Ellen Reid's Pulitzer Prize-winning "p r i s m" will also stream online


(Los Angeles) January 12, 2021 — This month, LA Opera presents the premieres of new Digital Shorts from two of today's most prominent female composers, Missy Mazzoli and Ellen Reid. Part of the company's On Now platform of online programming, offered free of charge to viewers, Digital Shorts are new commissions which pair gifted composers and visual artists.

Also new to On Now this month is a full-length streaming performance of Ellen Reid's Pulitzer Prize-winning opera "p r i s m," presented free of charge as well. The opera had its world premiere at LA Opera in 2018. 

All three works are directed by James Darrah.   

Missy Mazzoli's The West is a Land of Infinite Beginnings

Missy Mazzoli's The West is a Land of Infinite Beginnings will premiere at 11am PST on January 15, 2021, and will be available for viewing through January 29. A surreal meditation on the American Dream and the role that uncontrollable forces play in our lives, the piece illustrates a harrowing scene from Proving Up, the 2018 opera Mazzoli wrote with librettist Royce Vavrek. Based on a short story by Karen Russell, the opera is a surreal tale of a 19th-century farming family striving to fulfill the requirements of the Homestead Act. Directed by James Darrah, the new Digital Short visualizes the appearance in the opera of the ghostly Sodbuster, a failed homesteader driven mad by his inability to fulfill the Act's most daunting and seemingly arbitrary requirement: obtaining a glass window for his farmhouse. The soundtrack features bass soloist Andrew Harris, with conductor Christopher Rountree leading the International Contemporary Ensemble. 

"The work dwells more in questions than answers," said Mazzoli. "In a country where we imagine all success to be earned, is failure also earned? What happens when conditions become so extreme that the only way to achieve the American Dream is to resort to cruelty, thievery and manipulation? No character illustrates this darkness more viscerally than the Sodbuster, a gaunt and ghostly villain, a walking symbol of fate, death and pure rotten luck who cheerfully sings 'the west is a land of infinite beginnings' as he wreaks havoc. The Sodbuster comes in many forms and with many faces, but rest assured, in the end, he comes for us all."

For viewing details and additional information, visit LAOpera.org/West.

Ellen Reid's Lumee's Dream

Ellen Reid's Lumee's Dream will premiere at 11am PST on January 29, 2021, and will be available for viewing through February 12. The piece is inspired by a scene from "p r i s m," composed by Reid in collaboration with librettist Roxie Perkins, The opera explores the psychological aftermath of a traumatic event. Lumee's Dream is taken from a lyrical moment in the opera, in which the mother of a teenage girl takes a moment of reflection. Co-directors James Darrah (also the director of photography) and Adam Larsen (also the editor and effects designer) fill the digital screen with kaleidoscopic images that create a surreal atmosphere.

"Lumee, one of the two main characters, sings this aria while smoking outside a nightclub in the second act, giving us a window into her selfish fantasies," said Reid. "This video is not taken from the production but is conceived as a companion piece, probing the character's imagined reality. Nadia Sirota channels Lumee through her viola playing, Rebecca Jo Loeb gives voice to the character, and Sasha Rivero and Anna Schubert's physical performances give us a window into her soul."

For viewing details and additional information, visit LAOpera.org/Dream.

“Both of these original video art works occupy the same universes as the full pieces that inspired them, but they explore quite different thematic material," said Darrah. "For The West is a Land..., the goal was to not just do an excerpt from Proving Up but rather create a kind of visual and aural prologue that is more about a nightmarish dream space. We’ve intentionally leaned into some history of suspense and horror films in a way that I think will be surprising to audiences. Lumee’s Dream is intentionally more meditative and sensory, a long-form visual poem."

Ellen Reid's "p r i s m"

The LA Opera On Now platform will also feature a stream of a full-length performance of "p r i s m," winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Music. The opera, which had its 2018 world premiere at LA Opera and was subsequently filmed in New York in 2019, will stream online for two weeks, beginning at 4pm PST on January 26.

The unforgettable opera erupts with color, using choral and orchestral manipulation to deliver an eerily distinct sonic world as it explores the trauma of sexual abuse and the elasticity of memory that can follow in its wake. A mother and daughter lock themselves away from the world to protect themselves from the dangers lurking outside. But when the girl’s memories contradict her mother’s stories of the past, she must choose between discovering the truth or holding on to the comforts of the only life she's ever truly known.

Directed by James Darrah, the performance features mezzo-soprano Rebecca Jo Loeb as Lumee, the mother, and soprano Anna Schubert as her daughter Bibi. Julian Wachner conducts the instrumental ensemble Novus NY and members of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street.

For viewing details and additional information, visit LAOpera.org/prism.  

About the Creators

Recently deemed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (New York Times) and “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” (Time Out New York), Missy Mazzoli has had her music performed by the Kronos Quartet, LA Opera, Eighth Blackbird, the BBC Symphony, Scottish Opera and many others. In 2018 she became one of the first two women, along with Jeanine Tesori, to receive a mainstage commission from the Metropolitan Opera, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. She is Composer-in-Residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and from 2012-2015 was Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia. Her works are published by G. Schirmer.

Royce Vavrek is a Canada-born, Brooklyn-based librettist and lyricist. His opera Angel’s Bone with composer Du Yun was awarded the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music. With composer Missy Mazzoli he wrote Song from the Uproar, Breaking the Waves and Proving Up. They are currently developing an adaptation of George Saunders’ novel Lincoln in the Bardo for the Metropolitan Opera. His collaborations with composer David T. Little include Dog Days and JFK, and they are currently developing an original work for the Metropolitan Opera through the Met/LCT commissioning program.

Composer Ellen Reid is a composer and sound artist whose breadth of work spans opera, sound design, film scoring, ensemble and choral writing. She was awarded the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her opera "p r i s m." She is the first composer to have been commissioned by all four major classical music institutions of Los Angeles: LA Opera, LA Philharmonic, LA Master Chorale and LA Chamber Orchestra, and she has been Creative Advisor and Composer-in-Residence for the LA Chamber Orchestra since 2019. With Missy Mazzoli, she co-founded the Luna Composition Lab, a mentorship program for young self-identified female, nonbinary and gender non-conforming composers. Her music is released on Decca Gold.

Librettist Roxie Perkins writes and directs for theater, opera, television and film. She has been awarded a Sundance Playwright Fellowship, and her plays have been a semi-finalist for the Eugene O'Neill National Theatre Conference as well as for the Princess Grace Award. She directed Green Umbrella: Theatre of the Outrageous, a program of three short operas performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Her work has been programmed at the Kennedy Center's Direct Current Festival, REDCAT, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, New York Philharmonic, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Prototype Festival, Opera Omaha's One Festival, A Noise Within's "Noise Now" Artist Residency, and internationally at Theatro Municipal in São Paulo. 

Director James Darrah works at the intersection of theater, opera and film. Amid pandemic-related cancelations, he has generated a wide range of new digital content and helped organizations transform existing productions into viable projects that allow for remote collaboration between musicians, directors and designers. He is the Creative Director for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, directing 16 episodic short films in a new orchestral series called Close Quarters. Current projects for Boston Lyric Opera include an animated adaptation of The Fall of the House of Usher by Philip Glass and the world premiere of Desert In, an original operatic television series with composer Ellen Reid and screenwriter Christopher Oscar Peña.

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 nearly 795,000 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 

Generous support for these presentations comes from a consortium of donors to LA Opera’s Contemporary Opera Initiative, chaired by Barry and Nancy Sanders.

LA Opera is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the greater Los Angeles community.