Published14 Aug 2023
Composer Rene Orth’s 10 Days in a Madhouse Receives World Premiere at Opera Philadelphia
With a Libretto by Hannah Moscovitch, Premiere to be Conducted by Daniela Candillari and Star Will Liverman
World Premiere on September 21, with Additional Performances through September 30
Composer Rene Orth’s newest opera, 10 Days in a Madhouse will have its world premiere at Opera Philadelphia on Thursday, September 21, 2023 at 7:00pm, with additional performances on Saturday, September 23 at 2:00pm, Tuesday, September 26 and Thursday, September 28 at 7:00pm, and Saturday, September 30 at 2:00pm. Grammy-winning baritone Will Liverman (recipient of the 2022 Beverly Sills Artist Award and co-creator of The Factotum which premiered at the Lyric Opera Chicago in 2023) stars as Josiah Blackwell; and Daniela Candillari (Principal Conductor at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Principal Opera Conductor at Music Academy) makes her company debut conducting the production.
10 Days in a Madhouse, directed by Joanna Settle, kicks off Opera Philadelphia’s 2023-24 season and its annual fall festival, Festival 023. Rene Orth’s work with a libretto by Hannah Moscovitch is an experimental, psychological work inspired by the real-life story of Nellie Bly, a trailblazing reporter who, in 1887, faked madness to be admitted to Blackwell’s Asylum for the Insane and to report on conditions from the inside. While at the asylum, Bly encountered women whose poverty, race, and grief over past traumas had been mistaken for madness. She became a star journalist by exposing the institution’s terrible conditions and her hands-on approach to reporting developed into a practice now called investigative journalism. 10 Days in a Madhouse additionally features soprano Kiera Duffy, mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis, and soprano Lauren Pearl.
“10 Days in a Madhouse exposes – as Nellie Bly herself did – the feminization of madness, the bias of doctors against the sanity of women, and how the systems and social structures in which women find themselves induce madness,” says Rene Orth. “It is an acoustic work that is selectively electronic. The acoustic world represents reality as most see it, and the electronic sound world – which includes amplification, live vocal effects, sound design and electronic clips – will dramatize the characters’ journeys into madness.”
Additional projects of Orth’s include a commission for Vocal Arts DC premiering at The Kennedy Center in 2024, composing a song cycle for Daniela Mack; writing a new song for Grammy-winner Will Liverman’s next album on Cedille Records, which is a duet for him and J’nai Bridges; and writing an electronics and voice piece for Raehann Bryce-Davis’ forthcoming debut album.
Will Liverman’s 2023-24 season begins with creating the role of Dr. Blackwell in 10 Days in a Madhouse, the second time he has brought a new character to life on the Opera Philadelphia stage, having created the role of Dizzy Gillespie in the 2015 world premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird by Daniel Schnyder and Bridgette Wimberly. Following his appearance in 10 Days in a Madhouse, Liverman – who has been described as “a voice for this historic moment” by The Washington Post – sings the title role of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X at The Metropolitan Opera.
Daniela Candillari – praised for her “confidence and apparently inexhaustible verve” by The New York Times – opens the 2023-24 season with her company debut conducting 10 Days in a Madhouse at Opera Philadelphia. Immediately following, the Principal Conductor at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis leads another world premiere, this time at Washington National Opera for Jeanine Tesori’s Grounded starring Emily D’Angelo.
On Tuesday, September 26, at 8:45 p.m., Opera Philadelphia hosts a one-hour panel discussion and Q&A session following that evening’s performance of 10 Days in a Madhouse. The roundtable aims to help audiences learn more about disability justice, and how Nellie Bly’s work inspires and resonates in our current times, as well as helped to inspire the opera. Panelists include Charlie Miller, Community Engagement Director, Dauphin County Library System, and Amy Nieves, Executive Director Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. This event is part of the Reflection & Re-Vision series.
10 Days in a Madhouse is co-commissioned and co-produced by Opera Philadelphia and Tapestry Opera. The commissioning of Rene Orth for 10 Days in a Madhouse received funding from OPERA America's Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. The project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
About Rene Orth
Rene Orth is a composer who "breaks new ground" (Opera News), writing music described as “always dramatic, reflective, rarely predictable, and often electronic” (Musical America). She was the inaugural Resident Composer at Opera San José in the 2022-23 season, and recently completed a three-year tenure as Composer-In-Residence at Opera Philadelphia.
