Opera Philadelphia

Published4 Jan 2017

Stephanie Blythe Makes her Role Debut in Company Premiere of TANCREDI, February 10-19

Star mezzo will also appear opposite Philly drag legend Martha Graham Cracker in special event Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night

Stephanie Blythe, a renowned mezzo-soprano “who can do anything” according to The New York Times, will put that theory to the test this February with Opera Philadelphia, as she tries on a Rossini trouser role for the first time and hitches up her pants to appear alongside “the world’s tallest and hairiest drag queen” for an immersive concert event.

Considered one of the most respected and critically acclaimed artists of her generation, Blythe makes her highly anticipated first appearances in the title role of Rossini’s Tancredi, February 10-19 2017 at the historic Academy of Music. The production from Opéra de Lausanne and Teatro Municipal de Santiago transports the medieval story of chivalry and tragic love to the elegant atmosphere of Europe at the end of World War I. Soprano Brenda Rae, known for her “knockout coloratura skills” and “luminous nobility” (Opera News), makes her company debut as Amenaide, the love of the exiled warrior Tancredi. When Amenaide is sentenced to death for an act of treason she did not commit, a disguised Tancredi returns to defend both his love and home.

“Opera Philadelphia is thrilled to present the company premiere of Tancredi, one of Rossini’s most lyrical operas, in a beautiful production that is perfectly suited to the Academy of Music,” said David B. Devan, General Director and President. “With a fresh take on Rossini’s opera and a star like Stephanie Blythe in her role debut alongside a dynamic cast, many of whom are appearing on our stage for the first time, Tancredi promises boundless opportunities for artistic exploration and discovery.”

Company Premiere of TANCREDI in a production from Opéra de Lausanne Credit: Marc Vanappelghem | Opéra de Lausanne

“I essayed my first title role in a Rossini opera right here on the Academy of Music stage back in 2000 as Isabella in L’Italiana in Algeri, with Maestro Rovaris leading the way,” Blythe said. “It is a great joy and privilege to perform in my first staged version of Tancredi with my friend at the podium and the luminescent Brenda Rae by my side. Being part of a first rate cast is such a joy!”

A celebrated opera singer and recitalist, Blythe’s repertoire ranges from Handel to Wagner, German lieder to contemporary and classic American song. She has performed on many of the world’s great stages, such as Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, and Paris National Opera. She was named Musical America's Vocalist of the Year in 2009, received an Opera News Award in 2007 and won the Richard Tucker Award in 1999. She recently released her first crossover recording, “As Long as There Are Songs,” on the Innova label with pianist Craig Terry.

Rae tackles the role debut of Amenaide in the middle of an ambitious season in which she has taken on a number of new roles, including the title role in Berg’s Lulu for her debut with the English National Opera; the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with the Bayerische Staatsoper; and Gilda in a new production of Rigoletto as well as Zdenka in Arabella, both with her home company of Oper Frankfurt.

Heralded by Opera News as an artist who “displays a voice of silken loveliness as well as graceful agility,” tenor Michele Angelini makes his company debut as Argirio, father of Amenaide. A nominee for Best Young Male Singer in the 2016 International Opera Awards., Angelini has been thrilling audiences on leading international stages in the operatic repertoire of Bellini, Donizetti, Gluck, Mozart, and Rossini. Most recently, he made a series of critically acclaimed appearances at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London. Bass-baritone Daniel Mobbs, who has won praise for his "solid, resonant voice and boundless energy (The New York Times), is Orbazzano, head of the noble family at war with Argirio’s family. Mezzo Allegra De Vita, praised by The Philadelphia Inquirer for her “vocal charisma,” makes her company debut as Amenaide’s friend, Isaura, while mezzo and Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artist Anastasiia Sidorova is Tancredi’s attendant, Roggiero.

Based on a play by Voltaire, Tancredi premiered in 1813 just months before his comic masterpiece The Italian Girl in Algiers. The operas established the composer’s international reputation at the age of 21. Although the original version had a happy ending, Rossini reworked the opera to emulate Voltaire’s original tragic ending. The revised score, lost for more than 150 years and rediscovered in 1976, is performed in this production, directed by Emilio Sagi with Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris leading the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra.

Music by Gioachino Rossini | Libretto by Gaetano Rossi
Production from Opéra de Lausanne
February 10, 12M, 15, 17, 19M, 2017
Academy of Music
Performed in Italian with English Supertitles
Tancredi is underwritten, in part, by Ms. Barbara Augusta Teichert

Dito van Reigersberg as Martha Graham Cracker Credit: Pig Iron Theatre

Blythe will also take a very different Philadelphia stage on Friday, February 24, as Opera Philadelphia hosts an immersive, one-of-a-kind drag performance starring the renowned mezzo-soprano alongside the world’s tallest and hairiest drag queen Dito van Reigersberg as Martha Graham Cracker.  Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night is a concert and dance party taking place at 9:30 p.m. at the TLA (Theatre of Living Arts), a classic rock venue located at 334 South Street.

“I have done a good deal of crossover music, but never anything quite like this,” Blythe said. “This evening is about making dreams become reality, of crossing over many kinds of boundaries to experience pure joy, love, positivity, and wonderful energy. I have been an admirer of Martha Graham Cracker for a long time, and to share the stage with her is truly a dream come true. She and Dito make me feel like an invincible force onstage, because that is what Martha is—she shares that generosity of spirit with every audience member, and I love being a recipient too.”

"I am truly honored and humbled to be performing alongside opera legend Stephanie Blythe,” Martha Graham Cracker said. “She and I have a similar mischievous streak and I think that has been serving us well as we craft this wild and woolly piece. Dito & Aeneas is a piece that will transcend the strict genre and gender boundaries of opera and rock ‘n’ roll. Armed with the crafty skills of director John Jarboe and music director Daniel Kazemi, we have forged some joyous and unpredictable musical mashups—I can promise intense silliness. That said, I think there may also be moments of true pathos and melodious beauty."

Written and directed by John Jarboe (Bearded Ladies Cabaret), the performance will be a cabaret style mash-up of opera, classical music, and pop, with sing-along aspects. Ms. Blythe’s costumes will be created by Machine Dazzle, whose elaborate designs for Taylor Mac’s acclaimed 2016 show A 24-Decade History of Popular Music were described as “a spectacle” by NPR and “gaudy, glittery, and gorgeously subversive” by The New York Times.

Kingly and queenly attire is encouraged (and open to interpretation)! Tickets are now available at operaphila.org/queens.

Chat with Guest Services