Opera Philadelphia


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The Wake World

World Premiere
Music and libretto by David Hertzberg
Based on the story The Wake World by Aleister Crowley
American Repertoire Program
Performed in English with English supertitles

Winner of the 2018 award for Best New Opera from the Music Critics Association of North America.

Part of 

Composer in Residence David Hertzberg and director R.B. Schlather take visitors on a fantastic journey through the treasured galleries of The Barnes Foundation. In this world premiere, two of the early 20th century’s most prolific and polarizing artistic visionaries collide: physician, collector, and writer Dr. Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951) and Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), the British poet, magician, and occultist once dubbed the “wickedest man in the world.” In a one-act opera inspired by Crowley’s ecstatic fairy tale The Wake World, visitors will experience Dr. Barnes’s collection like never before as they follow a wide-eyed seeker and her guardian angel on a dreamlike voyage. Works of art jump off the gallery walls and into the action as the museum is transformed, with the voices of the Opera Philadelphia Chorus drawing the audience through a mystical world of hallucinatory vividness. As a fully immersive performance, The Wake World challenges understandings of art, opera, and the self—in a way audiences are unlikely to forget.

Choose Your Own Adventure

You are invited to begin your performance experience at 7:00 p.m. with exclusive access to the Barnes collection. Interact with the performers amidst the artwork before moving into the Annenberg Court, where the performance continues. In the Annenberg Court, benches lining the walls will be available should you require seating, but you are encouraged to move through the space along with our heroine, Lola, and the other inhabitants of The Wake World. The performance is what you make of it.

Seeing The Wake World? Enjoy a prix fixe dinner at The Barnes before your performance. Discover more>>

MapThe Barnes Foundation

Dates are Sept. 2017.

Mon, Sep 18 8:00 p.m.
Tue, Sep 19 8:00 p.m.
Sat, Sep 23 8:00 p.m.
Sun, Sep 24 8:00 p.m.
Mon, Sep 25 8:00 p.m.

Gallery Hour experience starts at 7:00 p.m. plus one hour and 15 minutes with no intermission

Production underwritten by the Wyncote Foundation at the recommendation of Daniel K. Meyer, M.D.

Support for The Wake World has been provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Additional support provided by the Allen R. and Judith Brick Freedman Venture Fund for New Opera.

The Composer in Residence program is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Co-presented by Opera Philadelphia and The Barnes Foundation

David Hertzberg

The Composer

David Hertzberg

The “opulently gifted,” David Hertzberg (Opera News) is an innovative young composer whose works continue to amaze and thrill audiences. His calendar opens with a premiere of his The Wake World. Commissioned and presented by Opera Philadelphia and featured on the company's O17 Festival, this fantastical new work takes visitors on an unforgettable tour through The Barnes Foundation galleries. As one of Opera Philadelphia’s 2017-2018 Composers-in-Residence, in a program offered in collaboration with Music-Theatre Group, Mr. Hertzberg will remain an active presence in Philadelphia as he creates, and develops new work for the company's Double Exposure program. Other upcoming projects also include a Fromm Music Foundation commission for cello and piano, to be premiered at Harvard University. Learn more about David Hertzberg.

Cast & Creative Team

Elizabeth Braden
Elizabeth BradenConductor
R. B. Schlather
R. B. Schlather *Director
Maeve Höglund
Maeve Höglund *as Lola
Rihab Chaieb
Rihab Chaieb *as The Fairy Prince
Rebecca Myers
Rebecca Myers *as Parthenope
Veronica Chapman-Smith
Veronica Chapman-Smithas Ligeia
Joanna Gates
Joanna Gates *as Leucosia
Jessica Beebe
Jessica Beebe *as Luna/Hecate
George Ross Somerville
George Ross Somervilleas Morbus
John David Miles
John David Milesas Pestilitas
James Osby Gwathney, Jr.
James Osby Gwathney, Jr. *as Giant/Bone Man/Man in the Azure Coat/Man of the Blue House
  • Terese Wadden * Costume Design
  • JAX Messenger Lighting Design
  • Julia Bumke Dramaturg
  • Opera Philadelphia Chorus Palace of Names
  • Lisa Marie Lange Stage Manager
  • Bee Reed * Assistant Stage Manager
  • *Opera Philadelphia debut
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