Music by George Lewis and Claudio Monteverdi
Libretti by Douglas Kearney and Giovanni Francesco Busenello
An unclassifiable new mash-up of opera’s past and future explores racial inequality — on stage and off.
About the Operas
LBO’s Interim Artistic Advisor Yuval Sharon presents his latest project:
Two seemingly incongruous stories... two radically different musical voices... two visions of social striving that at first glance appear to have nothing to do with the other. On a constantly rotating stage, two worlds unfold simultaneously, spinning like a top that creates a visual and aural spiral, inviting associations, dissociations, collisions, and confluences. Comet / Poppea begins as a critique of the institution of opera, but by the end it becomes a celebration of all that is unique to opera: the unexpected harmony to be discovered in juxtaposition; the collision of classic and contemporary; and its ability to both respond to modern struggles while illuminating timeless human truths.
Using Monteverdi’s final masterpiece The Coronation of Poppea as a point of departure, George Lewis composes a new work based on the W.E.B. Du Bois short story “The Comet,” which tessellates with the vastly different world of Poppea. As the two stories and sound worlds alternate and occasionally overlap, a fractured narrative emerges, questioning values which shape the world both present and past. The rotating playing space is divided in two, as is the audience: one half of the stage takes us into an ancient world where power and sex eclipse morality, while the other half brings us to a 20th-century setting that takes on issues of race and love in the vacuum of an imagined apocalypse. In collaboration with poet and librettist Douglas Kearney, librettist of The Industry’s Crescent City and Sweet Land, Sharon and Lewis will create a hybrid work that interrogates the very foundations of opera.
George E. Lewis
is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University, where he serves as Area Chair in Composition and Faculty in Historical Musicology. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, Lewis’s other honors include a MacArthur Fellowship (2002) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), a Doris Duke Artists Award (2019), a United States Artists Walker Fellowship (2011), an Alpert Award in the Arts (1999), and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis's work in chamber music, orchestral, operatic, and improvisative forms, as well as electronic and computer music and interactive multimedia installations, is documented on more than 150 recordings.
His work has been presented by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Dal Niente, London Philharmonia Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, Musikfabrik, Mivos Quartet, London Sinfonietta, Spektral Quartet, Talea Ensemble, Ensemble Pamplemousse, Wet Ink, JACK Quartet, and others, with commissions from American Composers Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad, Ensemble Either/Or, Turning Point Ensemble, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, IRCAM, Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, and others. Lewis’s music is published by Edition Peters.
Lewis has served as Fromm Visiting Professor of Music, Harvard University; Ernest Bloch Visiting Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley; Paul Fromm Composer in Residence, American Academy in Rome; Resident Scholar, and Center for Disciplinary Innovation, University of Chicago. His book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) received the American Book Award and the American Musicological Society’s Music in American Culture Award; Lewis was elected to Honorary Membership in the Society in 2016. Lewis is the co-editor of the two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016), and his opera Afterword (2015) has been performed in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic. Lewis holds honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Edinburgh, New College of Florida, and Harvard University. (https://music.columbia.edu/bios/george-e-lewis).
- Yuval Sharon - Director
- Composer - George Lewis
- Librettist - Douglas Kearney
- Anthony Roth Constanzo & Cath Brittan (lead producers)
- The American Modern Opera Company
- The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at cac.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