What: Opera by John Adams, presented by
Where: Terrace Theater of the
When: Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 4 p.m.
Information: (562) 432-5934, www.longbeachopera.org
By John Farrell
It's the kind of opera you expect from a big opera company, with more than 100 performers, delightful and unexpectedly effective sets and costumes and enough music, minimalist some of it, lyric and effective all of it, to hold any audiences attention for its three our length.
It was produced by
Frankly, it is time to reset our expectations. LBO has long been called “feisty,” “innovative,” “the small company with big ambitions.” It's time to admit, after more than thirty years and 100 productions, including, despite Los Angeles Opera's contention to the contrary, the first “Ring” in the Los Angeles area, that it is more than the little company that could. Under Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek, who conducted Saturday night, it has become an important force, perhaps the single most important force, for contemporary opera in
Neglected no longer. Mitisek has brought together a fabulous cast, including John Duykers, who created the roll of Mao Tse-Tsung, and plenty of artists from LBO's recent performances. He brought in
Richard Nixon is a controversial figure in
Michael Chioldi is Nixon, the communist-hating president who decided to open
Wilhelm Holzbauer designed the sets, which were produced from his plans. The airplane Nixon and company arrive on is not as big as it was in the original production, but it will do. Mao and Nixon meet in a room filled with chairs twice life-sized that move as the men discuss their lives and their end-of-life goals.
The final act is after the ultimate banquet, with Kissinger drunk Madame Mao reading a newspaper and Pat and Dick Nixon looking back on their lives together. Only Co is concerned with whether what they did will actually bring good.
Peter Pawlik directs the cast with a willingness to allow each character a chance to speak. Mitisek conducts the sometime lush score with passion and effective clarity. Chorus master Henry Venanzi controls his charges with energy and a willingness to let them be individuals, even in the most controlled situations.
John Farrell is a