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Critic's Pick

'King Gesar' gathers 'round the campfire in Long Beach

September 12, 2013|By Mark Swed | Music Critic
  • Long Beach Opera's production of Peter Lieberson's campfire opera "King Gesar" at Harry Bridges Memorial Park.
Long Beach Opera's production of Peter Lieberson's campfire… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

The late American composer Peter Lieberson imagined he was creating a campfire opera, a Tibetan Buddhist legend told by a narrator, who recites, scats and sings, backed by a small instrumental ensemble in front of an audience happily eating and drinking. It was no campfire when premiered in Munich and repeated at Tanglewood two decades ago, not with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianists Peter Serkin and Emanuel Ax in the glamorous lineup.  

These days, officials don’t, of course, cotton to campfires on the beach, but Long Beach Opera has found a grassy knoll next to the Queen Mary, water and the Long Beach skyline in the background where at least an ersatz fire can be part of the stage. The company stages “King Gesar” as a ritual for two narrators and two dancers. Amplification dims some of the effect, but the music is a wonder suited for a story of wonder. Read more.

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