera (LBO) is internationally known for its cutting-edge interpretations of unconventional repertoire. LBO creates immediate, inventive and often boldly avant-garde productions for an adventurous audience and stands apart from most opera companies in the number of world, American, and West Coast premieres the company has staged. Founded in 1979, it is the oldest professional opera company in the Los Angeles/Orange County region, with a performance history of more than 100 operas ranging from the earliest works of the 17th century to operas of the 21st.
Bold site-specific stagings in such places as parking structures, a trendy nightclub, the hull of an ocean liner, an Olympic swimming pool and a furniture warehouse, as well as performances in traditional theaters, reflect the company's desire to give modern audiences an immersive theatrical experience and to showcase opera in a new light.Through diverse productions, special concerts and film screenings at multiple venues in the Los Angeles/Orange County areas, an active education program with student matinees, Long Beach Opera continues to make opera accessible to an ever-expanding audience.