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Long Beach Opera in collaboration with Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra
U.S. Premiere of
The Black Cat
A stage work for tenor, two dancers and Baroque ensemble based on “The Black Cat” By Edgar Allan Poe
Sat, January 19 at 7:30 pm; Sun, January 20, 2019 at 2:30 pm
Beverly O’Neill Theatre, Long Beach
Long Beach, CA.— Long Beach Opera (LBO) presents the U.S. premiere of The Black Cat in collaboration with the Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra January 19 and 20 at The Beverly O’Neill Theater, 300 East Ocean Blvd., Long Beach CA 90802. The Black Cat is performed in English.
The Black Cat is a cinematic, multi-disciplinary retelling of Poe’s famous story, comprised of dance, film, and a musical mashup of English songwriter David Sylvian and J.S. Bach. Director Frank Hoffmann explains: “The stage design is foremost a film – moving images, scenes and stories. In the third dimension, the singer, the dancers, and the musicians merge with the virtual space … to become one total spatial experience.” This international co-production was conceived by Martin Haselböck, Austrian conductor and Artistic Director of Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, the Luxembourg-based theater and film director Frank Hoffmann, and Academy Award-nominated Austrian film and multi-media artist Virgil Widrich.
The international cast includes acclaimed tenor Nicholas Mulroy and modern dance performers Sylvia Camarda, and Jean-Guillaume Weis, (Pina Bausch Tanztheater, Mark Morris Dance Group, and Tanztheater Basel); all performed at the 2012 world premiere at Théâtre National du Luxembourg, Belgium and Musikkonzept Wien, Austria.
A nameless person proclaims his sanity, despite the phantasms he finds himself haunted by over the course of many months, involving arson, a black cat, and the death of his wife.
Video Designer Virgil Widrich creates a cinematic and dramatic space for the story, which is then combined with a musical conception by Martin Haselböck using the unsettling music of contemporary English songwriter David Sylvian, used during flashback sequences, and arias from the cantatas of J.S. Bach. The action is further expanded with four larger dance sequences between the narrator and his wife.
Andreas Mitisek, Artistic & General Director of Long Beach Opera, said, “This production opens new worlds for visual story-telling and dance, all in a brilliant new concept, breaking the boundaries between performing arts and visual arts. Two dancers along with a singer and a baroque ensemble perform a work of contrasts and extremes, from Baroque to Rock.”
Conductor Martin Haselböck commented, “The music of the narrator-protagonist was penned by J.S. Bach. Seven of the most beautiful tenor arias, accompanied by baroque ensemble, enable the sentenced murderer in his cell to react on the monstrous events that led to the dreadful deed. The music of the descriptive flashbacks is by David Sylvian, one of the most unique, unconventional, and uncompromising songwriters of our time. Together with virtuoso instrumental works of Bach, the work features four extended dance scenes. Dramatic highlights of the narration are emphasized by the overlaying of additional sound treatments. This remix was developed by me, incorporating some additional music and sonic elements by Ernst Krenek, myself und Ülo Krigul.”
Director Frank Hoffman said, “The stage design is foremost a film – moving images, scenes and stories. The film opens to the stage via three screens. In the third dimension, the singer, the dancers, and the musicians merge with the virtual space … to become one total spatial experience. Right out of that space – the traumatic place of the dark romantic Poe – the directing follows the emotional, the unconscious lead towards J.S. Bach’s celestially desperate music and the sinister melancholic sounds of David Sylvian.”
After its world premiere in Luxembourg, it received critical praise including from the Luxembourg daily paper Tageblatt. ”Brilliant! The audience is spellbound until the last moment. The combination of dance, drama, multimedia effects and contrasting musical genres achieves more than the sum of its parts.”
The Luxemburger Wort said, “A magical concoction of music, dance and theatre.” And Le Jeudi said, “There is absolutely no risk of the American author turning over in his grave. The adaptation of his short story The Black Cat is a wonderful homage to the master of the Fantastic.”
