Media of all types has been and will always be at the forefront of influence on our society. The diversity and inclusion movement that was reignited last summer is an opportunity for general directors and all programmers to seize the moment by instituting inclusive productions that represent the diversity of our community.— Cedric Berry
Media of all types has been and will always be at the forefront of influence on our society. The diversity and inclusion movement that was reignited last summer is an opportunity for general directors and all programmers to seize the moment by instituting inclusive productions that represent the diversity of our community. I am confident that it will forever change the landscape of our industry for two reasons: inclusive programming will undoubtedly increase bottom lines and open eyes to a treasure trove of talent that will be impossible to ignore going forward. Traditional casting is stodgy and antiquated. Embracing diversity is our best chance at revitalizing the artform.
As we scrambled to find alternative ways to stay creative, I was prompted, yet again, by LBO to branch out into uncharted territory. I paired up with another local artist (Ashely Faatolia) to produce a web series about opera and domestic hobbies: Ashely’s segments focused on singing and cooking while mine focused on singing and home improvement. It was during this web series that I developed a skill-set for virtual performance. My stage became my living room, my outdoor spaces and any other space that I could capture and edit into a pleasant visual/audio experience.
Amid the pandemic and beyond, I hope to see more companies offering accessible, digital presentations of the works we know and love, in addition to new works which amplify marginalized voices.— Victoria Lawal
The best part of being an Artist in quarantine was having the time and freedom to create and and focus on honing my craft. Prior to quarantine, my schedule was pretty jam packed. I didn’t have an excess of time to focus on personal projects. I’ve spent the majority of the quarantine adding new roles that I love into my repertoire. Through taking a moment to re-establish my “Why?”, I have reaffirmed just how passionate I am about the work I do.
*Honorable mention goes to adopting my kitten, Bijou! I don’t know what I’d do without her!
Moving forward, I will be giving myself the space (...and grace) to be more vocal about racial microaggressions, fatphobia, ableism, and prejudice against the queer commuity within our field. I hope to continue to speak up for those who are not able or do not feel safe to.
If quarantine has changed my relationship with music at all, it’s been to deepen the bond. I lean on music in the tough times.— Ashley Faatoalia
I think opera can bring together all kinds of people...I’ve seen it happen. Now more than ever we need each other and I think opera has a unique opportunity to find new audiences looking for different content. Opera companies have recently been challenged to look at representation, inclusion, etc. on and off their stages and I fully believe if the opera world can meet the challenge it will find an entirely new, diverse and welcoming audience - one that could offer new and exciting perspectives only furthering the art form as a whole.
I think the best part of being an artist in quarantine is already being familiar with change and uncertainty and knowing how to adapt. This coupled with having a creative outlet to express yourself and share with others makes being an artist a positive at a time like this. I’ve learned a lot more about cameras, capturing video and audio than ever before. While I’ve always been engaged on social media, I’m way more active now. I’m getting familiar with editing video and learning more about graphic design. Turns out I’ve used all of these skills in the last few months to produce content for various companies.
I’ve learned that I hadn’t checked in with myself in way too long. When I say check in, I mean I hadn’t really stopped chasing my career goals to assess my current position, outlook, well-being, etc. With all the sudden time I’ve been left with, I’ve really been able take care of myself and do some self evaluation.
If quarantine has changed my relationship with music at all, it’s been to deepen the bond. I lean on music in the tough times. I would be a wreck right now without some of my favorite records!
Wheverever/whatever/whenever [the next stage] may be, I hope it is a platform for untold stories from unheard voices. I’d like to be part of that next stage, whether on it, behind it or in front of it.— Peabody Southwell
My "stage" is small these days but fully immersive. It is frequently accompanied by running water - at the kitchen sink rinsing dishes, in the tub with warm suds, with the garden hose in the back yard, or with the danceable rhythm of the washing machine. I have a devoted audience of one; rapt and restless in my arms, on my lap or at my feet. My son’s laugh is the greatest ovation I’ve ever received.
