A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Is there a fine line between creation and destruction? How can composers Arnold Schoenberg, Piotr Tchaikovsky and Carlo Gesualdo balance the chaos of their creativity with their need for love? Playwright Tommy Smith and Director Chris Fields (the team behind last season’s “Firemen”) trace three real-life love triangles in a passionate tale of intrigue, jealousy and music. The Echo Theater Company presents the world premiere of “Fugue,” opening on Feb. 14 (Valentine’s Day) at the Echo’s Atwater Village Theatre home.

Culture Spot LA readers can win a pair of tickets to the show on Sunday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. Email editor@culturespotla.com with “Fugue” in the subject line to be entered in the drawing.

Set simultaneously in 20th-century Austria, 18th-century Russia and 17th-century Italy, “Fugue” interlaces three tales of ill-fated romance in counterpoint, a polyphonic telling that reveals each composer’s breathtaking genius — as well as the demons that drive his creativity.

Arnold Schoenberg (portrayed by Troy Blendell) remains one of the most controversial figures in the history of music. Famous for devising the 12-tone technique, he inspired fanatical devotion from students, admiration from peers like Mahler, Strauss and Busoni, riotous anger from conservative Viennese audiences and unmitigated hatred from his many detractors. An affair between his wife and the couple’s painting teacher ended in tragedy.

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Christopher Shaw), wrote some of the most popular themes in all of classical music, his compositions celebrated for their powerful emotion and lush melodies. One of Tchaikovsky’s most intimate relationships was with his nephew, Vladimir “Bob” Davydov (Eric Keitel), to whom Tchaikovsky dedicated his masterpiece, the Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique.” There is some contention that the composer did not actually die of cholera 10 days after its premiere, but something more dramatic.

Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa and Count of Conza (Karl Herlinger), was an Italian composer, lutenist, nobleman and notorious murderer from the late Renaissance. He is famous for his intensely expressive madrigals, which use a chromatic language not heard again until the 19th century — and for committing what are possibly the most famous murders in musical history.

The Echo Theater Company presents “Fugue” Feb. 14 through March 22 (preview Feb. 13) at Atwater Village Theatre,
3269 Casitas Ave.,
Atwater Village 90039.
Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $25. Free parking. Call (310) 307-3753, or visit www.EchoTheaterCompany.com.