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Friday, June 14, 2019

Award-Winning Playwright to Debut “The Central Park Five” Opera Performance

Featuring Music By Anthony Davis, and a Libretto by Richard Wesley

The live performance will premiere on June 15 and June 22 at 7:30 pm, and June 23 at 2:30 pm Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, CA.

Cast members of The Central Park Five Long Beach Opera performance

Cast members of The Central Park Five Long Beach Opera performance

NationwideThe Central Park Five by Anthony Davis explores the interrogation and coerced confessions of five teenagers wrongly convicted of a crime in New York City in the 1980’s, along with the profound effect the unjust prison sentences had on their young lives. Composer Anthony Davis says: “I have devoted myself to the creation of works that bring to light issues of political and social significance – with a focus on the issues of race and justice.” The opera, with a libretto by award winning playwright and screenwriter Richard Wesley is a passionate story about an issue that continues to create headlines.

The Central Park Five case as both a crime and a trial is one that remains talked about today even more than three decades after the initial events occurred. In 1990, The New York Times reported that the case was one of the most highly covered crimes of the 1980’s. On April 20, 1989, Five African American and Latino teenagers were in the wrong place at the wrong time, resulting in their wrongful conviction of a violent crime that took place in Central Park. The case transfixed a racially polarized New York City, and the teens were labeled a “wolf pack” by the news media. Op-ed pieces generalized the alleged spread of “wilding” among powerless men around the country, while ads and articles in the newspapers and tabloids exacerbated racial division and acrimony.

In addition to the five teenagers; Yussef Salam, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Antron McCray and Raymond Santana, other real-life characters portrayed in the opera include the families of the teens, the District Attorney, and the 1980’s celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump. Trump was a prominent figure in the case, placing full-page ads in four New York City papers calling for the death penalty to be reinstated to punish the teenagers.

Long Beach Opera commissioned the work from Anthony Davis based on his previous work Five. Andreas Mitisek comments: “Taking this important story to the opera stage gives us the opportunity to explore the emotional impact beyond the mere facts. “

The production is designed and directed by Andreas Mitisek, Artistic and General Director of Long Beach Opera, and will be conducted by Leslie Dunner.

Anthony Davis said, “I think operas work on multiple levels, and certainly a visceral level is one that I’m very concerned with. I want the audience to have an emotional experience that involves identifying with the characters and putting yourself in their place. I am hoping that The Central Park Five will play an important role in understanding where we are after Ferguson and how such incidents of racial injustice are rooted in racial fear and hatred.”

Davis continues, “In my career as a composer, I have devoted myself to the creation of works that bring to light issues of political and social significance. Particularly, my operas have addressed pivotal events and figures in American history with a focus on the issues of race and justice. My first opera, X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, premiered at New York City Opera in 1986 and was a revolutionary work both in subject matter and musical content. The work treated Malcolm X as a tragic hero who negotiates profound changes of identity from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X and El Hajj Malik el Shabazz.”

“All these works indicate my continued and sustained concern with our ongoing political struggle. These pivotal events in our history offer windows into understanding who we are today and how we arrived at our present situation. The slogan, ‘Black Lives Matter’ is not only an important political statement but it also the central focus of my work as an artist and composer.”

“I continued to explore the political realm in several of my other operas, including Tania, based on the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst, Amistad, based on the rebellion and subsequent trial of Mende captives, Wakonda’s Dream based on the trial of Standing Bear in the 1870’s, and Lilith, a meditation on Adam’s first wife and the eternal conflict of man and woman. It should be noted that both operas X and Amistad preceded the films by Spike Lee and Stephen Spielberg.”


In the early hours of April 20, 1989, a woman barely clinging to life was discovered in Central Park. Assaulted and left for dead, the 28-year-old jogger, Trisha Meili, would survive grave injuries and a coma with no memory of the events. Within days of the attack, Antron McCray, 15; Kevin Richardson, 14; Yusef Salaam, 15; Raymond Santana, 14; and Kharey Wise, 16 implicated themselves in Meili’s rape and beating after hours of psychological pressure and aggressive interrogation at the hands of seasoned homicide detectives.

The police announced to a press hungry for sensational crime stories that the young men had been part of a gang of teenagers who were out “wilding,” assaulting joggers and bicyclists in Central Park that evening. The ensuing media frenzy was met with a public outcry for justice. The young men were tried, – some as adults – under New York laws of the day — and convicted, despite inconsistent and inaccurate confessions, DNA evidence that excluded them, and no eyewitness accounts that connected them to the victim.

