Schoenberg in Hollywood is inspired by the life of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg after he fled Hitler's Europe in the 1930s. Upon settling in Los Angeles by way of Boston, Schoenberg found himself at a personal crossroads of culture and belonging. While seeking ways to connect with a wider public through his music, he was introduced to the world of filmmaking through Harpo Marx, and considered an offer to compose a score for the blockbuster film, The Good Earth. After rejecting the film commission—and the lure of greater fame—Schoenberg rediscovered his musical identity and heritage by maintaining his artistic integrity.
Tod Machover—academic head of MIT Media Lab and director of the Opera of the Future group—says Schoenberg’s search to reconcile art with entertainment, reflection with action, and tradition with revolution is “one of the most inspiring stories of our time.” The opera explores the humor, heroism, and pathos of Schoenberg’s struggle, he says, offering “a glimpse of what may have happened if Schoenberg had reconciled those opposites." Tod turned an ebullient and penetrating libretto into masterful music. Schoenberg riffs on popular and esoteric culture, and examines deeply the complexity of being human, in both the personal and political realms.
Longtime collaborator Omar Ebrahim plays the title role, joined by BLO Emerging Artist alumna Sara Womble and Jesse Darden (BLO’s first Principal Artist in Residence) playing multiple characters. The artistic team for this intimate but technically complex production includes Simon Higlett, who makes his BLO debut as scenic designer. Nancy Leary and Pablo Santiago return as costume and lighting designers, respectively. Media and projection design is by Peter Torpey, who produced filmic elements that play behind the singers to underscore and comment on the narrative arc. Sound design is by Ben Bloomberg, with specially designed technologies from the MIT Media Lab. David Angus conducts.
A well-known choreographer once dubbed “the punk ballerina,” Karole Armitage is Artistic Director of NYC-based Armitage Gone! Dance Company. She has created dances for many of the world’s top companies including Boston Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, and she has choreographed the Broadway shows “Passing Strange” and the revival of “Hair” directed by Diane Paulus. Armitage directed operas from the baroque and contemporary repertoires for prestigious houses of Europe including Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the Lyric Opera in Athens, and Het Muzik Theater in Amsterdam. She was the choreographer—of people and robots—for Machover’s acclaimed opera Death and the Powers.