Marilyn Forever Reviews



LOS ANGELES TIMES: Mar 15 Arts & Books section, full page story on P 2 (online March 13)

LA WEEKLY: Classical Pick of the Week 





LONG BEACH POST (promo article)


NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS (article on Marilyn Bowering)



THE INQUIST web news 


KPFK – Global Village, host, John Schneider, March 19 , with Gavin Bryars. (Between noon and 12:15): Scroll to the program and play. Shows with music are’t downloadable.

KPCC – The Frame, host Oscar Garza for John Horn. March 26 with Marilyn Bowering.

LBO Press Photos: Credit Keith Ian Polakoff

Additional Photos
Credit Dianna Chrysler (production team)

Additional Photos
Doris Koplik – credit for media purposes only

Audience Comments
—compiled by Michael Barnum

“Once again, your company has exceeded my expectations for beauty, brilliance and advancement of artistic expression! It was a wonderfully crafted evening of stunning visual, music, dance, performance.”

“I play a good deal of Gavin’s music, but have never met him, so that was a treat All in all a wonderful and memorable evening, and congratulations on all the incredible, IMPORTANT work that you do!”

“What an enjoyable evening! We loved the opera, from the preperformance talk to the reception afterward. We especially loved the division of the Marilyn character into two singers, each of whom added so much to the presentation and to the quality of the music. We also loved the orchestral performance, and the bass was great, putting the composer’s touch on the whole production. Congratulations on one of the best yet from Long Beach Opera.”

“What it was, was what composer John Adams once declared that music ought to be: “Something beautiful, that tells the truth”

“It was a great success – in my opinion! I enjoyed seeing two Marilyns very much. The sets were great and so was the lighting…Loved the jazz combo on stage, as well as the pit musicians…Singing was wonderful… Now I feel I have to go find a biography of Marilyn to read more about her!

“Congratulation Andreas and everyone involved in this excellent production.

“Wow! That was fast! Just got in my car after saying goodby. Only wish it was playing longer as I have so many good things to say.”

“I loved it! I was sitting in the 3rd row so the video was very large, but probably not so further back. I thought the staging was great!! The two Marilyn’s were very effective.”

“It’s wonderful to be able to experience new or little-known works in professional productions, in interesting spaces, and in thoughtful, provocative ways.”

“We loved Marilyn and thank you for providing such an innovative staging.”

It was a unique Opera experience, and I am filled with admiration and regard for your bold leadership and innovative ideas… Bravo for a memorable production, your direction, your appropriate casting,and thrilled to see the enthusiastic response. We are with you, for you, and so thrilled to be part of the LBO family…

“The libretto put her life into a universal context while reminding us of specific people sufficient to particular contexts, yielding situations language that rang very true dramatically. The music showed a remarkable blending of radically different styles, from basic pop to sax-based jazz, to abstract chromatic-modern orchestral effects, that are not easy to blend but were done to good effect. The visuals were much more elaborate than I expected, not easily put together– What else by Bryars might you try later on?

“Wonderful performance but please bring the events back to LB. If future performances are primarily at the Warner Grand, I will have to revoke my subscription. It is just too musty.”

“My girlfriend who attended with me and has a whole room in her house full of Marilyn’s memorabilia was enthralled by your production of “Marilyn Forever”. I found it to be a compelling performance as I, too am a Gemini with a birthday one day after Marilyn’s on June 2. ”

“Thank you for such an adventurous afternoon of opera expansiveness for the 21st century. All the singer/actors were fantastic – and both Marilyns’ were stunning and have amazing voices – the contrast in timbre added to the complexity of their character. The video was a really cool way to examine her desperation.I loved the jazz trio on stage, and how that style was so naturally embedded in the composition as a whole. And I loved that Marilyn sang through the mic for another mirror into her profession.”

“The musical passage which closed Marilyn Forever sealed the entire performance in a Nembutal-laced souffle of fabulousness. Thank you for being one of the most avant-garde opera companies in Los Angeles county, and keep up the great work.”

“Basically, we really enjoyed it and thought the staging was very inventive and suited the nature of the material very well. We liked the music and the singers. All in all one of the best we’ve seen”

“Thought the orchestra was wonderful, the voices good, acting good. The story was written very creatively. Impressive. The photos – of live action and photos from the past – combined with live actors/singers, were interesting and, again, creatively done…All in all a very enjoyable experience. If the opera were being presented again I would definitely recommend it. Thank you to all for your good work.”

