Music by Steve Reich
Video by Beryl Korot

..for anyone who enjoys exploring new approaches to traditional musical and theatrical forms, or finds themselves asking disturbing questions about just where the human race is headed. Reich and Korot can't give you the answer, but they frame the questions more memorably and insistently than most. Fascinating. - BBC


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 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 12-minute tale Hindenburg was 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).


A Theatre of Ideas

Reich: ... the twentieth century had been more touched and driven by technology than almost any other human endeavour. This wouldn’t create a music theatre piece in itself – we needed some events, some signposts from the early, middle and late parts of the century that would be emblematic of the period and its technology. Hindenburg came to mind rather rapidly. It signalled the end of a failed technology when the airship exploded and crashed in New Jersey in 1937. It was also the first major disaster captured on film. Beyond that, Hindenburg the man was the German hero of World War I who then ended up appointing Hitler chancellor in 1933. The atom bomb was in many ways the emblematic technology of the century. For the first time we’d created a technology with which we could destroy the planet. We settled on the tests at Bikini, which were between ’46 and ’52, signalling the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War. It brought together the most ultra-sophisticated hi-tech known to man at that time and some of the least technological human life on the face of the Earth – the Bikini people of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. For the third tale we were originally going to use the explosion of the Challenger spacecraft, but we soon felt this was one disaster too many for the piece. Then in 1997 Dolly the sheep was cloned and we both took one look at each other and said "That’s it!" It’s a totally different technology, growing out of medicine and biology, and pointing to what life might be like for the rest of the twenty-first century.

Korot: Our private subtitle to this work is "Two Tales and a Talk." It’s a theatre of ideas. As with The Cave, we used a very tiny percent of the overall recorded material. Some truly terrific interview material did not make it into the final cut. Sometimes the presentation of the ideas wasn’t what we wanted, or didn’t fit with the other answers we were editing. Sometimes someone might have given us fantastic answers but if that person didn’t deliver the words in a certain way, or look convincing when delivering those words, then they didn’t make it into our final cut. So in a way the interviewees are being cast like actors. The video provides both the visual action and the theatrical set, which in performance is underscored or subtly elaborated on by the stage designer, costume designer and lighting designer. The performers are fairly static and iconographic, but add a live presence that both extends into live space and supports what is on the screen. This is not theatre with a capital T trying to be a classic form of opera or drama. The theatre is really there to serve the video and music.

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 which draws connections between genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. The different stories are told from various perspectives and include speech culled from interviews with eyewitnesses, audiovisual documentary material of both the Hindenburg and Bikini tragedies, and interviews with experts in computer science (Marvin Minsky, Kevin Warwick), artificial intelligence (Rodney Brooks), religion (Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz), and genetic engineering (Richard Dawkins).


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Kathryn Lillich


Hailed as a “world-class vocal talent", soprano Kathryn Lillich has established herself as a highly sought-after and versatile vocalist. She is delighted to be making her LBO debut in Steve Reich's Three Tales. Most recently, Kathryn sang the role of Melissa in Handel's Amadigi, directed by James Darrah. Other roles include Mary Crawford in Jonathan Dove's Mansfield Park, and La Fée in Massenet's Cendrillon. Her concert work includes performances at Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and Segerstrom Hall, among others. She has worked with such conductors as Stephen Stubbs, Daniel Beckwith, Bramwell Tovy, and John Williams.


Alejandra Villarreal Martinez


Alejandra Martinez, soprano, is from Southern California. Three Tales marks her third role with Long Beach Opera. Alejandra previously joined LBO as Branghien in The Love Potion and Cristi Kahlo in LBO's 2017 production of Frida. Concert credits include performances at the National Council de la Raza, Juan Orrego-Salas' Ash Wednesday, Beethoven's Mass in C with Joseph Flummerfelt, and Penderecki's St. Luke Passion. She was recently honored by the National Society of Arts and Letters and is currently developing a new opera, ¡La Capitana!, with composer Germaine Franco, which was awarded an OPERA America Discovery Grant.


