Opera Philadelphia

Published24 Apr 2014

The Bearded Ladies and Opera Philadelphia team up on Warhol-inspired Andy: A Popera

Pop-up performances in May and a cabaret performance slated for July are the first stages in the development of a pop art opera.

PHILADELPHIA, April 25, 2014The Bearded Ladies, Philadelphia’s experimental cabaret troupe, are pleased to announce their next project: ANDY: A Popera. Inspired by the life, fame, and philosophy of Andy Warhol, this cabaret/opera hybrid is written by the artists of Bearded Ladies, will be built in three stages, and features original music by resident composer Heath Allen. The project is being developed in partnership with Opera Philadelphia, with a goal of building to a pop art opera to premiere in 2015. The development of ANDY: A Popera has been generously supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The artists of Bearded Ladies Cabaret are building the Popera in three stages over a 12-month period. “Our development process, itself, will be an exploration of Andy Warhol’s rise to pop-art popularity and the culture that coalesced around his work,” said John Jarboe, Artistic Director of The Bearded Ladies. “As we develop the Popera, it will grow in length and scope, from five-minute pieces to a fully-realized show, and from a small cast to an ensemble of as many as 30 people. The piece also will stretch its physical footprint, expanding from free pop-up performances throughout the city, to a Wilma Theater cabaret, to a fully-realized work developed with Opera Philadelphia. The central question we are exploring through Andy’s life and art is: ‘Is immortality worth dying for?’”

“Two of the city’s most innovative artistic organizations – Bearded Ladies Cabaret and Opera Philadelphia – are coming together to create an exciting new piece that we hope will strengthen the city’s reputation for being a hub of experimental work,” said Dennis Scholl, vice president for arts at Knight Foundation. “Better yet, they are bringing the piece into Philadelphia’s many neighborhoods, meeting audiences where they live and engaging and enriching the city through the arts.”

“I have been a huge fan of Bearded Ladies Cabaret for years, and it has been a thrill to observe and support their creative process through the first stage of developing ANDY,” said David B. Devan, General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia. “We’ve gathered cabaret performers and opera singers together in the same room to create new music and explore the drama of a larger-than-life figure like Andy Warhol. This is exactly the kind of creative exploration that we encourage in our ‘From the Lab’ initiatives like the Composer in Residence program and the Hip H’opera project. I cannot wait for the first public pop-ups and the journey to a fully-realized Popera.”

Embracing the idea of pop in all its forms, the project is being developed in three stages, with the first stage debuting in May as a series of short pop-up performances that take place all over the city. The series kicks off on Friday, May 2, with an Art After 5 performance at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Singers will present an evening devoted to the life and legacy of Andy Warhol using human-size pop-up books, operatic performances, and a rock band. Bring your own T-shirt for hands-on silk screening and you too can be a Pop artist. Eastern State Penitentiary, First Friday, and local grocery stores are just some of the pop-up locations to be announced.

Additional five-minute pop-ups can be enjoyed throughout the month in non-traditional spaces like grocery stores and on street corners. Interested people can follow The Bearded Ladies (@KnowYourBeards) and Opera Philadelphia (@OperaPhila) on Twitter for announcements of dates, times, and locations. Information will also be published on the Bearded Ladies website: www.beardedladiescabaret.com

The Beards and the Opera will then connect the various pop-ups from the first stage of development into an hour-long cabaret piece that will run for two weeks, from July 16-27, at the Wilma Theater. Each performance will be an experiment, allowing for changes from one performance to the next based on audience reaction and feedback. At this stage, a larger band, more performers, and a set will be added to the piece.

The third and final stage will be the Popera. While the first two stages of the development process will result in a series of pieces of varying lengths and mobility, the long-term gain is the model the two groups will have created and honed for a longer working process - one that respects the audience as much as the performers.

“The Bearded Ladies Cabaret is a prolific organization that often creates three new shows in a season. We are used to working quickly and cheaply, due to limited time and resources,” explained Jarboe. “Now, thanks to the Knight Foundation, we are engaging in a more in-depth process, building on our belief that new work always grows the most, and the best, in front of an audience.”

The Bearded Ladies Cabaret is a troupe of artists who insist that art can be both intellectual and accessible, both entertaining and meaningful. Cabaret lends itself to artistic explorations of contemporary issues. Through it, we tackle ideas about popular culture, sex, gender, and artistic invention. The resident cabaret company of the Wilma Theater, we create cabarets that borrow the narrative conventions of traditional theatre and the audience interaction of traditional theatre to create a new form we call the caba-play. In the last three years, we have collaborated with the Media Theatre, Society Hill Playhouse, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, and Eastern State Penitentiary to bring our unique form of cabaret to more than 10,000 residents of Philadelphia and the surrounding region. More information at www.beardedladiescabaret.com

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit KnightFoundation.org.

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 a wide array of programming that educates, deepens, and diversifies the opera audience in Philadelphia and beyond. Opera Philadelphia is leading the field in the development of new opera. The American Repertoire Program, a commitment to produce a new American work over ten seasons, currently has seven new operas in development. The company, in partnership with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group, runs the world’s most comprehensive Composer in Residence program, made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with talented composers Lembit Beecher, Missy Mazzoli, and Andrew Norman each involved in several years of intensive, hands-on work to develop an understanding of the many facets of developing and producing opera. Hip H’opera is a collaborative, three-year project that combines classical music style with hip-hop sounds to create a compelling new operatic experience. A partnership between Opera Philadelphia and Art Sanctuary, Hip H'opera brings teaching artists to four Philadelphia high schools: Esperanza Academy Charter School, Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School, Mastery Charter School – Lenfest Campus, and South Philadelphia High School. Hip H’opera is made possible with support from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation. Information at www.operaphila.org

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