Ken Gonzales-Day, “Danny,” mural by Levi Ponce, Van Nuys Blvd. at Telfair Ave., Pacoima, 2013. | © 2017 Ken Gonzales-Day. PST LALA Skirball

First Person: Director Charlie Otte 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.

Charlie Otte is a creative director who works in multi-media theater, opera, music. For Vireo, he directed the filming of the live performance, which was staged at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana.

Artbound recently caught up with Otte, who discussed the intricacies of producing an opera for the screen.

On how he became involved with "Vireo"

Lisa Bielawa and I have known each other since the early 1990's when we met on a production of "Einstein on a Beach," which was directed by Robert Wilson and with music by Philip Glass. We've been on tour together. And during the last tour of "Einstein," she and I were talking about doing new music and figuring out a way that would be wonderful to get a production of hers up and running. And during that conversation on the bus, we were thinking, "How could you get these things produced?" We thought "maybe we should do what we're doing now. Let's not try and produce a whole 2 1/2 hour opera on a stage, but rather let's break it into pieces, let's have it be episodic, and let's find a new medium. Let's stream it." Our initial thought was "let's shoot it really cheaply and let's stream it so that people could essentially hear it."

In its early stages, it was more like a concert in some ways. And we were lucky enough that John Spiak down at the GCAC became interested in producing this. Once John became interested, our vision grew and I would say at a certain level, I started pushing things along further than anybody maybe thought they were going to go. I don't think that John and Lisa thought that we would have quite the size of production that we had, but once we started down that road we also realized we had a lot of resources here in L.A. that we could contribute to making a really viable artistic production that was more than just simply a concert version, or more than simply than a live version but really had artistic merit as a piece of media.

For instance, some of the ideas that I had been talking about with Lisa, and trying to bring to this project, is the idea that since Vireo exists in time in a number of different centuries that it would be great through the use of video and media that we could actually show that. We don't necessarily have to be constrained by the fact that you can't in a live performance run off stage and change a costume. But really, the actual media itself reflects some of the inner turmoil that she is experiencing through how were going to shoot it and edit it. And also it reflects the fact that she lives in three different centuries. So those are almost all things that would be accomplished in a different way, in a purely live performance. But the fact that were able to shoot it, means that we can use that in a creative way as a piece of art and make something new out of the piece as opposed to say what might happen at the production where you are basically recording it.

We are hoping to continue to finish this and really probably do it in 12 episodes. So we have 10 more to go. Lisa and Eric [Ehn] have been able to break down the script and where the dividing points are and how to accomplish all this.

Upcoming Airdates

Charles Lummis: Reimagining the American West

In this new season, Artbound travels back to pre-industrial Los Angeles to explore one of its key and most controversial figures -- Charles Lummis. A writer and editor of the L.A. Times, avid collector and preservationist, an Indian rights activist, and founder of L.A.’s first museum -- the Southwest Museum -- Lummis’ genius and idiosyncratic personality captured the ethos of an era and a region. See what other exciting episodes this new season will offer!

  • 2017-10-21T08:00:00-07:00
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The highly skilled labor of artisans migrating from Mexico and Latin America are the backbone of high-end design and retail in Los Angeles, producing some of the most exquisite furniture, textiles, and design goods. But they represent a creative force that seems invisible to the city. Artbound uncovers their stories and their role in making Los Angeles and Southern California the creative capital of the world.

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Artbound explores the programming of the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, investigating new programming and curatorial approaches that are redefining what it means to be a 21st century museum. This episode features three new programs by The Underground Museum, Wolvesmouth, and Public Fiction.

Fallujah: Art, Healing, and PTSD

USMC Sergeant Christian Ellis was a machine gunner in Iraq, whose platoon was ambushed, leaving him with a broken back and only one of a few survivors. Ellis returned home to join millions of Americans who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder. Ellis inspired the first opera about the Iraq war with a score composed by Tobin Stokes, a libretto by Iraqi-American Heather Raffo, and produced by the Long Beach Opera. This documentary explores how the experience of war is transformed into a work of art.

Third L.A. with Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne

Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne partners with Artbound for an episode that looks into the future of Los Angeles. "Third L.A. with Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne" examines the city's architecture, urban planning, transportation and changing demographics, giving us a glimpse of Los Angeles as a model of urban reinvention for the nation and the world.

Hopscotch: An Opera for the 21st Century

Artbound explores the groundbreaking opera "Hopscotch," which unfolded in cars zigzagging throughout Los Angeles, telling a single story of a disappearance across time. Audiences experienced the work in both the intimacy of a car, where artists and audiences shared a confined space, and in a larger central hub, where all the journeys were live-streamed to create a dizzying panorama of life in Los Angeles.

  • 2017-11-21T15:00:00-08:00
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