”Yesterday’s performance of “Marilyn” was one of the best we’ve seen of many LBO offerings that we have attended. The format of using 2 Marilyns was an innovation that was one of many from the most innovative Opera company. The music was outstanding, especially the saxophone sections. All in all we were very pleased. Thank you for a great afternoon.”

”I brought 19 year old grandson to see his first opera live on March 29. I am happy to say he enjoyed it. He was quite impressed with the visual elements presented, and read the program before the performance began. This was my first opportunity since he lives in Canada and visits only once a year. I think we have made a new opera fan!”

“My friends and I loved it! We came down from Santa Barbara and felt all the traffic well worth it! ”

“Great production – and having two Marilyns was brilliant.”

“I was surprised how much I like the production. I really liked the graphics the use of the cameras and having the Public and the private Mailyn.”

“I was there and thought it was an amazing opera. I found it so sad and moving and brought back so many memories of Marilyn Monroe and those days when women were mainly valued for their sexuality. (Those days are not completely over). I have had season tickets for some time now and always look forward to what you present. Hooray for you and lucky for us. Best regards,”

” It was a wonderful afternoon of creativity, acting, and music.I would not have changed a thing! Great to see all my friends at Long Beach Opera.”

”I think MF was one of LBO’s finest productions ever, and the production was brilliant in so many ways. (I have already shared with everyone on Facebook and Twitter.) It is actually difficult for me to imagine this piece with a single Marilyn; the doppelganger effect of this production was mesmerizing and did such a fine job of differentiating Marilyn and Norma Jean. This is, I think, the first time I have seen projections that combined historical stills and film, along with live video from on stage. The cast was top-notch, and the orchestra was pitch-perfect. The jazz trio was fabulously effective in establishing the mood of the 50s and early 60s, and the final sax line had me tearing up. It was such a beautiful, haunting finale to the opera. A number of people I talked to at the reception said they would happily see it again, as would I! ”

“Marilyn Forever. Frankly I was not looking forward to sitting through yet another male fantasy about poor, vulnerable, latently (there is no such word) intellectual, sexy Marilyn. I was pleasantly surprised! I liked the music very much-the jazz trio worked well. Having two singers cover Marilyn was a brilliant decision & in talking with friends afterward, none of us could imagine the role being sung by only one. The use of live video was also very effective. Congratulations! LBO hit one out of the ball park again!”

“Very moving opera! I never really “got it” about Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe. But the opera really gave me a glimpse of why someone could say (and mean it) “When Marilyn died, the light went out of the world” (a pretty strong statement!). The idea of having two Marilyns was perfect, and the two singers were both strikingly beautiful and evoked Marilyn wonderfully. The male lead was also spectacular, and I really enjoyed the interplay between the pit orchestra and the on-stage trio. The staging was excellent, including the very effective use of video. I think the Warner Grand was the perfect setting! A very evocative and memorable staging and opera. The LBO triumphs again!”

“The opera was beautiful, spellbinding. The two women were incredible.

“This was a wonderful production…the singing was great – I especially appreciated the singers’ enunciation.The orchestras were superb.”

“I went with two other friends (all season subscribers and generally fans) and we loved it. We LOVED that there were the two Marilyns and frankly, cannot imagine how anyone could stage the opera with only one woman playing both parts. The two women were both fantastic, with great voices and acting…the words? They made us want to go to the source, find Monroe’s original poems, learn more. And that aside, since who knows if we’ll do that, we just loved the poetry, the images, the metaphors, the emotions. What a rich experience it was! One wants art to move you, to make you feel; to connect you with the famous, the infamous, the obscure, to recognize your common humanity while acknowledging some people live in a rarified world that has its rewards, but also its toll. Kudos to all those who created Marilyn Forever, to Andreas and his crew for choosing it, and for the excellent rendition of it we so much enjoyed. Oh, and specifically, we really liked the staging, the use of the b/w film (!), the trio on stage, the limited palette (if I can put it that way) of the orchestra in the pit, the continuity caused by the lack of any interruption/intermission, the venue . . . what am I forgetting? It was just very powerful emotionally, with staying power.

