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Published18 May 2020

Week 4 of Digital Festival O features the broadcast premiere of Sky on Swings starring Frederica von Stade and Marietta Simpson

Week 4 of Opera Philadelphia’s Digital Festival O features the broadcast premiere of the 2018 chamber opera Sky on Swings, premiering on Friday, May 22, at 8:00 p.m. on YouTube and operaphila.org. Following Friday’s digital opening night, the 2018 production will stream on-demand through Monday, August 31.

An unflinching yet uplifting exploration of Alzheimer’s disease from the company’s inaugural Composer in Residence Lembit Beecher, his longtime collaborator, librettist Hannah Moscovitch, and celebrated stage director Joanna Settle, the opera launched O18, the second edition of Opera Philadelphia’s annual season-opening festival, and earned a nomination for “Best World Premiere” at the 2019 International Opera Awards. “This was opera as real life,” wrote Heidi Waleson, opera critic for the Wall Street Journal.

Sky on Swings addresses the impermanence of memory that threatens us all and explores the new hallucinatory experiences that can follow the onset of dementia. Opera News called it a “poignant” work, built around the talents of “two justly revered mezzo-sopranos, Marietta Simpson (Martha) and Frederica von Stade (Danny),” two women battling different stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The creative team explored the idea of finding grace in the horror of forgetting, discovering moments of happiness, unencumbered by memories or the mantle of the self.

Opera Philadelphia’s Digital Festival O is generously funded, in part, by the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation.

Tenor Daniel Taylor brings “warmth and ringing sound” (Opera News) as Danny’s son Ira, with the “excellent soprano” (BachtrackSharleen Joynt as Martha’s daughter, Winnie. The Philadelphia Inquirer found the production “theatrically true and artistically distinguished,” with conductor Geoffrey McDonald leading the cast and orchestra through performances that add up to “a monumental achievement for Opera Philadelphia” (Parterre).

On May 22 at 7:00 p.m., just before the digital premiere, composer Lembit Beecher, librettist Hannah Moscovitch, director Joanna Settle, and star Frederica von Stade will join a pre-broadcast conversation on “The Show Before The Show” hosted by Opera Philadelphia’s Frank Luzi and Sarah Williams.

The New Yorker says Opera Philadelphia “applies its venturesome spirit” to Digital Festival O “to the benefit of operagoers curious about what (the company) has been up to.” The streaming festival also features the 2017 world premiere of We Shall Not Be Moved by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and director Bill T. Jones, now streaming through Aug. 31; and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, director Michael Shell’s production that recalls the comic films of Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, now streaming through June 29. Future digital premieres include Breaking the Waves (May 29-Aug. 31), the 2016 world premiere by composer Missy Mazzoli, librettist Royce Vavrek, and director James Darrah.

About Opera Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia
, the only American finalist for both the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company and the 2020 International Opera Award for Best Festival, is “the very model of a modern opera company” (Washington Post). Committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the 21st century, the company is “one of American opera’s success stories” (New York Times). For more information, visit operaphila.org.

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