Philadelphia Opera Collective to Present OPERA MACABRE: EDGAR ALLEN POE, Begin. 9/13
On the heels of last year's sold out production, The Philadelphia Opera Collective has decided to continue to push the boundaries of what defines opera with a work of their own creation. Opera Macabre: Edgar Allan Poe Opera is the fourth production by the company. With text in English, it continues their omnipresent mission to engage new and younger audiences with the living, breathing art of opera. Opera Macabre will open the evening of Friday the 13th in September with performances on the 14th, 15th, and 19th. Directed by Brenna Geffers and Musically Directed by Reese Revak, all performances will be held at the well-known Adrienne Theatre Playground - 2030 Sansom St.
"The POC's mission is to promote American opera in a country where La Boheme gets performed dozens of times a year." As the composer of this World Premiere Opera, Reese Revak, considers how this opera plays into the loft mission of the Collective which he helped found. "Not that I don't love Puccini, but his timeless operas were most relevant at the time they were composed. I want the impact of these new pieces to be far-reaching."
"Edgar Allan Poe is the perfect resource for an opera libretto," says the company's producer, Michael A. Lienhard. "Having lived such an operatic life himself, he truly comprehended how to tell a tragic or stomach twisting story in a way that leaves a reader breathless. We plan on expanding upon that aesthetic."
The Collective is pleased to once again join forces with director Brenna Geffers to bring a stark and elegant staging to the work. Geffers has a reputation for creating edgy and visceral worlds and since joining the operatic world a year ago she has been a like force of nature. Her past fringe shows, including Marat/Sadeand Woyzeck, and of course the Collective's own The Consul have delivered not-to-be-missed highlights of the festival. Opera Macabre will be sure to fall into the same category.
The POC has also taken strides to include more key members of the theatre community. Alison Hoban of Found Theater Co. was one of the main collaborators for the opera. She also brings her unique aesthetic to the production by building puppets with Jordan Montram (also of Found Theatre Co.) to help bring the demands of Poe's prose to life. The POC is proud to also have prominent performer, Ross Beschler helping with the libretto of the work. Beschler was a creator of Hell for 2010 PIFA, and Golem for the 2012 season for EgoPoe Classic Theater. Having these interdisciplinary performers involved with the show keeps the POC on the path to keeping opera relevant in the ever changing theatre community.
"We are interested in pushing the boundaries of what we believe opera is and should be," says Lienhard. "To say that it is restrictive to the rich and bilingual or that it is not accessible as a medium is an unfortunate stereotype." Revak and Lienhard hope that by choosing source material that speaks to them, with text in the vernacular and by uniting with artists outside of the musical world that they can begin to break down walls and begin a dialogue about where opera exists in this day and age.
While considering the marriage of opera and Poe Revak comments that "it was an exercise in exploring different levels of dissonance, since these stories, while grotesque, are not just blood and gore through and through." To achieve this Revak has broken away from the "orchestra, string quartet or piano" accompaniment that is most common in opera. The score consists of "splashes of dissonant color are thrown down on an otherwise tonal score, and we've chosen to augment the piano accompaniment with an accordion to add an extra edge." The accordion, played by Lienhard isn't the only additional instrument that will join Revak's ensemble. This year Jess Molan will also play her upright bass in the production. Lienhard muses that "this trio of instruments helps to tell Revak's story. They are so unique and the cornucopia of sounds that can be achieved will only serve the drama better."
FringeArts (formerly Philadelphia Live Arts Festival& Philly Fringe) exists to commission, develop and present a range of high-quality contemporary performing and visual arts. Every September the Fringe Festival features boundary-breaking work created by some of the most renowned contemporary artists from our region and around the world, and serves as a collective home for artists to bring their artistic visions to audiences without any curatorial barriers. Our community is enriched as art takes over our neighborhoods, animating the spaces of our city from traditional theaters to corner bars and vacant storefronts.