LBO presents Philip Glass’ “In The Penal Colony” in April and May

Long Beach Opera (LBO) premieres Philip Glass’ In the Penal Colony in collaboration with California Repertory Company (CalRep) April 25 (sold out), 26, 27 (sold out), at 7:30 PM; April 28 (sold out), at 2:30 PM; May 2, 3, 4, at 7:30 PM; and May 5 (sold out), at 2:30PM at the CSULB Studio Theater, 1250 N. Bellflower Blvd. Long Beach, CA 90815. Performed in English.
 
This SoCal Premiere weaves together Philip Glass’ adaptation of Franz Kafka’s short story with interviews by ‘Rising Scholars’, a group of formerly incarcerated students. By adding these authentic accounts, Director Jeff Janisheski will bring this story to the here and now with references to the U.S. prison system. When discussing his inspirations, he said, “the more I read about the U.S. prison system the more disturbing it is.” Philip Glass on the opera: “What fascinates me in this story is the moral inversion that takes place…I think of my pocket operas as neutron bombs – small, but packing a terrific punch.” Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek said, “We always look for stories that make us explore the world around us, known and unknown.”
 
In the Penal Colony: An explorer visits an island where blind conformity has no rational connection between crime and punishment. Witness the internal conflict of the innocent bystander: to act or to do nothing.
 
Director Jeff Janisheski collaborates with Danila Korogodsky (set designer), Martha Carter (lighting designer), and Lily Bartenstein (video designer). The production will be conducted by LBO’s Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek. The cast features LBO favorites Doug Jones (Opera National de Paris, Salzburg Festival, Grand Theatre of Geneva, Netherlands Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden) and Zeffin Quinn Hollis (Dallas Opera, New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera) and an ensemble of actors from the CalRep Company: Ariana Carter, Isidro Cortes, Mayra De Leon, Kimberly English, Madison Lewis, Matthew Limas, Mark Oliver and John Pizzini.
 
Composer Philip Glass states, “The Officer, having started as all-powerful, becomes the victim, and he takes on the role with a kind of joy. He’s done everything he can to convince the Visitor of the virtue of the Machine, and, when he fails, he realizes it’s over and the only The Visitor makes the right judgment, but we can’t admire him because he does this by refusing to be engaged at all. He suffers no inconvenience, whereas we end up warming to the Officer more because he sacrifices everything for his principles. Kafka, I think, is suggesting that the mere fact of our human incarnation is enough to make us guilty. One of the attractive things about the story for me as a composer is its formality. The Visitor gets away, but, by avoiding judgment, actually fails. The Officer, in a strange way, redeems himself. It’s a perfectly calibrated outcome, like a trap for a hummingbird. As for the music, I’ve restricted myself to a string quartet because that is the medium that in the West has always been associated with introspection and intimacy. I’ve added just one double bass to lend an extra gravity and darkness.” 
 
The creative team also includes sound design by Bob Christian, make-up by Jamie Quinn, and costumes by Vee Delgado.
 
Tickets for In the Penal Colony range from $49 to $150, and can be purchased either by calling the LBO Box Office at 562.470.SING (7464) ext. 1 or by going online to LongBeachOpera.org/Tickets.  For information, please visit www.LongBeachOpera.org
 
Additional support has been provided by the Arts Council for Long Beach, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Port of Long Beach, and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.
 
UPCOMING:
 
The Central Park Five by Anthony Davis (WORLD PREMIERE)
In 1980’s New York, five African American and Latino teenagers were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were unjustly convicted but exonerated through DNA evidence thirteen years later. Davis’ opera is a passionate story about an issue that still rocks America today.
 
June 15  • 7:30 PM
June 22 • 7:30 PM
June 23 • 2:30 PM
 
Warner Grand Theatre
478 W. 6th St.
San Pedro, CA 90731
 
Community Conversation #3: Life Beyond Prison
Experiences of formerly incarcerated persons. The Rising Scholars Justice Lab comprises individuals who are now pursuing academic degrees. They will discuss the trauma of being in jail, their personal trust issues, and having a criminal record. The California Innocence Project takes on cases of wrongful incarceration. The event also includes performances by artists affiliated with LBO.
 
April 30  • 6:00 PM
 
CSULB Studio Theater
1250 N Bellflower Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90815
 
Community Conversation #4: Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Gary Tyler was the youngest person ever convicted of the death penalty and was incarcerated in Angola, a Louisiana prison, for 41 years before having his sentence overturned and being released in 2016.
 
May 25th • 3:00 PM
 
Long Beach City College – Dyer Hall (Pacific Coast Campus)
1305 E Pacific Coast Hwy.
Long Beach, CA 90806
 
Community Conversation #5: Black Lives, the Arts, and Mattering
Acclaimed composer Anthony Davis shares his inspiration for writing The Central Park Five, which will receive its world premiere at LBO June 15, 2019. He is joined by performers from the opera. The panel explores how music and art are used in activism and how classical music can more effectively participate in activism.
 
