Opera Philadelphia

Published30 Nov 2017

Opera Philadelphia Presents the World Premiere of Cycles of My Being by MacArthur Fellows Tyshawn Sorey & Terrance Hayes, Starring Lawrence Brownlee (Feb. 20)

Cycles of My Being is commissioned by Opera Philadelphia, Carnegie Hall, and Lyric Unlimited: A Division of Lyric Opera of Chicago

A new song cycle exploring the realities of life as a black man in America will receive its world premiere performance with Opera Philadelphia in a special one-night-only event on February 20. Cycles of My Being is the work of composer Tyshawn Sorey, a “prodigious multi-instrumentalist and composer” who “transcends the borders of jazz, classical, and experimental music” (New Yorker); lyricist Terrance Hayes, “a vital voice that explores race and art and the roving power of language” (NPR); and Opera Philadelphia Artistic Advisor Lawrence Brownlee, one of “the world’s leading bel canto tenors” (Associated Press).

Premiering in Philadelphia in the Perelman Theater at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in celebration of Black History Month, Cycles of My Being marks a return to the Opera Philadelphia stage for Brownlee, who will be accompanied by four supporting instrumentalists. Immediately following its world premiere, the new song cycle will travel to Chicago for a February 22, 2018 performance presented by Lyric Unlimited/Lyric Opera of Chicago at the DuSable Museum of African American History, before making its New York premiere on April 24, 2018 at Carnegie Hall, where it will be presented as part of the venue’s 125 Commissions Project in Zankel Hall.

“I’m honored to be working with the extraordinary talents of Tyshawn and Terrance on this new song cycle, and I’m grateful to Opera Philadelphia, Carnegie Hall, and Lyric Unlimited for making it possible,” said Lawrence Brownlee. “In these divided times, we hope to create something that brings people together with mutual respect, understanding, and communication across races and generations.”

“I feel unbelievably lucky to be collaborating with Lawrence Brownlee and Tyshawn Sorey,” said Terrance Hayes. “They are two amazing beings and artists. They’ve given me a means to explore the kinships between poetry and music, song and storytelling. I hope our results expand notions of operatic and poetic expression, and most vitally, notions and expressions of black male subjectivity.”

Lawrence Brownlee
Lawrence Brownlee Credit: Shervin Lainez

Perhaps best known as an improvisational jazz percussionist, Tyshawn Sorey is a lauded composer and multi-instrumentalist who “is able to compose and dissect his own music at the highest level, and also to detail the historical context of his work” (The New York Times). A 2017 recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship, his work defies categorization, straddling genres and combining African diasporic, avant-garde, and Western classical music through improvisation. The New Yorker called his 2016 release The Inner Spectrum of Variables “a creation that defeats all preconceptions.”

Author, poet, New York Times Magazine poetry editor, and University of Pittsburgh professor Terrance Hayes “puts invincibly restless wordplay at the service of strong emotions” (The New York Times). Hayes’s work has been recognized with honors including the 2010 National Book Award (for Lighthead), a Whiting Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship. His most recent poetry collection, How to Be Drawn, was a finalist for both the 2015 National Book Award and the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, besides receiving the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Poetry.

Named 2017 Male Singer of the Year by both the International Opera Awards and Bachtrack, Lawrence Brownlee has been a member of the Opera Philadelphia family since first performing at the company in 2006. Nine years later, he wowed the opera world as the “stunningly voiced Parker” (Opera News) in Daniel Schnyder’s jazz-inspired Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, Opera Philadelphia’s first world premiere in 40 years. In spring 2017, he became the company’s Artistic Advisor, to help expand its repertoire, diversity efforts, and community initiatives.

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Following the success of its inaugural season-opening festival, O17, Opera Philadelphia continues to create opportunities for “new, adventurous work” (The New York Times) with the addition of Cycles of My Being to its groundbreaking 2017-18 season.

