Beginning in 2017, for four consecutive Septembers this genre-defying celebration brought the company together with other partnering arts organizations in a thrilling series of events that mix traditional opera with new and innovative works. That is, it did… till quarantine shut it down.
This year, it promises to return full-throttle, starting with a revival of Rossini’s Otello that includes performances by several singers—Lawrence Brownlee, Daniela Mack, Alek Shrader—who have previously distinguished themselves with the company, as well as the U. S. debut of South African tenor Khanyiso Gwenxane in the title role.
I’m equally intrigued by a new film-with-live-performance operatic work called Black Lodge, by composer David T. Little and librettist Anne Waldman. Previous O Festivals have included collaborative concerts with young artists from the Curtis Institute; this year, a collaboration with the Academy of Vocal Arts will pair some of their singers with the estimable Latonia Moore, herself an AVA grad. (Philly Pride!)
There’s more to come beyond this of course. But this announcement is a lovely breath of Spring and the promise of an artistically fruitful Autumn.
More details from Opera Philadelphia:
Launching both O22 and the company’s year-round subscription Academy Series is a new production of Rossini’s rarely performed Otello starring tenors Lawrence Brownlee (Rodrigo), Khanyiso Gwenxane (Otello), and Alek Shrader (Iago), vying for the affections of mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack’s Desdemona.
Festival audiences will also experience two supernaturally atmospheric works: director Aria Umezawa leads a new production of Toshio Hosokawa’s monodrama The Raven based on Edgar Allan Poe’s 1845 poem, starring mezzo soprano Kristen Choi; and composer David T. Little’s newest operatic and cinematic creation, Black Lodge, produced by Beth Morrison Projects, which takes viewers through a surreal psychological escape room without an escape, starring the dark glam opera band Timur and the Dime Museum.
In a first for Festival O, Opera Philadelphia will screen a selection of feature-length and short-form opera films on multiple screens at the Philadelphia Film Center, the city’s premier hub for film, and is inviting creators to submit their film projects for consideration to be screened alongside classic opera films and recent cinematic works created for the Opera Philadelphia Channel.
The festival will also spotlight singers trained at Philadelphia’s acclaimed Academy of Vocal Arts, as star graduates including soprano Latonia Moore return to perform alongside current Resident Artists in two Saturday recitals at their historic and intimate concert hall.
The Opera Philadelphia Orchestra and Chorus heat up the winter as they unite on the Academy stage for concert performances of Orff’s scorching Carmina Burana. The season closes with director Yuval Sharon’s bold staging of Puccini’s La bohème in reverse order—starting with Act IV and ending with Act I—extracting hope from tragedy, life from death, and love from loneliness.