“Wow! What a spectacular production! This being my first “real” opera performance and visit to Warner Grand Theatre. Truly impressed with every aspect of LBO from coordination, venue, entrance, and seating. From walking with my wife dressed for the evening, we felt like we were entering a Hollywood Movie Premiere. Taking pictures with Marilyn and witnessing the magnificence of this historic theatre. A real all-around treat for artistic appreciation and the senses. Marilyn Forever was performance art at its finest and the cast made this a night to remember. From the expertly designed stage setup to showcase both Marilyn’s identities, to the lighting effects and sound designed to perfectly complement the performers. The covertly tucked orchestra below the stage and the live jazz band set the mood for the evening and took us back in time to commemorate the glamour of this Hollywood era and be the soundtrack to Marilyn’s psyche. All in all, the artists were in sync without overpowering each others’ art form and their dedication to their craft was simply astonishing. A real big special thanks to everyone involved and we look forward to more performances from LBO.

“Marilyn was fantastic – in fact both Marilyns and the guys in the chorus and the musicians on stage and the pit orchestra. Hers was such a tragic life yet your production left us thoughtful but not depressed. Adding the video was another plus. Thank you, thank you.”

“The music was brilliant and the libretto was true to Marilyn. The performers were excellent, especially the two sopranos. The stage setting was very effective. We are wishing you and Gavin Bryars lots of success with the opera.”

“Renewed ritual of the Goddess! Aphrodite claims recognition: Wagnerian dreaming, the Gesamtkunstwerk in darkened hall, cinematic illusions, auditory sweetness, sax riffs, non-linear contemplation! A stunning Marilyn Forever! We enjoyed the pre-opera interviews, very skillfully presented. We learned a lot from Marilyn’s Marilyn. You invented many thoughtful, successful ways to engage the audience during an amazing evening. Congratulations on a marvelous production!”

“We loved the opera, from the preperformance talk to the reception afterward. We especially loved the division of the Marilyn character into two singers, each of whom added so much to the presentation and to the quality of the music. We also loved the orchestral performance, and the bass was great, putting the composer’s touch on the whole production. Congratulations on one of the best yet from Long Beach Opera. Thanks for putting on a wonderful opera.”

“Fantastic! Superb! Visionary! We truly enjoyed our experience. It was a special treat to hear the composer and librettist and to see the composer come perform on stage. Maestro Mitisek – thank you for the TWO Marilyn’s and the on-stage camera work. It all came together for a night of Marilyn Magic.”

“Best performance ever! Loved the artistic inclusion of film to music.”

“It was beyond fab! Incredible indeed and fantastico! Congrats to bringing this to us, and how ingenious to find a “TWO SOLUTION MARILYN”! It was touching to experience the two Marilyns come together and embrace.”

“Thank you for this wonderful adventure. I particularly liked the staging; the projections and the musicians on stage were wonderful touches. And I liked the plot with the two Marilyns that eventually blend into one.Overall, a big thank you for all that you do to bring new and exciting works for us to al enjoy.”

“What a miracle of production! It seems you’ve perfected the live camera-to-screen. Plus it was restrained and tasteful. Bill Linwood and the musicians on and off stage were superb. The singers operated that space between contemporary music theater, opera, and jazz so well it felt completely intuitive and natural. Thank you so much.”

“It went wonderfully. ‘What we could do with’: More This good/well done: Musically (score), instrumentally, vocally, visually (great video projection, lighting) – and terrific libretto.”

“I loved the opera…I thought the singers were excellent and I liked the music very much. I loved the 2 Marilyns and the divided set. The projections were wonderful.”

“Drove from San Diego for opera – delighted we did – first time to LBOpera and will return – the directorial decision to split the role into two was brilliant and “made” the opera – as did the camerawork – the creativity of execution outpaced the piece itself. We were welcomed warmly by board and staff – joined the cast party – and appreciated the diversity and artistic nature of the enthusiastic supporters – thank you from a San Diego Opera volunteer.”

