Music by Steve Reich
Video by Beryl Korot


This documentary video opera recalls three well known events from the 20th century; the Hindenburg explosion, the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests, and Dolly the cloned sheep. Each of these reflects on the growth and implications of technology during the 20th century. The debate about the physical, ethical, and religious nature of our expanding technological environment continues to grow.

Three Tales is a video-opera in three acts (titled Hindenburg, Bikini and Dolly) with music by American composer Steve Reich and visuals by Beryl Korot, his wife. It is scored for two sopranos, three tenors, string quartet, percussion, keyboards, and pre-recorded audio. Its premiere was at the Vienna Festival on May 12, 2002; the BBC had commissioned a version for television broadcast four months later. The 12-minute tale Hindenburg had been written (and recorded) in 1998, while the remaining tales were completed (and recorded) in the year of the premiere.

The musical narrative of Three Tales follows "speech melodies" of pre-recorded interviews, and in many ways resembles Reich's works The Cave (1990–1993), City Life (1995) and Different Trains (1988).

Steve Reich - Music

Steve Reich (b. 1936) has been called "America’s greatest living composer" (The Village VOICE), "...the most original musical thinker of our time" (The New Yorker), and "...among the great composers of the century" (The New York Times). His music has influenced composers and mainstream musicians all over the world. Music for 18 Musicians and Different Trains have earned him two GRAMMY awards, and in 2009 his Double Sextet won the Pulitzer Prize. His documentary video opera works—The Cave and Three Tales, done in collaboration with video artist Beryl Korot—have been performed on four continents. His latest work Quartet, for percussionist Colin Currie, sold out two consecutive concerts at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London shortly after tens of thousands at the Glastonbury Festival heard Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead) perform Electric Counterpoint followed by the London Sinfonietta performing his Music for 18 Musicians. In 2012 he was awarded the Gold Medal in Music by the American Academy of Arts and letters. Earlier he won the Preamium Imperale in Tokyo, the Polar Prize in Stockholm, the BBVA Award in Madrid and recently the Golden Lion at the Biennale de Venzia. He has been named Commandeur de l’ordre des Arts et letters and has been awarded honorary doctorates by the the Royal College of Music, London, the Juilliard School in New York, and the Liszt Academy in Budapest among others. "There's just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history and Steve Reich is one of them," states The Guardian.

Beryl Korot - Video

Beryl Korot is a pioneer of video art and of multiple channel work in particular. She was co-editor of Radical Software (1970), the first publication to discuss the possibilities of the new video medium. Her first multiple channel works (Dachau, 1974 and Text and Commentary) have been exhibited at The Kitchen (1975), Leo Castelli Gallery (1977), Documenta 6 (1977), the Whitney Museum (1980 and 2002), The Carnegie Museum (1990) The Aldrich Museum (2010), bitforms gallery (2012), The Whitworth Gallery, (2013), Museum Abteiberg (2013, Art Fair Basel, ICA Boston and Tate Modern (2014). Her painted text-based handwoven canvases in an original language were exhibited in 1986 at the John Weber Gallery and in 1990 at the Carnegie Museum. Two collaborations with Steve Reich (The Cave, 1993, and Three Tales, 2002) brought video installation art into a theatrical context. Both works continue to be performed throughout the world and were exhibited as video installations at such venues as the Whitney Museum, the Carnegie Museum, the Reina Sofia, the Dusseldorf Kunstverein, and ZKM. In 2010 a mini retrospective of her work was exhibited for 6 months at The Aldrich Museum. Korot’s work is in both private and public collections. Text and Commentary was recently acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) and Dachau 1974, is in the Kramlich Collection's New Art Trust shared by SF MOMA, NY MOMA and Tate Modern. She is a Guggenheim Fellow (1994) and recipient of numerous grants including The National Endowment for the Arts, and Anonymous Was a Woman (2008). In 2000 she was a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College.


Three Tales is a response to nearly one hundred years of modern technology, and concerns the explosion of the Hindenburg, nuclear testings on Bikini Atoll, and the cloning of Dolly the sheep (drawing connections between genetic engineering and artificial intelligence). The different stories are told from various perspectives, with speech culled from interviews with eyewitnesses, audiovisual documentary material of both the Hindenburg and Bikini tragedies, and experts in computer science (e.g. Marvin Minsky and Kevin Warwick), artificial intelligence (Rodney Brooks), religion (Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz), and genetic engineering (Richard Dawkins).


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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