June 6, • 6:00 PM
 
Long Beach City Council Chambers
333 W. Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90802
 
ABOUT IN THE PENAL COLONY
 
A chamber opera for tenor, bass-baritone, string quintet and eight actors
Based on the novel by Franz Kafka
 
SYNOPSIS
 
A high-ranking visitor arrives in the penal colony. He was invited there to witness the public execution of a prisoner by a strange machine invented by the former commandant of the colony. The machine slowly carves a description of the condemned person’s crimes into his flesh and after hours of excruciating torture, kills them. The device is operated by the officer in charge of the prison who is utterly devoted to the machine and to the memory of the deceased commandant who invented it. The officer is disturbed by the machine’s state of disrepair and the growing criticism of its use, including criticism from the island’s current commandant. He hopes that the visitor will be impressed by the machine and will speak in favor of its “redemptive powers” to the commandant.  When the officer realizes that the visitor will not actively support him, he frees the condemned prisoner from the machine and climbs onto it himself, seeking the redemption of a slow and painful death. The machine then self-destructs. The visitor boards a boat and leaves the island.
 
Scenes of the opera are interspersed with ten monologues written by Jeff Janisheski, taken from interviews with formerly incarcerated individuals who now attend CSULB and are a part of ‘Rising Scholars’.
 
LBO has an ongoing history of performing works by Philip Glass with SoCal Premieres of The Sound of a Voice(2006) Akhnaten (2001) The Fall of the House of Usher (2013), Hydrogen Jukebox (2015) and the U.S. Premiere of The Perfect American (2017).
 
CREATORS and CAST:
 
Composer Philip Glass, a 2018 Kennedy Center honoree, was born in 1937 in Baltimore, Maryland. Glass began collecting records, including modern music and western classical music, from his father’s record store. At the age of 15, Glass was accepted into an accelerated college program at the University of Chicago to study Mathematics and Philosophy. It was then that Glass discovered surrealism. Later, he attended the Julliard School of Music where he studied keyboard and composition. Now a composer of operas and symphonies, he has collaborated with artists Twyla Tharp, Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen, and David Bowie, among others. Along with his popular operas Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, Akhnaten, and The Voyage, he has also composed for theater and motion pictures, which include The Hours, Kindun, and Koyaanisqatsi. Glass has said that his music has “immersed a listener in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, develops”. Considered one of the most influential music makers of the late 20th century, Glass has composed more than 25 operas, eight symphonies, and two piano concertos.

Author Franz Kafka (1883–1924) was a German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Kafka strongly influenced the genre of existentialism. Most of his works, such as Die Verwandlung (“The Metamorphosis”), Der Prozess (“The Trial”), and Das Schloss (“The Castle”), are filled with themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent–child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, labyrinths of bureaucracy, and mystical transformations. Kafka was born into a middle-class, German-speaking, Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In his lifetime, most of the population of Prague spoke Czech, and the division between Czech- and German-speaking people was a tangible reality, as both groups were strengthening their national identities. The Jewish community often found itself in between the two sentiments, naturally raising questions about a place to which one belongs. Kafka himself was fluent in both languages, considering German his mother tongue. Kafka trained as a lawyer and, after completing his legal education, obtained employment with an insurance company. He began to write short stories in his spare time. For the rest of his life, he complained about the little time he had to devote to what he came to regard as his calling. He regretted having to devote so much attention to his “Brotberuf” (“day job,” literally “bread job”). He also suffered conflict over being Jewish, feeling that it had little to do with him, although critics argue that it influenced his writing. In der Strafkolonie (In the Penal Colony) is a short story by Franz Kafka written in German in October 1914, revised in November 1918, and first published in October 1919.

Conductor Andreas Mitisek has been LBO’s Artistic and General Director since 2003. He spent the last five years with Chicago Opera Theater (COT) as General Director. Recent conducting credits include Three Tales, As One, The Perfect American, 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 include 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 also conducted the Austrian and Italian premieres of Nixon in China. His recent directing credits at LBO include The Fairy Queen, Fallujah, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, King Gesar, Macbeth, Nixon in China, Tell-Tale Heart, Van Gogh, The Paper Nautilus, Ainadamar and Maria de Buenos Aires.
 
Director Jeff Janisheski is Chair and Professor of Theatre Arts at California State University, Long Beach and is Artistic Director of Cal Rep. For Cal Rep he has directed Paula Cizmar’s Antigone X, and In the Penal Colony, his debut show with LBO. From 2012-2015 he was Head of Acting at Australia’s leading drama school, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). From 2008-2011 he was Artistic Director of the National Theater Institute at the Tony Award-winning Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. From 2004-2008 he was Associate Artistic Director at New York’s Classic Stage Company.
 
Doug Jones, the Visitor, is a frequent collaborator with LBO, having appeared in Semele, The Breasts of Tiresias, The Clever One, The Kaiser from Atlantis, Macbeth, and The Invention of Morel. He has performed extensively in Europe, including Covent Garden, Opera National de Paris, Salzburg Festival, Grand Theatre of Geneva, Netherlands Opera and the Bregenz Festival. Recent appearances include the Dancing Master in Ariadne auf Naxos with Austin Opera, the Witch in Hansel and Gretel with the Bar Harbor Music Festival.
 
