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
George E. Lewis is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University. The recipient of a 2002 MacArthur Fellowship, a 1999 Alpert Award in the Arts, a 2011 United States Artists Walker Fellowship, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lewis studied composition with Muhal Richard Abrams at the AACM School of Music, and trombone with Dean Hey. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971.
Lewis’s work in electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, text-sound works, and notated and improvisative forms is documented on more than 140 recordings. His work has been presented by the American Composers Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Ensemble Either/Or, London Philharmonia Orchestra, Talea Ensemble, Dinosaur Annex, Ensemble Pamplemousse, Wet Ink, Turning Point Ensemble, Ensemble Erik Satie, Orkestra Futura, Eco Ensemble, Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, and others, with commissions from the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad, OPUS (Paris), IRCAM, Harvestworks, Studio Museum in Harlem, the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, and others.
Most recently, Lewis has served as Ernest Bloch Visiting Professor of Music, University of California, Berkeley; Paul Fromm Composer in Residence, American Academy in Rome; Resident Scholar, Center for Disciplinary Innovation, Franke Institute for the Humanities, University of Chicago; and CAC Fitt Artist In Residence, Brown University. Lewis has been honored with the 2012 SEAMUS Award from the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, and his widely acclaimed book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) is a recipient of the American Book Award and the American Musicological Society’s Music in American Culture Award. Lewis is the co-editor of the forthcoming two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. Forthcoming projects include Afterword, an opera commissioned by the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago, to be premiered at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in Fall 2015.
- Yuval Sharon - Director
- Composer - George Lewis
- Librettist - Douglas Kearny
- 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