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Opera Philadelphia to Present Annual 12-Day Urban Opera Festival in September 2017

By: Oct. 21, 2015
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Twelve days, seven operatic happenings, six venues across the city, three world premieres, and one superstar Festival Artist: set to launch in September 2017, O - Opera Philadelphia's new annual season-opening festival - represents a radical new way to experience opera. As Daniel K. Meyer, M.D., Chairman of the Board of Opera Philadelphia, David B. Devan, General Director & President, and Annie Burridge, Managing Director, announced today, the new festival will open the company's season each fall, drawing together some of opera's most sought-after creative and performing artists for an immersion in the new American opera and innovative stagings of the classics for which Opera Philadelphia - the only American finalist for the 2015 International Opera Award for Accessibility - is fast becoming known. Opera Philadelphia will also continue to present three additional productions each spring, making it the only U.S. opera company to open an annual season with a dynamic festival.

The inaugural festival, O17, takes place from September 14-25, 2017, when the company and its collaborators will offer more than 25 performances at multiple venues across Philadelphia. A highlight of this landmark season is the World Premiere of Elizabeth Cree, a chamber opera by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, to be conducted by Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovarisin the Kimmel Center's intimate Perelman Theater. Underscoring the company's commitment to programming works relevant to its multicultural community, Opera Philadelphia also presents the World Premiere of We Shall Not Be Moved; developed by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain and librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph from the company's Hip H'opera program in local inner-city schools, the new opera will be directed by the legendary Bill T. Jones in the Wilma Theater. A site-specific and all-too-topical double bill pairs Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, Monteverdi's prescient tale of two warriors - one Christian, one Muslim - with I Have No Stories To Tell You (2014), written in response to Monteverdi's work, by Lembit Beecher, a graduate of Opera Philadelphia's Composer in Residence program, and librettist Hannah Moscovitch. The two operas will be presented together as War Stories in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Monteverdi's masterwork will be staged in the Museum's dramatic, medieval stone cloister, with its carved limestone cornices and 12th century fountain, while audiences will experience Beecher's contemporary piece in the Museum's soaring Great Stair Hall, one of the city's most iconic civic spaces. The exclusive East Coast appearance of Barrie Kosky's playfully subversive, internationally-renowned production of Mozart's The Magic Flute will be mounted in the Academy of Music, with a free HD video broadcast at Independence National Historical Park in Opera Philadelphia's celebrated Opera on the Mallseries. As the inaugural Festival Artist, superstar soprano Sondra Radvanovsky will not only give a solo recital in the Perelman Theater, but also conduct a Master Class with emerging artists. And, to complete the O17 lineup, Opera Philadelphia is commissioning a short performance piece to interact with the world-class collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings on display at the Barnes Foundation, where the work will receive its World Premiere.

Heralding a fresh new direction for opera, Opera Philadelphia's festival takes the excitement and cachet of an opening night to an exponentially richer experience. The festival has been named to capture, with simple elegance, the visceral wonder of new and compelling ideas in music, voice, and performance that will open our city to opera, foster unexpected collaborations, and bring opera to new audiences and stages year after year. The inaugural festival O17 will occupy the city of Philadelphia across seven performance happenings in unique venues, creating innumerable complementary food, wine, and cultural experiences.

"For much of the past decade, Opera Philadelphia has worked tirelessly to weave the art form into the civic fabric of Philadelphia's public spaces," said Board Chairman Daniel K. Meyer, M.D. "From pop-up performances to the annual HD broadcast in front of Independence Hall to chamber operas and site-specific works, our artistic programming has evolved to complement the grand opera we continue to produce in our home base, the historic Academy of Music. In 2017, with the launch of festival O, we will bring all of those programs together in an invigorating 12-day package that will attract both opera buffs and new audiences to Philadelphia as a vital destination for experiencing opera in an exciting urban setting."

"By opening our season each year with a festival, we have the opportunity to transform the city of Philadelphia into a giant stage for all that opera is and all that it can be," said General Director & President David B. Devan. "The density and breadth of programming possible within the festival format has allowed us to attract some of the most sought after composers, librettists, directors, designers, and performing artists with projects that provide them the most creative possibilities. Over the next two years, as we continue to produce opera on many stages, we are fortunate to have the support of a number of venture philanthropists who have invested in the future of the company and the creation of the festival. On behalf of Opera Philadelphia, I want to personally thank our keystone supporters, William Penn Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, Sandra K. Baldino, Judy and Peter Leone, and Barbara Augusta Teichert, for their early leadership and contributions as we develop the festival. Special thanks also go to The Wallace Foundation for being a key supporter of our efforts to engage new audiences."

Managing Director Annie Burridge added, "The festival gives us the opportunity to build on our successful track record in attracting new audiences both locally and throughout the Northeast. Approximately 20% of the audience for our recent world premiere productions is coming from more than 70 miles away - and we're confident that festival O will help us reach even more of these fans while simultaneously offering more operatic experiences for our loyal local supporters. By creating such a rich and varied lineup across multiple Philadelphia venues, we anticipate issuing over 25,000 tickets in our first year of the festival."

"Opera lovers always tell me how much they enjoy coming to our city for an Opera Philadelphia production," said Corrado Rovaris, the Jack Mulroney Music Director. "Beginning in 2017, I invite audiences to join us for twelve days of opera in all of its glory, from the grand stage of the Academy of Music to chamber opera at the Perelman Theater and site-specific works all over our great city. It will truly be a showcase to experience this wonderful art form. I only wish I could be at the podium to conduct every opera in the festival!"

Joining Meyer, Devan, and Burridge for the announcement were Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America; Meryl Levitz, President & CEO of Visit Philadelphia; and a number of the partners and artists who will bring O17 to the city in two years.

"Opera Philadelphia is breaking new ground by opening its season with a 12-day festival that responds to findings from the deepest audience research ever conducted in the field," stated Marc A. Scorca, president/CEO of OPERA America. "While building its reputation as a leading producer of new and traditional repertoire, the company has distinguished itself as an expert in strategic planning. 017 is the result of a bold artistic vision fused with a careful plan to extend its service to a regional audience."

Opera Philadelphia's new programming schedule was developed with TDC after the company completed a four-part, 14-month contextual segmentation study of its current and potential audience conducted byMoStrategy and the Cicero Group. Major support for this research was provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from The Barra Foundation and OPERA America's Getty Audience Building Program. The research project moved beyond the study of demographics and purchasing behavior to evaluate how the company's offerings are perceived. The findings informed a new business plan and programming model designed to accommodate the significant shift in the consumer market in recent years while maintaining its Academy of Music schedule for current subscribers.


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