Long Beach Opera Takes Art to the Aquarium

The Long Beach Opera (LBO) has been long known for its lack of convention and consistent innovation. In fact, its reputation is simple: risk-taking, experimental—and all on a limited budget in times when the arts are facing an uphill battle for money and audiences.

That said, it shouldn't be shocking that they'll be presenting the U.S. premiere of English composer Gavin Bryars's multilingual opera The Paper Nautilus at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

"The Aquarium and Long Beach Opera were brought together by Dennis Poulsen, AOTP Trustee of the Pacific," said Dr. Jerry Schubel, president of the Aquarium. "Art in all its modalities is a powerful way of communicating major environmental issues to the public because of the emotions they can evoke. We have been forming partnerships such as this to allow us to utilize the arts to engage people in science and environmental issues."

Those issues—science and the environment—are key to Bryars's piece. The composer is famously known for his work in minimalism and experimentation, having worked with John Cage, Brian Eno, Merce Cunningham, Tom Waits and others.

The Paper Nautilus is no exception, as it blends the writings of Lebanese-American poet and artist Etel Adnan, Scottish poet Jackie Kay, French scientist Marie Curie, Pope Leo XIII and verses from the Bible. In other words, the natural wonders of the ocean—showcased by the Aquarium's three-story, 142,000 gallon tank behind which the performance will take place—are paired with the endeavors of human knowledge and creativity to tell Bryars' larger tale of humanity and the role it plays with the ocean.

LBO's Austrian-born Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek—the leader in LBO's unconventional approach to opera—put his artistic and philosophical fascination with the opera like this:

"I am fascinated by Bryars’ atmospheric soundscapes that expand time and space. The Paper Nautilus will be an immersive performance—a moving, fluid picture of the ocean painted through poetry, music, movement, video projections and the Aquarium’s underwater world. Nautilus is a lyrical meditation on the enigmatic beauty of the oceans, while also delving into the deep sea of human emotions. As Jackie Kay so beautifully expresses it, ‘The sea is you. The sea is me.’"

Mitisek, who was offered a five-year tenure as general manager of the Chicago Opera Theatre, is doing double-duty between Long Beach and his Midwest gig. And that means production sharing, including the recently announced 2013 staging of Philip Glass's The Fall of the House of Usher.

The Paper Nautilus, part of the LBO's "Outer Limits" series that showcases what the organization calls "musical outliers," will premiere September 7 and run until September 9.

Performances begin at 8PM with a free lecture by Mitisek at 7:00pm. Tickets range from $39 to $110 and can be purchased by calling 562-432-5934 or by going online to www.longbeachopera.org/ticketsAquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way.

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