Opera Philadelphia takes its fall season online with new platform

Opera Philadelphia takes its fall season online with new platform

What will performing arts seasons look like in the near future? For Opera Philadelphia, known for its packed fall festival, the stage will be virtual.

The opera house announced Wednesday that it will postpone its Festival O20 to launch the Opera Philadelphia Channel in its place. The service, set to broadcast the institution’s 2020-2021 season, will be available to stream globally. Viewers can opt for a $99 annual subscription or pay-per-view options for individual performances.

Citing ongoing recommendations from health experts, Opera Philadelphia General Director and President David B. Devan said in a statement that the performing arts hub is “committed to safely engaging with our audiences, artists, musicians, staff and our community.”

"Cycles of My Being," with music by composer Tyshawn Sorey and words by poet Terrance Hayes, premiered at Opera Philadelphia in 2018 and returns in a new presentation starring Lawrence Brownlee. Photo: Dominic M. Mercier.
“Cycles of My Being,” with music by composer Tyshawn Sorey and words by poet Terrance Hayes, premiered at Opera Philadelphia in 2018 and returns in a new presentation starring Lawrence Brownlee. Photo: Dominic M. Mercier.

Two filmed concerts from tenor Lawrence Brownlee are slated to launch the program in October. Among these works is “Cycles of My Being,” composed by multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey, with words by poet Terrance Hayes.

“The ideas, themes and experiences that make up ‘Cycles of My Being’ have been on my mind for quite some time,” Brownlee said in the announcement. “As I’ve watched men of color endure undeserved aggression, incarceration, brutality, and even death, I’ve been forced to consider my thoughts and questions around what it means to be a Black man in America today, and how we as a people are viewed and treated.”

Aspects of the postponed Festival O20 will be fused into the reimagined digital season. A new production of Hans Werner Henze’s “El Cimarrón,” for example, will take the shape of a “cinematic experience.” Also on the lineup is composer David T. Little’s “Soldier Songs,” starring baritone Johnathan McCullough. Additional short pieces will be premiered as part of the digital series. The Opera will present an encore of Verdi’s “La Traviata,” which captures soprano Lisette Oropesa making her debut in the role of Violetta.

2015’s "La Traviata" makes its broadcast debut on the Opera Philadelphia Channel. The production from director Paul Curran starred soprano Lisette Oropesa in her role debut as Violetta. Photo: Kelly & Massa.
2015’s “La Traviata” makes its broadcast debut on the Opera Philadelphia Channel. The production from director Paul Curran starred soprano Lisette Oropesa in her role debut as Violetta. Photo: Kelly & Massa.

“Through the broadcasts of these new performances and a robust series of roundtable conversations, lectures, panel discussions, and educational programming,” Devan said, “we aim to create a space of inclusivity and belonging among people in the city of Philadelphia and opera lovers across the globe.”

Further information about the programs will be announced in the fall.

Top Image: Lawrence Brownlee performs "Cycles of My Being," a song cycle about the experience of being a Black man in America. Photo by Dominic M. Mercier.