Opera Philadelphia

Published15 Feb 2015

Opera Philadelphia’s 2015-2016 Season Pairs Trio of Classics with East Coast Premiere of Cold Mountain and World Premiere of Andy: A Popera

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - Opera Philadelphia’s 41st Season serves as a reminder that the company is, as The Washington Post reports, “taking chances, offering unusual and new work along with repertory staples, and carving out a place for themselves as proponents of American opera.” As General Director & President David B. Devan and Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovarisannounced today, the carefully curated 2015-2016 lineup offers two new American operas: the East Coast Premiere of Cold Mountain, by composer Jennifer Higdon and librettist Gene Scheer and starring the dream team of Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard, and Jay Hunter Morris (February 2016); and the World Premiere of ANDY: A Popera, a Warhol-inspired opera-cabaret featuring a score by Dan Visconti and original songs by Heath Allen (September 2015).

Joining this cutting-edge fare are three undisputed classics. Soprano Lisette Oropesa and tenor AlekShrader headline the American Premiere of a new staging of Verdi’s La traviata, complete with an Opening Night Gala and a free, open-air HD broadcast (October 2015). The company joins forces with Curtis Opera Theatre to present a new production of Strauss’s Capriccio (March 2016). And company favorites Sarah Shafer, Christopher Tiesi, Craig Verm, and Kevin Burdette draw the season to a comedic close in Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love (April–May 2016). In recognition of Opera Philadelphia’s innovative thinking, the company was chosen as the only American finalist for the 2015 International Opera Award for Accessibility; as Opera News notes, “Things are looking up, operatically speaking, in the City of Brotherly Love.”

“The 2015-2016 Season at Opera Philadelphia is truly a celebration of the vitality of opera in the 21stcentury,” said Devan. “This is a season which truly showcases Philadelphia as a hotbed of operatic innovation, ranging from the East Coast Premiere of Cold Mountain by Philadelphia-based composer Jennifer Higdon to the World Premiere of a new work that explores the intersection of opera with the worlds of devised theatre and visual art. It is a tremendous honor to present these new works alongside dynamic productions of classic repertoire like La traviata, Capriccio, and The Elixir of Love.”

“I am so pleased by the wonderful mix of repertoire we will bring to Philadelphia in the 2015-2016 Season,” said Rovaris, who will conduct La traviata, Cold Mountain, and The Elixir of Love. “I love the fact that we have many talented singers making important role debuts with Opera Philadelphia this season. We are also very proud to have Jennifer Higdon’s first opera on our main stage. She writes such wonderful music that speaks to the audience.”

ANDY: A Popera


Music by Dan Visconti | Original songs by Heath Allen
Directed by John Jarboe
Performed in English  

A NEW CO-PRODUCTION with The Bearded Ladies Cabaret

Presented in conjunction with the 2015 Fringe Festival as part of Neighborhood Fringe
September 2015
Opera in the City | 1526 North American Street, Philadelphia

Andy Warhol famously declared, “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”  ANDY: A Popera promises to make audience members famous for 15 seconds.  In September, the pop-art icon and his concept of fame will be at the center of a mashup of opera and cabaret in a collaboration hailed as “strange, smart and entertaining” by The Philadelphia Inquirer and “brave and intriguing” byPhiladelphia City Paper.  Drawing from the life and work of Warhol, the Popera puts singing soup cans,Marilyns, and a randy banana on stage with contemporary versions of Warhol Superstars like actress Candy Darling and socialite Edie Sedgwick, his mother Julia Warhola, and feminist writer and would-be assassin Valerie Solanas. This is all to explore what Warhol has become today. What happens when a man becomes a brand?

The Bearded Ladies Cabaret is a troupe of artists who insist that art can be both intellectual and accessible, both entertaining and meaningful. Through cabaret, they tackle ideas about popular culture, sex, gender, and artistic invention. “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,” said Bearded Ladies Artistic Director John 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.”

“By combining the collaborative rehearsal and creation process of devised theater with the compositional rigor of classical opera, I’m hoping that ANDY will develop into a project that combines the best qualities of both genres into something new and promising,” said composer Dan Visconti.

