Published5 Dec 2014
Composer Dan Visconti Joins Andy: A Popera
Opera/cabaret hybrid from The Bearded Ladies and Opera Philadelphia to receive its World Premiere in September 2015
Opera Philadelphia and The Bearded Ladies are thrilled to announce that Dan Visconti, a composer whose music has been described as “a cheerful and colorful assault on the senses” by The New York Times, has joined the creative team of ANDY: A Popera. The cabaret/opera hybrid, inspired by the life, fame, and philosophy of Andy Warhol, will receive its World Premiere in September 2015 in Philadelphia, serving as the culmination of a two-year developmental process that has included several stages of public performances at venues like The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Wilma Theater.
“We are overjoyed in bringing these unique and creative collaborators together to explore the complex world of a larger-than-life figure like Andy Warhol,” said David B. Devan, General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia. “I look forward to watching this mashup of talents bring ANDY to life.”
In July, Visconti spent several weeks with director John Jarboe and the cast and creative team of The Bearded Ladies as they rehearsed for stage 2 of ANDY, a two-week run of work-in-progress cabaret performances at The Wilma Theater hailed as “strange, smart and entertaining” by The Philadelphia Inquirer and “brave and intriguing” by Philadelphia City Paper. Members of the Bearded Ladies, including Jarboe, writer and performer Sean Lally, dramaturg Sally Ollove, and music director Heath Allen, have joined with Visconti to build on the success of stage 2 and complete the final Popera.
“The Bearded Ladies have a tremendous amount of energy, improvisatory skills, and a rapport with the audience that is interactive and engaging—exactly the qualities that contemporary opera most needs if it’s to continue growing as an art form,” said Visconti. “By combining the collaborative rehearsal and creation process of devised theater with the compositional rigor of classical opera, I’m hoping that ANDYwill develop into a project that combines the best qualities of both genres into something new and promising. Moreover, so much of what fascinates me about Warhol’s life and work has to do with the contrast—and strange link—between the ubiquitous and the special, the mass-produced and the handmade. John Jarboe and the Beards have been developing material that grapples with this profound issue and others while also keeping the wacky, surreal, and experimental flavor that came to define Warhol’s world.”
“ANDY constitutes a radical and new collaboration both in form and process. It's a collision between the devising sensibilities of The Bearded Ladies and the epic sweep and power of the opera world,” saidJohn Jarboe. “It feels like an apt collaboration for dealing with an artist as un-dismissible and experimental as Warhol. He dangerously blurred the lines between the high and low, between the art world and the commercial world. We are blurring our own lines with ANDY. We are trying to make opera that insists on its liveness; that is both classical and contemporary. I am honored to work with both Dan Visconti and Heath Allen, whom I consider visionaries of their respective genres. Together, we are making Opera that pops.”
Dan Visconti’s compositions often explore the rough timbres, propulsive rhythms, and improvisational energy characteristic of jazz, bluegrass, and rock—elements that tend to collide in unexpected ways with Visconti’s experience as a classically-trained violinist, resulting in a growing body of music The Cleveland Plain Dealer describes as “both mature and youthful, bristling with exhilarating musical ideas and a powerfully crafted lyricism.”
For his ongoing initiatives that address social issues through music, Visconti has been awarded a 2014 TED Fellowship and delivered a TED talk at the 30th Anniversary TED Conference in Vancouver. Visconti is a core member of Chicago’s Fifth House Ensemble, a concert organization that reaches new audiences with an emphasis on civic outreach, educational programming, and collaborative projects with other artists.
Recent concert seasons have showcased several Visconti premieres, including a work commissioned by the Jupiter Quartet for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s international string quartet series; a work featuring experimental video commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra for premiere at Zankel Hall; and a work for soprano Lucy Shelton and the Da Capo Chamber Players for premiere at Weill Recital Hall. Other commissions have come from the Kronos Quartet, the Berlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, the Annapolis Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, the Gryphon and Triple Helix piano trios, the Corigliano Quartet, the Janaki String Trio, and Volti chamber choir.
Upcoming projects include a Beatbox, a new concerto for the crossover string quintet Sybarite5 and a consortium of U.S. orchestras; a new showpiece for Venezuelan piano virtuoso Gabriela Martinez; andLiving Language, a concerto for amplified guitar and orchestra featuring acclaimed soloist Jason Vieaux. For more information on the composer, visit danvisconti.com.
The development of ANDY: A Popera has been generously supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The cabaret/opera hybrid has been evolving through a unique, three-stage public creative process. The project’s first stage debuted in May with short pop-up performances in venues all over the city, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The various pop-ups informed the second-stage residency at The Wilma Theater, which yielded valuable insights into the work that continue to inform its development to the final stage.
Venue and ticketing information for ANDY: A Popera will be announced at a later date.