Opera Philadelphia

Published8 Apr 2014

The Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia Join Forces in First-Ever Co-Production: Richard Strauss’s Salome

Two SOLD OUT Performances in Verizon Hall, May 8 & 10

Philadelphia, April 8, 2014 - The Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia will join together in a first-time co-production—a theatrically-inspired production of Richard Strauss’s compelling and provocative masterpiece, Salome. Two sold-out performances are set to take place on Thursday, May 8, and Saturday, May 10, 2014, in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall, and will be led by Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Audiences will enjoy a groundbreaking blend of the distinctive sound of The Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the preeminent orchestras in the world, and Opera Philadelphia’s dynamic theatrical presentation. These landmark performances are made possible in part by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the Presser Foundation.

In addition to his symphonic concerts in Philadelphia and on the world’s most prestigious podiums, Nézet-Séguin is also known and admired for his work in the great opera houses of the world, recently conducting Dvořák's Rusalka with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He brings his unbridled passion for opera to this project and is drawing on his close relationships with a constellation of internationally-acclaimed vocalists, including soprano Camilla Nylund (Salome), mezzo-soprano Birgit Remmert (Herodias), tenor John Mac Master (Herod), and bass-baritone Alan Held (John the Baptist). The production marks the first complete performances of Salome by The Philadelphia Orchestra, and serves as the hallmark of the Orchestra’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss’s birth.

Salome is to me one of the greatest masterpieces written in the 20th century, and bringing this great operatic score to Philadelphia Orchestra audiences is special on its own,” said Nézet-Séguin. “To now work closely with Opera Philadelphia to create a theatrical environment around the music makes this project even more exceptional. This will be a unique and dramatic telling of the story of Salome that will mesmerize both Orchestra and Opera audiences. I am thrilled to begin my journey with the Orchestra into the world of opera by working together with our friends and partners at Opera Philadelphia.”

“I am so ecstatic that two of Philadelphia’s iconic performing arts organizations will be sharing the stage of Verizon Hall for Salome,” said David B. Devan, general director and president of Opera Philadelphia. “This co-production is born out of a genuine alignment between our two companies’ shared artistic goals, and together we will be creating an amazing moment of civic pride for our city. Salome will broaden the operatic experience for our audience, perfectly complementing our large-scale production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in April in the Academy of Music and June’s East Coast Premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s intimate chamber work A Coffin in Egypt in the Aurora Series at the Perelman Theater. I am confident that our staging of Salome will allow audiences to follow this well-known story in an exciting, thought-provoking setting.”

“This is a thrilling time for us as we join forces with one of Philadelphia’s flagship cultural organizations in a project that will combine and advance our shared institutional goals of artistic growth, innovation, and reinvigorated concert experiences,” said Allison Vulgamore, Philadelphia Orchestra CEO and president. “We are incredibly fortunate and proud to have an organization such as Opera Philadelphia to partner with in this exciting initiative, and look forward to giving audiences everywhere an even more compelling reason to visit Philadelphia and experience everything it has to offer as a musical destination.”

Considered scandalous when it premiered in 1905, and banned for years in the U.S. and elsewhere, Strauss’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play is among the most important musical works of the 20th century. Mahler, who attended the 1906 Austrian premiere along with Puccini, Zemlinsky, and Schoenberg, praised the piece as “one of the greatest masterworks of our time.” This fast-paced, one-act opera is known as much for its revolutionary use of large-scale orchestra and virtuosic singers as it is for its graphic depiction of this deeply psychological tale. At the core of this erotically-charged opera set in biblical times is a tangled and disturbed triangle: the persecuted John the Baptist, a lecherous King Herod, and the monarch’s pathologically seductive stepdaughter, Salome, who eventually demands the head of the imprisoned prophet on a silver platter. A production team comprised of stage director Kevin Newbury and designer Vita Tzykun gives this age-old biblical tale a timeless treatment, transforming Verizon Hall with custom-built design and staging elements, stylized costumes, theatrical lighting, and innovative design elements such as sculptural pieces integrated into the hall’s architecture. The result is a completely immersive, 4-D concert environment—one that transports the audience into the heart of the action, with the musical score as the driving force.

Newbury, who will return to direct in the 2014-15 season with both Opera Philadelphia (Theodore Morrison’s Oscar) and The Philadelphia Orchestra (Leonard Bernstein’s MASS), believes Salome is ideally suited to a theatrical symphonic staging. “The opera features gorgeous music, rich characters, and a potent story about sex, greed, and morality,” said Newbury. “Opera audiences are usually denied the opportunity to actually see the orchestra playing a score. A staging in a symphonic setting allows us to feature the music front and center. The orchestra itself plays a major character both musically and theatrically.”

Newbury and Tzykun are drawing inspiration from the architecture of the Kimmel Center. They are also using the “symbols of terror” in the opera for inspiration: the mysterious cistern; Salome's virginal veils; and, most importantly, the moon. They plan to transform Verizon Hall into a night sky of seven moons. These seven moons shift in color and dynamic throughout the evening, reflecting the many colors and dynamics in the score.

The role of Salome will be performed by Finnish soprano Camilla Nylund, who has performed leading roles at La Scala, Covent Garden, the Salzburg Festival, and the Vienna State Opera. American bass-baritone Alan Held, a resident of nearby Bucks County, is Jochanaan, a role he has sung to critical acclaim at the Saito Kinen Festival in Japan, the Vienna State Opera, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and in Baden-Baden, Germany. Tenor John Mac Master is familiar to Philadelphia opera audiences for creating the role of Casey in Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner. He has triumphed as Herod in Frankfurt and Stuttgart and has performed the role of the twisted king with San Francisco Opera, Vancouver Opera, New Orleans Opera, and Montreal Opera. German mezzo-soprano Birgit Remmert, who has performed numerous Strauss and Wagner roles at the Bayreuth Festival, Zurich Opera, and the Vienna State Opera, will sing the role of Herodias.

