LA Opera's Digital Short "let me come in," from composer David Lang and filmmaker Bill Morrison, premieres April 30, featuring soprano Angel Blue
Featuring the voice of soprano Angel Blue, Bill Morrison’s film resurrects footage from a presumed-lost 1928 silent film
(Los Angeles) April 14, 2021 — LA Opera's latest Digital Short, "let me come in," will premiere online on April 30. Produced and directed by filmmaker Bill Morrison, "let me come in" features a new song by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang performed by soprano Angel Blue, one of opera's brightest stars. The short film incorporates rediscovered (and heavily damaged) footage from the lost 1928 silent film Pawns of Passion to astonishing effect.
David Lang wrote both the music and the lyrics for "let me come in." The text is assembled from multiple different translations of a single verse from the biblical Song of Songs. "I love the sense of waiting for something beautiful to happen, the anticipation of the moment, and also I love that the narrator hasn't moved to open the door yet," said Lang. "The sensuousness of the waiting is more powerful for her, and for us, than the actual physicality of meeting." The piece is scored for a small ensemble of performers: soprano Angel Blue, violist David Creswell, cellist Anja Wood and percussionist Miles Salerni, conducted by Bryan Wagorn.
Filmmaker Bill Morrison, director of the highly acclaimed films Decasia and Dawson City: Frozen Time, has long been fascinated with ancient, decayed nitrate film stock from long-forgotten films—what he describes as "goopy, sticky films deemed not worth saving." For "let me come in," he has resurrected footage from what may be the last surviving reels of the 1928 German silent romance Pawns of Passion, discovered in a Pennsylvania barn in 2012. After decades of expanding in hot summers and contracting in freezing winters, the deteriorated nitrate film stock now reveals, in Morrison's words, "imagery that seems to be pulled from a state of semi-consciousness, asleep but dreaming."
Morrison describes Lang's song as "a rumination on love and the borderline separating two souls, seemingly from the precipice of consciousness. When I heard Angel Blue’s incredible interpretation, my mind immediately recalled the ambiguous tension in this scene from Pawns of Passion. Left to rot in a barn, and then scanned and archived again for another eight years on my own personal hard drive, it has found a new life through David’s words and music, and Angel Blue’s voice. It was very exciting to see how quickly it came together and how perfectly the image, words and sound meshed."
A few days after its LA Opera online premiere, "let me come in" will receive its broadcast premiere as part of the TCM Classic Film Festival, running virtually this year from May 6 to 9.
For viewing details and additional information, visit LAOpera.org/LetMeComeIn.
Part of the company's On Now platform of online programming, Digital Shorts are newly commissioned films that team gifted composers, performers and visual artists. Digital Shorts are offered free of charge to all viewers.
Click here for the "let me come in" photo gallery.
Meet the Artists
David Lang is one of the most highly esteemed and performed American composers writing today. His works have been performed around the world in most of the great concert halls. His "simple song #3," written as part of his score for Paolo Sorrentino's acclaimed film Youth, was nominated for the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award. His opera "prisoner of the state," for which he also wrote the libretto, was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Rotterdam’s de Doelen Concert Hall, London’s Barbican Centre, Barcelona’s l’Auditori, Bochum Symphony Orchestra, and Bruges’s Concertgebouw, and premiered in 2019 in New York. Other recent works include "the writings," commissioned by Carnegie Hall and the Netherlands Kamerkoor; "the mile-long opera," co-created with architect Elizabeth Diller and premiered in New York’s mile-long elevated park The Highline; "symphony without a hero," commissioned and premiered by the Seattle Symphony; "the loser," which opened the 2016 Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and was presented by LA Opera in 2019, for which Lang served as composer, librettist and stage director; "the public domain" for 1000 singers at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival; and the opera "anatomy theater" at LA Opera and at the Prototype Festival in New York.
Bill Morrison makes films that reframe long-forgotten moving images. His films have premiered at the New York, Rotterdam, Sundance, and Venice film festivals. In 2014 Morrison had a mid-career retrospective at MoMA. His found footage opus Decasia (2002)was the first film of the 21st century to be selected to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. The Great Flood (2013) was recognized with the Smithsonian Ingenuity Award of 2014 for historical scholarship. Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016) was included on over 100 critics’ lists of the best films of the year, and on numerous lists ranking the best films of the decade, including those of the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and Vanity Fair. His work has previously been seen at LA Opera in productions of David Lang's "anatomy theater" (2016) and David T. Little's Soldier Songs (2019).
Angel Blue has emerged in recent seasons as one of the most important sopranos before the public today. In 2019, she opened the Metropolitan Opera’s season as Bess in a new production of Porgy and Bess. Those performances followed her internationally praised role debut as Tosca at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. She is an alumna of LA Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, and first appeared with the company as Musetta in 2007 student performances of La Bohème. She subsequently made her debut at La Scala in Milan in the same role. Blue first sang the role of Mimi in the same opera at the English National Opera in 2014 and has since sung Mimi for her debuts at the Palau de Les Arts in Valencia, Vienna State Opera and Canadian Opera Company and in 2017 for her Metropolitan Opera debut. She sang her first Violetta in La Traviata at the Seattle Opera in 2017, a role she later sang for her Covent Garden debut and her return to La Scala. Last year, she became the first African-American artist to receive the Beverly Sills Award from the Metropolitan Opera. She is one of the inaugural winners of LA Opera's Eva and Marc Stern Artist Award, and will return to the company in a future season in the title role of Tosca.
About LA Opera On Now
The Digital Shorts series, which launched in December with The Three Moons of Lorca by composer Gabriela Lena Frank, is part of LA Opera's On Now platform of digital programming. LA Opera was the first major American opera company to create a weekly schedule of original new online programming to bring opera to audiences during the coronavirus crisis. As the company awaits its cue to return to the stage with world-class productions in theaters, it is offering a variety of online content including newly commissioned performances, live recitals, opera broadcasts and learning opportunities via its On Now digital offerings, which have accumulated more than 880,000 views since its launch on March 17, 2020.
About LA Opera
Los Angeles is a city of enormous diversity and creativity, and LA Opera is dedicated to reflecting that vibrancy by redefining what opera can be with thrilling performances, thought-provoking productions and innovative programming. The communal and curative power of opera is needed now more than ever before, especially given the extraordinary challenges of the time. The company is grateful to its supporters for helping to ensure that it has the resources needed to get through this unprecedented period through the LA Opera Relief Fund. Those wanting to support LA Opera can go to LAOpera.org/donate.
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