Long Beach Opera
Long Beach Opera is a Southern California opera company serving the greater Los Angeles and Orange County metroplex. Founded in 1979, it is the oldest established professional opera company in the L.A. area. Though small in size, the company has surveyed a stunning breadth of repertoire in 28 seasons -- from its adventurous exploration of lesser known works to its daring interpretations of established operas – offering an alternative vision of opera even before L.A. had its own operatic mainstream.
The company, originally known as Long Beach Grand Opera, was a venture sponsored by the Long Beach Symphony Association to mark the inaugural season of the city’s Terrace Theater. Michael Milenski, formerly of the San Francisco Opera and San Jose Opera, was tapped to mount the first production in March, 1979, Verdi’s La Traviata starring Metropolitan Opera stars Benita Valente and Louis Quilico. The success of that production led to the company’s formal incorporation independent of the Long Beach Symphony with Milenski as its executive director.
Following a period of early growth marked by the presentation of repertory staples, Long Beach Opera took a radical departure from the operatic mainstream. Under Milenski’s guidance, the company developed an alternative vision for opera – to present striking visual drama that would speak directly to contemporary audiences while maintaining the highest musical standard. That new era was launched by two important productions in 1983-84: Britten's Death in Venice and Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea starring Catherine Malfitano, a production the Los Angeles Times' chief music and dance critic Martin Bernheimer called LBO's "wild, wonderful Poppea." Both operas were staged by the maverick director Christopher Alden, whose career was given major impetus by his partnership with LBO.
Significant LBO productions during Milenski's tenure included Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès, Richard Strauss’ Elektra (which was televised in Germany), Janáček's From the House of the Dead, The Beaumarchais Trilogy and the complete operas of Claudio Monteverdi. Several American premieres have been presented on the LBO stage, including King Roger by Karol Szymanowski, Mozart’s, Schoenberg’s Die Jakobsleiter, Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Turning, I Saw Great Injustice and John Cage’s Europeras 3&4 (issued in a commercial recording).
Celebrated singers who have sung with LBO include Jerome Hines, Cesare Siepi, Ruth Ann Swenson, James Morris and Jerry Hadley, but the company has a longstanding tradition of tapping talented singers on their way up (including some of the above named).
In 2004, Michael Milenski retired after 25 seasons at the helm of LBO and was succeeded by Austrian conductor Andreas Mitisek, who has continued LBO’s longstanding artistic philosophy of presenting an expanded vision of opera. His programming has emphasized contemporary opera composers (Philip Glass, Ástor Piazzolla, Michael Nyman, Arvo Pärt, Grigory Frid) as well as placed a strong Austro-German imprint on the company repertoire with such works as Richard Strauss' The Silent Woman, his own stage concept combining Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther with Schubert's Winterreise and Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in the abridged version by Jonathan Dove. In March 2009, Mitesek staged a highly original production and American premiere of Vivaldi's long-lost opera Motezuma.
Orchestra Manager since 1990: John Van Houten.