Opera Philadelphia

Published3 Mar 2023

Opera Philadelphia reunites eight resident composers for a March 18 concert celebrating a decade of new opera

Over the past decade, Opera Philadelphia has garnered a reputation as one of the nation’s most innovative opera companies and a proponent of new opera written by a fresh generation of American composers.

Much of that reputation was earned through the company’s unique Composer in Residence program, which launched in 2011 as the nation’s first comprehensive training program for artists wanting to learn how to write an opera. The program provides a highly individualized professional development path for today’s most promising opera composers. Funded by the Mellon Foundation, the program has and continues to foster tomorrow’s masterpieces, with celebrated Opera Philadelphia world premieres like Breaking the Waves, The Wake World, Sky on Swings, and the forthcoming 10 Days in a Madhouse developed by composers during their time in the program.

On Saturday, March 18, Opera Philadelphia will host a concert event celebrating this decade of creativity. Held in the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center, site of numerous Opera Philadelphia world premieres, the concert brings together all eight Composers in Residence who have participated in the program –Lembit Beecher,Courtney Bryan,David Hertzberg,David T. Little,Missy Mazzoli,Andrew Norman,Rene Orth, andTyshawn Sorey. Together, these musicians have created more than 20 new operas, including such acclaimed world premieres as Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves (2016) and Hertzberg's The Wake World (2017), both of which won the Music Critics Association of North America Awards for Best New Opera.

Lawrence Brownlee
Tenor Lawrence Brownlee performs Tyshawn Sorey's "Cycles of My Being" Credit: Dominic M. Mercier

Performing at this one-night-only concert are world-renowned artists like tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who returns to perform an excerpt from Sorey’s Cycles of My Being, which he premiered with Opera Philadelphia and then went on to perform at Carnegie Hall and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Soprano Sharleen Joynt also returns to Philadelphia to sing an aria from the role she created in the World Premiere of Beecher’s Sky on Swings in 2018. The program opens with soprano Ashley Milanese singing the opening aria “His Name is Jan” from Breaking the Waves, back in the same theater where the opera premiered in 2016, and also features mezzo-soprano Amanda Bottoms singing “My Daughter” from Orth’s forthcoming opera 10 Days in a Madhouse, based on the work of journalist Nellie Bly, which receives its world premiere in September.

The concert also features excerpts from four works never performed in Philadelphia: mezzo-soprano Aryssa Leigh Burrs performing “You Shiver” from Little’s JFK; soprano Tiffany Townsend performing excerpts from Bryan’s Blessed; soprano Kara Goodrich and tenor Alek Shrader performing a duet from Norman’s A Trip to the Moon; and mezzo-soprano Sun-Ly Pierce performing “Drift, darling, drift” from Hertzberg’s The Rose Elf.

Tickets for the concert are $50 and are available at operaphila.org or by calling 215.732.8400.

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