Show artwork for Highway 1, USA / The Dwarf

Highway 1, USA / The Dwarf Highway 1, USA / The Dwarf

Composed by William Grant Still / Alexander Zemlinsky

Conducted by James Conlon

February 24 – March 17

At the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

"Exceptional...Together at LA Opera, composers shine anew" - Mark Swed, LA Times


A Historic LA Premiere, Highway 1, USA by trailblazer William Grant Still, hailed as “the Dean of African-American Composers.” Norman Garrett and Nicole Heaston star as a hardworking Black couple determined to build a better life, whose years of sacrifice turn out to be misguided. Chaz'men Williams-Ali portrays the ne'er-do-well brother who squanders every opportunity granted to him. Conducted by James Conlon, this new staging (only the second-ever professional production of this heartwarming opera) is helmed by visionary director Kaneza Schaal and production designer Christopher Myers, reuniting after their work on our stunning 2022 production of Omar.


An Impossible Romance, a gothic tale of one-sided love in a decadent Spanish court. Oscar Wilde’s fable is brought to life through a lush and romantic score conducted by James Conlon. Tenor Rodrick Dixon stars in the title role opposite audience favorites Erica Petrocelli and Kristinn Sigmundsson as we present Alexander Zemlinsky’s The Dwarf. Last staged at LA Opera in 2008 to critical acclaim, Tony-winning director Darko Tresnjak conjures a royally opulent production, with costumes from fellow Tony Award winner Linda Cho. 
The Dwarf's Autobiographical Origins: Unrequited love is an experience that most of us have gone through. The Dwarf was inspired by Zemlinsky's relationship with a fellow composer.. Read More

SPECIAL EVENT - Post Show Talk with James Conlon and Stephen Fry - Sunday, March 17
Following the March 17 matinee performance join Maestro James Conlon and writer, actor, comedian Stephen Fry on the 2nd floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Admission to the post-show talk is included with a ticket to the performance. 

More about Highway 1, USA

Learn more about this exciting new production in this video with Director Kaneza Schaal:

Artists: Highway 1, USA

Nicole Heaston
Norman Garrett
Chaz'men Williams-Ali
Aunt Lou
Deborah Nansteel
Alan Williams
James Conlon
Kaneza Schaal
Production Design
Christopher Myers
Co-Scenic Designer
Amy Rubin
Co-Scenic Designer
Cheyanne Williams
Charlese Antoinette Jones
Pablo Santiago
Jeremy Frank
Fight Director
Andrew Kenneth Moss
Intimacy Director
Sara E. Widzer

Artists: The Dwarf

The Dwarf
Rodrick Dixon
Donna Clara
Erica Petrocelli
Don Estoban
Kristinn Sigmundsson
Emily Magee
First Maid
Kathleen O'Mara
Second Maid
Deepa Johnny
Third Maid
Sarah Saturnino
First Companion
Tiffany Townsend
Second Companion
Madeleine Lyon
James Conlon
Darko Tresnjak
Ralph Funicello
Linda Cho
Pablo Santiago
Jeremy Frank
Bill Burns

Read the synopsis

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Highway 1, USA
Bob and Mary have worked hard and sacrificed a lot in order to put Nate, Bob's younger brother, through college. Mary dreams of the life they will have once Nate's education is completed. Bob explains that according to his mother's deathbed wish, they must support Nate until he has established himself financially. Mary tells Aunt Lou of her hatred for Nate.

After finishing his education, Nate remains idle for a year, living with Bob and Mary and contributing nothing. One morning Bob expresses his doubt that Nate will ever get a job. Nate comes in after Bob has left and commences to woo Mary. Mary laughs at him and confirms her love for Bob. Nate becomes enraged and stabs her.

Mary's screams bring Bob running. Thinking that Mary is dead, Bob takes the blame in order to protect his brother. Mary regains consciousness and names Nate as her assailant. As he is led away, Nate pleads with Bob to help him. Ignoring his pleas, Bob kneels by Mary and promises her a brighter future.

The Dwarf
It is the 18th birthday of Donna Clara, the Spanish Infanta. Don Estoban, the court chamberlain, supervises as the servants prepare a sumptuous birthday party. The Infanta’s favorite maid, Ghita, marvels at the splendor of the decorations and gifts. Don Estoban tells the maids about some of the fabulous gifts. Among them, a Sultan has sent the Infanta a dwarf who has never seen himself in a mirror; he believes himself to be a handsome knight. The maids hurry to cover the mirrors before the gift ceremony begins.

After the Infanta and her retinue have taken their places for the celebration, the dwarf is brought in. Gazing at the Infanta’s beauty, the dwarf sings an impassioned song of love. The Infanta tells the dwarf that he may choose any of the ladies in the court as a wife, and the dwarf tells her that the only one he could love is the Infanta herself. The Infanta sends her guests away, and listens intently as the dwarf improvises a story about rescuing her from a dragon.

Ghita tries unsuccessfully to bring the dwarf, back to reality. His beautiful dream finally collapses when he inadvertently uncovers a mirror and suddenly finds himself face to face with his reflection. When the Infanta returns, he begs her to tell him that that she loves him. The Infanta cruelly spurns him. The dwarf falls dying at her feet, as the Infanta hurries back into the ballroom to dance.


Highway 1, USA is performed in English with English subtitles. The Dwarf is performed in German with English subtitles.

Approximate running time: approximately two hours and 50 minutes, including one intermission

One hour before each performance, join us in Eva and Marc Stern Grand Hall for Music Director James Conlon's pre-performance talk,

Click here to read James Conlon's essay on the double bill.

Read the digital program here.

Production made possible by generous support from
Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, GRoW @ Annenberg

Founding and ongoing leadership support for the Recovered Voices project provided by
Marilyn Ziering and the Ziering Family Foundation

Principal underwriting support provided by a generous anonymous gift

Special additional support from
Thurmond Smithgall and The Lanie & Ethel Foundation

With special appreciation to
Régina and Gregory Annenberg Weingarten

Special additional support for Highway 1, USA from
National Endowment for the Arts
OPERA America/Next Stage*

Kaneza Schaal’s direction of Highway 1, USA generously underwritten by a gift from
The Piera Barbaglia Shaheen Next Generation Artist Award

*The production of Highway 1, USA received funding from OPERA America’s Next Stage program, which were funded with gifts from OPERA America’s 50th Anniversary Campaign, including a leadership gift from Frayda B. Lindemann. Supplemental support for revisions was generously provided by the Mellon Foundation.

An original LA Opera production

Artwork for Highway 1, USA / The Dwarf
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2023/24 Season