Long Beach Opera Announces Ellington, Vonnegut Operas For ‘Out of Bounds’ 2014 Season

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Duke Ellington’s Queenie Pie will be performed during LBO’s 2014 season.

Terrorism, the antebellum South and a whole lot of jazz comprise most of Long Beach Opera’s “Out of Bounds” 2014 season, tickets for which went on sale this week.

Continuing its reputation as an innovator in contemporary performing arts, LBO chose five modern operas to perform over four runs including Duke Ellington’s only work in the genre, Queenie Pie, and a reprise of David Lang’s Difficulty of Crossing a Field, which was originally staged in 2011 with the audience and the performers in swapped positions at the Terrance Theatre.

“In 2014, we will play outside the boundaries of the field, exploring stories that are ‘O.P.E.R.A’ [meaning] outside-the-box, provocative, engaging, relevant and adventurous,” said Andreas Mitisek, LBO’s Artistic and General Director.

Inspired by the true story of the first African-American female self-made millionaire, Queenie Pie is a quasi-opera that Ellington was working on when he died. Its score full of big-band swing and hot jazz, Queenie Pie will be a co-production with the Chicago Opera Theater under the joint directorship of Mitisek. Difficulty of Crossing a Field is a haunting Lang work based off a one-page short story about a slave owner who vanishes into thin air. Performed with the audience sitting on the stage and the singers on a makeshift stage hovering over the traditional seating area, the original run garnered praise from both opera and musical theatre fans. 

LBO2014seasonThe Death of Klinghoffer is the most overtly political of the bunch, a rarely performed John Adams work that was commissioned by several U.S. and European opera companies after a 1985 incident in which four members of the Palestine Liberation Front took control of a cruise ship and senselessly killed disabled Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer.

Original performances in the early ’90s caused controversy over portrayals of both parties, however, the work was revived in 2011 by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and is expected to be performed by the Metropolitan Opera during its 2014-2015 season. 

The season’s only double bill is also an interesting set of companion pieces, both re-imaginings of the same classical music piece by two 20th century geniuses.

An American Soldier’s Tale features Igor Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale score, but with a new libretto by author Kurt Vonnegut whose experience as a soldier and prisoner-of-war during World War II had a profound effect on his life and writing. And A Fiddler’s Tale adds a further American twist on Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale by turning it into a story of a musician who sells her soul to a record producer and pairs it with a score by famed jazz composer Wynton Marsalis.

Before LBO’s 2014 starts, however, the organization will put on another work in its Outer Limits series, which last year placed a performance of The Paper Nautilus inside the Aquarium of the Pacific. In September, LBO will stage an outdoor beach performance of Peter Lieberson’s King Gesar, a Tibetan warrior tale meant to be presented in a campfire setting. 

For more information on any of the operas or to buy tickets for LBO’s 2014 season, visit longbeachopera.org.

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Sarah Bennett is a contributor to the Hi-lo and the editor-at-large at the Long Beach Post. She is also a professor at Santa Ana College where she was once a student before transferring to USC to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Sarah has written about music, art, food and beer in local, national and international publications for over a decade. An L.A. native and longtime resident of Long Beach, she is the co-founder of Long Beach Zine Fest and managing editor at theLAnd magazine. She never sleeps.
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