The creative team also includes Digital Paintin and Animation by Oleg Prodeus and costumes by Katharine Poleheim
Tickets for Black Cat range from $49 to $150, and can be purchased either by calling the LBO Box Office at 562.470.SING (7464) or by going online to longbeachopera.org. Student Rush tickets for $15 will be available space permitting. 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, Colburn Foundation and the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.
UPCOMING LBO PRODUCTIONS: In April and May of 2019, LBO presents Philip Glass’s In The Penal Colony, a Kafkaesque metaphor about the twilight of a barbaric world order and the dawn of a humane justice system. Then in June, finishing the season in true LBO fashion, the world premiere of a dramatic case of legal injustice from the 1980’s inspired Anthony Davis’s powerful The Central Park Five.
About The Black Cat
One of Poe’s darkest tales, in The Black Cat the narrator’s perverse actions are brought on by his alcoholism, a “disease” and “fiend” that also destroys his personality. Poe owned a black cat. In his “Instinct vs Reason — A Black Cat” he said, “The writer of this article is the owner of one of the most remarkable black cats in the world – and this is saying much; for it will be remembered that black cats are all of them witches.”
Poe’s short story was first published in the August 19, 1843 edition of The Saturday Evening Post. It is a study of the psychology of guilt, often paired in analysis with Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. In both, a murderer carefully conceals his crime and believes himself unassailable, but eventually breaks down and reveals himself, impelled by a nagging reminder of his guilt.
A condemned man in a prison cell, who is awaiting his execution the following day, narrates the story of the black cat. Before he dies he wants to unburden his soul and give an account of the “mere household events” that have destroyed his life. Since the narrator does not trust his own senses any more he hopes his audience will have a more logical approach to the now unfolding story:
The narrator was always very fond of animals. He and his wife have many, including a black cat called “Pluto”. This cat was especially fond of the narrator and his wife. Their friendship lasts for many years, until the narrator‘s character experiences a radical alteration for the worse due to his excessive use of alcohol. One night the narrator returns home intoxicated and believes the cat is avoiding his presence. Out of a fiendish malevolence he takes out a penknife and deliberately cuts out one of the cat‘s eyes.
When reason returns the following morning the narrator experiences horror and remorse for what he did, but drowns all memory of the deed in wine. The cat recovers but flees in terror whenever his master approaches. In the beginning the narrator is remorseful but the feeling soon gives place to irritation: “And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of perverseness.” He leads the cat to the garden and suddenly kills it by hanging it on a tree.
That night the narrator is aroused from sleep by the cry of fire: the whole house mysteriously is burning. He escapes with his wife and servant. The next day the narrator returns to the ruins — on the last remaining wall he finds the imprint of a gigantic cat hanging by its neck on a rope.
This image first horrifies him, and only gradually does he find a logical explanation for it: someone must have thrown the dead cat into the bedroom to wake him up during the fire. Still, for months the narrator cannot rid himself of the phantasm of the cat and he regrets its loss.
He starts to look for a new cat, and one day, sitting drunk in a tavern, he finds one strikingly similar cat, which is even missing one eye. The new cat is delighted to be brought into the home of the narrator. Very soon the new cat starts to follow the narrator’s every step until he begins to fear the creature more and more. It is with terror that the narrator discovers a mark of white hair on the cat having formed the shape of the gallows.
One day the cat accompanies the narrator into the cellar of the house. It gets under his feet and almost trips him down to the floor. The narrator takes an axe and tries to kill the cat, but his wife stops him. In a “rage more than demoniacal” he hits his wife‘s head and kills her with one stroke.
The narrator remove bricks from a wall to conceal the body, hides the remains of his wife inside, and walls the whole up again. He leaves no trace and is satisfied with the result. He intends to kill the cat as well, but the cat has disappeared.
On the fourth day after the murder the police come into the house. The narrator shows them the cellar from end to end with highest confidence in his safety. The police find nothing. “Gentlemen, this – this is a very well constructed house.” To prove it, he knocks against the wall with a stick on the spot where his wife is buried.
