A Note from Director Bruce A. Lemon Jr.
What you now know as Bunker Hill, where Los Angelenos come to be inspired by a show or to dream in the park, has been home to many different communities over time. The Gabrieleno Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians are the original inhabitants of this land. Victorian homes for the wealthy, built in the 1870s, fell into blight by the 1930s. By the 1950s, Bunker Hill became a crowded low-income neighborhood and a prime target for the development which eventually brought us the very theater where we’ve staged The Anonymous Lover. What would this neighborhood be like if the last people to live here, in apartments carved out of subdivided houses, had become homeowners and built generational wealth? This dream brought our story from the Parisian countryside to an alternate modern-day Los Angeles. Visual inspiration from the work of Bisa Butler and Kara Walker helped us create Léontine’s family home. A restored Victorian estate at the top of Bunker Hill, owned by a Black woman.
This production has been a beautifully full and fraught process. Fraught, because of a raging pandemic, contentious election season, and state violence on Black bodies sparking protests worldwide. Full, thanks to nearly 100 people leaving their homes, many for the first time in months, coming together to bring the work of a nearly forgotten Black French composer to life. Revolution was the vibe in France at the time this opera was written, and it is absolutely where we are here and now in America. It’s not the focus of our story, but it is as much a part of our process and it is a part of our lives. Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, became a renowned swordsman, violinist, composer and conductor. His life story is well worth diving into, but that also is not what we’re to share.
We’ve gathered here today to tell a love story at a time marked by division, hate and sorrow. We're not supposed to be able to do this, but we are, and that in itself is beautiful. The people in this story are experiencing a breakdown in communication, a disruption that we're all dealing with right now. The entire world is having a shared experience of not being able to do the things we're used to doing in the way we're used to doing them. Not being able to embrace the people we love, and having no idea when it will be safe again.
Together we found new ways to work. We dreamed together in small boxes on our computer screens. We met for the first time in person with our faces obscured by masks, after weeks of meetings and rehearsals from our homes and cars over Zoom. We struggled to talk to each other through face masks and shields. We had our plans changed by COVID compliance restrictions. We dealt with surprises as a team and brought our collective talents, skills, wisdom and instincts in to scale seemingly insurmountable odds.
This opera is a love letter from us to us to you.
One day we’ll be in the theater all together again.
In dedication to our favorite opera fan, the Notorious R.B.G., Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.