Press Room


Opera Company of Philadelphia Ushers in Spring with Puccini as Manon Lescaut Takes the Stage

Starring Michelle Johnson and Thiago Arancam, April 20 – 29 at the Academy of Music

For Immediate Release:  April 5, 2012                                                         

Contact:  Tracy C. Galligher

Philadelphia, PA:  This spring, the master composer who created La bohème, Turandot, and Madama Butterfly will be heard in yet another soulful tale of boundless love when the Opera Company of Philadelphia presents Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Academy of Music April 20, 22m, 25, 27 & 29m, 2012.

Manon Lescaut is a beautiful young girl about to be sent to a convent when Des Grieux first lays eyes on her. Though the flame of passion between them is ignited, Manon's life follows a winding path, seduced by riches that ultimately trigger her downfall – but ultimately finding redemption in Des Grieux’s love for her. Puccini's gorgeous, swelling melodies permeate the opera, from Manon's poignant arias to the lush orchestral score in this stunning masterpiece that has not been presented by OCP in more than 25 years.

Starring in her title role and Company debut is soprano Michelle Johnson, 2011 Grand Prize Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.   In her winning performance last year at the Metropolitan Opera, Johnson won praise from The New York Times, where it was reported, “There was a clear audience favorite… who brought gleaming sound to the meltingly lyrical aria… Ms. Johnson seems to have the vocal goods as well as star power.”   An Academy of Vocal Arts fourth-year resident artist, the accomplished soprano and Texas native also debuts in the title role of Aida later this summer at New York’s Glimmerglass Opera in a new production from director Francesca Zambello.  Johnson has enjoyed engagements with Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Marilyn Horne’s Music Academy of the West, and numerous roles at AVA where thePhiladelphia Inquirer raved in 2011, “Though plenty of fine artists have come out of Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts, few command the stage as completely as Johnson - not just with her voice but with an aura….”

Starring as Manon's true love, Des Grieux, tenor Thiago Arancam, returns after making his Opera Company of Philadelphia debut last season as Cavaradossi in Tosca.   That performance had both audiences and critics alike on their feet, calling his performance “a dramatic stunner and vocal wonder.” (Chestnut Hill Local)  His recent credits include Christian in San Francisco Opera’s production of Cyrano de Bergerac, and Cavardossi in Rome and most recently in Toronto.  Other recent roles have included Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Washington National Opera, Luigi in Il Tabarro with Opera de Lyon, and Don Jose in Carmen with Vienna Staatsoper.

OCP favorite baritone Troy Cook (Madama Butterfly, ’09) sings the role of Lescaut, following 2010 performances as Guglielmo in Royal Opera Covent Garden’s Così fan tutte and as Ford in Hamburg’s Falstaff.  In addition, he performed the role of Father Palmer in the World Premiere of the new Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell opera Silent Night.  A co-production between OCP and Minnesota Opera, Cook will reprise the role when Silent Night receives its East Coast Premiere here in February 2013, and also sings the role of Marcello in OCP’s fall 2012 production of La bohème.

Bass-baritone Daniel Mobbs, who sang the role of Capulet in OCP’s Romeo and Juliet and Angelotti in Tosca last season, performs the role of Geronte.  He returns to Philadelphia after performing the title role in The Marriage of Figaro with both Lyric Opera Baltimore and Portland Opera.  He sang the title role in Guillaume Tell this past summer at the Caramoor Festival and has appeared twice recently with Minnesota Opera; as Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte and as Lindoro in Cinderella.

Also returning to the Academy of Music stage is tenor Cody Austin, who made his OCP debut in 2010’s Otello.  Since then, he has appeared with Lyric Opera of Virginia as Alfredo in La traviata and Shreveport Opera as Don Jose in La Tragedie de Carmen.  Two Curtis Institute of Music artists complete the cast; mezzo-soprano J'nai Bridges makes her OCP debut as the Singer, and tenor John Viscardi makes his OCP debut as in the roles of the Dancing Master and the Lamplighter.


Canadian director Michael Cavanagh makes his OCP debut on the heels of debuts with San Francisco Opera and Lyric Opera Kansas City directing Nixon in China.  The production by acclaimed designer John Pascoe features a sleek, stylized, period set with sumptuous costuming and lighting designed by OCP veteran Lighting Designer Drew Billiau.  Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris conducts the Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus and Orchestra.

Manon Lescaut
Giacomo Puccini
Performed in Italian with English translations
April 20, 22m, 25, 27 & 29m, 2012


Manon Lescaut       Michelle Johnson*                                     Conductor                                  Corrado Rovaris

Des Grieux               Thiago Arancam                                         Director                                       Michael Cavanagh*

Lescaut                     Troy Cook                                                    Set & Costume Design              John Pascoe

Geronte                    Daniel Mobbs                                             Choreographer                          Seth Hoff

Edmondo                 Cody Austin                                                 Lighting Design                         Drew Billiau

Singer                       J'nai Bridges*                                              Chorus Master                          Elizabeth Braden

Dancing Master/                                                                          Wig & Make-up Design           Tom Watson

Lamplighter            John Viscardi*                                           

*Company debut



Manon Lescaut takes place at The Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets.

Performances are: Friday, April 20 at 8pm; Sunday, April 22 at 2:30pm; Wednesday, April 25 at 7:30pm; Friday, April 27 at 8pm; Sunday, April 29 at 2:30pm.

Individual tickets priced from $7 - $210.  Call Ticket Philadelphia at 215-893-1018 or  

The Opera Company’s June 2012 production of Dark Sisters at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater is also on sale now, with performances June 8 – 17, 2012.  The 2012-2013 Season features Puccini’s La bohème, the new Kevin Puts & Mark Campbell opera Silent Night, and Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Academy of Music; and Curtis Opera Theatre’s Owen Wingrave by Benjamin Britten and OCP’s Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès and Philip Hensher at the Perelman Theater.  Subscriptions on sale now at or 215-732-8400.


The Aurora Series for Chamber Opera at the Perelman Theater is generously underwritten by Wyncote Foundation.  US Airways is the official airline of the Opera Company.  YAMAHA is the official piano of the Opera Company of Philadelphia. Hyatt at the Bellevue is the official hotel of the Opera Company.  Burdumy Motors Incorporated is the official automotive dealership of the Opera Company.  Macy’s is the sponsor of Opera Overtures pre-opera talks before each performance. The Opera Company of Philadelphia is supported by major grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The Lenfest Foundation, The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through the Philadelphia Cultural Management Initiative and the Philadelphia Music Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Wallace Foundation, The William Penn Foundation and Wyncote Foundation.  Additional support is provided by Beneficia Foundation, Independence Foundation, Jacob Burns Foundation, and OPERA America’s Opera Fund.  The Opera Company of Philadelphia receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.  General operating support is provided, in part, by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.