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The Broad Stage Presents HEARTBEAT OPERA

Panels take place on February 10 and 13.

The Broad Stage Presents HEARTBEAT OPERA

HEARTBEAT OPERA announces the West Coast Premiere of Breathing Free, an ambitious filmed song cycle dedicated to the celebration of Black artistic voices, presented by The Broad Stage online Wednesday, February 10 at 7pm (Pacific) and Saturday, February 13 at 7pm (Pacific). For tickets and information visit

The Broad Stage provided additional support for the creation of this work.

Breathing Free builds on Heartbeat's 2018 collaboration with 100 incarcerated singers in six prison choirs, part of a contemporary Fidelio told through the lens of Black Lives Matter-a production that left Alex Ross of The New Yorker "blindsided by its impact." Created in a time of George Floyd's murder, a pandemic which is ravaging our prison population, and the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth-Heartbeat has curated a song cycle brought to life in vivid music videos, mingling excerpts from Fidelio with songs by Black composers and lyricists, which together manifest a dream of justice and equity.

This 45-minute "visual album" features three singers, three dancers, eight instrumentalists and a robust creative production team. Rehearsed remotely on Zoom, the cast has recorded their individual audio tracks at home, with the music team then layering the tracks together. Heartbeat's filmmaker Anaiis Cisco collaborates with cinematographers to film the performers in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

The presentation will be livestreamed along with live opening remarks and post-screening panel discussions with artists and activists highlighting the timely themes surfaced in Breathing Free. Audience Q&A will follow the panels. Participants for each panel are TBD.

FEB 10 panel: Stories of Transformation

Artists share about their creative and inspiring work with prison populations.

FEB 13 panel: Proposition 17 & Restoring Rights

A discussion and education about California's recently passed Proposition 17 restoring voter rights to post parolees in the state.

Letter to Heartbeat Opera from an incarcerated singer from the East Hill Singers at Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas: "This project has affected me more and more as time has passed. From the process of learning the music week to week and growing in confidence, misplaced or not, to recording the song live in our chapel, gradually the gravity of what I was doing settled in. Having been in prison for over 20 years, I have not had a place in the free world, and this has been an opportunity for me to share something truly positive with my friends and family. Thank you for allowing them to see me in another light ... I almost feel free."

From Heartbeat Opera Co-Artistic Director Ethan Heard: "In its first six seasons, Heartbeat Opera has dedicated itself to reinterpreting 'the classics' to make them more accessible and relevant to today's audiences. So far, we have only produced the work of white composers and librettists. Breathing Free is about expanding our definition of 'the canon' and celebrating the voices of Black artists-onstage and behind the scenes. We have assembled a wonderful team of 30 collaborators, the majority of whom are Black, and we are connecting with dozens of students, primarily Black, brown, and people of color. Every day in rehearsal, the words and music of the songs in Breathing Free remind us of our problems and our purpose."


"Balm in Gilead" - traditional, arr. Sean Mayes
"Lovely Dark and Lonely" - music by Harry T. Burleigh, words by Langston Hughes
Malcolm's aria from X (The Life and Times of Malcolm X) - music by Anthony Davis,
libretto by Thulani Davis, story by Christopher Davis, arr. Sean Mayes
"Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" - traditional
"Songs to the Dark Virgin" - music by Florence Price, words by Langston Hughes

Four excerpts from Fidelio - music by Ludwig van Beethoven,
libretto by Joseph Sonnleithner & Georg Friedrich Sonnleithner, arr. Daniel Schlosberg
- "Abscheulicher!" (Leonore's aria)
- "O welche Lust" (Prisoners' Chorus)
- "Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!" (Florestan's aria)
- "Euch werde Lohn" (Act II Trio)

Ethan Heard (Co-Artistic Director & Producer) and Louisa Proske (Co-Artistic Director) founded Heartbeat Opera in 2014, after they graduated from Yale School of Drama's directing program, to create radical adaptations of classic operas in intimate spaces for 21st century audiences. "One of the most agile and dynamic companies on New York's indie opera scene" (Opera News), Heartbeat has already established itself as a highly-respected, innovative force in the opera world.

In its first six seasons, Heartbeat has presented twelve fully-realized productions, often featuring new chamber arrangements and English translations. Heartbeat adaptations, which can be seen as world premieres of classics, speak to the moment, here and now. Fidelio featured a primarily-Black cast and more than 100 incarcerated singers from six prison choirs. Carmen was set on the U.S./Mexico border and featured accordion, electric guitar, and saxophone. This spring, Heartbeat took Lady M, its adaptation of Verdi's Macbeth, online and sold out 32 Virtual Soirées, reaching 740 households across 5 continents. Heartbeat has taken its productions to the Kennedy Center, BAM, and Chamber Music North West in Portland, Oregon. It staged the first ever opera performance on The High Line and has mounted its immensely popular, interdisciplinary Halloween Drag Extravaganza each year since its founding, in iconic venues such as National Sawdust and Roulette.

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