Long Beach Opera: LA Indian Queen

Composer: Henry Purcell

Text: John Dryden rewritten by Guillermo Gomez-Peña & Elaine Katzenberger

Concept: Christopher Fülling & Guillermo Gomez-Peña

This unique avant garde production was as much “radical, Chicano performance art” as Baroque Opera. It resulted from the Long Beach Opera’s longtime artistic director, Michael Milenski, tasking his new associate producer with finding fresh perspective of one of the underperformed but excellent works by Henry Purcell. In his last work, “The Indian Queen”, which is incidental music to a John Dryden play telling the story of a completely fabricated war between the ancient Incas and Aztecs, Fülling saw an opportunity for a time period and its way of seeing the world to be more than a setting and actually a motivating subject and even “character” in the piece. Thus he engaged noted author and performance artist, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, who’s books and works had critiqued the exoticization of the New World as a source of enduring political oppression. In his “Two Undiscovered Americans”, he exhibited himself and a collaborator in a cage at natural history museums around the world, portraying two savages from the New World in a manner that was common for captured aborigines to be shown to the European public in the early years of the colonial era. Dryden’s play and Purcell’s music were part of this mediated fascination in the New World and were seen by early investors in the British colonial corporations. To bring this work to the stage, Gomez-Peña rewrote the Dryden text in contemporary English, “Spanglish and Fake Nahuatl” and a colorful cast of Mexican and American actors, dancers, designers, and performance artists were combined with singers and an orchestra that specialized in historically-informed Baroque performance. The post-modern clash of visual and musical styles highlighted and updated and problematized the exotic otherness of the original composition and the enduring legacy of such thinking in contemporary LA.

Long Beach Opera, 1999

Director: David Schweizer

Music Director: Andreas Mitisek

Choreography: Sarah Shelton-Mann

Designers (costume): (scenic( Design: Light Design:

Featuring: Juan Ybarra, Ellen Hargis, John Mack,