Opera Philadelphia

Published20 Oct 2015

Opera Philadelphia Announces O: Annual 12-Day Urban Opera Festival to Debut in September 2017

Twelve days, seven operatic happenings, six venues across the city, three world premieres, and one superstar Festival Artist: set to launch in September 2017, OOpera Philadelphia’s new annual season-opening festival – represents a radical new way to experience opera. As Daniel K. Meyer, M.D., Chairman of the Board of Opera Philadelphia, David B. Devan, General Director & President, and Annie Burridge, Managing Director, announced today, the new festival will open the company’s season each fall, drawing together some of opera’s most sought-after creative and performing artists for an immersion in the new American opera and innovative stagings of the classics for which Opera Philadelphia – the only American finalist for the 2015 International Opera Award for Accessibility – is fast becoming known. Opera Philadelphia will also continue to present three additional productions each spring, making it the only U.S. opera company to open an annual season with a dynamic festival.

 The inaugural festival, O17, takes place from September 14-25, 2017, when the company and its collaborators will offer more than 25 performances at multiple venues across Philadelphia. A highlight of this landmark season is the World Premiere of Elizabeth Cree, a chamber opera by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, to be conducted by Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovarisin the Kimmel Center’s intimate Perelman Theater. Underscoring the company’s commitment to programming works relevant to its multicultural community, Opera Philadelphia also presents the World Premiere of We Shall Not Be Moved; developed by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain and librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph from the company’s Hip H’opera program in local inner-city schools, the new opera will be directed by the legendary Bill T. Jones in the Wilma Theater. A site-specific and all-too-topical double bill pairs Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, Monteverdi’s prescient tale of two warriors – one Christian, one Muslim – with I Have No Stories To Tell You (2014), written in response to Monteverdi’s work, by Lembit Beecher, a graduate of Opera Philadelphia’s Composer in Residence program, and librettist Hannah Moscovitch. The two operas will be presented together as War Stories in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Monteverdi’s masterwork will be staged in the Museum’s dramatic, medieval stone cloister, with its carved limestone cornices and 12th century fountain, while audiences will experience Beecher’s contemporary piece in the Museum’s soaring Great Stair Hall, one of the city’s most iconic civic spaces. The exclusive East Coast appearance of Barrie Kosky’s playfully subversive, internationally-renowned production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute will be mounted in the Academy of Music, with a free HD video broadcast at Independence National Historical Park in Opera Philadelphia’s celebrated Opera on the Mall series. As the inaugural Festival Artist, superstar soprano Sondra Radvanovsky will not only give a solo recital in the Perelman Theater, but also conduct a Master Class with emerging artists. And, to complete the O17 lineup, Opera Philadelphia is commissioning a short performance piece to interact with the world-class collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings on display at the Barnes Foundation, where the work will receive its World Premiere.

Heralding a fresh new direction for opera, Opera Philadelphia’s festival takes the excitement and cachet of an opening night to an exponentially richer experience. The festival has been named to capture, with simple elegance, the visceral wonder of new and compelling ideas in music, voice, and performance that will open our city to opera, foster unexpected collaborations, and bring opera to new audiences and stages year after year. The inaugural festival O17 will occupy the city of Philadelphia across seven performance happenings in unique venues, creating innumerable complementary food, wine, and cultural experiences.

“For much of the past decade, Opera Philadelphia has worked tirelessly to weave the art form into the civic fabric of Philadelphia’s public spaces,” said Board Chairman Daniel K. Meyer, M.D. “From pop-up performances to the annual HD broadcast in front of Independence Hall to chamber operas and site-specific works, our artistic programming has evolved to complement the grand opera we continue to produce in our home base, the historic Academy of Music. In 2017, with the launch of festival O, we will bring all of those programs together in an invigorating 12-day package that will attract both opera buffs and new audiences to Philadelphia as a vital destination for experiencing opera in an exciting urban setting.”

