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Vireo Timeline

(1990 – 2019)

Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser was almost three decades in the making...

1990 – Lisa Bielawa writes Senior Thesis, “Signed, Sealed and Delivered: Originality, closure and reproduction in the collaborative discourses of psychoanalytic hysteria and Surrealism” as part of the Literature Major at Yale Univ. Advised by Wayne Koestenbaum, the essay brings together extensive research from the Beinecke Rare Book Library on hysteria in Western Europe through Jean-Martin Charcot (Freud’s teacher) and Sigmund Freud, and the Surrealists and Dadaists.


1992 – Bielawa joins the Philip Glass Ensemble and tours with Einstein on the Beach, meeting and working with Charles Otte, who serves as Assistant Director to Robert Wilson.


1994 –Bielawa and Erik Ehn meet through the New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Studio in NYC, a program founded by Ben Krywosz of Nautilus Music-Theater and Music Director Roger Ames (and still in existence), in which four young composers and four young playwrights are assigned round-robin collaborations created and realized in a compressed two-week workshop process. After the program, Bielawa shares all of her research from the essay with Ehn and the first draft of the libretto of Vireo is created.


1994-96 – Bielawa and Ehn continue work on Vireo, creating demo recordings of arias, a chamber orchestra reading session, and multiple approaches to grant programs and opera companies nationwide. They get no response and decide to table the project, pursuing other smaller projects instead.


2006 – Bielawa and John Spiak meet at the Creative Capital Retreat, which brings grantees and curators together for a weekend of exploring new work.


2011 – Spiak is appointed Director and Chief Curator of the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, CA, and invites Bielawa to be an Artist-in-Residence, making work that is based in the Orange County community; Einstein on the Beach remount is launched, bringing Bielawa and Otte together again in their respective, expanded roles as Choirmaster and Staging Director (respectively).


July 2012 – After several exploratory visits and meetings with Yost Theater and the Orange County School of the Arts, Bielawa proposes “Serialized Opera: VIREO” as her AIR project at GCAC, and brings Erik Ehn into the conversation with Spiak.


January 2014 – Kronos Quartet confirms participation in the Pilot Episodes.


February 2014 – Otte joins the team as Director.


May 2014 – Orange County School of the Arts comes onto the project as a partner, committing to setting up auditions for a girl to sing the title role.


August 2014 – KCET Artbound and KCET’s Sr. Vice President of Content Development and Production Juan Devis join the project as Distribution partner.


September 2014 – Rowen Sabala, 16 years old and a junior at the Orange County School of the Arts, is cast as "Vireo."


November 2014 – Anne Marie Gillen joins the Vireo team as Executive Producer.


February 2015 – Episodes 1 and 2 (pilot episodes) are shot at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana, CA, with Kronos Quartet; drummer Matthias Bossi; San Francisco Girls Chorus; Orange County School of the Arts Middle School Choir; Rowen Sabala as Vireo; Gregory Purnhagen as the Doctor; Maria Lazarova as the Mother; Ryan Glover as Raphael; Laurie Rubin as The Voice/The Witch.


March 2015 – KCET Artbound releases Episodes 1 & 2 and launches Vireo page on website; broadcasts episodes locally as a half-hour special.


August 2015 – Episodes 3 & 4 are shot at the Actors Gang Theater in LA, with cellist Joshua Roman, harpist Bridget Kibbey, violinist Vijay Gupta, flutist Lance Suzuki, and the cast.


January 2016 – Episode 5 is shot at the Shadow Hills Farm in LA, with the Vireo Wind Octet, the Shadow Hills HS Regiment of the Realm Marching Band, and the cast. Contralto Kirsten Sollek joins the cast as The Mother.


May 2016 – Episode 7 is shot at a studio in Boyle Heights, LA, with the Prism Saxophone Quartet, Partch LA, and the cast ; 15-year-old Emma MacKenzie joins the cast as Caroline, Vireo’s mysterious twin.


June 2016 – Episode 9 is shot at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), Cappella SF, volunteer ringers from Handbell Ventures, and the cast.


September 2016 – Episodes 6 & 8 are shot at Garrison Institute in NY, with musicians from the new music orchestra Alarm Will Sound; singers from the Trinity Youth Chorus, American Boychoir School, and Special Music School; dancer Catie Cuan; and the cast.


January 2017 – Episodes 10-12 are shot at Oakland’s historic 16th Street Station and other locations, with soprano Deborah Voigt as The Queen, Kronos Quartet, violinist Jennifer Koh, drummer Matthias Bossi, Magik*Magik Orchestra, Lorelei Vocal Ensemble, singers from the San Francisco Girls Chorus and Chorus School, flutist Lance Suzuki, pianist Kate Campbell, bassist Chung Wai Soong, and the cast.


May 2017 – KCETLink, the national independent, non-profit digital and broadcast network, releases all 12 episodes of Vireo at once for free, on-demand streaming, which is a first for the network.

June 2017 – Vireo makes its world broadcast television premiere on both KCET in Southern California and Link TV nationwide.

January 2019 – The New School launches the Philip Glass Institute, with composer Lisa Bielawa as its inaugural Composer-in-Residence and Chief Curator, and announces the March 2020 workshop production of VIREO LIVE, a groundbreaking hybrid film-opera experience.

Spring 2019 – Orange Mountain Music releases Vireo as a DVD/CD box set.

Lisa Bielawa on the set of Einstein on the Beach with dancer Michele Pogliani (1992)

Lisa Bielawa on the set of Einstein on the Beach with dancer Michele Pogliani (1992)

The Kronos Quartet. Photo credit: Jay Blakesberg

Soprano Rowen Sabala. Photo credit: Matt Gush

Soprano Rowen Sabala, director Garles Otte, and DP Greg Cotten. Photo credit: David Soderlund


Watch all 12 episodes of Vireo  at

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