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Published8 Sep 2022

Courtney Bryan named the next Composer in Residence at Opera Philadelphia

The multidimensional composer, whose Blessed premiered on the Opera Philadelphia Channel in 2021, returns to the company to explore opera in prestigious post.

For more than a decade, Opera Philadelphia’s Composer in Residence program has provided composers with opportunities for exploration and creative development in the field of opera. The first comprehensive operatic program of its kind in the country, it provides composers with highly individualized creative development such as connecting with experts, detailed work with singers, and working with the company to further their study of creation and exploration in opera. Past Composers in Residence have included Missy Mazzoli and Tyshawn Sorey, and many have debuted song cycles, digital shorts, and full operas with the company. The Composer in Residence program is made possible by the Mellon Foundation.

Courtney Bryan, who begins as Opera Philadelphia’s next Composer in Residence in the fall of 2022, is “a pianist and composer of panoramic interests” (New York Times). Her music is in conversation with musical genres from jazz and experimental music to gospel, spirituals, and hymns. Bryan is the Albert and Linda Mintz Professor of Music at Newcomb College in the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University, and a Creative Partner with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Bryan has Bachelor of Music from Oberlin Conservatory, a Master of Music from Rutgers University, a Doctoral of Musical Arts from Columbia University, and completed postdoctoral studies in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. She was the 2018 music recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, a 2018 Hermitage Fellow, a 2019-20 recipient of the Samuel Barber Rome Prize in Music Composition, and a 2020 United States Artists Fellow.

Courtney Bryan
Courtney Bryan, the new Composer in Residence at Opera Philadelphia Credit: Arielle Pentes

“Courtney is a multidimensional force with inspirational depth, spirituality, and individuality,” said Sarah Williams, Opera Philadelphia’s Director of New Works and Creative Producer. “She extends a bold and conscious artistic expression, carving out a distinguished and touching creativity that is desperately needed. I’m looking forward to digging in with Courtney and supporting her journey in opera. Our industry will be all the better for her exploration and voice in opera.”

Bryan’s first work with Opera Philadelphia was Blessed, one of the original four digital commissions produced for the Opera Philadelphia Channel in early 2021. With a film by Tiona Nekkia McClodden featuring Janinah Burnett and Damian Norfleet, Blessed was a revelation in how opera could be reimagined for the streaming world, as well as a deeply personal piece that featured Bryan’s New Orleans church and footage of her in her hometown.

Bryan may also be familiar to viewers of the free Reflection & Re-Vision series on the Opera Philadelphia Channel, where she participated in a panel discussion on the experiences of women composers in the opera and classical music world.

“I am thrilled to join as Composer in Residence with the dynamic and future-facing Opera Philadelphia,” Bryan said. “It is an honor to join the distinguished list of composers who have come through this program, and I look forward to the journey. Since I was in high school, I envisioned myself writing opera. As a composer and collaborator, I love to engage with narrative, history, emotion, and spirit. There are stories and sounds that I am excited to share. During my residency, I look forward to studying the practice of writing opera and to discovering what it inspires me to create.”

Learn more about the Composer in Residence program and former program participants at operaphila.org/composers.

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 developing opera for the 21st century, the company is recognized as “a hotbed of operatic innovation” (New York Times). For more information, visit operaphila.org.

The Opera Philadelphia Channel creates a digital space in which artists can perform and explore, through a series of new commissions by visionary composers and dynamic performances produced for the screen. Annual subscriptions are offered along with pay-per-view rental options for individual performances. The channel is available for viewing on computers and mobile devices, and on TV screens via Chromecast and the Opera Philadelphia Channel app on AppleTV, Android TV, Roku, and Amazon FireTV. For more information, visit operaphila.tv.

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