Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Premiere of Jonathan Dawe's BEING ARIODANTE to Premiere at Columbia University

This dramatic work in Italian, English, and American Sign Language vividly explores timely themes of personal identity and awareness.

Premiere of Jonathan Dawe's BEING ARIODANTE to Premiere at Columbia University

Columbia University's Italian Academy for Advanced Studies has announced the May 13 & 14 premiere performances of BEING ARIODANTE, the opera by American composer Jonathan Dawe (Cracked Orlando, 2010; Nero and the Fall of Lehman Brothers, 2016) originally scheduled for April 2020. This dramatic work in Italian, English, and American Sign Language vividly explores timely themes of personal identity and awareness while evoking a timeless search for meaning and understanding in an increasingly chaotic world. Dawe's music, inspired by 18th-century opera, is incomparably beautiful, fresh, and revelatory.

In the role of Ariodante, rising countertenor Bryce McClendon (Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Finalist 2020) is joined by a diverse and brilliant young cast and the virtuoso musicians of Ensemble Échappé under the musical direction of Benjamin Grow.

"I'm excited to bring this new work to life after several difficult postponements," says Grow. "Dawe ingeniously brings together familiar and ancient tunings with several languages, including American Sign Language, to enhance the drama of the story. This potent combination must be a first for a contemporary American opera."

Also featured in the cast are actor Dickie Hearts (Tales of the City, 2019) as Lurcanio and dancer Vako Gvelesiani (Brooklyn Nets Kids dance team, 2018) as Rinaldo. Both are members of the Deaf community, which plays into the opera's original story from Dawe.

"Jonathan Dawe's new opera explores the intersections between gender, sexuality, and ability in contemporary Glasgow," says Mari Moriarty (Jet of Blood, 2018) who directs the production. "He pays homage to the romance of Handel's 18th-century opera while forcing audiences to reckon with the randomness and brutality of living in today's world. The story is told in Italian, English, and American Sign Language and follows the twenty-something opera-obsessed Ariodante as he fights to live a life different from the character Ariodante from Ariosto's Orlando Furioso that he's convinced he's destined to play. Featuring Deaf and hard of hearing artists on and off the stage, Being Ariodante represents a new wave of what contemporary opera can be."

Associate Producer Rick Whitaker of the Italian Academy adds, "This eagerly awaited, long-postponed opera is ideal for showcasing the Italian Academy's return to presenting thought-provoking, moving productions free to the community. I'm especially excited that these performances will make the beautiful Neo-Renaissance Teatro a setting for theatrical creation in entirely new ways."

Set in modern-day Glasgow, this story follows Ariodante, a young man who, beyond his control, is 'living' the life of a character in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, a work written 500 years ago. Living an existence of remarkable predictability, Ariodante searches for solutions for his pre-plotted life. Is he delusional? Or is he actually the very character that he reads about night after night? Aided and supported by his Deaf brother, Lurcanio, whose abilities in sign language help our accidental hero, Ariodante, navigate the twists and betrayals that have led him into peril. In the end, he and his close friends find meaning and purpose by realizing their true identity and in doing so create their own life's story. At the opera's conclusion, a tragedy unfolds presenting a stark reminder of the random brutality of our world today.

BEING ARIODANTE will be presented on Friday and Saturday May 13 and 14, 2022 at 7:30 PM at the Italian Academy, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue (just south of 118th Street) in New York City on the Columbia University campus. For press queries and for free reservations email

Performance Details:

Bryce McClendon ARIODANTE

Sydney Anderson DALINDA

Richard Pittsinger POLINESSO

Cree Carrico GINEVRA

Dickie Hearts LURCANIO

Vako Gvelesiani RINALDO

Christopher Burns

Gill Sweeney THE THUGS

Ensemble Échappé

Benjamin Grow, Conducting

Directed by Mari Moriarty

Karina Parker, Associate Director

Shelly Guy, DASL (Director of American Sign Language)

Laura Dearman, Choreography

Ciera Miller, Production Stage Manager

Shira Miller, Lighting Design

Beverly Brooks, Assistant Stage Manager

Rick Whitaker, Associate Producer

Related Articles View More Opera Stories

More Hot Stories For You