Pierrot Lunaire / Voices from the Killing Jar

Music by Arnold Schoenberg and Kate Soper
Set to the Pierrot Lunaire text by Albert Giraud

Women reframe their own operatic portrayal in this double bill that pairs the most radical monodrama of the last century with one by this century’s most exciting new voices.

About the Operas

Why are women in opera so often depicted as prostitutes, sacrificial victims, or both? Women reframe their own operatic portrayal in this double bill that pairs the most radical monodrama of the last century with one by this century’s most exciting new voices. Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (1912) changed music forever when he created 21 surreal dreamscapes for a solitary, enigmatic female to traverse. Exploring a threshold space between singing and speaking, Schoenberg created a vocal character somewhere between cabaret and expressionism, demanding each performer to make the role uniquely her own. 100 years later, Kate Soper’s Voices from the Killing Jar (2012) takes an intrepid soloist through a constantly shifting sonic environment and a kaleidoscopic vocal journey. Soper’s protagonist brings to life 8 famous women in world literature -- from Don Giovanni to Great Gatsby, from Shakespeare to Haruki Murakami -- to unravel men’s depictions of women through the centuries. 

Each work is a tour de force for vocalists who think far outside operatic conventions. Killing Jar will be performed by Laurel Irene, a performer Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times praised as “downright superhuman, giving one of the most astonishing performances, vocally and interpretively, I have ever encountered.” 

The works are led by a trio of exceptional local artists that bring fresh perspectives to opera: Pierrot Lunaire is staged and choreographed by Danielle Agami, the founder of the acclaimed Ate9 Dance Company. She received the 2018 Virginia B. Toulmin Fellowship for Women Leaders in Dance, the 2016 Princess Grace Award for Choreography, and was named Dance Magazine’s Top 25 to Watch in 2015. Killing Jar is staged by Zoe Aja Moore, a theater director whose work has been seen at the Prototype Festival, the Williamstown Theater Festival, REDCAT, and National Sawdust. Jenny Wong, the Associate Artistic Director of LA Master Chorale and a co-conductor of The Industry’s Sweet Land, conducts both pieces. 

“Kate Soper is one of the true originals of her generation.”  Alex Ross, The New Yorker
“Not every good choreographer develops a language, and Danielle Agami speaks her borrowed tongue with considerable skill." Brian Seibert, The New York Times

Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951)

Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian-born composer, music theorist, teacher, writer, and painter. He is widely considered one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School. With the rise of the Nazi Party, Schoenberg's works were labeled degenerate music, because they were modernist and atonal. He emigrated to the United States in 1933, becoming an American citizen in 1941.

Schoenberg's approach, both in terms of harmony and development, has shaped much of the 20th-century musical thought. Many European and American composers from at least three generations have consciously extended his thinking, whereas others have passionately reacted against it.

Schoenberg was known early in his career for simultaneously extending the traditionally opposed German Romantic styles of Brahms and Wagner. Later, his name would come to personify innovations in atonality (although Schoenberg himself detested that term) that would become the most polemical feature of 20th-century art music. In the 1920s, Schoenberg developed the twelve-tone technique, an influential compositional method of manipulating an ordered series of all twelve notes in the chromatic scale. He also coined the term developing variation and was the first modern composer to embrace ways of developing motifs without resorting to the dominance of a centralized melodic idea.

Kate Soper

Kate Soper is a composer, performer, and writer whose work explores the integration of drama and rhetoric into musical structure, the slippery continuums of expressivity, intelligibility and sense, and the wonderfully treacherous landscape of the human voice. She has been hailed by The Boston Globe as "a composer of trenchant, sometimes discomfiting, power" and by The New Yorker for her "limpid, exacting vocalism, impetuous theatricality, and mastery of modernist style." A Pulitzer Prize finalist, Soper has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters (The Virgil Thomson and Goddard Lieberson awards and the Charles Ives Scholarship), the Koussevitzky Foundation, Chamber Music America, the Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund, the Music Theory Society of New York State, and ASCAP, and has been commissioned by ensembles including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, and Yarn/Wire. She has received residencies and fellowships from the Civitella Raineri Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Camargo Foundation, the Macdowell Colony, Tanglewood, Royaumont, and Domaine Forget, among others.

Soper is a co-director and performer for Wet Ink, a New York-based new music ensemble dedicated to seeking out adventurous music across aesthetic boundaries. She teaches composition and electronic music at Smith College.



  • Kiera Duffy - Pierrot Lunaire
  • Laurel Irene - Voices from the Killing Jar

Artistic Team:

  • Danielle Agami - Pierrot Lunaire Director/Choreographer
  • Zoe Aja Moore - Voices from the Killing Jar Director
  • Jenny Wong - Conductor


  • LA Philharmonic / The Ford
  • Ate9
  • Wild Up

National Endowement for the Arts    California Arts Council Arts Council for Long Beach City of Long Beach Art Works Opera America KUSC

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