Published19 Nov 2014
Opera Philadelphia Welcomes the East Coast Premiere of Oscar starring David Daniels, February 6-15, 2015 at the Academy of Music
Opera Philadelphia’s 40th Anniversary Season continues in February with the highly anticipated East Coast Premiere of Oscar, the first opera from American composer Theodore Morrison with a libretto by the composer and John Cox. Countertenor David Daniels makes his Opera Philadelphia debut as Oscar Wilde in a beautifully tragic chronicle of the acclaimed writer’s trial and imprisonment for gross indecency because of his homosexuality.
Co-commissioned and co-produced with The Santa Fe Opera, Oscar was hailed at its 2013 world premiere for outstanding performances by Daniels and a stellar cast including soprano Heidi Stober and tenor William Burden as Oscar’s friends Ada Leverson and Frank Harris, baritone Dwayne Croft as Walt Whitman, and dancer Reed Luplau, in a silent role as Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas. The New York Times said, “Mr. Daniels was superb, not only singing but also acting the role with a savvy Wildean mix of arrogance and vulnerability.”
Hailed as “first rate” by The Wall Street Journal and “riveting” by The Denver Post, the opera has been revised for its East Coast Premiere, including a new opening that introduces Oscar at the height of his celebrity just before his downfall. Oscar runs in five performances at the Academy of Music, February 6-15, 2015. Tickets are available via Ticket Philadelphia at 215-893-1018 or operaphila.org.
“We are privileged to bring this important work to Philadelphia for its East Coast Premiere,” said David B. Devan, General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia. “Oscar Wilde’s life and all that he stood for has tremendous relevance today. He is an iconic figure in the struggle for gay rights and universal human rights, and in this opera he is presented as a hero, not as a victim. That is accomplished thanks to the brilliant writing of Theodore Morrison and John Cox and a truly outstanding portrayal by the great David Daniels.”
“It has been wonderful partnering with The Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia to develop and produce my first opera,” said Morrison. “I was thrilled with the premiere in Santa Fe, and as the opera continues to evolve through revisions I look forward joyously to its next iteration in Philadelphia.”
Oscar has been an intensely personal project for Daniels, for whom the opera was written. When developing the work, he believed the story of Oscar Wilde had a deep connection to contemporary political discourse on the rights of same-sex couples. “I’m so excited about revising our beloved Oscar for Opera Philadelphia,” said Daniels. “Revisiting a work always brings exciting revelations to me as an artist and allows me to bring more and more to my character. And to make my Opera Philadelphia debut during the 40th Anniversary Season is just icing on the cake.”
Wilde’s last published work, the 1898 poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” describes his ordeal and the savagery of the prison system he endured. It was a source for the libretto, as were conversations, letters and documents spoken or written by his contemporaries.
As Act I begins, Oscar Wilde, London’s most famous writer and biggest celebrity, has been charged by the court of “gross indecency with other male persons,” a result of his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, known as Bosie. In disgrace, Wilde becomes an outcast in society without friends or a place to live. He takes refuge in the nursery apartment at the home of a friend, the English writer Ada Leverson. Frank Harris, the brilliant editor of the Saturday Review, also a friend, brings Ada news of the verdict. Wilde is found guilty and sentenced to two years of hard labor. Act II takes place in Reading Gaol. The prisoners, subjected to the harshest conditions, are confined to dismal cells and kept separate from one another. Wilde is denied paper for writing and books to read. He becomes gravely ill, and it is while he is in the infirmary that he hears his fellow inmates’ stories and his compassion grows.
“The opera is, ultimately, about compassion and forgiveness,” said director Kevin Newbury. “Oscar gave up everything for love and he was brutally punished for loving another man. As the opera demonstrates so poignantly, Oscar learned a great deal from his fall from grace and from his time in the harsh Victorian prison system. I hope Oscar's story encourages the audience to think about how we treat one another. For Oscar, compassion and forgiveness prevail.”
East Coast Premiere
Music by Theodore Morrison
Libretto by John Cox and Theodore Morrison; based on quotations from the writings of Oscar Wilde and his contemporaries
Performed in English with English supertitles
A New Co-Commission and Co-Production with The Santa Fe Opera
February 6, 8m, 11, 13 & 15m, 2015
Academy of Music
Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets to Oscar at the Academy of Music are now on sale, and may be purchased at operaphila.org or by calling 215.893.1018.
To learn more about Oscar, please visit http://www.operaphila.org/production/oscar to find full casting information, photos and videos, a synopsis, biographies, ticketing services and other company information.
The production of Oscar is underwritten in part by the Wyncote Foundation