Opera Philadelphia


Unholy Wars

Unholy Wars

Philadelphia Premiere
Music by George Frideric Handel, Claudio Monteverdi, Mary Kouyoumdjian
Performed in Latin and Italian with English supertitles
Part of Festival O23

Unholy Wars closes the dusty history book and reframes the Crusades from a Middle Eastern perspective to reveal a new story of belonging and resilience. Conceived and created by Lebanese American tenor Karim Sulayman, music by Handel and Monteverdi is interwoven with that of composer Mary Kouyoumdjian to explore and reclaim representations of his identity. Reexamining Baroque interpretations of the Crusades and depictions of the Middle East, Sulayman asks "Can we lean into the discomfort of our collective history while forging a new path forward?"

This boundary-breaking piece premiered at Spoleto Festival USA, where critics called it "emotional" and "powerful." The intimate staging directed by Kevin Newbury, with visual narrative by Kevork Mourad, explores the tensions of history, representation, identity, and survival through music and dance.

Opera Philadelphia has partnered with Art-Reach and Nicole Sardella to provide Audio Description for this production on October 1. Learn more>>

Watch Play

Unholy Wars video

MapThe Suzanne Roberts Theatre

Dates are Sep - Oct 2023.

Sat, Sep 23 8:00 p.m.
Wed, Sep 27 7:00 p.m.
Sat, Sep 30 8:00 p.m.
Sun, Oct 1 7:00 p.m.

Approximately 70 minutes with no intermission.

Commissioned by Spoleto Festival USA, developed by Up Until Now Collective, and co-produced by Spoleto Festival USA and Up Until Now Collective.

Opera Philadelphia's 2023-2024 Season is brought to you by the Artistry Now Matching Fund and Barbara Augusta Teichert.

Cast & Creative Team

Kevin Newbury
Kevin NewburyDirector
Mary Kouyoumdjian
Mary Kouyoumdjian *Composer
Karim Sulayman
Karim Sulayman *Tenor
Raha Mirzadegan
Raha Mirzadegan *Soprano
John Taylor Ward
John Taylor Ward *Bass-baritone
Coral Dolphin
Coral Dolphin *Dancer
  • Julie Andrijeski * Music Director
  • George R. Miller * Associate Director
  • Kevork Mourad * Visual Design
  • Ebony Williams * Choreography
  • Jennifer Fok * Lighting Design
  • David C. Woolard Costume Design
  • Michael Salvatore Commendatore * Projection Design
  • Rick Jacobsohn Sound Design
  • Kelsey Vivian * Stage Manager
  • Jecca Barry Creative Producer
  • *Opera Philadelphia debut
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