Long Beach Opera Presents THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT, 6/16-24
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by BWW News Desk
Professional singer and music professor Dr. P tries to shake hands with a parking meter and describes a rose as"a convoluted red form with a linear green attachment." A man who sees, but does not see, Dr. P suffers from visual agnosia. Unable to recognize objects and faces (including his wife’s), he finds a way to make sense of his world through music. LBO goes site-specific again with four performances of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat between June 16 and June 24, 2012 at the EXPO Warehouse in Long Beach, CA. Pre-opera talks will be held one hour before performance times.
This neurological opera (The Hat, for short) is based on an actual case study in the 1985 book of the same name, written by renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks. British minimalist composer Michael Nyman, best known for hisscore to Jane Campion’s film The Piano, saw operatic possibilities in the story.
Dr. Sacks states, “The real hero in The Hat is surely music – the power of music to organize and integrate, to knit or re-knit a shattered world into sense… opera turns out to be the perfect medium: the theme seems pre-ordained for the form.”
Known for being theatrically creative, fearless and illuminating, director David Schweizer is equally at home in Los Angeles and New York. Previous LBO projects include Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers (1996), Pena’s adaptation of Purcell’s La Indian Queen (1998), Adès’ Powder Her Face (2001)and the world premiere of Vivaldi’s Motezuma (2009).
Schweizer has been eager to take on the story of Dr. P for many years and recalls, “I was totally fascinated by Dr. Sacks’ book when it came out in the 80's and dreamed then of somehow shaping the material as theater.” He adds, “Michael Nyman's rhapsodic score brings a heartbreaking immediacy to this story of a brilliant mind gone mysteriously awry. The piece has everything – deeply felt emotions, humor, and a haunting portrait of the fine line between mental illness and genius. Plus the intimacy of it, just three characters, affords a kind of behavioral detail that is not often seen on opera stages. I hope that audiences will really FEEL what these people are going through and what they DISCOVER.”
Michael Nyman – Composer (b.23 March 1944) - is a British minimalist composer, pianist, librettist, musicologist, and the leader of the Michael Nyman Band. Perhaps best known in the United States for his multi-platinum selling score to Jane Campion’s film The Piano as well as his scores for Gattaca and many Peter Greenaway’s films, Nyman states he was drawn to the case study of fellow musician Dr. P because he was a man who “requires music as a lifeline, cue, clue, cure…”
Dr. Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author, was born in Britain in 1933 and is currently Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University, the author of 10 books and working on his 11th. His case studies have provided the basis for the films Awakenings and The Music Never Stopped. Dr. Sacks himself suffers from prosopagnosia, a condition which impairs the recognition of faces.
David Schweizer – Director - got his start as Robert Brustein's protégé while still at the Yale Drama School and, upon graduation, worked in New York under the auspices of Joseph Papp. He has spent almost forty years directing operas, plays, musicals and performance works for such organizations as the Mark Taper Forum, Geffen Playhouse, The Evidence Room, the Cultural Project, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass, Boston Lyric Opera, to name only a few, and has opened shows in London, Budapest, Belgrade, Sarajevo and Poland. Schweizer says he is happy to be back at LBO, which he says, “from its inception, has always been the most adventurous and exciting presenter of opera theater in America, plain and simple. As a director, I am always thrilled to work here - both for the challenge of the projects and the unconditional support of the most vivid theatrical approach possible.”
On October 26, 1986, The Hat premiered at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. In 1987, librettist Christopher Rawlence made a film version of the opera and the same year it was recorded by CBS Masterworks. The opera had its U.S. premiere at the American Music Festival in Philadelphia in 1987 and was staged at the College of Marin in 1998 and 2001. LBO will be the first West Coast professional company to perform this thought-provoking work.
Dr. S – John Duykers (tenor): John Duykers has sung in many of the world’s great opera houses, including Chicago’s Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, the Canadian Opera Company and Los Angeles Opera. A versatile performer, he has sung in more than 100 contemporary operas, including the premieres of Philip Glass’ White Raven, In the Penal Colony, and the title role in Galileo Galilei. He created the role of Mao in the world premiere of Nixon in China for Houston Opera,a role he reprised for LBO in 2010. Also at LBO, John drew raves as Mime in the 2006 Ring Cycle.
Dr. P – Robin Buck (baritone): Robin returns to LBO after recent appearances in Tears of a Knife, The Breasts of Tiresias, Moscow, Cherry Town and The Difficulty of Crossing a Field. He made his Carnegie Hall debut with Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony and has been a soloist at numerous symphonies and opera companies, including New York City Opera,Los Angeles Opera, Opernhaus Zurich, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony. Like the real Dr. P, Robin is a singer, a teacher and a performer of German lieder. He is currently Professor of Music and Director of Opera at the University of California Irvine.
Mrs. P – Suzan Hanson (soprano): Suzan returns to LBO after recent appearances as Margarita Xirgu in LBO’s Ainadamar and the title role in 2011’s Medea. Other roles at LBO include Pat Nixon in Nixon in China (also for Arena di Verona) and Brünnhilde (Siegfried, Götterdämmerung – also for Pittsburgh Opera Theater). She has premiered operas by Philip Glass, Rinde Eckert, Michel Legrand and Henry Mollicone and has appeared nationally and internationally, including performances at San Francisco Opera and San Jose Opera as well as Tel Aviv, Madrid, Florence and Spoleto. Among her many theatrical credits is the role of Sharon in the national touring company of Master Class with Faye Dunaway.
THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT plays EXPO Furniture Warehouse, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, Calif., on the following schedule: Sat. June 16 at 8:00 pm (sold out) Sun. June 17 at 7:00 pm (added performance) Sun. June 24 at 2:00 pm (sold out) Sun. June 24 at 7:00 pm (sold out)
Tickets are $29 - $150. Purchase from the LBO Box Office at 562-432-5934 or www.longbeachopera.org/tickets.
Long Beach Opera (LBO) is internationally known for cutting-edge interpretations of unconventional repertory. LBO creates immediate, inventive and often boldly avant-garde productions for an adventurous audience and stands apart from most other companies in the number of world, American, and West Coast premieres it has staged. Founded in 1979, LBO is one of the largest professional opera organizations in Southern California and the oldest in the Los Angeles/Orange County region. LBO’s performance history includes more than 90 operas ranging from the earliest works of the 17th century to new operas of the 21st.