Music and Libretto by Peter Maxwell Davies
In Maxwell Davies’s hands a potential ghost story becomes a terrifying psychological drama about the fragility of civilisation and the “beast” that lurks just beneath the surface in all of us. The ghosts here are no alien spirits but the guilty secrets of the past – flesh and blood spectres whose weapons are also very much of this world. - Alexandra Coghlan (newstatesman.com)
LBO PREMIERE in Collaboration with the Aquarium of the Pacific
This haunting opera is an atmospheric combination of detective mystery and ghost story, mixing courtroom testimony with fantastical flashbacks. Three officers from a lighthouse vessel report to a Court of Enquiry how they arrived to relieve three lighthouse keepers and find the place deserted.
The officers’ nervously pass the time by singing songs. But out of the fog, their past emerges to taunt them.
About the Opera
Peter Maxwell Davies:... The original inspiration of this work came from reading Craig Mair’s book on the Stevenson family of Edinburgh. This family, apart from producing the famous author Robert Louis, produced several generations of lighthouse and harbour engineers. In December 1900 the lighthouse and harbour supply ship Hesperus based in Stromness, Orkney, went on its routine tour of duty to the Flannan Isles light in the Outer Hebrides.
The lighthouse was empty – all three beds and the table looked as if they had been left in a hurry, and the lamp, though out, was in perfect working order, but the men had disappeared into thin air.
There have been many speculations as to how and why the three keepers disappeared. This opera does not offer a solution to the mystery, but indicates what might be possible under the tense circumstances of three men being marooned in a storm-bound lighthouse long after the time they expected to be relieved.
About the Venue
The new 300 seat Honda Pacific Visions Theater at the Aquarium of the Pacific is a breathtaking 2 level seating theater, featuring a 130-foot-wide by 32-foot-tall screen, curved in a 180 degree arc and a retractable 30-foot-diameter floor projection disc, all working together to dip audiences into a virtual environment. Long Beach Opera will create the first opera production in this immersive space.
Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)
Over the course of his career, Maxwell Davies’s status changed from enfant terrible to leading cultural figure at the heart of the British establishment. His appointment in 2004 as Master of the Queen’s Music is a tribute to the revolutionary influence he has had on the British contemporary music scene and the public’s perception of it. From his radical works of the 1960s, he developed a more conventional, but no less startlingly original, idiom often drawing on the music and landscape of the Orkney Islands where he lived from 1971 until his death in 2016.
His major dramatic works include full-length ballets Salome and Caroline Mathilde, music-theatre works Eight Songs for a Mad King and Miss Donnithorne's Maggot, and operas Resurrection, The Lighthouse, The Doctor of Myddfai, and Taverner, which was recently released by NMC Records on a Grammy-nominated disc with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Oliver Knussen. Maxwell Davies’s last opera Kommilitonen! (Young Blood!) received critical acclaim for its world premiere run of performances at London’s Royal Academy of Music, with the Daily Telegraph labelling the composer “a master symphonist”.
Maxwell Davies’ huge output of orchestral work comprises ten symphonies - hailed by the Times as “the most important symphonic cycle since Shostakovich” – as well as numerous concerti including the Strathclyde Concerto series and most recently his violin concerto Fiddler on the Shore, written for Daniel Hope and first performed in 2009 by the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and at the BBC Proms. Maxwell Davies’ light orchestral works include An Orkney Weddingwith Sunrise and Mavis in Las Vegas, and five large-scale works for chorus including the oratorio Job. His landmark cycle of ten string quartets, the Naxos Quartets, were described in the Financial Times as “one of the most impressive musical statements of our time”. Recent highlights include Maxwell Davies’ last symphony (Symphony No. 10) was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, and was premiered by LSO at the Barbican Centre in February 2014 to great critical acclaim.
Part ghost story, part psychological drama, this opera is based on the true story of three lighthouse keepers who disappeared mysteriously from a remote Scottish lighthouse in 1900.
In the prologue, three officers from a lighthouse ship report to a Court of Enquiry how they arrived to relieve the three keepers and found the place deserted.
The main act flashbacks to the keepers, working the lighthouse far longer than usual. They are nervous and pass the time by singing characteristic ‘set piece’ songs – which express their individual guilt. Out of the fog, their past emerges to taunt them. They see the arrival of a blinding light as Antichrist, in which they are replaced by the relief officers: the mystery is unresolved.
This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov
Supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.
Long Beach Opera events are supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission