About Long Beach Opera
Founded in 1979, the Long Beach Opera is the oldest operatic producing company in the metropolitan Los Angeles/Orange County region.
With a repertory of over 100 operas, including early and late Baroque works, twentieth century works, and operas of special interest from the standard repertory, Long Beach Opera is well known for its world, American and west coast premieres of new and rare operas. Long Beach Opera is a recognized member of the American operatic community, enjoying funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the County of Los Angeles, and the City of Long Beach.
Long Beach Opera's history demonstrates that its essential purpose is the advancement of the frontiers of opera, in repertory and in production style. Our artistic vision is to present unconventional works - repertoire which is neglected by other, more mainstream opera companies - ranging from the very beginnings of opera to modern, avant-garde works, emphasizing their theatrical and musical relevance to our time.
The company, originally known as Long Beach Grand Opera, was a venture sponsored by the Long Beach Symphony Association to mark the inaugural season of the city’s Terrace Theater. Michael Milenski, formerly of the San Francisco Opera and San Jose Opera, was tapped to mount the first production in March, 1979, Verdi’s La Traviata starring Metropolitan Opera stars Benita Valente and Louis Quilico. The success of that production led to the company’s formal incorporation independent of the Long Beach Symphony with Milenski as its executive director.
Following a period of early growth marked by the presentation of repertory staples, Long Beach Opera took a radical departure from the operatic mainstream. Under Milenski’s guidance, the company developed an alternative vision for opera – to present striking visual drama that would speak directly to contemporary audiences while maintaining the highest musical standard. That new era was launched by two important productions in 1983-84: Britten's Death in Venice and Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea starring Catherine Malfitano, a production the Los Angeles Times' chief music and dance critic Martin Bernheimer called LBO's "wild, wonderful Poppea." Both operas were staged by the maverick director Christopher Alden, whose career was given major impetus by his partnership with LBO.
Significant LBO productions have included Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (abridged version by Jonathan Dove), Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès, Richard Strauss’ Elektra (which was televised in Germany) and The Beaumarchais Trilogy. In addition, several American premieres have been presented on the LBO stage, including: King Roger by Karol Szymanowski, Mozart’s Lucio Silla, Schoenberg’s Die Jakobsleiter, Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Turning, I Saw Great Injustice and John Cage’s Europeras 3&4 (issued in a commercial recording).
Celebrated singers who have sung with LBO include Jerome Hines, Ruth Ann Swenson, James Morris and Jerry Hadley, but the company has a longstanding tradition of tapping talented singers on their way up (including some of the above named).
In 2004, Michael Milenski retired after 25 seasons at the helm of LBO and was succeeded by Austrian conductor Andreas Mitisek, who continued LBO’s longstanding artistic philosophy of presenting an expanded vision of opera. In 2021, current Artistic Director & Chief Creative Officer, James Darrah, joined the company and is building out a bold, innovative vision that is defining opera for a new era.