The development of ANDY: A Popera has been generously supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

La traviata

Music by Giuseppe Verdi | Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Performed in Italian with English supertitles

American Premiere of production from Bucharest National Opera

October 2, 4m, 7, 9 & 11m, 2015
Academy of Music

Having proven herself “a house favorite” who “lights up the stage” (The New Yorker) at The Metropolitan Opera, Lisette Oropesa makes her company and role debuts as doomed courtesanVioletta. “I am really looking forward to exploring the character of Violetta,” the Cuban American soprano says. “She is extremely open-hearted, she takes a huge emotional risk – twice – and she never breaks down or falls apart. The music is very emotional, but the character has an extremely strong center.”

In the glamorous world of Paris—updated to the mid-20th century—a naive young man falls head over heels for a beautiful party girl. One of opera’s greatest romances takes a wrenching turn after they risk everything for a chance at enduring love. Tenor Alek Shrader whose “singing is distinguished by a simultaneous lyricism and verve”(Opera News), makes his company and role debut as Alfredo, who seems to be the man of Violetta’s dreams. Standing in the way of their happiness is Alfredo’s father, Giorgio (baritone Stephen Powell), whose visit shatters their idyllic love nest. Featuring Verdi’s most timeless and lyrical score, La traviata has continued to captivate audiences for more than 150 years.

Opera Philadelphia looks forward to launching the 41st season, with the American premiereof this stylish production by award-winning Scottish director Paul Curran, highlighted bya black-tie Opening Night Gala on Friday, October 2 and a FREE, HD broadcast in Independence National Historical Park that will mark the company’s fifth annual Opera on the Mall on Saturday, October 3.

Cold Mountain

American Repertoire Program

Music by Jennifer Higdon | Libretto by Gene Scheer
Performed in English with English supertitles

A NEW CO-COMMISSION & CO-PRODUCTION with The Santa Fe Opera and Minnesota Opera

February 5, 7m, 10, 12 & 14m, 2016
Academy of Music

Cold Mountain, hailed as one of the “most anticipated world premieres ahead” by National Public Radio, is the first opera written by Philadelphia-based composer Jennifer Higdon, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music. The opera is based on the National Book Award-winning novel by Charles Frazier, and features a libretto by Gene Scheer (Moby-Dick; An American Tragedy). This co-commission and co-produced opera with The Santa Fe Opera and Minnesota Opera is a compelling story of love, honor and determination. As the American Civil War is coming to an end, soldier W. P. Inman deserts the Confederate Army, walking from his hospital room in Raleigh, North Carolina, across the state to his home at Cold Mountain. The journey is arduous and recalls Homer’s Odyssey, as Inman endures many hardships on a quest to be reunited with his love, Ada Monroe.

Grammy winner Nathan Gunn, who sings the protagonist, Inman, is regarded as one of the most exciting and in-demand baritones of the day.  He has appeared as leading man on opera and musical theater stages internationally. A supporter of new works, he created the roles of Clyde Griffiths in Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy, Father Delura in Love and Other Demons, Alec Harvey in AndrePrevin’s Brief Encounter, and Paul in Daron Hagen’s Amelia. Because of this dedication to new works, he was named Director of Opera Philadelphia’s American Repertoire Council, a steering council focused on advancing the company's American Repertoire Program, a commitment to produce new American works in ten consecutive seasons. He has appeared on the Opera Philadelphia stage as Tarquinius in The Rape of Lucretia (2009), Zurga in Pearl Fishers (2004) and Gugielmo in Così fan tutte (2003, 1996).

“I think Cold Mountain is going to be THE great American operatic work,” said Gunn. “The music is beautiful and amazingly dramatic in scope.”

Isabel Leonard, who will sing the role of Ada, is one of the most popular and highly sought-after mezzo-sopranos on stage today. Hailed as “beguiling” by The New York Times, she is a 2014 Grammy Award winner for Thomas Ades’ The Tempest (Best Opera Recording) and the recipient of the 2013 Richard Tucker Award. “Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain is a beautiful story filled with history, love, fear, and courage,” said Leonard. “Jennifer Higdon and Gene Scheer have now turned that story into an incredible musical journey and I cannot wait to share it with the people of Philadelphia.”

Tenor Jay Hunter Morris, who created the role of the villainous Teague, has been in the international spotlight for his portrayal of Siegfried in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Wagner’s Ring. He has also won acclaim for the “manic intensity” (San Francisco Chronicle) of his Captain Ahab in JakeHeggie’s Moby-Dick. “The greatest moments, for me, are when I get to sing new music,” said Morris. “I love stepping into the character and stepping into the voice for the first time.”

Charles Frazier’s novel won the 1997 National Book Award and was made into a film in 2003, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Leonard Foglia, who directed Opera Philadelphia’s East Coast Premiere of A Coffin in Egypt in June 2014, returns to direct Cold Mountain, with Music DirectorCorrado Rovaris conducting the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra.


