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The News

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The felicitously named Dutch composer/creator, JacobTV found operatic inspiration by stumbling across a live news broadcast in 2009. The result is The News, an opera which satirizes our daily media saturation. Even more ambitious than the concept is the fact that this "reality opera" is designed as an ongoing work-in-progress. Every production is updated and revised with current video clips.

The News is certainly the type of project that would attract the ever adventurous Long Beach Opera (LBO) and, not surprisingly, they offered a full staging as their final production for the 2016 season.

The setting is the KLBO newsroom, and the two anchors behind the desk are soprano Maeve Hoglund and rhythm vocalist Loire Cotler. Behind them is a brassy, nine-person band and above them, stretching the length of the stage, is a screen on which is projected the myriad stories they will cover.

While this sounds simple and straightforward, the technology behind it is quite complex. JacobTV is not content with simply scoring news footage. He manipulates the video so that it forms the rhythmic foundation for his composition. At other points, the manipulation mirrors the repetitive phrases one hears in operatic arias. The band, under the direction of Andreas Mitisek, also needs to be scrupulously exact in its timing. It is a fascinating multi-media presentation and JacobTV presides over it from the sound booth.

The score is appropriately eclectic, with a driving momentum that rarely lets up. It is also extremely accessible, including echoes of marches, bluesy sax laments, 60’s girl groups and Nelson Riddle arrangements. But some of the most emotionally stirring music is found in several lovely instrumental interludes.

The singers are spectacular and, seemingly, tireless. Their job is less communicating in the traditional sense and more finding their place in the overall aural landscape. Hogland has the more conventional operatic sound and brings a sweet–tinged tone to the sweeping arcs of her music. Cotler's specialty is in deploying an astonishing series of staccato percussive syllables which create a unique musical language. She composed several of her own solo pieces. She can also do the splits. I don't know that it has much to do with the news, but it's impressive.

Tanya Kane-Parry's direction keeps the performers moving with the same drive as the score. But her directorial choices seem to slightly undermine the opera's satiric edge. Either by being too on-the-nose, pom-poms appear when apple pie and cheerleaders are mentioned; or by offering overused images like prosthetic breasts that the anchors don.

Andreas Mitisek appears to be having too much fun as he leads his energetic band through their challenging paces. The News will not change the face of opera and probably won’t affect your television viewing, but it is a well-produced, tuneful, and entertaining piece of music theatre.

Broad Stage      June 19 – June 26, 2016    www.longbeachopera.org

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.