“By opening our season each year with a festival, we have the opportunity to transform the city of Philadelphia into a giant stage for all that opera is and all that it can be,” said General Director & President David B. Devan. “The density and breadth of programming possible within the festival format has allowed us to attract some of the most sought after composers, librettists, directors, designers, and performing artists with projects that provide them the most creative possibilities. Over the next two years, as we continue to produce opera on many stages, we are fortunate to have the support of a number of venture philanthropists who have invested in the future of the company and the creation of the festival. On behalf of Opera Philadelphia, I want to personally thank our keystone supporters, William Penn Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, Sandra K. Baldino, Judy and Peter Leone, and Barbara Augusta Teichert, for their early leadership and contributions as we develop the festival. Special thanks also go to The Wallace Foundation for being a key supporter of our efforts to engage new audiences.”

Managing Director Annie Burridge added, “The festival gives us the opportunity to build on our successful track record in attracting new audiences both locally and throughout the Northeast. Approximately 20% of the audience for our recent world premiere productions is coming from more than 70 miles away – and we’re confident that festival O will help us reach even more of these fans while simultaneously offering more operatic experiences for our loyal local supporters. By creating such a rich and varied lineup across multiple Philadelphia venues, we anticipate issuing over 25,000 tickets in our first year of the festival.”

“Opera lovers always tell me how much they enjoy coming to our city for an Opera Philadelphia production,” said Corrado Rovaris, the Jack Mulroney Music Director. “Beginning in 2017, I invite audiences to join us for twelve days of opera in all of its glory, from the grand stage of the Academy of Music to chamber opera at the Perelman Theater and site-specific works all over our great city. It will truly be a showcase to experience this wonderful art form. I only wish I could be at the podium to conduct every opera in the festival!”

Joining Meyer, Devan, and Burridge for the announcement were Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America; Meryl Levitz, President & CEO of Visit Philadelphia; and a number of the partners and artists who will bring O17 to the city in two years.

“Opera Philadelphia is breaking new ground by opening its season with a 12-day festival that responds to findings from the deepest audience research ever conducted in the field,” stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. “While building its reputation as a leading producer of new and traditional repertoire, the company has distinguished itself as an expert in strategic planning. 017 is the result of a bold artistic vision fused with a careful plan to extend its service to a regional audience.” 

Opera Philadelphia’s new programming schedule was developed with TDC after the company completed a four-part, 14-month contextual segmentation study of its current and potential audience conducted by MoStrategy and the Cicero Group. Major support for this research was provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from The Barra Foundation and OPERA America’s Getty Audience Building Program. The research project moved beyond the study of demographics and purchasing behavior to evaluate how the company’s offerings are perceived. The findings informed a new business plan and programming model designed to accommodate the significant shift in the consumer market in recent years while maintaining its Academy of Music schedule for current subscribers.



O17 Production Details

THE MAGIC FLUTE | Academy of Music
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Text by Emanuel Schikaneder
Exclusive East Coast appearance of production from Komische Oper Berlin

“Barrie Kosky has transformed The Magic Flute into a stunning live-action cartoon, so bewitching as to silence every criticism.” So marveled the LA Times in 2013 when the celebrated Australian director’s new production of Mozart’s masterful comedy about love, truth and the pursuit of enlightenment made its North American premiere. The innovative production from Komische Oper Berlin presents The Magic Flute in a style that evokes a meeting between 1920s silent movies and David Lynch, with the singers performing amidst fanciful animated projections. The result is “a deliciously absurd blend of silent film and animation” (Berliner Morgenpost). “It is a tour de force. The audience oohed and aahed, clapped, gasped and guffawed. There was no let-up” (The Guardian).

The 2012 production at Komische Oper Berlin, created by the British theatre group 1927, “points the way toward a freer, more experimental style of producing opera” (The New York Times).

The historic Academy of Music is the venue for the East Coast premiere of this imaginative production, with a free community screening planned on multiple HD screens at Independence National Historic Park in Opera Philadelphia’s celebrated Opera on the Mall series.

