Created by filmmaker Blackhorse Lowe, the short features new music from composer Matthew Aucoin and poetry by Jake Skeets
(Los Angeles) May 13, 2021 — LA Opera's next Digital Short, Gallup (Na'nízhoozhí), will premiere online on May 28. Created by filmmaker Blackhorse Lowe and filmed in the city of Gallup, New Mexico—called Na'nízhoozhí in the Navajo language and known as the ceremonial capital of Native America—the short features newly commissioned music from composer Matthew Aucoin, who was LA Opera's Artist in Residence from 2016 to 2020. His score incorporates poetry by Jake Skeets, who grew up near Gallup. Both Skeets and Lowe are from the Navajo Nation.
Lowe's film is an unflinching yet tender portrait of the city of Gallup, seen through the eyes of two supernatural beings. "What strikes me most about Jake's poetry is how cinematic it is," said Lowe. "When I first heard Matt's music with Jake's words, I was blown away. I took Jake's poems and created an original storyline to visualize them. The city of Gallup has so much influence on his work, and we spent four days there gathering time-lapse footage for the film. I've been exploring storylines involving Navajo deities in some of my current experimental works, and felt that could add to the film as well."
Composer Aucoin is also the conductor of his new score, performed by members of AMOC (American Modern Opera Company), of which he is co-artistic director. The vocalists are countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo and bass-baritone Davóne Tines, and the musicians are Emi Ferguson (bass flute/flute/piccolo), Miranda Cuckson (violin), Coleman Itzkoff (cello), Jonny Allen (percussion) and Conor Hanick (piano).
"The piece is about the human world viewed through spirit eyes, so I hope it’s quite a magical, luminous sound world," said Aucoin. "When I reached out to Jake and asked if I could set his poetry to music, he was totally open to the idea, but when we started talking about the possibility that this project would be a film, it was important to him that the visual side of things be directed by a fellow Navajo artist. The distinction between the aural and the visual—the latter being more explicitly 'representational'—still carries meaning."
For viewing details and additional information, visit LAOpera.org/Gallup.
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 Gallup press photo gallery.
Meet the Artists
Blackhorse Lowe is known for narrative films that explore the pull between Navajo tradition and contemporary non-Navajo ways. In 2007 he received a New Visions/New Mexico Contract Award to direct Shimásání, taken from a story of his grandmother’s life as a young woman in the 1930s. It won the 2010 SWAIA Indian Market's Best of Show Award. It premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival and was screened at the Native Cinema Showcase, Sundance Film Festival and the imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival. His first feature film, 5th World, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005 and went on to screen it at numerous festivals. He made his film debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 with Shush.
Matthew Aucoin, a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, was LA Opera's Artist in Residence from 2016 to 2020. He has conducted LA Opera productions of Akhnaten, Rigoletto and his own opera Crossing. In 2020, he conducted the world premiere of Eurydice at LA Opera; the opera will have its Metropolitan Opera premiere in November. He has also worked as a composer and conductor with the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, American Repertory Theater, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Music Academy of the West. He is co-artistic director of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC).
Gallup features musical settings of two poems by Jake Skeets: "Afterparty" and "Virginity." The poet and teacher is the author of the 2019 poetry collection Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, winner of the National Poetry Series. He is the recipient of a 92Y Discovery Prize, a Mellon Projecting All Voices Fellowship, an American Book Award and a Whiting Award. He is from the Navajo Nation and teaches at Diné College.
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 900,000 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.
LA Opera Media Contact
Vanessa Flores Waite
Director of Communications
This project is generously supported by a consortium of donors to LA Opera's Contemporary Opera Initiative, chaired by Nancy and Barry Sanders, and by a special gift from Dr. Stephen Erhart.
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