Moca & The Industry to Showcase World Premiere of ‘The Comet / Poppea’

By Brian Tannenbaum

“The Comet / Poppea,” a revolutionary fusion of W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1924 story “The Comet,” and  “The Coronation of Poppea,” Claudio Monteverdi’s 1643 Italian opera, will debut with 11 performances at Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) June 14th-23rd, 2024. 

The show, presented by MOCA in collaboration with The Industry, an LA based opera company, is directed by Yuval Sharon, composed by George Lewis, and features a libretto from Douglas Kearney. Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, and bass-baritone Davóne Tines will star in the cast. 

“On a constantly rotating stage, two worlds unfold simultaneously, spinning like a top that creates a visual and aural spiral, inviting associations, dissociations, collisions, and confluences,” is how director Yuval Sharon describes the novel production. “The Comet / Poppea” begins as a critique of the institution of opera and ends as a justification of the art form’s radical potential: in the unexpected harmony to be discovered in juxtaposition and its ability to invite a contemplation of both timely and timeless struggles.”

Du Bois’s science fiction short story “The Comet,” described by composer George Lewis as “a kind of proto-Afro-futurist text,” is the tale of humanity’s sole survivors, a Black man and a White woman, left alive in New York City in the wake of a comet striking Earth, while Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea” is set amidst the social divisions of the Roman Empire. “Many parallels between these two cities have been considered over the centuries, so that pairing comes with a kind of doubling,” Lewis said. He further elaborates: “The Comet / Poppea plays with that dynamic: the two stories start to unfold in parallel worlds of time and space. As the piece goes on, those two worlds start to leak into each other. Drawing on Du Bois’s own concept of double consciousness, the opera is structured around a number of these doublings.” 

Tickets for “The Comet/Poppea” performed at WAREHOUSE at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA are on sale starting April 23rd, 2024 at 10 am local time. The world premiere performance on June 14th includes a post-performance reception.