Opera Philadelphia Launches OPERA IN THE CITY series with American Premiere of SVADBA-WEDDING by Ana Sokolović
November production, presented in collaboration with FringeArts, is made possible by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Monday, August 5, 2013 – Opera Philadelphia is once again expanding its civic footprint – and its 2013-2014 Season – by launching an annual series that will offer fully staged operas in unexpected venues around the city, diversifying operatic experiences for Philadelphia audiences.
Opera in the City, which brings the art form outside of traditional opera houses and into the community, will launch in November with the American Premiere of composer Ana Sokolović’s renowned Svadba–Wedding, in collaboration with FringeArts. Svadba–Wedding is a Serbian, a cappella opera fusing operatic and folk music and telling the story of Milica, a bride-to-be, and her five bridesmaids on the night before her wedding. The production, funded in part by the Knight Foundation, will offer audiences an immersive operatic experience, as ticketholders will join in an authentic Balkan wedding celebration after the performance, featuring traditional cuisine and live Balkan dance music from the West Philadelphia Orchestra.
The one-hour opera and its accompanying 90-minute wedding reception will be presented at the new home of FringeArts, at the corner of Race Street and N. Columbus Boulevard in Philadelphia. The 1903 historic former pumping station is currently being transformed into a year-round center for contemporary performing and visual arts.
“Opera in the City is about getting outside of the usual and doing different things with opera, and to say this project is different would be an understatement,” said David B. Devan, General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia. “This series will be another transformative initiative for the company and the city, bringing new audiences to opera in new and unexpected places. We thank Knight Foundation for making it possible for us to engage and enrich Philadelphia with this production; and big thanks to FringeArts for being such willing partners in bringing this opera to the stage of their amazing new space.”
“In Philadelphia, our hope is that everywhere you go, you have an encounter with art – to experience a moment of inspiration that brings people together and helps strengthen a sense of community,” said Dennis Scholl, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “By bringing artists out of the traditional performance hall and into new spaces, we hope that Opera Philadelphia will continue to engage new audience members.”
Svadba–Wedding, commissioned and produced by Queen of Puddings Music Theatre in Toronto, is a raucous and intoxicating a cappella tour de force for six female opera singers. Sung in Serbian with English supertitles, it takes place the night before a wedding, when Milica (Jacqueline Woodley) and her five girlfriends (Shannon Mercer, Laura Albino, Virginia Hatfield, Andrea Ludwig and Krisztina Szabó) stay up all night long preparing for her impending marriage in a ravishing and cathartic Balkan rite of passage. Using existing Slavic/Balkan peasant folk tales, myths and traditions as her text source, Sokolović draws on her native Balkan folk music as a source of inspiration for Svadba–Wedding. She transforms the music and text into her own unique onomatopoeic language. The scenes unfold, not in a linear narrative, but in a playful interconnection animated through drama, distilling magic and fantasy from ordinary moments.
Born in Belgrade, Serbia in 1968, Sokolović has lived in Montreal for two decades. Her repertoire includes orchestral, vocal, chamber, operatic, and theatrical pieces, often inspired by Balkan folk music and its asymmetrical festive rhythms. “A wedding is an important turning point in every woman’s life, usually steeped in tradition and always signifying change and juncture,” Sokolović said. “Milica’s rite of passage is universal, an archetype of human experience. Svadba–Wedding offers a chance to delve deep into the quality and richness of a short but decisive moment in time.”
The stellar creative team is led by music directors Dáirine Ní Mheadhra and John Hess, with stage director Marie-Josée Chartier(originally directed by Michael Cavanagh), set and costume designer Michael Gianfrancesco and lighting designer Kimberly Purtell.
At the June 2011 World Premiere, Opera News called the work “dazzlingly inventive,” enthusiastically endorsing the opera as “a piece to appeal not just to new music enthusiasts but to those interested in the wider possibilities of music theatre in general.” Svadba-Wedding won the 2012 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Opera from the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, andtoured to Paris, Orléans, Belgrade, Dublin, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver in 2012-2013. The Philadelphia production marks its American Premiere as well as the first time the opera will include a wedding reception after each performance.
“When I saw Svadba-Wedding in Toronto I was so transfixed I did not want it to end,” Devan said. “That got me thinking about how we could bring it to Philadelphia and extend the experience. The West Philadelphia Orchestra immediately came to mind because I love what they do. From there, the ideas started to flow among our creative team, I called Nick Stuccio at FringeArts, and boom: an a cappella opera/Balkan dance party/dinner theater mashup was born.”
The new Delaware River waterfront headquarters of FringeArts, with its 240-seat theater and on-site rehearsal studio, is the ideal venue to launch Opera in the City. “The concept of bringing bold opera productions outside of the traditional opera house is in perfect alignment with FringeArts’ mission to explore the boundaries of art and present high-quality new work that challenges expectations,” said Nick Stuccio, President and Producing Director of FringeArts. “I look forward to working with the Opera to create something that is going to wow our audiences.”
OPERA IN THE CITY
Presented by Opera Philadelphia and FringeArts
November 2, 3, 6 & 7, 2013
Performed in Serbian with English supertitles
Performance times: Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
General admission tickets priced at $69 are on sale at www.operaphila.org or 215.732.8400
To learn more about Svadba-Wedding, please visit www.operaphila.org/production/svadba for casting information, synopsis, biographies, ticketing services and other company information. View a two-minute excerpt of Svadba-Wedding at https://vimeo.com/48302864
Opera Philadelphia creates outstanding productions of both classic and new operatic works that resonate within the community, assembles the finest international creative artists, and presents programming that educates, deepens, and diversifies the opera audience in Philadelphia and beyond. Performance offerings include large-scale works at the historic Academy of Music, intimate chamber operas as part of the Aurora Series for Chamber Opera at the Perelman Theater, and frequent community performances that focus on creative partnerships and enhanced accessibility. www.operaphila.org
FringeArts supports artists and brings the world’s newest and most cutting-edge cultural experiences to Philadelphia, amplifying the vibrancy of the city as a renowned cultural center and an unparalleled place to live, work and visit. Founded in 1997 and formerly known as the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe, the organization serves local, national and international artists of all disciplines and levels of achievement through an annual 16-day Festival along with year round series of high-quality contemporary dance, theater and music performances; commissioned public art installations; and a residency program that continues to expand and grow as a state-of-the-art incubator for artists. The 2013 festival is scheduled for September 5-22. www.fringearts.com
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.
Queen of Puddings Music Theatre was founded in 1994 by musicians Dáirine Ní Mheadhra and John Hess. The company was Toronto based and the recognized Canadian leader in the creation of original Canadian chamber opera/music theatre. The company’s aesthetic of a physical, singing theatre showcased the performer as the central force with the instrumentalists integrated into the dramatic action. After twenty years of developing and producing new Canadian chamber opera, the company concluded operations on August 31, 2013. www.queenofpuddingsmusictheatre.com
With a diverse line-up of professional Philadelphia musicians whose influences range from Sun Ra to Bulgarian brass bands, West Philadelphia Orchestra is a unique band for all occasions. They began playing Romanian ballads, Macedonian folk-dance songs, Bulgarian wedding music, and Klezmer in late 2006, and have continued expanding their repertoire of Eastern European music. The band also plays original tunes which blend other sounds, like jazz and classical, together with traditional Balkan sounds. Their newest CD, Live at Tritone, captures the frenetic energy, genre-bending compositions, and communal spirit of their monthly Balkan dance parties held at Underground Arts. www.westphiladelphiaorchestra.com