Opera Philadelphia

Published17 Jan 2020

Opera Philadelphia’s Award-Winning Denis & Katya Makes European Premiere on UK Tour (Feb 27–March 27)

Opera Philadelphia scored a hit at O19, “its increasingly essential September festival” (New Yorker), with the world premiere of Denis & Katya. A timely and immersive multimedia chamber opera by composer Philip Venables and librettist-director Ted Huffman, the new work was recognized with the 2019 FEDORA-GENERALI Prize for Opera and by inclusion in the New York Times’s “Best Classical Music of 2019.” Commissioned and produced in collaboration with Music Theatre Wales and Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier, now Denis & Katya makes its European debut with a tour of Wales (Feb 27–March 27) and dates at London’s Southbank Centre (March 13 & 14), underscoring Opera Philadelphia’s role as “a hotbed of operatic innovation” (New York Times) that represents “one of North America’s premiere generators of valid new operas” (Opera News).

Credit: Dominic Mercier

Inspired by the true story of 15-year-old runaways Denis Muravyov and Katya Vlasova, who became social media sensations when they livestreamed the armed stand-off with Russian Special Forces that culminated in their own deaths, Denis & Katya proved a resounding critical success at its Opera Philadelphia premiere. The New York Times heralded the opera as an “intimate, haunting triumph,” and Musical America declared: 

“Not only is Venables’s newest creation the most brilliantly original operatic work I’ve seen in a decade, it’s a sensitive, subtle, and deeply questioning meditation on youth, voyeurism, and the age of social media.”

As the New Yorker concluded, being “driven … by a strong artistic purpose,” the production was “most important for the long-term health of the art” of opera itself.

Denis & Katya makes its UK premiere in Newport, Wales, on February 27 before touring to Mold (March 2), Aberystwyth (March 3) and Cardiff (March 27) and making its London debut at the famed Southbank Centre (March 13 & 14). Performed by Music Theatre Wales in association with the London Sinfonietta, the British performances will once again feature the “perfect casting” (Seen and Heard International) of baritone Johnny Herford and mezzo-soprano Emily Edmonds, who reprise their roles in the original production – noted for its “admirable visual and aural precision and imagination” (Opera News) – by librettist-director Ted Huffman and co-creator and dramaturg Ksenia Ravvina.


Denis & Katya marks the latest in a string of important new works brought to life at Opera Philadelphia. Fast becoming one of today’s most-talked-about global tastemakers, the company also presented the East Coast premiere of Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell’s Silent Night, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Music; the world premiere of the same team’s Elizabeth Cree, which went on to enjoy a successful run at Chicago Opera Theater; the world premiere of Daniel Schnyder and Bridgette A. Wimberly’s Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, which has since graced New York’s Apollo Theater, Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Atlanta Opera and, in collaboration with English National Opera, London’s Hackney Empire; the East Coast premiere of Jennifer Higdon and Gene Scheer’s Cold Mountain, winner of the 2016 International Opera Award for Best World Premiere; the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s Breaking the Waves, which traveled to New York’s Prototype Festival and won the Music Critics Association of North America (MCANA)’s 2017 Best New Opera Award; the world premiere of Daniel Bernard Roumain and Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s We Shall Not Be Moved, named one of the New York Times’s “Best Classical Music Performances of 2017,” which went on to New York’s Apollo Theater and Amsterdam’s Opera Forward Festival; and the world premiere of David Hertzberg’s The Wake World, winner of MCANA’s 2018 Best New Opera Award.

Meanwhile, back home at the Academy of Music, Opera Philadelphia looks forward to presenting Verdi’s Requiem in two dramatic concerts led by Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris. Now celebrating the 20th anniversary of his house debut, the Italian conductor will be joined by the combined forces of the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra and Chorus, together with a stellar quartet of soloists: soprano Leah Crocetto, who impressed the New York Times with her “agile coloratura technique and a feeling for the Italianate style”; mezzo Daniela Mack, seen in O19’s Semele; Evan LeRoy Johnson, whose “bright, radiant tenor … makes you pay attention” (BR Klassik, Germany); and South Korean bass In-Sung Sim, known for his “deep bass and unstoppable dramatic sense” (Opera Online)(Jan 31 & Feb 2). As the Washington Post observes: “Opera Philadelphia really can claim to offer something for everyone.”


Denis & Katya on UK tour


Music by Philip Venables

Libretto by Ted Huffman

Co-commissioned and co-produced with Music Theatre Wales and Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier

UK tour presented in association with London Sinfonietta


Feb 27 (European premiere)

Newport, Wales

The Riverfront, 7.30pm


March 2

Mold, Wales

Theatr Clwyd, 7.45pm


March 3

Aberystwyth, Wales

Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 7.30pm


March 13 & 14 (London premiere)

London, England

Southbank Centre, 7.45pm


March 27

Cardiff, Wales

Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, 7.30pm


Cast and creative team:

Baritone: Johnny Herford

Mezzo-soprano: Emily Edmonds

Ensemble: four cellists from London Sinfonietta

Director: Ted Huffman

Co-creator and dramaturg: Ksenia Ravvina

UK music director: Tim Anderson

Scenic and lighting design: Andrew Lieberman

Costume design: Millie Hiibel

Sound design: Rob Kaplowitz

Video design: Pierre Martin

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