I've learned that home life agrees with me. After years of transience and hotel rooms and flights and hustle and bustle and high heels and high stakes suddenly slooooowing waaaaay doooown with my husband and our child and our dogs all at home together feels downright prescriptive. I want the world to heal from this but I wouldn’t mind if we stayed home forever. Maybe this reset will turn out to be just what Opera needs. Maybe it will embrace film as a medium instead of merely as archive- forcing intimacy of perspective and expansion of access. Maybe it will reimagine the settings and trappings and traditions that sometimes bog it down. Maybe it will dig into the celebrated repertoire to excavate riveting injustices in one sided narratives that long to be retold. Maybe it will stay silent long enough to finally hear the new voices making new work who are ready to move this glorious thing along.
[Quarantine has made my relationships] deeper. More focused. They’re more dear to me. When my mother died in 2017 after a brief illness I was electrified realizing love truly is all that matters in the end. Yes, you have to love yourself, which is where work and passions fit in, but oh the love of your loved ones... that’s what it’s all about. Quarantine affirmed that for me again, and it’s overwhelming to see that same realization wash over society at large.
Wheverever/whatever/whenever [the next stage] may be, I hope it is a platform for untold stories from unheard voices. I’d like to be part of that next stage, whether on it, behind it or in front of it.
The best part of being an artist in quarantine is I still get to make music at home. My 2 year old daughter Vianne loves singing and dancing and it has been so much fun making music with her. I'm grateful for the at home recording gigs I've been getting and teaching online kindergarten music to PVPUSD.— Lindsay Patterson Abdou
Lindsay Patterson Abdou
[The pandemic has given me time] to go back to school online to learn some new skills. This time has really taught me that having multiple skills not only makes life more interesting, but it can also give you another source of income
I think opera has already started to overcome the challenges [presented by the pandemic]. Companies like Long Beach Opera and the Industry have already been thinking outside the box and I feel we’re ready to face the challenges of what socially distant living is. Operas do not always have to be performed on the traditional stage.
My entire life, I have never had to carry anything but sheet music (and maybe a baton!) to a gig...as a conductor and pianist, someone else takes care of my instrument in some way. But now that everything is recorded, I've had to acquire a bunch of new gear, learn how to use it, and (worst of all) lug it around. It makes me appreciate the work that the crew does before and after shows more than I already did, for sure. Aside from the recording aspect, I've just turned in a draft of my dissertation—a project I'm not sure I'd have finished without all this time at home.— Stephen Karr
I had never put it together that the entirety of my career is based on being in rooms with various-sized groups of people (often fairly large), breathing together. With that being taken away, my everyday thoughts about music have turned from the practical to the theoretical: what is the potential behind these notes I see (whether I'm practicing a score with another part that's missing, or if I'm simply studying away from the keyboard). It's a valuable change of perspective, but I'm pretty sure I still prefer the hands-on of music making—the two live, distanced sessions I did for Songbook 2020 certainly confirmed that.
We are honestly seeing Opera overcome a lot of its challenges at LBO this coming season—and have in the past as well. Opera will survive by telling stories that speak to modern audiences, include a wide variety of voices, explore new ways of engaging, and continue to surprise our public. I anticipate next season will be a masterclass in "what's next", in so many ways.
The best part of being an artist in the midst of a pandemic is that although the medium has temporarily shifted, who we are and our purpose to fulfill that calling has not. This time has allowed me to reset and refocus. It has also allowed me to dive deeper into my purpose, who I am as an artist and how that factors into making that tangible to my audience. I look forward to sharing my art more deeply in order to uplift humanity.— Orson Van Gay II
Orson Van Gay II
The conventional way in which we present our art has changed significantly. Thus the need to connect with our audience is greater than ever before. During this time, I’ve been recording from my home studio for various projects and collaborations. My living room has become my stage and the view finder a virtual concert hall. I’ve certainly connected with more people this way as its much quicker to press play and you can do it from virtually anywhere. I’ve been writing at the piano. This is something I’ve done since before I was a teenager. It’s my diary that comes to life whenever something I’m feeling needs to be said.
