Watch Lisa Bielawa’s New Opera Vireo Online Now – featuring Kronos Quartet, Laurie Rubin, SFGC, more
(via Christina Jensen PR)
An Innovative Episodic Serial Opera Offered On-Air and Online
Now Available on ARTBOUND at KCET.org/artbound and April 6 on Link TV
Go Behind the Scenes: www.kcet.org/vireo
More information: www.operavireo.
BURBANK & LOS ANGELES, CA – KCETLink Media Group, the national independent, non-profit digital and broadcast network, has launched VIREO: THE SPIRITUAL BIOGRAPHY OF A WITCH’S ACCUSER, a new multimedia serial opera by composer Lisa Bielawa, directed by Charles Otte with a libretto by Erik Ehn, created for episodic broadcast on air and online. Produced through a partnership with California State University, Fullerton’s Grand Central Art Center (GCAC), the unique multimedia initiative includes online articles and videos showcasing various facets of the theatrical production, as well as a television special of the opera presented by ARTBOUND, KCETLink’s Emmy® award-winning arts and culture series.
Filmed before live audiences, the television series will be rolled out over two years. The 30-minute pilot (consisting of Episode One “The Blow” and Episode Two “Mercury”) premiered on March 31 at 8 p.m. PT on KCET (Southern California) and will premiere nationally April 6 on Link TV at 8 p.m. PT/ET(DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410). The full episode is now available for online streaming at KCET.org/vireo.
The Vireo pilot features the world-renowned Kronos Quartet, mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin; the San Francisco Girls Chorus; the Orange County School of the Arts Middle School Choir; mezzo-soprano Maria Lazarova; baritone Gregory Purnhagen; tenor Ryan Glover, drummer Matthias Bossi; and in the title role of Vireo, 16-year-old soprano Rowen Sabala. For more information on the artists, visit www.operavireo.org/#!
Vireo considers the nature and uses of female hysteria through time, as witch-hunters, early psychiatrists, and modern artists variously define the condition. Based on composer Bielawa’s own research at Yale as a Literature major, then freely adapted and re-imagined by librettist Erik Ehn, Vireo is a composite history of the way in which teenage-girl visionaries’ writings and rantings have been manipulated, incorporated, and interpreted by the communities of men surrounding them throughout history, from the European Dark Ages, to Salem, Massachusetts, 19th century France, the Surrealists in Paris, and contemporary performance art.
Featuring arias for dying cows, infatuated students, disembodied ageless women, and a mysterious twin of Vireo herself, the opera provides a thoughtful, and sometimes humorous look at the universal issues of gender identity, perception, and reality.
Innovating opera not only through content but through form, Vireo allows greater access of opera to a broader audience, through mainstream media and contemporary delivery systems. The piece considers authoritarian responses to independent, inspired imaginations, especially as they abide in young women. It scrutinizes the representation of women both in the historical form of opera and in modern media. For more information, visit www.operavireo.org.
The first tapings took place at the Yost Theatre in Santa Ana, Calif. Future episodes of Vireo will be taped at additional venues.
The Vireo broadcast special is executive produced by Lisa Bielawa, Anne Marie Gillen, John Spiak and Juan Devis; directed and designed by Charles Otte; director of photography Greg Cotten; music produced by Lisa Bielawa; audio capture supervisor Dan Dryden; costume design by Christina Wright.
VIREO Episode One Synopsis – “The Blow”
A chorus evokes the time and the place, a forest, 16th century France. A young woman named Vireo carries coals home from a neighbor’s house; she hears a disembodied voice. The Voice speaks to Vireo of the scope of the plague at hand, and of the difficulty of knowing and holding one’s place in the fires of time. The Voice leaves, and Vireo falls to fits.
VIREO Episode Two Synopsis – “Mercury”
Vireo’s Mother and a Priest examine the girl and conclude she has been possessed by a witch, and must be cloistered in a convent. But the Priest is only pretending to be a priest; he is actually a doctor, disguised in order to coddle and study Vireo’s anachronistic delusions. The character of Raphael, the Doctor’s callow assistant, is introduced. Raphael is instantly infatuated with Vireo’s madness. From her convent tower, Vireo watches a witch being burned at the stake. Although she doesn’t want to, Vireo hears the Voice again, from the dying woman now. The Voice stresses that there is so much left for Vireo to learn: as horrible as the plague-struck world may seem, it requires our breathless attention. Vireo wonders if she herself is becoming a witch.
