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NEA helps fund the SoCal premiere of opera 'The Death of Klinghoffer'

The National Endowment for the Arts is helping to fund the Southern California premiere of John Adams' controversial opera "The Death of Klinghoffer," 23 years after it was first performed.

The $25,000 grant to the adventurous Long Beach Opera for its March staging of the piece was among $25.8 million in new awards announced Wednesday to nonprofit arts organizations and writers nationwide.

“The Death of Klinghoffer," sung in English with a libretto by Alice Goodman, retells the story of Palestinian hijackers’ 1985 murder of an Jewish American passenger aboard an Italian cruise ship they had commandeered.

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Early stagings of the 1991 work drew protests over what some saw as an overly sympathetic treatment of the terrorists and inappropriate renderings of Jews. A sequence sung by Jewish neighbors of the Klinghoffer family was deleted before the first West Coast staging in 1992 by San Francisco Opera. Although Los Angeles Opera was one of the groups that commissioned the piece, it didn't come to L.A.

The grant for "Klinghoffer" is one of two that will support the “Minimalist Jukebox” music festival curated by Adams in the L.A. area during March and April. The Los Angeles Philharmonic will receive $90,000 for its festival performances, including Philip Glass’ “The CIVIL WarS: the Rome Section.” 

The $4 million in NEA grants steered to California account for 15.6% of the nationwide total in the current round. Southern California recipients will get $1.7 million.

Los Angeles Opera will receive $60,000 toward its Feb. 22 to March 16 production of Benjamin Britten’s “Billy Budd.”

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Other grants include $57,000 to the city of San Fernando for its Mariachi Master Apprentice Program taught by musicians from Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano and $50,000 each to L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art for its exhibition on L.A. artist Mike Kelley, opening March 23, the Heart of Los Angeles youth education organization for its "YOLA at HOLA" program of musical and academic training for members of the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, and South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa for its annual spring Pacific Playwrights Festival of new works.

SCR’s next-door neighbor, the Pacific Symphony, will get $40,000 for its American Composers Festival in May, focusing on film music by Hans Zimmer, Elliot Goldenthal, Howard Shore and Bernard Herrmann.

Cornerstone Theater Company will receive $30,000 for “The Addiction Project,” drawn from the experiences of addicts in L.A. and people working in the recovery programs that try to help them.

L.A.’s Fountain Theatre will receive $10,000 for the world premiere of “Freddy” by its producing director Deborah Lawlor, who’s telling the story of Frederick Herko, a doomed dancer who was part of Andy Warhol’s Factory ensemble of artists and performers. 

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Another $10,000 grant will help fund a new play to be mounted by Watts Village Theater Company, “It’s a Krip-Hop Nation (Where My Crippled Homies At!)” It will be based on the stories of people in South Los Angeles who have been disabled by violence or accidents. The playwright,  company artistic director Lynn Manning, was himself blinded years ago in a barroom shooting.

Los Angeles writers Percival Everett, Peter Gadol, Eugene Marten and Martin Pousson are among the 38 authors nationally who will receive $25,000 creative writing fellowships to support their work -- the fellowships being one of the few instances in which the NEA makes grants to individuals rather than organizations.


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