Opera's Next Wave
Opera administrator ANDREAS MITISEK
Courtesy of Long Beach Opera
Andreas Mitisek has established himself as the protean master-of-all-trades at California's Long Beach Opera, where the Vienna-born maestro has been artistic and general director since 2003. Long Beach Opera's advertising tag is "Expect the Unexpected," and its mission, as stated on the company's Facebook page, is "to expand the boundaries of the opera experience." Mitisek has taken the company's mission to heart by expanding his own boundaries in recent seasons. His responsibilities at his home company have now grown beyond conducting to include stage direction and production design; on some LBO shows, such as the company premiere of Philip Glass's Akhnaten in 2011, Mitisek conducted the full run of a show for which he had provided the concept, design and staging. Mitisek favors an eclectic repertory mix — during the season just past, Long Beach Opera offered works by Piazzolla, Golijov, Poulenc, Martinu° and Nyman — and unconventional approaches to staging and design. He has expanded the company's reach beyond traditional theater spaces, much to the delight of local audiences and critics: the company premiere of Grigori Frid's The Diary of Anne Frank (2007) was staged in the Lincoln Park Parking Garage, and a 2009 double bill of Ullmann's The Emperor of Atlantis (Der Kaiser von Atlantis)and Orff's The Clever One (Die Kluge) was produced in the engine room of the Queen Mary, the retired Cunard liner now docked in Long Beach. LBO's 2008 staging (and 2010 revival) of Ricky Ian Gordon's Orpheus and Euridice — for which Mitisek provided concept and stage direction — was presented at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool in Long Beach. Expect the unexpected? You bet your life!
Mitisek thrives on the multiple responsibilities, and Long Beach Opera has thrived under his leadership: in a 2011 interview with San Francisco Classical Voice, Mitisek reported that the number of subscribers had quadrupled in the previous three seasons, despite the economic downturn. In December 2011, Chicago Opera Theater — another U.S. company that has made a name for itself by making refreshingly unconventional artistic choices — announced that Mitisek had signed a five-year contract as COT's new general director, as well as Mitisek's intention to remain in place at Long Beach Opera. At COT, Mitisek succeeds Brian Dickie, who retired in 2012, after having led the company since 1999. Under the energetic stewardship of Dickie, COT generally scheduled its performances in a three-opera sequence that played in the spring, after Lyric Opera of Chicago's season ended. COT's 2013 season, announced by Mitisek in April of this year, will mark the company's first season in more than a decade with performances in winter, spring and fall. A COT–LBO coproduction of Philip Glass's The Fall of the House of Usher opens in February 2013, followed in April by Mitisek's own staging of Piazzolla's María de Buenos Aires, first seen in Long Beach last season. The COT premiere of Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco, a project that was announced by Dickie as part of his "People's Opera" initiative, arrives in September. It's a schedule of works that's challenging, diverse and exciting — just what audiences have come to expect from Andreas Mitisek.
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