This season, Opera Philadelphia presents the world premiere of Orth’s 10 Day in a Madhouse, co-commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and Tapestry Opera. With a libretto by Hannah Moscovitch, this psychological drama based on historical events follows the trailblazing reporter Nellie Bly through her internment at Blackwell's Asylum, exposing, as Bly did, notions of madness and societal biases against women. The opera, conducted by Daniela Candillari, stars Kiera Duffy, Raehann Bryce-Davis, and Will Liverman. Other projects include a commission for Vocal Arts DC premiering at The Kennedy Center in 2024, composing a song cycle for mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack; writing a new song, A Prayer, for baritone Will Liverman’s next album, which is a duet for him and mezzo-soprano J’nai Bridges, setting a Sara Teasdale poem; and writing an electronics and voice piece for mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis’ forthcoming debut album, Stand the Storm. The Chautauqua Institution will also premiere Love, Loss, and the Century Upon Us (libretto by Jerre Dye) with a 13-piece orchestra, part of a larger work called A Summer Place in Summer 2024.
Distinctions include grants and awards from OPERA America, American Composers Forum, Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. Orth is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music. She received her M.M. in Music Composition at the University of Louisville, and holds additional degrees from MediaTech Institute and Rhodes College. www.reneorth.com.
About Will Liverman
Called “a voice for this historic moment” (Washington Post), GRAMMY Award winning baritone Will Liverman is the recipient of the 2022 Beverly Sills Artist Award and the co-creator of The Factotum – called “mic-drop fabulous good” (Opera News) – which premiered at the Lyric Opera Chicago in 2023.
This season Liverman returns to the Metropolitan Opera in the title role of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. He was previously seen at the Met opening its 21-22 season in a celebrated “breakout performance” (New York Times) as Charles in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones, which won the 2023 GRAMMY Award for Best Opera Recording.
Liverman’s 2023-24 season further includes productions with Opera Philadelphia for the world premiere of Rene Orth’s 10 Days in a Madhouse and the Met Opera for Roméo et Juliette. In concert, he joins the Lexington Philharmonic for the orchestrated world premiere of Shawn E. Okpebholo’s Two Black Churches, Houston Symphony’s Carmina Burana, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for Brahms’ A German Requiem, and The Washington Chorus’ Elijah Reimagined, plus Dayton Opera, Caramoor, and Cincinnati Song Initiative for vocal recitals. He serves as Artistic Advisor for Renée Fleming’s SongStudio at Carnegie Hall.
Cedille Records released Liverman’s Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers with pianist Paul Sanchez in February 2021. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Traditional Classical chart and was nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album.
Liverman is an alumnus of the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and was a Glimmerglass Festival Young Artist. He holds degrees from The Juilliard School (M.M.) and Wheaton College in Illinois (B.M.). www.willliverman.com.
About Daniela Candillari
Conductor Daniela Candillari brings her “confidence and apparently inexhaustible verve” (The New York Times) to opera houses and concert stages throughout North America and internationally. Recognized for her “powerful and breathtaking performances” (Review STL), she enters her third season as both Principal Conductor at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Principal Opera Conductor at Music Academy.
After Summer 2023 performances of Tosca with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, four separate programs with Classical Tahoe, and La bohème with Music Academy, Candillari’s 2023-24 season opens with the world premiere of Rene Orth and Hannah Moscovitch’s 10 Days in a Madhouse at Opera Philadelphia, where she makes her company debut. Immediately following, Candillari conducts the world premiere of Jeanine Tesori’s Grounded with Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center. Her season continues with a return to Arizona Opera for Don Giovanni, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis for Julius Caesar and Center Stage, plus appearances at Yale School of Music for A Rake's Progress as well as at Manhattan School of Music.
Daniela Candillari grew up in Serbia and Slovenia. She holds a Doctorate in Musicology from the Universität für Musik in Vienna, a Master of Music in Jazz Studies from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and a Master of Music and Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from the Universität für Musik in Graz. A Fulbright Scholarship recipient, she was also awarded a TED Fellowship.
Learn more at www.danielacandillari.com.
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.