Opera Philadelphia to premiere a channel full of cinematic performances

'La traviata.'
Kelly & Massa

In the summertime, many Philadelphians flock to the shore and although the city doesn’t completely die down, it does become quieter. Once autumn hits, however, residents of the City of Brotherly Love return to Philly hungry to once again experience the city a bit more rested and sun-kissed.

Typically, the fall is a busy time for Opera Philadelphia as well, and before COVID-19 hit, the 2020-21 season was supposed to be chock full of colorful performances and exciting premieres. Now, with large gatherings and live showcases of the arts put on hold, the organization has pivoted to a digital format and is offering not just Philadelphians, but everyone, the chance to check out their operatic productions with the Opera Philadelphia Channel.

According to a release, launching in fall 2020, the Opera Philadelphia Channel will create a digital space in which artists can perform and explore, through a series of new commissions by visionary composers and dynamic performances produced for the screen. Annual subscriptions priced at $99 will be offered along with pay-per-view options for individual performances. The channel will be 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.

‘La traviata’ Kelly & Massa

“Guided by the current global health pandemic and recommendations from city and state health experts, Opera Philadelphia is committed to safely engaging with our audiences, artists, musicians, staff, and our community,” said David B. Devan, General Director & President of Opera Philadelphia in the release. “We have made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel Festival O20 and postpone many of the operas and events planned for our theaters, but we are thrilled to reimagine much of the proposed season, and expand it with new offerings, to be delivered to homes across the world via the Opera Philadelphia Channel.

“I am so thankful for the leadership provided by our company’s Board of Directors and to the staff of Opera Philadelphia for creatively adapting to this moment in our history,” Devan continued. “Through the broadcasts of these new performances and a robust series of roundtable conversations, lectures, panel discussions, and educational programming, we aim to create a space of inclusivity and belonging among people in the City of Philadelphia and opera lovers across the globe.”

The virtual offerings may not be in person, but they will definitely not lack entertainment value or talent. 

Two concerts on the new channel will feature Opera Philadelphia’s own Artistic Advisor who also happens to be a renowned tenor, Lawrence Brownlee, with ‘Lawrence Brownlee & Friends in Philadelphia’ and ‘Cycles of My Being.’ The first will feature a diverse lineup of guest artists who will be performing some of their favorite songs in their repertoire, and the latter will feature a song cycle composed by multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey that centers on what it means to be a Black man living in America today.

Lawrence Brownlee. Shervin Lainez

“The ideas, themes and experiences that make up ‘Cycles of My Being’ have been on my mind for quite some time,” Brownlee said in a statement. “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.”

Other performances to look forward to include a new production of Hans Werner Henze’s ‘El Cimarrón’ that was originally scheduled for Festival O20 at the Barnes Foundation, but will be reimagined as a cinematic experience starring bass-baritone Sir Willard White; a new production of ‘Soldier Songs’ from composer David T. Little, starring baritone Johnathan McCullough; a series of four short new digital works commissioned from some of today’s most dynamic composers that will be released throughout the season; and much more. 

With the launch of the new channel, Opera Philadelphia is going to postpone planned theatrical performances including a new Academy of Music production of Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’ from renowned Scottish director Paul Curran that will now come out in 2023, the Perelman Theater world premiere of ‘Woman with Eyes Closed’ rescheduled to premiere in 2021 and more. 

‘Cycles of My Being.’ Dominic M. Mercier

According to the release, subscribers and ticket holders for any of the postponed theatrical productions have been contacted by guest services to discuss options, including applying the value of their tickets to an Opera Philadelphia Channel subscription or a future production, donating all or a portion of the value to support the company, and refunds. Annual subscriptions for the Opera Philadelphia Channel are now on sale at operaphila.org or by calling 215-732-8400. Individual pay-per-view purchase options will go on sale in September.

To learn more information, visit operaphila.org

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