ELIZABETH CREE | Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Music by Kevin Puts; Text by Mark Campbell
Based on the novel The Trial of Elizabeth Cree by Peter Ackroyd
Conducted by Corrado Rovaris
Directed by David Schweizer
World Premiere

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, the team who created the Pulitzer Prize-winning Silent Night, return to Opera Philadelphia for the world premiere of a chamber opera based on Peter Ackroyd’s “downright exhilarating” (LA Times) novel, The Trial of Elizabeth Cree. Set in London in the 1880s, this highly suspenseful and theatrical opera interweaves several narratives: the trial of the titular heroine for the poisoning of her husband; a series of brutal murders committed by a Jack the Ripper-style killer; the spirited world of the English music hall; and, finally, some “guest appearances” by luminaries from the Victorian Age. Shockingly entertaining, Elizabeth Cree is a work that combines the factual with the fictive and the historical with the imaginary.

Kevin Puts is “a brilliant composer with a strong musical voice” (The New York Times). His works have been commissioned, performed, and recorded by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists throughout North America, Europe and the Far East. Mark Campbell is one of the most in-demand librettists working in opera today, profiled in Opera News as someone who will be “a major force in opera in the coming decade.”

The opera makes its world premiere in the intimate Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.


WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED | The Wilma Theater
Music by Daniel Bernard Roumain; Text by Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Directed by Bill T. Jones
World Premiere
Co-commission with Art Sanctuary

What’s at stake here is America itself and its future. Who’s invited to participate?

Combining spoken word, operatic singing, and an eclectic score filled with place, purpose, and possibility, We Shall Not Be Moved is a timely exploration of past and present struggles which suggests an alternate future through the eyes of its young protagonists. Set in Philadelphia, the opera is the story of a group of orphans who decide they want to live apart as a family who recognizes their marginalization and claims it as a source of power.

This world premiere chamber opera by Daniel Bernard Roumain, an acclaimed composer and performer whose work defies genre, and librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, an arts activist known for spokenword performance, is “ambitiously interdisciplinary,” according to director and dramaturg Bill T. Jones. “We are plotting the course through treacherous terrain where musical forms, literary forms, and movement styles collide and, hopefully, fly,” says the celebrated choreographer, theater director, and dancer whose accolades include a MacArthur Fellowship, two Tony Awards, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a 2013 National Medal of Arts.

“I'm excited and elated to be in collaboration with artists who share a long history of storytelling, deep inquiry, and innovation within the theater,” said composer Daniel Bernard Roumain. “When Opera Philadelphia approached me about creating a new work for them, I immediately wanted to develop a new chamber opera with Bill and Marc supporting an eclectic score—full of place, purpose, and possibility—within an immersive, theatrical experience. We have all been collaborating with one another for years, and this work, in some ways, is a culmination of dreams, desires and talents.”

“My hope for the libretto is that it sensitively examines a historical moment, and legibly suggests an alternate future through the eyes of its young protagonists,” said librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph. “Structurally, the piece embellishes the traditional staples of the opera form with post-hip hop flourishes. This elasticity, this future-classic take on history in the present tense, is demanding a lot from the creative team, but I think we're uniquely prepared for the task.”

The opera will receive its world premiere at the Wilma Theater as part of Opera Philadelphia’s inaugural festival, O17, and will then immediately have its New York premiere at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

WAR STORIES | Philadelphia Museum of Art
Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda
Music by Claudio Monteverdi
I Have No Stories To Tell You (Philadelphia Premiere)
Music by Lembit Beecher; Text by Hannah Moscovitch
Co-produced by Opera Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Museum of Art

This “ingenious” (Wall Street Journal) site-specific double-bill features Monteverdi’s eerily relevant story of two warriors—one Christian, one Muslim—clashing in battle, staged in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s medieval cloister, followed by composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch’s response to Monteverdi’s work, performed in the museum’s Great Stair Hall.

Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda was published in 1638 in the composer’s Eight Book of Madrigals. This operatic scena tells the story of the Christian soldier Tancredi who battles with a Muslim soldier, unknown to Tancredi as his lover Clorinda because she is disguised in armor. When Clorinda is mortally wounded, Tancredi discovers her identity. As she lies dying, she asks to be baptized. The instrumentation for the scena is string quartet and continuo.

Beecher, a graduate of Opera Philadelphia’s Composer in Residence program, and Moscovitch respond to Monteverdi’s work by focusing on the aftereffects of war. Their “cleverly devised, alluring one-act opera” (The New York Times) turns from the battlefield to domestic life to tell the story of a soldier’s return home after extended assignment in the Middle East. Haunted by her experiences and reluctant to discuss them with a husband who no longer seems to understand her, she struggles to readjust to home. Scored for a period instrument ensemble and inspired by interviews with soldiers and army psychologists, I Have No Stories to Tell You explores the effects of war on one’s identity and sense of home. The instrumentation for the opera is string quartet, theorbo, harpsichord, Baroque oboe, and electronics.

SONDRA RADVANOVSKY IN RECITAL | Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky is a globally celebrated artist, praised for her “alluringly dark-hued voice, with its distinctive timbre, expressive vibrato and gleaming top notes” (The New York Times). The sincerity and intensity that she brings to the stage as one of the most prominent Verdian sopranos of her generation have won her accolades from critics and loyalty from passionate fans.

As O’s inaugural Festival Artist, Ms. Radvanovsky will perform a recital at the intimate Perelman Theater and conduct a Master Class with Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artists.

TO BE ANNOUNCED | The Barnes Foundation
World Premiere

Opera Philadelphia will commission a composer to craft an original work for voice, designed to interact with the Barnes Foundation’s world-class collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings, which includes extensive works by artists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. The performance will take place at the Barnes after visiting hours. Full details to be announced at a later date.



Opera lovers from the Philadelphia area and visitors to the city will enjoy an immersive experience in September 2017, with curated hotel, restaurant, and leisure packages designed to enjoy O17 to its fullest. A full schedule of events and packages will go on sale along with tickets to all performances in 2016. In the meantime, fans can sign up to receive updates at www.operaphila.org/o

“Philadelphia has always had great art—on our stages, in our museums, on the walls of our buildings, and in our civic spaces,” said Meryl Levitz, President and CEO of VISIT PHILADELPHIA®. “Now, O17, presented by Opera Philadelphia, provides opera buffs and the opera-curious a new reason to visit Philadelphia. They can curate their own experience, pairing dynamic opera productions with museum tours, great meals, a bit of history, lively nightlife options, and an overnight stay in the middle of all the action.”


As Nonprofit Quarterly recently noted, Opera Philadelphia is “at the forefront of demonstrating how to evolve – both artistically and from a business-model perspective.” Under the leadership of General Director & President David B. Devan and Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris, Opera Philadelphia is working tirelessly to revitalize opera for the 21st century, commissioning World Premieres and energizing the classic canon by providing established and emerging artists with opportunities to create their most imaginative and inspired work. Opera News proclaims, “Things are looking up, operatically speaking, in the City of Brotherly Love.”

Now, the company has done it again, charting a bold new path to September 2017, when Opera Philadelphia will open its 2017-2018 season with an immersive, 12-day festival featuring seven operatic happenings in six venues throughout the city. The first festival, “O17,” will feature three World Premieres, plus the exclusive East Coast staging of Barrie Kosky’s groundbreaking production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and an appearance by superstar soprano Sondra Radvanovsky. Opera Philadelphia will continue to present a spring season each year, including three additional productions in February, March, and April, making it the only U.S. opera company producing a year-round opera season that begins with a dynamic festival.

The future of opera will be composed in Philadelphia. Will you be there to hear it?

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