The production of Karlheinz Stockhausen Stimmung at the Long Beach Opera, which was scheduled to begin on March 19, has been canceled due to the resignation of show director Alexander Gedeon. Gedeon was one of three black leaders recently appointed to LBO who announced their resignations to Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Rivera and the LBO Board in a december letter alleging “a culture of misogyny, a sustained pattern of racial symbolism, a lack of defined values and principles, a structural failure to deal with uncomfortable comments.” The letter was posted on the Facebook page of the Black Opera Alliance.
Gedeon’s hiring was announced by the company as a key part of its response to Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd. The director chose his own job title, slyly dubbing himself “Minister of Culture”. He joined Derrell Acon, who had been hired as Associate Art Director, and EElijah Cineas Training Manager in what seemed like a triumvirate that would put LBO in a strong position to address historical inequalities in opera and to strengthen the company’s programming and hiring. In December 2021, it seems that, for these leaders, the company was not moving decisively enough towards these objectives. A key part of their resignation letter reads:
The root cause of the problems…is that the values and principles of the company are not clear. The jobs we signed up for are not the jobs given to us by the agency and space to perform. Executive and artistic leaders tend to reflect the values of whoever is speaking at any given time, leading an employee to believe they are in an environment that aligns with their core beliefs. In reality, the company does not currently have the ability to authentically carry the values it projects as its identity.
The company reiterates that its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is stronger than ever, reiterating that “we recognize that creating equity, diversity and inclusion within an organization requires constant listening, learning and reassessment. In response to the resignation letter, the company decided to launch an investigation “to resolve personnel issues and ensure a neutral channel is available for any complaints. The HR firm is also performing an audit of LBO’s HR policies and procedures and will help improve the company’s structure and policies.
The company also cited its production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anthony Davis film. The Central Park 5 in 2020, his commissions to BIPOC composers, his “Community Conversations” and the setting up of “a Community Advisory Committee comprised of leaders from Long Beach’s African American and Latino communities, which has established ongoing relationships between the organization and many committee members” as evidence of its commitment to fairness and justice. ‘inclusion.
As detailed in Jessica Gelt’s story for the Los Angeles Times, there were no details about those allegations beyond hiring statistics, which the company disputed in its response. But in Gedeon’s personal statement, also posted on the Black Arts Alliance Facebook page, the director said he had been trying to move forward with the company to rehearse and stage the production of Stimmung while discussing with the company to resolve the issues raised by the December letter. He was unhappy with the conduct and scope of those talks and even more disappointed with the marketing talks for the show, which earned him “serious concerns about the lack of access for people of color who can attend. on the show, which was a growing concern for the team. This is a cause I had advocated for at LBO since at least the previous summer, but it was never placed as a priority or a clear goal for the company. Additionally, the untargeted marketing strategy sounded the alarm that performers would be tokenized.
Confronted by some of his production team members who felt he risked allowing the wrongs he protested in the resignation letter, Gedeon decided to pull out of production, forcing the company to resign. ‘to cancel. Gédéon maintains that this production, his original idea, is extremely important to him and hopes to be able to stage it this summer. The company, meanwhile, is left without opening production and is offering refunds to its customers. Their press release says replacement production is planned, so ticket holders can eventually redeem tickets for Stimmung for tickets to this upcoming show.
SFCV will have a fuller report on the situation when the investigation ordered by the Long Beach Opera concludes. But it’s already clear that the path to solving DEI’s problems and historic racism in opera won’t be straightforward.