The LA Opera Off Grand series presents the world premiere of p r i s m by composer, sound artist and CalArts alum Ellen Reid (Music MFA 11) and librettist Roxie Perkins. The performances take place at REDCAT in Downtown L.A. from Thursday, Nov. 29 to Sunday, Dec. 2.
The southern gothic opera tells the story of a sickly girl, Bibi, and her mother living together in seclusion. They try and protect each other from the sickness found on the other side of their door—a dangerous malady that has already infected the girl’s legs, leaving her unable to walk. From the LA Opera: “Blinded by colors and by memories new and familiar, Bibi must choose between abandoning her mother to discover the truth about her condition or accepting her mother’s stories in order to hold on to the only life she’s ever known.”
The work incorporates elements of theater while examining themes of memory and the aftermath of trauma. Reid’s score shifts dramatically as the opera unfolds, as she noted during an interview with the new music blog, I Care If You Listen: “This piece begins in a new music and opera sound world, then shatters in the second act into something more urban, amplified, disjunct and polystylistic.”
Reid has taken on a variety of projects post-CalArts, from opera to chamber music to electro-pop songs, as well as scores for theater, immersive interactive media and film—including the feature Buster’s Mal Heart (2017) starring Rami Malek. She is currently the only composer to have received commissions from all four of the major musical organizations in Los Angeles: LA Opera, the LA Philharmonic, LA Master Chorale and LA Chamber Orchestra.
While at CalArts, Reid studied composition with David Rosenboom, dean of The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts. “During our first meeting, [Ellen] already exhibited the kind of energetic focus on her objectives that clearly signaled to me, ‘This person is going places,'” Rosenboom said in an email.
“Then, as soon as we identified things to work on, she took off like a rocket. She developed effective ensemble scores, installation pieces exploring an engaging kind of sonic geography, and by the end of her time in our school, she staged an outdoor opera, made possible by her magnetic spirit for collaboration. I am personally truly proud of her emergence as a musical force in the world, and CalArts can bask in the light of her accomplishments.”
Reid’s focus on the collaborative continues as she co-founded the Luna Composition Lab with fellow composer Missy Mazzoli. The lab is a mentorship program directed at young self-identified female and gender non-conforming composers, in partnership with Face The Music at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City.
LA Opera Off Grand: p r i s m
LA Opera at REDCAT
631 West 2nd St., Los Angeles
Thursday, Nov. 29-Saturday, Dec. 1 at 8 pm
Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2 pm
Note: this performance contains explicit language, scenes that depict partial nudity and sexual violence. Parental guidance advised.