Opera Philadelphia

Published24 Jun 2024

Single Tickets for Opera Philadelphia's 2024-2025 Season on sale Tuesday, June 25

All eyes will be on Opera Philadelphia in September as the company’s 2024-2025 Season begins with the highly anticipated American Premiere of The Listeners, the newest opera from the Philadelphia-born, Grammy-nominated composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce VavrekTheir 2016 world premiere, Breaking the Waves, was a phenomenon that won the inaugural Best New Opera Award from the Music Critics Association of North America and has been performed around the world since its Philadelphia debut. Performed at the historic Academy of Music from Sept. 25-29, The Listeners is a thriller about social rejection, suburban loneliness, and the seductive power of cults and charismatic leaders in a divided nation.

Single tickets for The Listeners and all Opera Philadelphia productions for the 2024-2025 Season go on sale on Tuesday, June 25. Winter brings the company premiere of The Anonymous Lover, a 1780 opera by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), who is widely regarded as the first Black classical composer known to history and was the subject of the spring 2023 film Chevalier. Soprano Symone Harcum makes her company debut as Léontine. Tenor Khanyiso Gwenxane, who impressed in the title role of 2022’s Otello, returns in a role debut as her secret admirer, Valcour. The season closes in spring with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Alison Moritz, which premiered earlier this month at Cincinnati Opera.

“In the 2024-2025 Season, Opera Philadelphia will continue to bring beloved classics, rare gems, and modern masterpieces to the Academy of Music stage, championing and advancing the art form for our community,” said Corrado Rovaris, Opera Philadelphia’s Jack Mulroney Music Director. “I am thrilled to begin the season with The Listeners by our former Composer in Residence Missy Mazzoli and her longtime collaborator Royce Vavrek. Their 2016 world premiere of Breaking the Waves was a seminal moment in the history of our company, and the Academy is the ideal home for the American Premiere of this grand new opera they have created.”

“It is the realization of a personal dream to work at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia,” said Missy Mazzoli. “I have a clear memory of walking by that building as a teenager and thinking, ‘one day, my music will be performed here.’ The Listeners was a fantastic project to debut with Norwegian National Opera in 2022 and I cannot wait to bring it to the U.S. with my hometown company, Opera Philadelphia.” 

Opera Philadelphia’s 2024-2025 Season will not open with a fall Festival O as has been the company’s tradition since 2017. The festival is currently on hiatus as the company charts a new future under the leadership of General Director & President Anthony Roth Costanzo.

Opera Philadelphia's 2024-2025 Season is brought to you by the Artistry Now Matching Fund and Barbara Augusta Teichert. Academy of Music productions are made possible with support from Judy and Peter Leone.

Tickets are on sale at operaphila.org, or by calling 215.732.8400 (Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.).


The Listeners
Music by Missy Mazzoli
Libretto by Royce Vavrek
Based on an original story by Jordan Tannahill
American Premiere
September 25, 27, 29, 2024
Academy of Music
Performed in English with English supertitles

Composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek follow up on their acclaimed 2016 world premiere Breaking the Waves with a thriller about the seductive power of cults and charismatic leaders in a divided nation. Based on an original story by Jordan Tannahill, the story is inspired by an actual phenomenon called “the global hum,” a low-pitched sound that people around the world claim to hear. 

The Listeners examines the lengths to which we, as Americans, are willing to go to find a sense of place and purpose, and the way in which confident, charming leaders can exploit these needs to their own ends.

A middle-class mother (soprano Nicole Heaston in her company debut) living in a southwestern U.S. suburb notices a “hum,” a high-frequency environmental noise that only a select few people, the "Listeners,” can hear. A community organization quickly forms to solve the mystery of the hum, but when the de facto leader (Kevin Burdette) suggests a spiritual significance, the meetings become increasingly cult-like. Is this community of “Listeners” on a collision course with destruction? 

“It’s both a psychological thriller and an intimate portrait of modern family life,” says Mazzoli. “From the first words that are sung – ‘This is how we live now.  Unbelievable.’ – to the shocking final twist, this piece has been a joy to write and a thrill to bring to life with our amazing creative team, led by director Lileana Blain-Cruz. Jordan Tannahill’s story and Royce Vavrek’s libretto cut through to the reality of the chaos and longing that roils underneath every seemingly ‘normal’ family, and in the hearts of everyone who dares to pursue their true destiny.”

