On Saturday, May 7, 2016, the Los Angeles Times published the feature article How Southern California became the backdrop to an opera about a 'hysterical' woman, an in-depth look at the made-for-broadcast opera, Vireo: The Spiritual Journey of a Witch's Accuser by composer Lisa Bielawa.
Journalist Carolina A. Miranda writes, "Dusk is enveloping a small Shadow Hills ranch in steely gray light as a dying cow sings an aria. A chorus of milkmaids and a marching band lead the ill-fated bovine to her untimely death. In the background, a pair of alpacas watch the scene with puzzled curiosity. This is not a hallucination. It is an opera — a highly unusual one."
Bielawa's new opera, which is composed on a libretto by Erik Ehn and directed by Charles Otte, is an artist residency project of Grand Central Art Center (GCAC), run by Director/Chief Curator John Spiak, and recently received a significant grant from the MAP Fund.
Production for the twelve episodes, which will be released all at once in spring 2017 for on-demand streaming on KCET.org, continues on May 15 in a converted warehouse soundstage in Downtown LA. An addition to the core Vireo cast, the shoot on May 15 for Episode 7 features PRISM Saxophone Quartet and PARTCH, an ensemble of eccentric microtonal instruments created by Northern California icon Henry Partch.
Photo: soprano Rowen Sabala, who plays the title role of Vireo. Photo credit: Remsen Allard.