Long Beach Opera aims to ‘buck tradition’ with ‘The Romance of the Rose’

Hosted by

Kate Soper, James Darrah, and Christopher Rountree are part of the team behind “The Romance of the Rose.” Photo courtesy of The Long Beach Opera.

The Romance of the Rose” was supposed to have its world premiere in 2020, but then the COVID pandemic struck. Now three years later, Kate Soper’s “genre-smashing” opera based on a 13th Century poem is finally having its moment. Soper says the poem-turned-fully-staged piece “goes into a ton of strange digressions about nature and sex and love and gender and war.” 

She continues, “For me when I first read it in some medieval music seminar in grad school, I just thought it seems so operatic because it covers so much ground under the ostensible guise of a love story.”

The god of love, Cupid (all grown up, bow and arrows in hand), is played by baritone and falsetto Phillip K. Bullock. He says the falsetto used to just be a party trick, but now he uses it onstage to bring Cupid to life. “The character itself plays with these ideas of gender and expression in terms of the chest voice. But in the high voice, it’s of being in love and the wild turns it can take inside a person or can do to a person,” he shares.

Soper’s approach to the opera is different from what some have come to expect. Directed by James Darrah, it’s being staged in multiple spaces within the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro with much fourth wall breaking, and even the orchestra, which features electric guitars and is led by Christopher Rountree, will be on stage.

It’s all a part of her move to “buck tradition.” “I try to put humor in my work because I feel like that is a great way to just reassure the audience that I'm talking to them, and I'm trying to make them laugh, and trying to have them laugh with me at the ridiculousness of some of the situations that come up in opera,” Soper says.

The tradition bucking is all in the hope of bringing new and diverse audiences into the opera world for Soper and team. “I would say, even if you don't consider yourself an opera fan, that you might give this one a chance if you just want to see something new or have a laugh at the opera.”