On December 19, 2002, Justice Charles J. Tejada of the Supreme Court of the State of New York granted a motion to vacate the thirteen-year-old convections in the infamous case. He did so based on new evidence: a shocking confession from a serial rapist, Matias Reyes, and a positive DNA match to back it up. A year later, the men filed civil lawsuits against the City of New York and the police officers and prosecutors who had worked toward their conviction. On September 5, 2014, a federal judge approved a settlement in the case for $41 million, supported by Mayor Bill De Blasio. Santana, Salaam, McCray, and Richardson will each receive $7.1 million from the city for their years in prison, while Wise will receive $12.2 million. (source: PBS)

Composer Anthony Davis (born February 20, 1951) is an African American pianist and composer. He incorporates several styles including jazz, rhythm ‘n’ blues, gospel, non-Western, African, European classical, Indonesian gamelan, and experimental music. He is best known for his operas. X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X, which played to sold-out houses at its premiere at the New York City Opera in 1986, was the first of a new American genre: opera on a contemporary political subject. The recording of X was released on the Gramavision label in August 1992 and received a Grammy Nomination for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” in February 1993.

Davis’ second opera, Under the Double Moon, a science fiction opera with an original libretto by Deborah Atherton, premiered at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis in June 1989. His third opera, Tania, with a libretto by Michael-John LaChiusa and based on the abduction of Patricia Hearst, premiered at the American Music Theater Festival in June 1992. A recording of Tania was released in 2001 on Koch, and in November 2003 Musikwerkstaat Wien presented its European premiere. A fourth opera, Amistad, about a shipboard uprising by slaves and their subsequent trial, premiered at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in November 1997. Wakonda’s Dream, premiered at Opera Omaha in 2007.

Librettist Richard Wesley is an Associate Professor in playwriting and screenwriting at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. He was educated at Howard University in Washington, DC, graduating with a BFA in 1967. His plays include, The Black Terror, a Drama Desk winner, produced at the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theatre, in 1971; The Mighty Gents, an Audelco Award winner, premiered on Broadway in 1978. The 1970s also saw Prof. Wesley embark on a motion picture career, penning screenplays for the motion pictures, Uptown Saturday Night (1974), Let’s Do It Again (Warner Bros., 1975), Native Son (1984) and Fast Forward (Columbia Pictures, 1985). Prof. Wesley’s teleplays include Murder Without Motive (1991), Mandela And De Klerk (1997), and Bojangles (2000). He has also written episodes for the television series, Fallen Angels and 100 Centre Street.

The cast of The Central Park Five includes Derrell Acon as Antron McCray, Jessica Mamey
as District Attorney, Cedric Berry as Yusef Salaam, Orson Van Gay as Raymond Santana, Nathan Granner as Khorey Wise, Bernard Holcomb as Kevin Richardson, Zeffin Quinn Hollis as the Masque, Thomas Segen as Donald Trump, along with Babatunde Akinboboye as Raymond’s father, Ashley Faatoalia as Antron’s father, Lindsey Patterson as Yusef’s mother, Joelle Lamarre as Kevin and Antron’s mother.

Tickets for The Central Park Five range from $49 to $150, and can be purchased either by calling the LBO Box Office at 562.470.SING (7464) ext. 1 or by going online to LongBeachOpera.org/Tickets. For information, please visit www.LongBeachOpera.org

Long Beach Opera events are supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.

Long Beach Opera (LBO) is internationally known for its cutting-edge interpretations of unconventional repertoire. LBO creates immediate, inventive, and often boldly avant-garde productions for an adventurous audience and stands apart from most opera companies in the number of world, American, and West Coast premieres the company has staged. Founded in 1979, it is the oldest professional opera company in the Los Angeles/Orange County region with a performance history of more than 110 operas, ranging from the earliest works of the 17th century to operas of the 21st. LBO’s ever‐growing repertoire has provided stimulus for the subsequent founding of other local opera companies, catapulting Southern California into the spotlight as a major opera epicenter. LBO is a recognized and respected member of the U. S. cultural community, receiving funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, the County of Los Angeles, and the City of Long Beach, along with generous support from individual donors, local businesses, public corporations, and private foundations.


Derrell Acon (Antron McCray) Bass-baritone Derrell Acon makes his company and role debut with LBO this season as Antron McCray in The Central Park Five. His recent roles include Leporello in Don Giovanni, Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and Ramfis in Aïda. Last season, Mr. Acon reprised Sarastro in Portland Opera to Go’s The Magic Flute and made several company debuts: Escamillo in Opera Ithaca’s Carmen, Rocco in Heartbeat Opera’s Fidelio, Zuniga in Pacific Opera Project’s Carmen, and bass soloist in LA Master Chorale’s Messiah Sing-Along. This season, Mr. Acon also debuts as Queequeg (cover) in Chicago Opera Theater’s Moby Dick.