Suddenly a wailing shriek like a cry from hell can be heard. The police destroy the wall and uncover the wife‘s body. In horror the narrator sees the cat on the corpse‘s head and realizes his deadly mistake: “I had walled the monster up within the tomb!”
About the creators and cast of The Black Cat.
American writer, poet and critic Edgar Allan Poe is famous for his tales and poems of horror and mystery, including The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven. Poe (January 19, 1809 to October 7, 1849), was an American writer, poet, critic and editor best known for evocative short stories and poems that captured the imagination and interest of readers around the world. His imaginative storytelling and tales of mystery and horror gave birth to the modern detective story. Some aspects of Poe’s life, like his literature, is shrouded in mystery, and the lines between fact and fiction have been blurred substantially since his death.
A magnificent baroque-era composer, Johann Sebastian Bach is revered for his work’s musical complexities and stylistic innovations. Born on March 31, 1685, in Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany, Johann Sebastian Bach had a prestigious musical lineage and took on various organist positions during the early 18th century, creating famous compositions like Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Some of his best-known compositions are the Mass in B Minor, the Brandenburg Concertos and The Well-Tempered Clavier. Bach died in Leipzig, Germany, on July 28, 1750. Today, he is considered one of the greatest Western composers of all time.
At the beginning of the 1980s, David Sylvian was the lead singer of the band Japan and was epitomized as the androgynous embodiment of the New-Romantic-movement. 20 years and two handfuls of impressive solo albums later, the pop critics described him as “creative aesthete” (Berliner Morgenpost), and an “aristocrat of darkness” (Berliner Zeitung). Sylvian’s solo career started in 1982 and was influenced by styles such as Jazz, Avant-garde, Ambient, Electronic Music, and Progressive Rock; albums in cooperation with Robert Fripp and Can-pioneer Holger Czukay were released. In the last 15 years, Sylvian has freed himself more and more from the influence of the music companies, setting up his own record label, Samadhi Sound, on which he has released several acclaimed solo albums and recorded the work of other uncompromising artists. The permission for the use and adaptation of David Sylvian’s recordings has been granted upon arrangement with the composer and his management, Opium Arts Ltd.
The Austrian conductor Martin Haselböck hails from a famous family of musicians. Early in his career he gained an international reputation as an organ soloist, working with conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Lorin Maazel,
Wolfgang Sawallisch, Riccardo Muti and many others. In 1985 he established the period-instrument Orchester Wiener Akademie. In addition to performing an annual series of concerts in Vienna’s Musikverein, he and his orchestra are regular guests and resident artists in concert halls and opera productions around the world.
He now enjoys a busy career as a guest conductor with the world’s leading orchestras, and has enjoyed a distinguished career as an opera conductor since making his debut at the Göttingen Handel Festival. He was the first to stage new productions in Germany of the great Mozart operas on period instruments, and in 1991 his production of Don Giovanni was awarded the Mozart prize by the City of Prague. Martin Haselböck was appointed Music Director of the Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra in Los Angeles in 2004. With the American actor John Malkovich and Austrian director Michael Sturminger, Martin Haselböck developed the theatre dramas, The Infernal Comedy about the killer Jack Unterweger, and The Giacomo Variations about the life of Giacomo Casanova. Martin Haselböck has received numerous honors and awards, including the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art (das Österreichische Ehrenkreuz für Wissenschaft und Kunst), the Prague Mozart Prize in 1991, and the 2011 and 2012 Hungarian Liszt Prizes.