Vavrek adds that “The Listeners is an opera that is in dialogue with our 21st century experience, a work that seeks to illuminate what it means to be a citizen of the world right now.”

Respected music critic and author Alex Ross calls The Listeners “a potent, chilling and excruciatingly relevant work” (The Rest is Noise). In the New Yorker, Ross names Mazzoli among “a growing cohort of American women taking possession of contemporary opera,” going on to say The Listeners is “one of the year’s strongest music-theatre scores.”

The Philadelphia cast includes baritone Troy Cook as Claire’s husband, Paul Devon, and soprano Lindsey Reynolds as their teen daughter, Ashley. Bass Kevin Burdette returns in the role of Howard Bard, charismatic leader of the Listeners, with mezzo Rehanna Thelwell as Angela Rose, Howard’s right-hand woman. Baritone John Moore (Breaking the Waves) and tenor Aaron Crouch also star as members of the group.

The Listeners is directed by Tony Award nominee Lileana Blain-Cruz, recipient of the Drama League’s 2022 Founders Award for Excellence in Directing and current resident director of Lincoln Center Theater. Blain-Cruz makes her Metropolitan Opera directing debut in April, leading a new production of El Niño by John Adams. Having recently led a Broadway revival of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, she will next develop a stage musical adaptation of Prince’s Purple Rain alongside playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.

The production is designed by Tony Award nominee Adam Rigg and choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly, with lighting design by Yi Zhao, sound design by Daniel Neumann, video design by Hannah Wasileski, and costume design by Kaye Voyce. Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris leads the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, with Elizabeth Braden leading the Opera Philadelphia Chorus.

The Listeners is Mazzoli and Vavrek’s fourth opera together, having previously collaborated on Song from the UproarBreaking the Waves, and Proving Up. Their fifth opera, Lincoln in the Bardo, will receive its world premiere with LA Opera and the Metropolitan Opera in 2026.

The Listeners is co-commissioned and co-produced with Norwegian National Opera, where it made its world premiere in 2022, and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Major support for The Listeners has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, Stephen A. Block, Robert N. Braun, M.D., Marcus Innovation Fund, and Ashley and Eli Wald.

The Anonymous Lover
Music by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Libretto by François-Georges Fouques Deshayes, Desfontaines, based on the play L’Amant Anonyme by Stéphanie Félicité, Madame de Genlis, adapted by Kirsten Greenidge
Company Premiere
January 31 & February 2, 2025
Academy of Music
Performed in French with English dialogue and supertitles
Runtime is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission

Born in 1745 in the French Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe, Joseph Bologne was the son of Anne Nanon, a Black enslaved woman, and George de Bologne de Saint Georges, the French nobleman who owned her. Educated in France, Bologne found his talents in fencing, riding, and above all, music. During the pre-revolutionary period in France, he was considered one of the most important composers of his time — even performing for and teaching the Queen of France herself, Marie Antionette. His life is the subject of the 2023 feature film Chevalier.

Bologne’s only surviving opera, The Anonymous Lover, is a romantic comedy ahead of its time. When a young widow named Léontine begins to receive a series of passionate letters from a secret admirer, she wrestles with whether she can love again, especially when it becomes apparent her friend Valcour may be the un-signed author. Will love win?

This company premiere stars soprano Symone Harcum as Léontine, a role she performed to audience and critical acclaim with Minnesota Opera in 2022. She is joined by tenor Khanyiso Gwenxane in his role debut as Valcour. The South African tenor made a splash in his 2022 Opera Philadelphia debut in the title role of Rossini’s Otello, with the New York Times hailing his “bold and forthright” voice. Rounding out the comedic cast are baritone Johnathan McCullough, acclaimed director and star of Opera Philadelphia’s 2021 film of David T. Little’s Soldier Songs, as Ophémon; soprano Ashley Marie Robillard as Jeanette; tenor Joshua Blue (2023’s La bohème) as Colin; and mezzo-soprano Sun-Ly Pierce (2022’s Otello) as Dorothée.