Cycles of My Being marks the company’s fourth world premiere in five months, following the presentation of three critically acclaimed new works at O17: Elizabeth Cree, a suspenseful chamber opera from Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, the team behind Silent Night; The Wake World, an otherworldly production that transformed The Barnes Foundation, by Composer-in-Residence David Hertzberg;and We Shall Not Be Moved, a hybrid opera that “skillfully folds gospel, funk, jazz and contemporary classical idioms into the score” (The New York Times), composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain to a libretto by Marc Bamuthi Joseph with direction and choreography by Bill T. Jones.

About Opera Philadelphia
Opera Philadelphia is committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the 21st century. Described as “the very model of a modern opera company” by the Washington Post, Opera Philadelphia was the only American finalist for the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company. After opening its 2017-18 season with the immersive O17 festival, Opera Philadelphia returns to the Academy of Music with two new spring productions: George Benjamin’s Written on Skin (February 9-18, 2018) and Bizet’s Carmen (April 27-May 6, 2018). The company’s second fall festival, O18, will take place on September 20-30, 2018. For more information, visit operaphila.org.

About Lyric Unlimited
Lyric Unlimited is a long-term, evolving initiative that encompasses company activities that are not part of Lyric’s mainstage opera season. Its mission is to provide a relevant cultural service to communities throughout the Chicago area and to advance the development of opera by exploring how opera as an art form can resonate more powerfully with people of multiple backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests. It also leads the development of innovative partnerships with a wide range of cultural, community, and educational organizations to create a breadth of programming through which Chicagoans of all ages can connect with Lyric. In the 2016/17 season, more than 100,000 individuals participated in Lyric Unlimited programs.

For more information about Lyric Unlimited program offerings, visit lyricopera.org/lyricunlimited.

About Carnegie Hall
Since 1891, Carnegie Hall has set the international standard for excellence in performance as the aspirational destination for the world’s finest musicians. Carnegie Hall presents a wide range of performances each season on its three stages—the renowned Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, intimate Weill Recital Hall, and innovative Zankel Hall—including concert series curated by acclaimed artists and composers; citywide festivals featuring collaborations with leading New York City cultural institutions; orchestral performances, chamber music, new music concerts, and recitals; and the best in jazz, world, and popular music. 
Carnegie Hall’s commitment to the music of today and tomorrow continues this season with the third year of its five-year 125 Commissions Project, during which at least 125 new works will be commissioned from today’s leading composers. Through this initiative, Carnegie Hall expands upon its history as the preeminent venue where music history is made. Launched during the Hall’s 125th anniversary season in 2015-16, the project features new solo, chamber, and orchestral music from both established and emerging composers, including John Adams, Timo Andres, Donnacha Dennehy, Bryce Dessner, Sofia Gubaidulina, Hannah Lash, James MacMillan, Olga Neuwirth, Steve Reich, Frederic Rzewski, Caroline Shaw, Chris Thile, and Jörg Widmann.

Ticket Information

Tickets for Feb. 20, priced at $25, will be available for purchase beginning December 1 at operaphila.org or by calling Opera Philadelphia Guest Services at 215-732-8400.

Ticketing details to Lyric Unlimited's/Lyric Opera of Chicago's presentation of Cycles of My Being will be announced in mid-December.

Tickets for April 24, priced at $48 and $58, are currently available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, or can be charged to major credit cards by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800 or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website, carnegiehall.org.

Cycles of My Being

Music by Tyshawn Sorey

Lyrics by Terrance Hayes

Starring Lawrence Brownlee

World Premiere: February 20, 2018 | Perelman Theater

Chicago Premiere: February 22, 2018 | Lyric Unlimited: A Division of Lyric Opera of Chicago

New York Premiere: April 24, 2018 | Carnegie Hall

Cycles of My Being was commissioned by Opera Philadelphia, Carnegie Hall, and Lyric Unlimited: A Division of Lyric Opera of Chicago

Support for Cycles of My Being provided by the Howard and Sarah D. Solomon Foundation. Support for Lawrence Brownlee provided by Ann Ziff and Beth and Gary Glynn.

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