KCETLink Media Group, a leading national independent non-profit public broadcast and digital network, announced this month that the made-for-TV opera “VIREO: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser,” composed and conceived by Lisa Bielawa, will make its world broadcast television premiere on Tuesday, June 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on both KCET in Southern California and Link TV (DirecTV375 and Dish Network 9410) nationwide. Produced in partnership with Cal State Fullerton’s Grand Central Art Center (GCAC), the two-and-a-half-hour broadcast will be a special edition of KCETLink’s Emmy® award-winning arts and culture series ARTBOUND. In a first for the network, KCETLink will release all 12 of the approximately 15-minute episodes of VIREO at once for free, on-demand streaming starting Weds., May 31 at kcet.org/vireo, linktv.org/vireo, and on Apple TV and Roku.
VIREO is an Artist Residency Project of Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, a unit of Cal State Fullerton’s College of the Arts shepherded by Director and Chief Curator John Spiak. The new, made-for-TV-and-online opera conceived and composed by Bielawa on a libretto by Erik Ehn and directed by Charles Otte, is unprecedented in that it is being created expressly for release online and on TV. The unique multimedia initiative includes online articles and videos showcasing various facets of the production. VIREO is the winner of the 2015 ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Multimedia Award and was recently awarded a prestigious MAP Fund Grant for 2016 through Grand Central Art Center.
The eponymous heroine Vireo, played by soprano Rowen Sabala, is a fourteen-year- old girl genius entangled in the historic obsession with female visionaries, as witch-hunters, early psychiatrists, and modern artists have defined them. Based on Bielawa’s own research at Yale, then freely adapted and re-imagined by librettist Ehn, VIREO is a composite history of the way in which teenage-girl visionaries’ writings and rantings have been manipulated, incorporated and interpreted by the communities of men surrounding them throughout history. From the European Dark Ages, to Salem, Massachusetts, all the way to 19th century France and contemporary performance art, VIREO provides a thoughtful, sometimes-humorous look at the universal issues of gender identity, perception, and reality.
VIREO features the work of over 350 musicians including opera star Deborah Voigt, violinist Jennifer Koh, cellist Joshua Roman, mezzo-sopranos Laurie Rubin, Maria Lazarova and Kirsten Sollek, baritone Gregory Purnhagen, tenor Ryan Glover, drummer Matthias Bossi, soprano Emma MacKenzie and in the title role of Vireo, teenage soprano Rowen Sabala.
Additionally, the opera features the talents of notable groups and organizations from around the country including Kronos Quartet, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Magik*Magik Orchestra, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, PARTCH, the Orange County School of the Arts Middle School Choir, and many, many more.
VIREO was shot from New York’s Hudson River Valley to California’s redwood forests. Production began in February of 2015 in the Los Angeles area at Santa Ana’s Yost Theatre and proceeded to shoot through January of 2017 in iconic locations around the country, including the 16th Street Oakland Train Station and San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island.
A comprehensive VIREO online content hub is available at kcet.org/vireo, providing viewers of VIREO an immersive second screen experience. Featuring interviews with cast and crew, behind-the-scenes content and exclusive insights into the themes of the production, the online hub and social media video content is also available on the @KCET28 and @LinkTV Facebook page.
On Monday, June 12 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Westwood’s The Hammer Museum will host a private event for VIREO to celebrate the broadcast premiere of the opera. Upcoming screening events will be held across the country over the summer months and are open to the public. The current list of screenings includes the following:
- Weds., June 21 from 6-10 p.m. Day of Music at the Plummer Auditorium / 201 E Chapman Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832 (free to the public)
- Sun., June 25 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture Cowell Theater / 2 Marina Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94123 (ticketed event)
- Fri., July 7 at 7 p.m. National Sawdust Screening of all 12 episodes / 80 N. 6th St., Brooklyn, NY 11249 (ticketed event)