ABOUT THE CREATIVE TEAM
Lisa Bielawa, Composer: Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. She began touring with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and in 1997 co-founded the MATA Festival. Bielawa was appointed Artistic Director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus in 2013. Lisa Bielawa’s music is frequently performed throughout the US and Europe. Recent highlights include a Radio France commission for Ensemble Variances, a piece for Finnish male choir Akademiska Sångföreningen based on a text from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Both works featured Bielawa as the vocal soloist. Other highlights include the world premieres of Rondolette by Brooklyn Rider and pianist Bruce Levingston, Double Duet by the Washington Saxophone Quartet, Graffiti dell’amante with the Chicago Chamber Musicians, The Project of Collecting Clouds in Seattle by cellist Joshua Roman and chamber ensemble, Double Violin Concerto and In medias res by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, The Right Weather by American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and The Lay of the Love and Death at Lincoln Center. Bielawa’s work Chance Encounter was premiered by soprano Susan Narucki and The Knights in Manhattan’s Seward Park and performed in Rome, Vancouver, Venice, and at the Whitney Museum. Bielawa’s most recent project Airfield Broadcasts is a 60-minute work for hundreds of musicians that was premiered on the tarmac of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin in May 2013 and at Crissy Field in San Francisco in October 2013. www.lisabielawa.net
Charles Otte, Director: Charles Otte is a multi-media director/designer whose work crosses multiple platforms. He is currently a senior creative director with Thinkwell Group in Los Angeles. An MFA graduate of USC film school, he received the John Huston award for directing excellence and recently founded and headed the Integrated Media design program for theatre at the University of Texas at Austin. His productions have been seen at BAM, Lincoln Center, Seville Opera, LA Opera, Carnegie Hall, Ohio Theatre, the Sundance Institute, Odyssey Theatre, Open Fist Theatre, Stella Adler Theatre, A&E TV, HDTV, and Universal Studios Hollywood, and can currently be seen at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, The Texas State History Museum, Universal Studios Singapore, Lotte World, the Louisiana State Capitol Museum and others. Otte produced the CD-ROM game, Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail. Select theatre productions include Bulgakhov’s Flight, This is a Test, Travesties, Threepenny Opera, The Dead, Goose and Tomtom, La Belle et La Bete, and new plays by Francis Cowhig, Kimber Lee, Steven Haworth, Rick Pagano, Steven Dietz, and John Bishop. Otte was recently Directing Associate for the world tour of Einstein on the Beach and The Old Woman. He is honored to be working with the amazing artists involved with Vireo. He plays the violin and is married to Christine Sang.
Erik Ehn, Librettist: Erik Ehn’s work includes The Saint Plays, No Time Like the Present, Wolf at the Door, Tailings, Beginner, and Ideas of Good and Evil. The Soulographie project is a series of 17 plays written over 20 years on the history of the US in the 20th century from the point of view of its genocides, and was produced at La MaMa in New York in November 2012. Soulographie scripts include Maria Kizito, Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling, Yermedea, Drunk Still Drinking. Ehn is Artistic Director of the Tenderloin Opera Company in Providence, RI, which generates new works of music-theater by, for, and about people who are homeless or who are homeless advocates. He is also Artistic Associate of the Theatre of Yugen in San Francisco. Ehn is a graduate of New Dramatists and current Chair and Director of Writing for Performance at Brown University.
ABOUT KCETLINK MEDIA GROUP
KCETLink Media Group, formed by the merger between KCET and Link Media, is a national independent, nonprofit, digital and broadcast network that provides high-quality, culturally diverse programming designed to engage the public in innovative, entertaining and transformative ways. With a commitment to independent perspectives, smart global entertainment, local communities, and opportunities for engagement and social action, KCETLink depicts people and the world through a lens unavailable elsewhere in U.S. media. A viewer-supported 501(c)(3) organization, KCETLink content is distributed nationally via satellite on Link TV – DIRECTV channel 375 and DISH Network channel 9410 – and on KCET in Southern and Central California via broadcast and cable, as well as through various digital delivery systems. For additional information about KCET and Link TV productions, web-exclusive content, programming schedules and community events, please visit kcet.org or linktv.org.
ABOUT GRAND CENTRAL ARTS CENTER
Grand Central Art Center (GCAC), a unit of California State University at Fullerton – College of the Arts, is dedicated to the investigation and promotion of contemporary art and visual culture: regionally, nationally, and internationally through unique collaborations among artists, students, and the community. GCAC is the result of a unique partnership between the California State University at Fullerton and the City of Santa Ana. Located ten miles south of the main campus in the heart of downtown Santa Ana, the art center is a mixed residential, commercial and educational complex. The art center is a 45,000 square-foot, full city-block long and half-city block deep, three-level structure that houses: live/studio spaces for visual arts graduate students, the Grand Central Main Gallery, Project Room, Education/Teaching Gallery, Grand Central Theater, classrooms, and a studio and living space dedicated to the center’s international artist-in-residence program. www.
ABOUT THE YOST THEATER
The Yost is the oldest Theater in Orange County and is currently registered as a Historic Landmark. Built for the booming Vaudeville movement in 1912, The Yost was first named The Auditorium only to be renamed The Clunes that same year. It wasn’t until Ed Yost purchased the theater in 1919 that it acquired the name The Yost Theater. Famous stars of their time, such as silent-film comedian Ben Turpinand, vaudeville star Eva Tanguay, and many others performed at The Yost. In 2009, Dennis Lluy and Dave Leon signed the lease to take over the business of The Yost, officially opening the door again in 2011. Their goal is to see The Yost Theater come to life again – being the oldest theater with the newest technology.
Cover photo by Daniel Clark