The 100th-birthday celebrations of the late avant-garde composer, painter, essayist, pacifist, and early civil- and gay-rights activist Lou Harrison continue. This week, the LA Phil presents a rare, one-night-only performance of Harrison’s 1971 opera YOUNG CAESAR—directed by Yuval Sharon and conducted by Marc Lowenstein—at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
1967, the Summer of Love, was a turning point in Harrison’s life. San Jose State invited him to join their faculty—providing a level of financial security Harrison had not previously enjoyed—and he met Bill Colvig, a musician and brilliant instrument-maker. Lover, best friend, collaborator, it was Colvig who suggested a same-sex theme for Harrison’s opera project, and the composer chose young Gaius Julius Caesar’s love affair with Nicomedes, the Orientalist king of Bithynia. The LA Phil production, part of their Green Umbrella series, stars Adam Fisher in the title role, Hadleigh Adams as Nicomedes, and Bruce Vilanch as the narrator.
Harrison had studied and absorbed his close friend Harry Partch’s theories about Just Intonation—a tuning system of corrected intervals and precise pitch. Since YOUNG CAESAR would incorporate world music from the East as well as the West, for its creation Harrison and Colvig built a gamelan of tuned metal slabs, dubbed “Old Granddad.”
YOUNG CAESAR (libretto by Robert Gordon) will be performed by the LA Phil New Music Group and experimental opera company The Industry. The choreography for this production is by Danny Dolan.
YOUNG CAESAR, Tuesday, June 13. Sold out.
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL, Music Center, downtown Los Angeles
(From top): Bust of Lou Harrison by Bruce Kueffler, Adam Fisher, Hadleigh Adams, bust of Julius Caesar, bust of Nicomedes.