This May, Opera Philadelphia will be premiering their first live performance in over a year for the public, and they plan to fill the seats—partially with cardboard cutouts that is.
According to a release, Opera Philadelphia has announced plans to bring music to live audiences this spring with three outdoor performances of a concert adaptation of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’. Performed for socially distanced audiences in the TD Pavilion at the Mann in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, the 90-minute concerts will take place on Wednesday, May 5 , at 7 p.m.; Friday, May 7, at 8 p.m..; and Sunday, May 9, at 2 p.m.Grammy-winning Puerto Rican soprano Ana María Martínez stars in her company and title role debuts as Puccini’s troubled heroine, opposite American tenor Brian Jagde, who makes his company debut as Tosca’s doomed lover, the painter Cavaradossi, and baritone Quinn Kelsey in his company and role debuts as the treacherous Baron Scarpia.
“We have been working hard to get artists back to work and to bring them together with the audiences who love to see and hear them perform live,” said David B. Devan, General Director & President of Opera Philadelphia, in a statement. “Shortly after the pandemic began, as we spoke with our artists and audiences about when they would feel safe returning to live performances, the idea of initially gathering outdoors was strongly favored. We are thrilled to have the amazing open-air Mann Center for the Performing Arts here in Philadelphia, and I am so grateful to Catherine Cahill, President and CEO of the Mann, for welcoming us into her home.
“The Mann staff has been working diligently with Opera Philadelphia’s Artistic and Guest Services teams, consulting the recommendations of public health officials, to create a welcoming environment with enhanced safety protocols, so we can get back to the joy of experiencing live music together. With seating limited due to social distancing, I am also thrilled that we will be filming the concert to stream on the Opera Philadelphia Channel beginning in June.”
These advancements in creativity come off the heels of the cultural organization’s innovative response to COVID-19 with their Opera Philadelphia Channel. The digital space was created as a way for artists to perform and explore through a series of new commissions by visionary composers and bombastic performances produced for the screen. Annual subscriptions were priced at $99 and were offered along with pay-per-view options for individual performances. The channel dropped last fall and was made available for viewing on computers and mobile devices, and on TV screens via Chromecast and the Opera Philadelphia Channel app on AppleTV, Android TV, Roku, and Amazon FireTV. This new venture was so successful that the New York Times penned “laying claim to the mantle of making new material during the pandemic” and “one of the best bets going, worldwide,” in response.
Now, Opera Philadelphia is making headlines again, but this time for their live performance launch and special fundraiser benefitting the creators who help make it all possible.
For one, the tragic tale of ‘Tosca’ will take on a completely new dimension in Opera Philadelphia’s special adaptation of this performance. The release states that seen through the eyes of an omniscient narrator, this innovative version of Puccini’s beloved work bridges opera and storytelling, highlighting major themes from the original. Created to address concerns around audience and artist safety, ‘The Drama of Tosca’ is only 90 minutes (with no intermission) and focuses on the three principal characters, joined by the spoken narrator. Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris leads 68 players from the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, who will appear on stage with the singers, with Elizabeth Braden leading 40 singers from the Opera Philadelphia Chorus, who will sing from the balcony level of the Mann, creating a unique concert experience around Puccini’s great political thriller.
The concerts are slated to replace five previously scheduled Academy of Music performances of a stage production from Teatro Regio di Parma. Subscribers who purchased tickets for those specific shows will also be given first access to purchase tickets for the performances in May, all of which will be capped at 500 audience members per show. Any remaining tickets are slated to go on sale in April.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to be welcoming Opera Philadelphia to the Mann in May,” said Cahill. “We’ve all sacrificed so much this year, and that’s certainly true for the arts community and all who love and support the arts. It’s why we are honored to be playing a central role in bringing live performances back to Philadelphia. The Mann is singularly suited for this role as Philadelphia’s preeminent outdoor music destination, and to have the opportunity to be working in collaboration with David Devan and Opera Philadelphia’s incredible The Mann Center for the creative team is very special. I am beyond excited to share that Opera Philadelphia’s early May performances will mark the beginning of the Mann’s 2021 season, and we will have more to announce in the coming weeks about additional performances.”
Opera fans are also offered a unique opportunity to support the artists through a special “Fill the House” campaign, which was launched recently by Opera Philadelphia. Similar to strategies done by the city’s sports teams, art hungry Philadelphians can submit $100 donations to “fill” an empty seat in the TD Pavilion at the Mann with a photo cutout of themselves dressed in their finest opera attire or their Opera Philadelphia gear. These donations will help support the company, but also those who create the work shown on stage as well. Each donation will directly help fund more than 120 artists and production staff who have not performed together on the opera stage in 15 months, while helping the artists perform to a “full house” in May. Donors will also receive a code to watch a free stream of the concert in June, which with no doubt will feature some familiar faces in the audience.
For more information on Opera Philadelphia, visit operaphila.org