Director Frank Hoffmann studied Romance and German philology, as well as philosophy in Luxembourg and Heidelberg, Germany, where he received a doctorate in 1983. He worked as freelance director among others in Berlin, Paris, Cologne, Basel, and Stockholm. In 1996, Hoffmann founded the “Théâtre National du Luxembourg”, supported by the Cultural Ministry of Luxembourg, of which he is still the director. In September 2004, he took over as artistic director and chief executive officer of the “Ruhrfestspiele Recklingshausen”. In 2011, his contract was extended until 2015 by the festival’s board of directors. Since 1984, Frank Hoffmann has directed more than 100 national and international productions in Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. His productions have been invited to numerous international festivals, including the Bonn Biennale, Mülheimer Theatertage, Mannheimer Schillertage, Heidelberger Stückemarkt, Ibsen Festival in Oslo, the Festival of European Theatre and the Strindberg-Festival, Stockholm, the Plodiv International Festival (Bulgaria), Sibiu International Festival
(Romania), International Festival of Classical Theatre, Almagro (Spain), and the Prague Festival of the German
Language. For his work, Frank Hoffmann received several prizes and awards, among them the prize for best director for his movie “Schacko Klak“ at the Festival in Tehran, and the Prix Lions for his complete theatrical work. In addition, “Theater Heute” named him young director of the year.
Virgil Widrich (Stage, Visuals and Film Projections) born 1967 in Salzburg, works on numerous exhibitions, multimedia and film productions. His short film “Copy Shop” won 35 international awards and was nominated for the Oscar. “Fast Film” premiered in Cannes 2003 and won 36 awards. In 2009 he was the artistic director of the exhibition “Linz. City in Luck“ which was part of that city‘s year as European Capital of Culture, in 2010 he was responsible for the exhibition “90 Years of the Salzburg Festival“. Virgil Widrich is co-founder and CEO of checkpointmedia AG in Vienna, which is one of the most successful companies of the “Vienna creative industry”.
He is also Professor for Art and Science at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Virgil Widrich lives and works in Vienna.
Nicholas Mulroy (Tenor) has sung at many of the world’s great concert halls and opera houses, including: Boston Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, Berlin Philharmonie and the Salzburg Festival, Paris (Palais Garnier and Opéra Comique), Glyndebourne, Copenhagen’s Kongelige Teater, Opéra de Lille, the Sydney Opera House, and the Grand Capitole in Toulouse. Nicholas has particularly enjoyed prolonged collaborations with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and EBS, Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort, Lars-Ulrik Mortensen and Concerto Copenhagen, John Butt and the Dunedin Consort, Andrzej Kosendiak, Stephen Layton and Jordi Savall. He has also sung to critical acclaim with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, the OAE, the Brussels, Copenhagen, BBC, Wroclaw and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestras, Melbourne Symphony, Auckland Philharmonia, and Britten Sinfonia. Recordings include a Gramophone Award-winning Messiah and Matthäus-Passion, María de Buenos Aires.
Young dance virtuoso and choreographer; Sylvia Carmarda develops a universe and a style appropriate to each production. She endeavours to use her technique and boundless energy in the service of a physical and generous dance, notable for the carnal presence of the body. She then presents this in choreographic and theatrical language of obvious force and sexuality. Luxembourgish dancer and choreographer, Sylvia Carmarda studied at the Rosella Hightower School in Cannes and at the London Contemporary Dance School, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in 2000. As a dancer, having worked on various projects with Philippe Egli in Switzerland and Philippe Talard in Luxembourg, she joined the Ballets C. de la B. in 2002 for the production of Koen Augustijen’s Just another landscape for some jukebox money. She then worked with Jan Fabre on three different productions: Je suis sang in 2005; as a co-producer and dancer in Requiem pour une metamorphose in 2007; as a dancer in I am a mistake also in 2007. In 2005-2006 she joined the adventure of Cirque du Soleil and participated in their North American tour with the show Delirium. As a young choreographer she produced three shows: Only the lonely, a solo that premiered at Hivernales of the Festival d’Avignon; Crash, a solo presented at the festival of Sibiu, and lastly she choreographed Absolutely Fabulous, a trio about football. She also choreographed the dance extracts for the films of Luxembourgish director Andy Bausch, and proudly participated as Royston Maldoom’s assistant for the Dance2007 project – part of Luxembourg’s year of culture. Her company Missdeluxedanceco! presented her newest production Conscienza di terrore at the Grand Théâtre in June 2009. In 2009 she has also continued touring with Jan Fabre with their earlier productions. In Luxembourg, Sylvia Camarda was responsible for the choreography of various dance productions, two of them for the Theatre National.