Babatunde Akinboboye (Ensemble, Raymond’s Father, Matias Reyes) A singer of diverse talents, Nigerian American Baritone, Babatunde Akinboboye is known for his enthralling stage presence. He has performed with the Los Angeles Opera, Opera Theatre St. Louis, Utah Opera, and Opera San Jose. His most recent performances include Daggoo in Opera San Jose’s Moby Dick and Private Manny Davis in Opera Theatre St. Louis’ world premiere of An American Soldier. Babatunde’s honors include Regional Finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition, and finalist in the International Eisteddfod Vocal Solo Competition in Llangollen, Wales.

Cedric Berry (Yusef Salaam) The Chicago Tribune said, “A bass-baritone of considerable power and agility.” Past LBO productions include Elektra, Ceiling/Sky, Fairy Queen, The Consul, The Invention of Morel and The Best of 20. He has also performed with Los Angeles Opera, The Industry Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, Savonlinna Opera Festival of Finland, Banlieues Bleues Festival of France and the Ravinia Music Festival. He has appeared with Pacific Symphony, Arizona Symphony, Santa Fe Symphony, Luckman Jazz orchestra, Pasadena Pops Orchestra, California Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Telemann Chamber Orchestra of Japan. www.cedricberry.com.

Ashley Faatoalia (Antron’s Father, Ensemble) Tenor Ashley Faatoalia is glad to make his debut with LBO in the role of Antron’s Father. Opera News calls his singing “hauntingly beautiful” crediting him with “a voice of winning purity and variety of expression.” Credits include: LA Opera, LA Phil, SF Opera, Seattle Opera, The Industry and more. Upcoming shows include: a solo recital for Sun Valley Opera and Treemonisha with Volcano Theatre, Toronto. Ashley appears on numerous recordings including: Invisible Cities – CD/DVD/Digital, Porgy & Bess (SF Opera) BluRay/DVD. Ashley studied voice at Chapman University with Dr. Peter Atherton. Follow Ash on twitter: @ashthetenor

Orson Van Gay (Raymond Santana) “His sound was fluent and his high notes golden.” (Broadway World) Tenor Orson Van Gay II is delighted to make his debut with LBO as Raymond Santana in The Central Park Five. Recent performances include Carnegie Hall debut, Candide in Candide, Nemorino L’elisir d’amore, Alfredo La Traviata. He has also performed with LA Opera, Cal Phil, Pacific Symphony and The Industry Opera. This fall, Mr. Van Gay debuts the role of The Young Man in Joe DiPietro’s The Last Romance and makes his Lincoln Center debut this summer. Orson has appeared in several television series, commercials and a variety of shows for Netflix. www.orsonvangay.com

Nathan Granner (Khorey Wise) The Boston Globe hails Tenor Nathan Granner for his “vibrant and flexible” voice. Highlights include: Nika Maggadoff (The Consul) and Dr. Morel (The Invention of Morel) with Long Beach Opera, Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore), Ferrando (Cosí fan tutte), Curly (Oklahoma!), and Rodolfo (La Bohéme) with Lyric Opera Kansas City, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Tulsa Opera, Wolf Trap and Glimmerglass Opera. Additionally, Mr. Granner performed 2 consecutive seasons at Spoleto USA, and is a founding member of The American Tenors, whose Sony Masterworks album reached the top five in the classical crossover charts.

Bernard Holcomb (Kevin Richardson) Bernard Holcomb is thrilled to be returning to Long Beach Opera. He debuted with LBO as David in John Adams’ I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw The Sky in 2014 and was most recently seen as Tristan in Le Vin Herbé in the 2017/18 season. Mr. Holcomb’s recent engagements include his Seattle Opera Debut in Porgy and Bess, and the world premiere of Princess Sophia with Orpheus Opera in Juneau, Alaska. Mr. Holcomb has performed on many operatic stages across the United States and the world including Michigan Opera Theatre, Dresden Semperoper, Hamburg State Opera, and Lyric Opera Of Chicago where he is an Alumnus of the prestigious Ryan Opera Center.

Zeffin Quinn Hollis (The Masque) Zeffin Quinn Hollis has been heard as a principal artist with Dallas Opera, New York City Opera, Long Beach Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, New Orleans Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of Pittsburg, Opera Delaware, Toledo Opera, Hungary’s Szeged & Pécs National Theaters, and the Lviv National Theatre (Ukraine). His signature operatic roles include Scarpia (Tosca), Escamillo (Carmen), and Jack Rance (La Fanciulla del West). Mr. Hollis is equally identifiable in the top echelon of new music. He has worked on premiers from composers Jake Heggie, Tobias Picker, Tarik O’Regan; and at NYC Opera’s famed VOX festival of new works.