Thomas Segen


Appearing for the first time with LBO in Three Tales, tenor Thomas Segen's recently performed roles include Henry Crawford in Jonathan Dove's Mansfield Park and his Seattle Opera debut as Tancredi/Tirsi in The Combat. During the past year he has stayed active on the concert stage, performing and recording Ian Krouse' Villancicos II for the first time as the composer originally intended, for the tenor voice. Most recently he performed selections from Winterreise at Disney Hall. He holds a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from UCLA and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Washington.

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Robert Norman


Tenor Robert Norman previously appeared with LBO as one of the two Tritones in the U.S. Premiere of Gavin Bryars’ Marilyn Forever. Described by Opera News as “feisty and funny” and “thoroughly entertaining,” Mr. Norman is an L.A. District Winner for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and fifth place finisher in the Loren L. Zachary Competition. Recent performances include: King of El Dorado in Candide (Los Angeles Opera); Pedrillo in Abduction from the Seraglio (Dayton Opera, Opera Orlando, Festival Opera); Goro in Madama Butterfly (Opera San Jose, Dayton Opera, Salt Marsh Opera). www.robertnormantenor.com


William Grundler


Los Angeles-based tenor, composer, and conductor William Grundler is thrilled to make his Long Beach Opera debut. William’s recent roles include Dr. S. in Pasadena Opera's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Spoletta in Sacramento Opera’s Tosca, the Governor and Vanderdendeur in Angels Vocal Art’s Candide, and Remendado in Pacific Opera Project’s Carmen at the Ford Theatre. William's recently featured compositions include his a cappella Requiem and Ignis Overture. The latter was premiered at a concert featuring film composer Christopher Young. William serves as Music Director of Grace Lutheran Church in Ventura.

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Ben Makino


Ben Makino is a musician known for his thoughtful interpretations and versatility in broad repertoire. Previously Music Director at Opera Memphis, during his tenure the company was recognized locally for its high artistic standards, and nationally for its accomplishments in community outreach and innovative programming. From 2009-2013 he was Assistant Conductor at the Long Beach Opera, where he conducted productions of The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Macbeth, Van Gogh and the US premieres of Gavin Bryars’ The Paper Nautilus and Stewart Copeland’s Tell-Tale Heart.

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Stephen Karr


Born in Greenville, South Carolina, Stephen Karr is a compelling interpreter of opera and orchestral works. In 2011, Stephen co-founded Pacific Opera Project, for which he was music director until 2016. With POP, he led productions of Trouble in Tahiti, Così fan tutte, The Turn of the Screw, La Calisto (LA premiere), Ariadne auf Naxos and The Rake’s Progress (LA professional premiere), among others. The Los Angeles Times praised the Stravinsky as having kept orchestra, cast and chorus on “well-articulated rhythmic track.” He has worked with OPERA Iowa, the Glimmerglass Festival, Opera New Jersey and Palm Beach Opera. This is his LBO debut.

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Andreas Mitisek


Since 2003, Mitisek has been LBO's Artistic & General Director. Recent LBO directing credits: The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, King Gesar, Macbeth, Tell-Tale Heart, Van Gogh, The Paper Nautilus, Ainadamar, and Maria de Buenos Aires. Recent LBO conducting credits:Thérèse Raquin, I was Looking at the Ceiling and then I Saw the Sky, The Death of Klinghoffer, Camelia la Tejana, and The Fall of the House of Usher (co-production with COT). Other conducting credits: Joruri in Tokyo, Don Giovanni (Seattle Opera), Madama Butterfly (Orlando Opera), Jane Eyre (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis) and Eugene Onegin (Teatro Municipal in Santiago de Chile). Mitisek has also conducted the Austrian and Italian premieres of Nixon in China. From 2012-2017 Andreas served Chicago Opera Theater as Artistic & General Director.

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