First Person: Composer Lisa Bielawa on 'Vireo' | Link TV
First Person: Composer Lisa Bielawa on 'Vireo'
Witches. Wisdom. Wonder. Vireo is an opera created for TV and online broadcast that considers the usage of "female hysteria" throughout the decades. The multi-episode production was composed by Lisa Bielawa on a libretto by Erik Ehn and directed by Charles Otte. "Vireo" is the winner of the 2015 ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Multimedia Award.
Twenty years ago composer Lisa Bielawa was inspired by her studies of hysteria and worked with librettist Erik Ehn to create the work "Vireo." Artbound spoke with Bielawa to explore the stories behind the creation of "Vireo" and the historical context behind the episodic opera.
On the conceptual basis of "Vireo"
Vireo really had its birth in the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale. I was writing a senior essay that ended up being three times as long as it was supposed to be. It kind of took over my life. I initially thought that I was looking at collaborative male authorship on the subject of female protagonists. But what I found was much, much more than I had bargained for.
It's just unbelievable how many collaborative writings -- case histories, trial documents, evidence of communities of men throughout Western history -- who convened in order to create all kinds of discourse around the same subject matter, which was teenage girls, who were having some kind of transcendent experience.
What actual fields these men were from changed: Were they doctors? Were they priests? In some cases they were experimental artists, who were giving young girls absinthe in the back of a bar, and watching them create spontaneous, automatic poetry.
But the evidence of these young girls was in these collaborative documents that I found. These writings or trial documents that I found, in which there was at the center of it, a young teenage girl. But her own direct voice was missing. It was through the prismatic analysis of what she was saying and doing that you learned about the re-articulation of this phenomenon throughout Western history.
That senior essay is still filed there somewhere at Yale, but I came away from my experience at Yale with all of this research. I remember when Erik Ehn and I started working on this opera. It was before emails, of course. I used to send these thick packages to him. I couldn't believe I was working with someone who would read this stuff. I finally felt that I had found a way to engage with the stuff that I had found through this collaboration and through this project.
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Season 10, Episode 1
From the iconic typeface of “The Godfather” book cover to Herman Miller’s Noguchi table, the influence of Japanese American artists and designers in postwar American art and design is unparalleled. While this second generation of Japanese American artists have been celebrated in various publications and exhibitions with their iconic work, less-discussed is how the World War II incarceration — a period of intense discrimination and hardship — has also had a powerful effect on the lives of artists such as Ruth Asawa, George Nakashima, Isamu Noguchi, S. Neil Fujita and Gyo Obata.
Season 10, Episode 2
"Artbound" looks at the dinnerware of Heath Ceramics and a design that has stood the test of time since the company began in the late 1940’s. Through the writings of Edith Heath, the founder and designer of Heath Ceramics and voiced by renowned chef Nancy Silverton, this episode explores the groundbreaking work of a woman who created a classic of American design.
Season 10, Episode 3
Día de los Muertos has been adapted for centuries from its pre-colonial roots to the popular depictions in mass media today. Inspired by rich Oaxacan traditions, it was brought to East Los Angeles in the 1970’s as a way to enrich and reclaim Chicano identity through a small celebration at Self Help Graphics and Art. Since then, the celebration has grown in proportions with renditions enacted in communities all around the world.
Season 10, Episode 4
Gospel music would not be what it is today if not for the impact left by Los Angeles in the late '60s and early '70s, a time defined by political movements across the country. Artists like James Cleveland and Aretha Franklin captured live recordings of the church experience of South Central and the voices and sentiment of the people coming together to give birth to a new gospel sound and the election of L.A.’ s first black mayor, Tom Bradley.
Season 10, Episode 5
The charming, unusual and at times polarizing Jeffrey Deitch left Los Angeles in 2013 after a tumultuous run as the director of MOCA ending in his resignation. He makes his return with a new gallery opening with the first LA exhibit of renowned Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei. A behind-the-scenes look at the contemporary art world through the eyes of a legendary art dealer and curator.
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