Curtis Opera Theatre
Music by Richard Strauss | Libretto by Clemens Krauss and the composer
Performed in German with English supertitles

A NEW PRODUCTION of the Curtis Institute of Music presented in association with Opera Philadelphia and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

March 2, 4 & 6m, 2016
Aurora Series: Chamber Opera at the Perelman Theater

The annual co-productions from Curtis Opera Theatre, Opera Philadelphia, and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts have been acclaimed as “must-see events for serious operagoers” by Opera News. Launched in 2008 with the Philadelphia premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, the series will mark its ninth season with a new production of Capriccio, the final opera by great German composer Richard Strauss.

Which is greater among the arts, poetry or music? The opera explores that question in an allegorical tale: the young, widowed Countess Madeleine is torn between two suitors, the poet Olivier and the composer Flamand. What will impress her more—Flamand’s music or Olivier’s words?

Capriccio has some of the most stunningly beautiful music that Richard Strauss ever wrote,” said Mikael Eliasen, Curtis Opera Theatre Artistic Director. “In particular, the last scene of Capricciocontains Strauss at his most ravishingly erotic and meltingly, gorgeously melodic.”

Director Chas Rader-Shieber leads the talented young singers of Curtis Opera Theatre in this new production. Further details of the creative team will be announced later in the spring of 2016.

This production is funded, in part, through support from the William Penn Foundation.

The Elixir of Love

Music by Gaetano Donizetti| Libretto by Felice Romani
Performed in Italian with English supertitles

Production from The Santa Fe Opera

April 29, May 1m, 4, 6 & 8m, 2016
Academy of Music

When Music Director Corrado Rovaris teamed up with director Stephen Lawless to debut a new staging of The Elixir of Love that transplants the action to the World War II-era, the Santa Fe Reportercautioned:

“Be warned, please: The Santa Fe Opera’s charming, warm-hearted new production of Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love is liable to give you a bad case of those morning-after-the-opera, just-can’t-get-those-tunes-out-of-my-head hangovers. … Much of the credit for this happy state of things belongs to Corrado Rovaris.”

Drawing Opera Philadelphia’s 41st season to a fittingly glorious close at the Academy of Music, Rovarisand Lawless reunite to reprise their hit take on Donizetti’s tender bel canto comedy. Anchoring a talented cast of Opera Philadelphia favorites in the Academy of Music are soprano Sarah Shafer(Ainadamar) as Adina and tenor Christopher Tiesi (Powder Her Face) as Nemorino. A recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Shafer was praised for her “luminous voice” and “intensely expressive interpretations” in the New York Times, and named “a singer to watch” by Opera News. Having already sung Donizetti’s pining peasant at Glyndbourne and Semperoper Dresden, Tiesi has been recognized as “a great find as Nemorino, bringing a gloriously warm and mellow tenor voice to the role which is perfect for the lovelorn fellow” (Daily Express). Baritone Craig Verm, who impressed asSchaunard in 2012’s La bohème, sings Sergeant Belcore, with bass Kevin Burdette, who received rave reviews for his hilarious Dr. Barolo in 2014’s The Barber of Seville, as the huckster Dulcamara.


La traviata, Cold Mountain, and The Elixir of Love are performed at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets. Capriccio is performed at the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Broad and Spruce Streets. Performance times are Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.

Performance details for ANDY: A Popera will be announced at a later date.

Full season subscriptions are available beginning Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at 10 a.m. at operaphila.org, or by calling 215-732-8400 (Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).  Single tickets will go on sale in August 2015 via Ticket Philadelphia at operaphila.org or 215-893-1018.


Opera Philadelphia is supported by major grants from Wyncote Foundation, The William Penn Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and the Knight Foundation. American Airlines is the official airline of Opera Philadelphia. Hyatt at the Bellevueis the official hotel of Opera Philadelphia. Burdumy Motors Incorporated is the official automotive dealership of Opera Philadelphia.  The Karma Agency is Opera Philadelphia's Brand Communications Partner. Wells Fargo is the official sponsor of Opera Philadelphia's Patron Program. AKA is Opera Philadelphia’s Artist Accommodations Sponsor. Makeup for Opera Philadelphia is provided by MAC.Garces Group is Opera Philadelphia’s Intermission Reception Sponsor. Opera Philadelphia receives arts funding support through grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and The Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

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