Zeffin Quinn Hollis, the Officer, is a frequent collaborator with LBO. He has been heard as a principal artist with Dallas Opera, New York City Opera, Long Beach Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, New Orleans Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of Pittsburg, Opera Delaware, Toledo Opera, Hungary’s Szeged & Pécs National Theaters and the Lviv National Theatre (Ukraine). His signature operatic roles include Scarpia (Tosca), Escamillo (Carmen), and Jack Rance (La Fanciulla del West). Mr. Hollis is equally identifiable in the top echelon of new music. He has worked on premiers from composers Jake Heggie, Tobias Picker, Tarik O’Regan; and at NYC Opera’s famed VOX festival of new works.
 
Danila Korogodsky (Set Designer) designed LBO’s 2006 The Ring production amongst others, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. He graduated from St. Petersburg Theater Arts Academy and worked as a resident designer at the Leningrad Theater for Young Spectators. He has designed over 80 productions for various companies. Since 1989 he has worked in the US as a stage designer and professor. He has designed over 200 productions in the US and around the world including Chicago Lyric Opera, Opera Bielefeld, Opera Dessau, Opera Nantes, Pittsburgh Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, NYC Japan Society, Noise Within, Actors Gang, Pittsburgh Playhouse, Minneapolis Children Company, and ACT San Francisco. He currently teaches Set Design at CSULB.
 
Martha Carter (lighting) studied theatrical design with an emphasis in lighting at the University of Florida. Since her graduation, she has worked professionally as a lighting designer, master electrician, draftsperson, and as an assistant on lighting for both entertainment and architectural designs. She continued her dream by obtaining her MFA in Lighting Design from the University of California at Irvine. Martha works in a wide array of theatrical entertainments including theme parks, live events, dance, theatre, and art installations. She has designed and assisted in many theatres on the east and west coasts, some of which include Romeo and Juliet at Great River Shakespeare Festival, The Why at The Blank Theater, The Chance Theater, Pygmalion at Long Beach Playhouse, and Marry me a Little at Theater Out. Martha enjoys collaborating with ensemble companies to create new work that addresses the current political and social issues of today to incite positive change within communities.
 
Lily Bartenstein (Video Designer) is a scenic, projection/video, and sometimes lighting designer for live performance based in Los Angeles, California. Lily Bartenstein graduated from the University of Chicago in 2008, with a concentration in Theater and Performance Studies. She was the Theater Manager for the MeX Theater, a small black box space at the Kentucky Center. In 2011 she implemented the MeX Theater Initiative, a comprehensive shift restoring operating procedures to their original intent of supporting local performers and artists democratically, and reinstating the educational mission of the space through a series of master classes and conversations with artists. While in Louisville, she also worked extensively with Walden Theatre, a theatre-training program for students ages 8-18. In 2012, Lily moved to San Diego, California where she received her MFA in Scenic Design from the University of California, San Diego.
 
Sound Designer, Bob Christian, created sound design for LBO productions of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus & Euridice (2008, 2010), John Adams’ Nixon in China, Luigi Cherubini’s Medea, Philip Glass’ Akhnaten, David Lang’s The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, Astor Piazzolla & Horacio Ferrer’s Maria de Buenos Aires (2012), Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Gavin Bryars’ The Paper Nautilus,and Philip Glass’ Fall Of The House Of Usher. He is Sound Manager for the acclaimed Long Beach Municipal Band. Also a composer, Bob has written and produced music for numerous programs on TLC, Discovery Channel, and PBS.
 
Since 1989, California Repertory Company (Cal Rep) has been among the foremost educational theatre companies in Southern California. The company is comprised of graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and staff from the Theatre Arts Department at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) in addition to nationally and internationally acclaimed guest artists. Cal Rep is dedicated to nurturing artists and challenging audiences by developing exciting, relevant, and thought-provoking work. Cal Rep is proud to present the final show of their season with the esteemed Long Beach Opera. 
 
Long Beach Opera (LBO) is internationally known for its cutting-edge interpretations of unconventional repertoire. LBO creates immediate, inventive, and often boldly avant-garde productions for an adventurous audience and stands apart from most opera companies in the number of world, American, and West Coast premieres the company has staged. Founded in 1979, it is the oldest professional opera company in the Los Angeles/Orange County region with a performance history of more than 110 operas, ranging from the earliest works of the 17th century to operas of the 21st. LBO’s ever‐growing repertoire has provided stimulus for the subsequent founding of other local opera companies, catapulting Southern California into the spotlight as a major opera epicenter. LBO is a recognized and respected member of the U. S. cultural community, receiving funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, the County of Los Angeles, and the City of Long Beach, along with generous support from individual donors, local businesses, public corporations, and private foundations.

This article was released by the Long Beach Opera.