Posted in STANDING ROOM on the MET OPERA GUILD site: “I loved the performance. I often post my own amateur reviews on a site called Standing Room, an opera chat site sponsored by the Metropolitan Opera Guild. This is what I posted there:

A reporter once talked about having interviewed Marilyn Monroe at UCLA. As they strolled through the student-filled campus together, not a single soul noticed them or came up to Marilyn to gush over her or ask for autographs. When the reporter remarked about this to Marilyn, she said, “Oh, I have to ‘be’ Marilyn in order for that to happen!”, whereupon she “became” Marilyn Monroe and instantly was swarmed by admirers. Long Beach Opera Director Andreas Mitisek may or may not know about that interview, but in the performance of Gavin Brayar’s Marilyn Forever, he cast the role of Marilyn Monroe with both a soprano and a mezzo, the former being the “public” Marilyn and the latter being the “private” Marilyn. Composer Gavin Bryars was there to talk about this double casting (it wasn’t his concept), which I thought worked wonderfully well. Only about 80 minutes long, this was not an opera with a linear plot, but more like an extremely effective staged and sung poetry reading (libretto by Marilyn Bowering) evoking the seeming dichotomy of the “two” Marilyns. Years ago, I’d sung with Danielle Marcelle Bond in a workshop for an opera in which she’d played Elenor Roosevelt. Too young and beautiful for that role, she was far better cast as a sultry but self-destructive “real” Marilyn Monroe. Talented and lovely Danielle has become one of LBO’s most exciting leading ladies, and more power to her! Jamie Chamberlain did an equally fine job in the no less exacting role of the “other” Marilyn. Baritone Lee Gregory was vocally and dramatically convincing as The Men In Her Life, aka “The Rehearsal Director”.Was there a “real” Marilyn? Or did her admirers simply project onto her what they wanted her to be? Did she herself know who she wanted to be? These issues all came to mind during the 80 minutes of this fascinating piece, an examination of a tragic life in which public triumph and personal depression were juxtaposed so sadly.Before the performance in the Art Deco splendor of the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro, CA, a Marilyn Monroe impersonator posed for photos in the lobby. I couldn’t help thinking as I left the performance, “I hope she got to see the show. Long Beach Opera – The Thinking Person’s Opera Company!”


Bryars’ Intimate, Operatic Look at Marilyn is Steeped in Beautiful Melancholia

Australian premiere
ABC Studios, Adelaide
February 27, 2015
by Gordon Forester

A prostrate woman lies beneath a white sheet. Is she dead or merely asleep? While we consider whether this story starts at the end, or somewhere mid-fame, an operatic irregularity presents; double bassist and composer Gavin Bryars takes to the stage to perform. Jazz trio to our left, octet orchestra to our right, and a body on the floor suggests that this is no ordinary opera.

The white cyclorama and minimalist set evoke a sense of simplicity and emptiness; the latter, we will learn, an unwelcome lifelong companion of screen legend Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Forever is her elegiac story and it is beautifully told.

Marilyn Bowering’s libretto poetically reveals much about the star’s emotions, fortunately avoiding an expose of any conspiracy theories surrounding the legend. This is a classy account and Bryars’ empathy inducing creation feels respectful of the star who died in 1962, aged only 36.

Joel Ivany directs an ensemble that works skilfully amongst the filmic setting. Soprano Anne Grimm stars as Marilyn Monroe, appearing in the famous white halter neck dress worn by Monroe in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch. Grimm’s attention to detail is laudable. She has mastered a glance, a stare, a turn of the head that is every bit Monroe-esque. As a singer however, she is unlike the portrayed; there’s no breathiness, rather a clarity that draws us in to the storytelling with ease. Her stage presence is graceful with an undercurrent of the pain felt by the actor who grew from a child no one wanted.

Richard Morris is superb as “The Men”; his warm tone and range impresses. Sometimes brusque, sometimes sleazy, he transforms easily from men who want a piece of Marilyn, to husbands Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. Tenor Adam Goodburn and bass Nicholas Cannon bookend the proceedings and their harmonisation adds another delicious layer of musicality.

Conducting the tight production is Bill Linwood who ably steers the wonderful score filled with charms of the era interspersed with fabulous smoky jazz. The rhythm of this opera is only part of its magnetism; the juxtaposing genres contained within leave no room for thoughts of sameness. Listen out for AK Coope’s stellar bass clarinet lines and some frankly awesome improv by Julien Wilson on tenor saxophone (Wilson’s “character” is so cool he took to reading a newspaper like he was genuinely disinterested in the stage action).

Marilyn Forever is an intimate piece steeped in beautiful melancholia. Jealousy, fame and the search for love collide making this soulful opera with a perfect ending an Adelaide Festival highlight.

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