Jean-Guillaume Weis has danced with Pina Bausch Tanztheater, Mark Morris Dance Group, Tanztheater Basel and others. Through his own and other companies‘ work he has participated and collaborated with many composers, conductors, musicians, actors and directors across the world. Since 1998 he has danced mostly in his own work and choreographs for his company, Jean-Guillaume Weis & Dancers. He performs regularly as a guest-artist with other companies and in various art and theatre projects as a dancer, choreographer, performer and actor. Since 1998 he has choreographed numerous full length and shorter pieces that were performed in Belgium, Germany, France, Poland, Luxembourg and the United States. JGW has taught classes and workshops over many years in ballet, modern/contemporary dance as well as his own work – repertoire, creating new material, improvisation and movement research- in Luxembourg and abroad.
Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra — Led by Music Director Martin Haselböck, Musica Angelica presents wide-ranging programs encompassing music from the early Baroque through the early Classical era. Since its inception in 1993, Musica Angelica has produced an annual subscription season of orchestral and chamber concerts in venues throughout Los Angeles County, programming a mixture of known masterworks along with rarely heard gems, and featuring many of the best Baroque musicians from across the country and Europe. Guest conductors have included Rinaldo Alessandrini, Giovanni Antonini, Harry Bicket, Paul Goodwin, and Jory Vinikour, among others.
Musica Angelica’s first international tour, distinguished by sold-out performances and wide critical acclaim, took place in 2007 in a joint venture with Haselböck’s acclaimed European orchestra, the Wiener Akademie of Vienna. The ensemble presented 13 performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in Los Angeles, New York, Savannah (Savannah Music Festival), Mexico, Hungary, Austria, Spain, Italy and Germany.
Among critical acclaim from the media for Musica Angelica is a Los Angeles Times review that said, “Musica Angelica soars in a Baroque gem … a triumph … Haselböck’s leadership was nuanced and inspiring.” Musica Angelica has been described as a “world class Baroque orchestra” by KUSC Radio, as “L.A.’s premiere Baroque music ensemble” by Angeleno Magazine, and as “a serious and important early music ensemble, the best of its kind in these parts” by esteemed music critic Alan Rich.
In 1998, Musica Angelica issued a well-received recording, “Vivaldi Concertos for Lute, Oboe, Violin and Strings.” In 2007, Musica Angelica raised its profile with a contract for four recordings on the German label, New Classical Adventure (NCA). The first, released in 2007, is Handel’s “Acis and Galatea.”
Musica Angelica collaborates with leading performing arts institutions in Southern California including Los Angeles Opera, Long Beach Opera, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Norton Simon Museum, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Musica Angelica was co-founded by Michael Eagan, widely considered one of the foremost lute players in the country, and gambist Mark Chatfield. Eagan passed away in 2004, and Chatfield passed away in 1998.
Andreas Mitisek has been LBO’s Artistic & 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.
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
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Long Beach Opera
The Black Cat
Saturday, January 19 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, January 20, at 2:30 pm
VENUE: The Beverly O’Neill Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90802
RUNTIME: Approx. 80 minutes without intermission
ONE HOUR before each performance, pre-opera talk with Artistic Director Andreas Mitisek.
TICKETS: Tickets range from $49 to $150 and can be purchased either by calling the LBO Box Office at 562.470.SING (7464) or by going online to https://www.longbeachopera.org/tickets/
Student Rush tickets for $15 will be available at the door space permitting.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: https://www.longbeachopera.org/the-season/the-black-cat
Concept: Martin Haselböck, Frank Hoffmann, Virgil Widrich
Music Director: Martin Haselböck
Director: Frank Hoffmann
Stage, Visuals and Film Projections: Virgil Widrich
Digital Painting and Animation: Oleg Prodeus
Costumes: Katharina Polheim
Tenor: Nicholas Mulroy
Dancers — Sylvia Camarda, Jean-Guillaume Weis