This pandemic has only further solidified my fervor and illustrated how essential the art we bring is to the edification of humanity. I strive to bring authenticity to the stage through my own experiences. This year and all of its highs and lows will no doubt be echoed in my art. We grow, we adapt and we persevere! Art communicates with the whole of humanity.
I would say just about 90% of my work comes from one of my closets that turned into a vocal booth. I am in there all day either auditioning, recording, or teaching. Otherwise, my other stage is one of my painted walls, which act as the background for many of video recordings or auditions.— David Castillo
I believe the on-stage creatives have invested so much time, energy, brainpower into translating this live performance world into a form that reads and receives as powerfully and importantly over the digital platform. My “stage” definitely has changed. I would say just about 90% of my work comes from one of my closets that turned into a vocal booth. I am in there all day either auditioning, recording, or teaching. Otherwise, my other stage is one of my painted walls, which act as the background for many of video recordings or auditions. These two areas have become my stages, where you see and hear much of my work during quarantine (Including Theresa Wong's “As We Breathe”!).
I believe the first time I really spent time in the park was when I brought home my pup Pippa almost two years ago and took her out for a walk. It’s a beautiful, half mile-long piece of land right across the street from me and I never strolled around it. Now that we have 2 pups (2nd pup July of quarantine), we have gotten to know every twist of it. The pups and the park are a wonderful blessing to get out the apartment several times a day and walk a farther distance than from bedroom to kitchen. Feel free to follow their instagram @PipNRaf.
At the beginning of quarantine, I bought a 50 lb bag of semolina durum flour and a pasta machine determined to learn how to make great pasta by the end of the bag. I finished the bag a couple weeks ago and I do have to say I make a good-a pasta. Cooking and baking always have been creative outlets for me and the luxury of not having to sit in traffic every day allows extra hours in the kitchen to try something new. Another important creative outlet for me throughout quarantine has been the weekly work with my animation vo coach Dorah Fine. We have been discovering and refining a wide range of really wonderful and strong characters, she really kicks my butt and keeps my acting chops human and honest!
I feel like quarantine has been a necessary time to reflect on my role as an artist in the context of our cultural shifts, without feeling the need to ‘produce’ work. The best part has been feeling the space to respond quietly and with curiosity, and to have really good conversations with other artists, to listen— Zoe Aja Moore
Zoe Aja Moore
I feel like quarantine has been a necessary time to reflect on my role as an artist in the context of our cultural shifts, without feeling the need to ‘produce’ work. The best part has been feeling the space to respond quietly and with curiosity, and to have really good conversations with other artists, to listen—and lots of long walks. I also have loved the breaking down of boundaries that were probably artificial or forced anyway between home/life/family and work/creativity...but that might also be one of the most challenging parts of quarantine! I feel and hope that we are on the verge of so many huge changes, and my approach to art making will definitely be different too — but I guess I’m still sitting with the question of how and what that will look like.
Everything in quarantine has demanded creativity — new ways of doing things, being in the unknown, constantly adapting and experimenting. In that way life has been really creative.
I’ve been collecting [records] over the years, mostly records I’ve been given. Records of my parents’ that I loved growing up and that they don’t listen to anymore — like Laurie Anderson, X-Ray Spex, Bob Dylan.... A friend moved to Paris and gave her whole record collection to me. And then a few newer albums that my partner and I have given each other over the past few years. My 4-year-old also has his own record collection that we’ve gotten from the dollar bins, and there are some really amazing finds!
I’m a director and performance maker, and my work is so much about liveness & bodies together in space. In that way, I feel like the ‘stage’ completely disappeared for now. And while there are things about that that I’ve missed & mourned, I’ve also been really happy to focus on smaller and personal projects, things I can make at home or alone. Video, photography, writing… coming back to a really essential relationship between text/sound/image, which I find fulfilling.
Photography by Collin Keller
Covid safety protocols were followed in all photo sessions
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