Co-produced by Boston Lyric Opera, the production includes a new adaptation by Obie Award-winning Boston playwright Kirsten Greenidge that mixes new English dialogue with the original French singing in a joyful performance told in two acts over 90 minutes with no intermission. The opera holds a key place in the annals of music history as one of the first known operas composed by a Black artist. The Anonymous Lover was Bologne’s most successful and the only one known to have survived over time. The influence of Bologne’s charming work – and the French play by Madame de Genlis on which its libretto was based – can be seen in generations of secret love-letter stories told in movies and musicals it spawned like “You’ve Got Mail” and “The Shop Around the Corner.”

The Anonymous Lover is directed by Dennis Whitehead Darling and conducted by Kalena Bovell, both making their Opera Philadelphia debuts.  Darling is an award-winning stage director working in both opera and theatre in the Unites States and Europe. His recent directing credits include the world premieres of Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell’s Grammy-nominated oratorio Sanctuary Road for North Carolina Opera and composer Damien Sneed and librettist Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton’s Marian’s Song, based on the life of Philadelphia singer Marian Anderson, for Houston Grand Opera. Panamanian American conductor Bovell is “one of the brightest stars in classical music” (CBS3). Propelled by a steadfast commitment to musical excellence and community access, Bovell has rapidly ascended to international prominence. Her recent achievements include receiving the prestigious 2024 Sphinx Medal of Excellence—the highest honor bestowed by the Sphinx Organization—and being named a 2022-2024 Awardee of the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship. In a groundbreaking moment, Bovell etched her name in history in 2023 as the first Black woman to conduct an opera in Canada, conducting a world premiere reimagination of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha.

Don Giovanni
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
New Production from Cincinnati Opera
April 25, 27, May 2, 4, 2025
Academy of Music
Performed in Italian with English Supertitles
Runtime is approximately 3 hours including one 20-minute intermission

Mozart’s riveting masterpiece follows the charming predator Don Giovanni, a man who uses people without a care for their hearts, or the consequences of his actions. All the while, the sleazy nobleman’s loyal servant records his master’s misdeeds. When he murders the father of a woman he’s assaulted, Giovanni sets in motion events that could lead to his downfall. Will he get away with his crimes and unrepentant pursuit of selfish desire? Or will there be hell to pay?

American stage director Alison Moritz has quickly gained a reputation for her innovative interpretations of the classic repertoire and her equally incisive takes on contemporary music theater. Her work focuses on using music as a prism for human emotion – as such, her work has been praised for her “edgy, teeth-grinding style” by the New York Observer, and her recent projects have been lauded “enchantingly cheeky” (Washington Post), “elegantly sexy,” and “raw, funny, surreal, and disarmingly human” (Opera News). Her new production includes sets and costumes designed by Philip Witcomb, and lighting design by Thomas C. Hase. Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris leads the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, with Elizabeth Braden leading the Opera Philadelphia Chorus.                

Heralded for his “firm, flexible baritone” (New York Times) and “swaggering, rakish” stage presence (Opera News), Timothy Murray makes his Opera Philadelphia debut in the title role. The Academy of Vocal Arts graduate made his European debut in the 2023-2024 season in the same role in a new production at Opéra de Lille. A recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Canadian soprano Olivia Smith makes her company debut as Donna Anna.

Soprano Elizabeth Reiter, a Curtis Institute of Music alum who received international acclaim for her portrayal of Aphrodite in the 2011 American premiere of Henze’s Phaedra with Opera Philadelphia, returns as Donna Elvira. Bass-baritone Nicholas Newton makes his Opera Philadelphia debut in the role of Leporello, Don Giovanni’s servant and sidekick. Newton performs the same role in a summer 2024 production at the Santa Fe Opera, where he will also appear in the world premiere of The Righteous by Gregory Spears and Tracy K. Smith. American soprano Amanda Sheriff performs the role of Zerlina, with baritone Kevin Godínez, an Academy of Vocal Arts resident artist seen in 2023 at Opera in the Park and Afternoons at AVA, as Masetto. American bass Raymond Aceto also makes his company debut as the Commendatore.

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.

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