Long Beach Opera Opens 35th Anniversary Season with Duke Ellington’s Queenie Pie

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Opera heads to Harlem for a Big Band makeover in Long Beach Opera’s (LBO) production of Duke Ellington’s only opera, Queenie Pie, running January 26 through February 2 at the historic Warner Grand Theatre in downtown San Pedro. Left unfinished at the composer’s death in 1974 and originally composed for Lena Horne, this “street opera” is the story of two powerful women vying for control of the beauty industry during the Harlem Renaissance.

For its foray into the world of jazz, LBO has enlisted jazz greats from both Chicago and Los Angeles. The opera, conducted by Chicago Jazz Orchestra Artistic Director Jeffrey Lindberg, will be accompanied by Artistic Director Kenny Burrell’s Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited.

One of the Duke’s rarely performed works, Queenie Pie blends opera, jazz and musical theater into a socially conscientious work addressing intraracial colorism within the Harlem community. The title heroine is inspired by the life of Madam C. J. Walker, the first female African-American, self-made millionaire, who developed and sold a line of hair and beauty products through innovative mail orders and door-to-door sales.

Los Angeles-based artist Ken Roht returns to LBO to stage direct and choreograph the production after collaborating with LBO on Poulenc’s The Breasts of Tiresias, Bohuslav Martinu’s Tears of a Knife and Robert Kurka’s The Good Soldier Schweik. Roht relishes the opportunity to work on Queenie Pie saying, “It is an honor to lend my perspective to the original libretto…It remains an ebullient melodrama due to Mr. Ellington’s amazing, multi-faceted music and the story’s dreamlike, highly allegorical plot of two vastly different women, who are very much the same…”

Queenie Pie is the third co-production shared between LBO and Chicago Opera Theater (COT), both of which are under the direction of Andreas Mitisek.

Artistic and General Director Andreas Mitisek, named an LA Tastemaker by the Los Angeles Times Magazine and one of LA Weekly’s “2012 People,” is going OUT OF BOUNDS for LBO’s 35th Anniversary Season, a season filled with five rarely performed and distinctly American works. Says Mitisek, “In 2014, we will play outside the boundaries of the field, exploring stories that are O.P.E.R.A. – Outside-the-Box, Provocative, Engaging, Relevant, and Adventurous.”

Queenie Pie by Duke Ellington and featuring the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited will take the stage at the Warner Grand Theatre for three performances: Saturday, January 26, 2014 at 7pm; Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 8pm; and Sunday, February 2, 2014 at 2pm.

Warner Grand Theatre is located at 478 W. 6th Street in San Pedro.

Ticket prices range from $29 to $160. Purchase tickets by calling LBO Ticket Services at 562-432-5934 or by going online to the LBO website: www.longbeachopera.org/tickets.

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