Lindsay Patterson (Yusef’s Mother, Others, Ensemble) Lindsay Patterson is honored to be returning this season to Long Beach Opera. Recent LBO roles include the Old Woman in The Difficulties of Crossing a Field, Leila in I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Saw the Sky, and The Mother in Frank Martin’s The Love Potion. Her other roles include the Bicyclist in the Industry LA’s production of Hopscotch, the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors, the Mistress of the Novices in Suor Angelica, and Zita in Gianni Schicchi. Lindsay will also be joining the chorus for the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess for their 2019/2020 season. LindsayVoice.com.

Thomas Segen (Donald Trump) Appearing for the second time with LBO in The Central Park Five, having been a part of Steve Reich’s Three Tales in 2018, tenor Thomas Segen’s recently performed roles include Arthur in Lehar’s Mock Marriage – and his Seattle Opera debut as Tancredi/Tirsi in The Combat. Highlights of the past year’s performances include Emerson Eads’ Mass for the Oppressed and cantatas by Marazzoli and Stradella. He holds a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from UCLA and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Washington.

Andreas Mitisek Director – Since 2003, Mitisek has been LBO’s Artistic & General Director. Recent LBO directing credits: The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, King Gesar, Macbeth, Tell-Tale Heart, Van Gogh, The Paper Nautilus, Ainadamar, and Maria de Buenos Aires. Recent LBO conducting credits: Thérèse Raquin, I was Looking at the Ceiling and then I Saw the Sky, The Death of Klinghoffer, Camelia la Tejana, and The Fall of the House of Usher (co-production with COT). Other conducting credits: Joruri in Tokyo, Don Giovanni (Seattle Opera), Madama Butterfly (Orlando Opera), Jane Eyre (Opera Theatre of Saint Louis) and Eugene Onegin (Teatro Municipal in Santiago de Chile). Mitisek has also conducted the Austrian and Italian premieres of Nixon in China. From 2012-2017 Andreas served Chicago Opera Theater as Artistic & General Director.

Leslie Dunner Conductor – One of the premiere American conductors of his generation, Leslie B. Dunner enjoys an international career, distinguished by the breadth of his repertoire as well as his electrifying and critically lauded performances. Celebrating his inaugural season as Principal Conductor of The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Leslie B. Dunner’s current season is also highlighted by performances with the Evansville and Prince George’s Philharmonic Orchestras, San Jose’s Symphony Silicon Valley and Chicago Sinfonietta, as well as another three-week engagement with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra and debuts with the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra and Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. Of special note is Dr. Dunner’s return to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for a gala concert celebrating the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

Dan Weingarten Lighting Design — Dan Weingarten has designed Love Potion, Frida, As One, Fairy Queen, Fallujah, Hydrogen Jukebox, Marilyn, The Paper Nautilus, Ainadamar, Maria de Buenos Aires, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, Akhnaten, Orpheus and Euridice, Nixon in China, Good Soldier Schweik, Cunning Little Vixen, Winterreise, Anne Frank, and Macbeth for LBO. He has designed many concerts, plays, musicals, operas, and ballets around the country. He is the recipient of the LA Drama Critic’s Circle Angstrom Award, the LA Weekly Award, the Garland Award, and the Dramalogue Award. He is on the faculty at California State University Northridge.

Calendar Information
Long Beach Opera
The Central Park Five (World Premiere)
Music by Anthony Davis
Libretto by Richard Wesley

Saturday, June 15, 2019 at 7:30PM
Saturday, June 22, 2019 at 7:30PM
Sunday, June 23, 2019 at 2:30PM

VENUE: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th Street ,San Pedro, CA 90731

RUNTIME: Approx 2 hours with one intermission. Sung in English

PRE-OPERA Talk: ONE HOUR before each performance, there will be a pre-opera talk with Artistic Director Andreas Mitisek. All ticket holders are welcome to attend.

TICKETS: Tickets range from $49 to $150 and can be purchased either by calling the LBO Box Office at 562.470.SING (7464) or by going online to https://www.LongBeachOpera.org/Tickets/



Conductor: Leslie Dunner
Production Design and Director: Andreas Mitisek
Lighting Design: Dan Weingarten
Sound Design: Bob Christian

Derrell Acon – Antron McCray
Babatunde Akinboboye – Raymond’s father, Matieas Reyes, Ensemble
Audrey Babcock – District Attorney
Cedric Berry – Yusuf Salaam
Ashley Faatolia – Antron’s father, Ensemble
Orson Van Gay – Raymond Santana
Nathan Granner – Khorey Wise
Bernard Holcomb – Kevin Richardson
Zeffin Quinn Hollis – The Masque
Lindsey Patterson – Yusuf’s mother, Others, Ensemble
Thomas Segen – Donald Trump
Joelle Lemarre – Kevin’s mother, Antron’s mother, Ensemble


Watch the trailer on below:


Davidson & Choy Publicity
David Barber, d.barber@dcpublicity.com
323-954-7510 x20

Jennifer Rivera
CEO & Executive Director
562-470-7464 x109