‘Opera’s Next Frontier’: The Long Beach Opera is hosting its first film festival this weekend

This weekend, the Long Beach Opera will host its first film festival, where the intersection of film and opera will be explored through a mix of live performance and digital media.

The festival is the first of its kind for the Long Beach Opera, said creative director James Darrah. He co-curated the show with curator Bradford Nordeen in hopes of highlighting the importance and history of opera and film through short films, documentaries, live music and dance performances. , pre-recorded music and of course, live opera.

“I really believe the next frontier for opera is in digital media and film and kind of thinking about ways to reach people through the use of television and film,” Darrah said. “Opera is a place where all the arts meet and I think it should include film and cinema more.”

It’s the next necessary step for the medium, Darrah explained, as opera has evolved over time to include pre-recorded music, sound effects and projection design. The two-day event will feature 12 hours of programming, including a handful of never-before-seen films that will premiere at the festival.

To organize the festival program, Darrah and Nordeen had to learn more about each other’s craft in order to find films that honored the history of opera, used the film format correctly, included “lyrical experiences” and remained true to LBO’s mission to create “innovative and exploratory opera” for all communities.

Singer, songwriter, writer and visual artist Dorian Wood will perform a live piano cover of the soundtrack to Teo Hernandez’s “Salome” at the Long Beach Opera Film Festival July 16-17. (Courtesy of Long Beach Opera)

“So it’s kind of about intentionally pulling performances from other mediums and you know, other communities and other, I would say artistic mediums and outlets, and kind of inviting them to work in the ‘lyrical space,” Darrah explained. “And it’s really exciting, just to think of inviting artists into a genre that they’ve never really been invited into. Letting them create in this space is an exciting and exciting start.

The Long Beach Opera will present the film “Entry” on Sunday, which they commissioned last year in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The short film follows the journey of a woman struggling to re-enter the world after the pandemic and was made with filmmakers, local Indigenous composers and a poet and dancer whom the film follows.

“Entry” uses various mediums – dance, poetry, electronic music, lyrical sopranos and different instruments – and was produced by creatively burgeoning Indigenous collaborators to create an “authentic” story.

“Long Beach is also on Tongva land, and I am delighted that this is the first step in creating a more meaningful partnership with our indigenous communities, as well as with the artists, artisans and manufacturers who are found in these communities,” Darrah said. “’Entrance’ was really made with that as a guiding principle. We tried to think of a way to generate something that was an opera, but was written by someone who doesn’t write traditional opera and had never been invited into this space.

Ron Athey, who specializes in extreme performance art and body art, will premiere his 10-minute short film “Pasiphaë” which will include a live performance. Athey is one of three shows scheduled for Saturday, but his is the only one that invites the public to participate.

Athey will lead the performers – and anyone else who chooses to participate – in a show around 4th Street leading up to the premiere of his film. Performers will wear “dresses and outfits” from Athey’s 30-year performance archive, and attendees are encouraged to dress in “fancy or misshapen” clothing, flowers, herbs, and any “small instrument of their choice, according to the festival’s press release. .

Another live performance, which Darrah recalled as “one of the most electrifying live performances I’ve seen”, will feature a live piano composition by Dorian Wood from the soundtrack to “Salomé” by Teo Hernández.

The festival will feature over 10 other shorts, documentaries and music videos, many of which feature modern twists or classic narratives.

“I’m thrilled for people who might come to this who have never been to an opera before…or people in the art world who follow Ron [Athey] or Dorian [Wood’s] work, like I want them to come to that and realize that the Long Beach Opera is a home for everyone willing to make art that pushes the boundaries,” Darrah said.

The first Long Beach Opera Film Festival will be held at the Art Theater of Long Beach at 2025 E 4th Street on Saturday, July 16 from noon to midnight and Sunday, July 17 from 2 to 5 p.m. Tickets ($45) can be purchased from the company’s website for individual days ($45 for Saturday and $30 for Sunday), although current LBO subscribers get free access to both days.

Darcy J. Skinner