Kevin Newbury is a theater, opera, and film director whose recent opera credits include the world premieres of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene (San Francisco Opera), Oscar (Santa Fe Opera), Douglas J. Cuomo’s Doubt (Minnesota Opera), and Gregory Spears’s Paul’s Case (Urban Arias and the Prototype Festival).

Victoria “Vita” Tzykun has designed sets, costumes, and projections for companies such as Norwegian Opera, Dallas Opera, the Kennedy Center, Kristiansund Opera (Norway), Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Utah Opera, and Wolf Trap Opera.

Both The Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia maintain strong relationships with cultural and arts organizations on the regional and national level. Since Orchestra CEO and President Allison Vulgamore’s arrival in 2010, The Philadelphia Orchestra has reinvigorated or launched new partnerships with Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadelphia Live Arts (FringeArts), Philadanco, the Ridge Theater Company, the Curtis Institute of Music, and stage director James Alexander, among others. Opera Philadelphia boasts a strong partnership with the Curtis Institute of Music, with which they stage an annual Curtis Opera Theatre production in Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center. The Opera also partners with Art Sanctuary on the exciting Hip H’opera project and launched an innovative operatic Composer in Residence program in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group in New York. Now, Opera Philadelphia and The Philadelphia Orchestra will leverage talent and audiences with their new joint collaboration.

As it prepares to celebrate its 40th Anniversary in the 2014-15 season, Opera Philadelphia has been recognized nationally for its innovative production design and collaborative partnerships, exemplified by high-profile co-productions with Santa Fe Opera on Oscar and Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain. Opera News recently hailed the company’s bold turnaround from a “bastion of standard repertoire” to “one of the leading instigators of new work in the country.” Extending the company’s production footprint from the Academy of Music and Perelman Theater into Verizon Hall for Salome is a natural extension of the Opera’s mission to present both traditional and contemporary opera in innovative, engaging ways, aligning with the Opera in the City initiative launched in November 2013 with the American Premiere of Ana Sokolović’s renowned Svadba–Wedding at FringeArts.

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin has been heralded by critics and audiences alike for his highly collaborative style, deeply-rooted musical curiosity, and boundless enthusiasm, paired with a fresh approach to orchestral programming. He is embraced by the musicians of the Orchestra, audiences, and the community. His concerts of diverse repertoire attract sold-out houses and he has established a regular forum for connecting with concert-goers through Post-Concert Conversations, as well as returning the Orchestra both to recording and to regular radio broadcasts. He is increasingly engaged with musicians in the Philadelphia community having conducted a Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert, a Neighborhood Concert, and a free Pop-Up Concert, in addition to leading the All-City Orchestra and Choir and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. The New York Times has called Nézet-Séguin“phenomenal,” adding that under his baton, “the ensemble … has never sounded better.”

The Philadelphia Orchestra has a decades-long tradition of presenting learning and community engagement opportunities for listeners of all ages across the Delaware Valley. Among the ways in which the Orchestra introduces orchestral music to a new generation of listenersare concerts for families and schoolchildren and eZseatU, which allows full-time college students to attend an unlimited number of Orchestra concerts for a $25 annual membership fee. Community concerts include free Pop-Ups, an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert, and Neighborhood Concerts. PreConcert and Post-Concert Conversations bring concert-goers closer to the music, musicians, and conductors.Musician-led initiatives such as the PlayINs shine a spotlight on the Orchestra’s musicians, as they spread out from the stage into the community, and serve a key role in growing musician talent and a love of classical music in their own dedicated roles as teachers, coaches, and mentors.

For more information on The Philadelphia Orchestra, please visit www.philorch.org.

Opera Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the21stcentury. The Opera creates outstanding productions of both classic and new operatic works that resonate within the community, assembles the finest international creative artists, and presents a wide array of programming that educates, deepens, and diversifies the opera audience in Philadelphia and beyond. The company is a national leader in the creation of new works via its American Repertoire Program, a commitment to produce a new American opera in 10 consecutive seasons. In tandem with the launch of the nation’s first collaborative Composer in Residence Program, the American Repertoire Program is aimed at fostering a new generation of opera composers and telling authentically American stories. It is steered by the American Repertoire Council, a committed group of volunteer advisors overseen by operatic baritone Nathan Gunn. For more information, visit www.operaphila.org.


May 8 at 8:00 PM – Thursday evening — Verizon Hall at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

May 10 at 8:00 PM – Saturday evening — Verizon Hall at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

The Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia
Performed in German with English supertitles
Yannick Nézet-Séguin Conductor
Camilla Nylund Soprano (Salome) – Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia Debuts
Birgit Remmert Mezzo-soprano (Herodias) – Opera Philadelphia Debut
John Mac Master Tenor (Herod) – Philadelphia Orchestra Subscription Debut
Alan Held Bass-baritone (Jochanaan) – Opera Philadelphia Debut
Andrew Staples Tenor (Narraboth) – Opera Philadelphia Debut
Kevin Newbury Director – Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia Debuts
Vita Tzykun Production Design – Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia Debuts

Developed in partnership with Utah Opera.

These performances are made possible in part by the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the Presser Foundation.

There are currently no tickets available for Salome. Ticket availability does change frequently so please check The Philadelphia Orchestra’s website (www.philorch.org) for updates.

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