Opera Philadelphia Presents Stephanie Blythe in Back-to-Back Career Firsts: Making Title Role Debut in Company Premiere of Tancredi (Feb 10–19), and Joining Philly Drag Legend Martha Graham Cracker for Special Event (Feb 24)
This February, Opera Philadelphia welcomes back Stephanie Blythe – “a once-in-a-generation opera singer” (New York Times) – for a pair of back-to-back career firsts. On the historic Academy of Music stage, where she undertook her first Rossini title role 17 years ago, the incomparable mezzo reunites with music director Corrado Rovaris to make her highly anticipated title role debut headlining the Italian composer’s Tancredi in the American premiere of a new staging by Emilio Sagi (Feb 10–19). Then, for a complete change of pace, she appears alongside Dito van Reigersberg, aka Martha Graham Cracker – “the world’s tallest and hairiest drag queen” – in Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night, an immersive concert event at Philadelphia’s classic rock venue TLA (Feb 24).
Tancredi (company premiere)
Music by Gioachino Rossini; Libretto by Gaetano Rossi
Production from Opéra de Lausanne
Feb 10, 12m, 15, 17 & 19m
Academy of Music
Marking Opera Philadephia’s company premiere of the opera, Emilio Sagi’s take on Tancredi transports the medieval story of chivalry and tragic love to the elegant atmosphere of Europe at the end of World War I. As Concert Classics observed, after the production bowed in Lausanne:
“Emilio Sagi’s staging reveals the taste for which he is known, perfectly serving this enigmatic opera seria. … The set design (by Daniel Bianco) is sumptuous, evoking the decadent spirit of a Sicilian palace. … A meeting of talents.”
Supporting Blythe in the title role, soprano Brenda Rae brings her “knockout coloratura skills” and “luminous nobility” (Opera News) to the role of Amenaide, lover of the exiled warrior Tancredi. When Amenaide is sentenced to death for an act of treason she did not commit, a disguised Tancredi returns to defend his beloved and his home. Tenor Michele Angelini – a 2016 International Opera Award nominee – makes his company debut as Amenaide’s father, Argirio, with bass-baritone Daniel Mobbs, known for his “solid, resonant voice and boundless energy” (New York Times), as Orbazzano, head of the noble family with which they are at war. Mezzo Allegra De Vita makes her company debut as Amenaide’s friend, Isaura, and mezzo and Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artist Anastasiia Sidorova is Tancredi’s attendant, Roggiero.
David B. Devan, Opera Philadelphia’s General Director and President, anticipates the premiere:
“Opera Philadelphia is thrilled to present the company premiere of Tancredi, one of Rossini’s most lyrical operas, in a beautiful production that is perfectly suited to the Academy of Music. With a fresh take on Rossini’s opera and a star like Stephanie Blythe in her role debut alongside a dynamic cast, many of whom are appearing on our stage for the first time, Tancredi promises boundless opportunities for artistic exploration and discovery.”
Stephanie Blythe comments:
“I essayed my first title role in a Rossini opera right here on the Academy of Music stage back in 2000 as Isabella in L’Italiana in Algeri, with Maestro Rovaris leading the way. It is a great joy and privilege to perform in my first staged version of Tancredi with my friend at the podium and the luminescent Brenda Rae by my side. Being part of a first rate cast is such a joy!”
Celebrated in both opera and recital, Blythe’s repertoire ranges from Handel to Wagner, and from German lieder to contemporary and classic American song. Having performed on many of the world’s great stages, including Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, and Paris National Opera, she received an Opera News Award in 2007 and was named Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year in 2009. She recently released her first crossover recording, As Long as There Are Songs, with pianist Craig Terry, on the Innova label.
Rae makes her role debut as Amenaide during an ambitious season in which her other new roles include Berg’s Lulu, for her English National Opera debut; the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Bavarian State Opera; and Gilda in a new production of Rigoletto at her home company of Opera Frankfurt.
Based on a play by Voltaire, Tancredi premiered in 1813 just months before Rossini’s comic masterpiece L’Italiana in Algeri. Although his first version of the opera ended happily, he later reworked it in accordance with Voltaire’s original tragic ending. The revised score, lost for more than 150 years and rediscovered in 1976, will be performed with Corrado Rovaris, the Jack Mulroney Music Director, leading the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra. Click here to see Opera Philadelphia’s video preview of Tancredi.
Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night
Starring Dito van Reigersberg as Martha Graham Cracker, and Stephanie Blythe
TLA (Theatre of Living Arts), South Street
Blythe also takes to a very different Philadelphia stage on Friday, February 24, when Opera Philadelphia hosts an immersive, one-of-a-kind drag performance that pairs her with local drag legend Dito van Reigersberg as Martha Graham Cracker. Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night is a concert and dance party taking place at the TLA (Theatre of Living Arts), a classic rock venue on South Street.
The mezzo confesses:
“I have done a good deal of crossover music, but never anything quite like this. This evening is about making dreams become reality, of crossing over many kinds of boundaries to experience pure joy, love, positivity, and wonderful energy. I have been an admirer of Martha Graham Cracker for a long time, and to share the stage with her is truly a dream come true. She and Dito make me feel like an invincible force onstage, because that is what Martha is – she shares that generosity of spirit with every audience member, and I love being a recipient too.”
Martha Graham Cracker responds:
“I am truly honored and humbled to be performing alongside opera legend Stephanie Blythe. She and I have a similar mischievous streak and I think that has been serving us well as we craft this wild and woolly piece. Dito & Aeneas is a piece that will transcend the strict genre and gender boundaries of opera and rock ‘n’ roll. Armed with the crafty skills of director John Jarboe and music director Daniel Kazemi, we have forged some joyous and unpredictable musical mashups – I can promise intense silliness. That said, I think there may also be moments of true pathos and melodious beauty.”
The performance will be a cabaret style mash-up of opera, classical music, and pop, with sing-along moments, as written and directed by the Bearded Ladies Cabaret’s John Jarboe, whose staging of Opera Philadelphia’s season-launching world premiere production of Andy: A Popera “proved consistently creative, dynamic and visually compelling” (Opera News) in September 2015. Blythe’s costumes will be created by Machine Dazzle, whose elaborate designs for Taylor Mac’s acclaimed 2016 show A 24-Decade History of Popular Music were “gaudy, glittery, and gorgeously subversive” (New York Times). For more information, click here.
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Opera Philadelphia launched the present season with the world premiere of Breaking the Waves, a new company co-commission from the creative team of Missy Mazzoli, Royce Vavrek, and James Darrah. Hailed as “among the best 21st-century American operas yet produced” (Opera News), this was named to multiple “Best of 2016” lists, including that of the New York Times, which counseled: “It’s rare to encounter a new opera in which music and drama nudge each other forward; celebrate this one.”
In April and May, with Brandon Cedel in the title role, an impressive cast draws the company season to a comedic close with a new production of Mozart’s beloved The Marriage of Figaro.
About Opera Philadelphia
Opera Philadelphia is committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the 21st century. Described as “one of the leading instigators of new work in the country” by Opera News, Opera Philadelphia was the only American finalist for the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company. In September, the company will open its 2017-18 season with an immersive, 12-day festival featuring seven operatic happenings in six venues throughout the city. The first festival, “O17,” will feature three world premieres, plus the exclusive East Coast appearance of Barrie Kosky’s groundbreaking production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and a recital by superstar soprano Sondra Radvanovsky. Opera Philadelphia will continue to present a spring season each year, including three additional productions in February, March, and April, making it the only U.S. opera company producing an annual opera season that begins with a dynamic festival. For more information, visit www.operaphila.org.
Click here to download high-resolution photos.
Opera Philadelphia: February productions
by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Gaetano Rossi
American premiere of production from Opéra de Lausanne
February 10, 12m, 15, 17 & 19m
Academy of Music
Performed in Italian with English Supertitles
Tancredi is underwritten, in part, by Ms. Barbara Augusta Teichert
TANCREDI: Stephanie Blythe
AMENAIDE: Brenda Rae*
ARGIRIO: Michele Angelini*
ORBAZZANO: Daniel Mobbs
ISAURA: Allegra De Vita *
ROGGIERO: Anastasiia Sidorova
CONDUCTOR: Corrado Rovaris
DIRECTOR: Emilio Sagi*
SET DESIGN: Daniel Bianco*
COSTUME DESIGN: Pepa Ojanguren*
LIGHTING DESIGN: Eduardo Bravo*
*Opera Philadelphia debut
Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night
TLA (Theatre of Living Arts), South Street
Dito van Reigersberg as Martha Graham Cracker
Opera Philadelphia is supported by major grants from the Wyncote Foundation, The William Penn Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. Hyatt at the Bellevue is the official hotel of Opera Philadelphia. Burdumy Motors Incorporated is the official automotive dealership of Opera Philadelphia. Opera Philadelphia receives arts funding support through grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and The Philadelphia Cultural Fund.