Composer Ellen Reid | Photo by Arnaud Pyvka

In honor of Ellen Reid winning the Pulitzer Prize, we are re-posting the story below from November 2018, previewing her now prize-winning opera p r i s m.

Editors note: The subject of the opera and this podcast deal with issues and traumas raised by the Me Too movement. It is not recommended for young people or if the topic of sexual assault can be triggering for you.

Hit play below to listen to our Arts Alive feature with Ellen Reid.


Composer Ellen Reid is completing the quad-fecta (is that a word?) of premieres by the four major Los Angeles performing arts organizations: in 2018, she’s had new work performed by the LA Chamber Orchestra, the LA Master Chorale, the LA Phil, and now LA Opera.

The opera is called p r i s m and it’s a psychological thriller, which employs shifting musical styles and creative uses of space to explore the elasticity of memory following a trauma.

“[The] piece,” Reid says, “deals with the boundaries we create around ourselves to separate ourselves from our own darkness or trauma and the lengths we will go to to keep those boundaries up.”

p r i s m is being produced in collaboration with Beth Morrison Projects. As BMP and LA Opera put it, the opera “tells the story of an ill girl, Bibi, and her doting mother, Lumee, who live locked away from the world. One night mysterious voices seduce Bibi, fracturing her devotion to her mother and causing her to question their isolated life.”

p r i s m will be performed at Redcat and Reid tells me she wanted to use the black box theatre space to help tell the story.

“Each act of p r i s m has a different musical reference point. Act I is this soft and lush ‘new opera normal’ sound to me, where its influences are also impressionistic and acoustic. So, we’re using the space super normally for the first act. Then, the audience takes a break and during intermission we start to hear a big club beat happening inside the space. It was really important to have the intermission, so the audience could be in the lobby while the club music starts happening inside the hall. They’re moving back into the hall during the second act when the performers are entering this unknown club space.”

Ellen Reid is the composer of p r i s m, a new opera which will receive its world premiere at LA Opera Off-Grand. p r i s m at LA Opera is presented in collaboration with Beth Morrison Projects with four performances from November 29-December 2. More information is available at

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