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Opera Philadelphia Launches Season with Three Productions in Eleven Days: World Premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves, Turandot Starring Christine Goerke, and U.S. Premiere of Radical African Take on Macbeth


For the second year running, Opera Philadelphia launches the new season with a world premiere. Inspired by Lars von Trier’s searing Oscar-nominated 1996 film, Breaking the Waves is a new three-act chamber opera that draws on the talents of three of today’s foremost young creative artists: composer Missy Mazzoli, librettist Royce Vavrek, and director James Darrah. Starring soprano Kiera Duffy and baritone John Moore, the premiere production takes place over five performances in the Kimmel Center’s intimate Perelman Theater under the baton of Steven Osgood (Sep 22–Oct 1).

Back-to-back with this major new company co-commission, Opera Philadelphia mounts two widely divergent but similarly compelling presentations. Under the leadership of Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris, Christine Goerke headlines a lavish staging of Puccini’s Turandot at the Academy of Music, complete with an Opening Night Gala and a free “Opera on the Mall” HD broadcast (Sep 23–Oct 2). And South Africa’s most provocative director, Brett Bailey, and his innovative theater company, Third World Bunfight, give two sold-out performances that mark the American premiere of an African-themed take on Verdi’s Macbeth, a co-presentation with FringeArts at the Prince Theater as part of the Curated 2016 Fringe Festival (Sep 24 & 25).

By packing three productions into just eleven days, these season-opening events provide a preview of the “binge-watching” format that Opera Philadelphia and its General Director & President David B. Devan look forward to pioneering next September with O17, the inaugural edition of their new annual season-opening O festival. With seven operatic happenings, three world premieres, and a superstar Festival Artist, this takes place in six venues across the city over twelve days at the start of next season, offering an immersion in the new American opera and innovative stagings of the classics with which Opera Philadelphia – the only American finalist for the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company – continues to prove itself “the very model of a modern opera company” (Washington Post). Click here to see Opera Philadelphia’s video trailer for the 2016-17 season.


Breaking the Waves (world premiere)
Music by Missy Mazzoli; libretto by Royce Vavrek
Co-commissioned with Beth Morrison Projects
Sep 22, 24m, 27, 29; Oct 1m
Perelman Theater

Just named as the first of “11 don’t-miss classical picks” for the new season by the Los Angeles Times, Breaking the Waves is a world premiere chamber opera from composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek, whose previous collaboration, Song From the Uproar, was hailed as “ravishing” (New York Times). Set in the Scottish Highlands in the early 1970s, it depicts a tragedy of conflicting ethical imperatives: between the pure love of child-like Bess for her husband, Norwegian oil-rig worker Jan, and the repressive morality of her deeply religious Calvinist community. When Jan becomes paralyzed after a near-fatal offshore accident, he begs Bess to take other lovers and share the details, insisting that this will keep their passion – and him – alive. She puts herself in increasingly dangerous sexual situations, convinced that by doing so she can save him. Her self-sacrifice leads to her denunciation, excommunication, and eventual demise, but also to the finale of divine grace with which the story – a meditation on the nature of goodness – concludes.

Variously described as “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (New York Times) and “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” (Time Out New York), Missy Mazzoli is a key figure on the contemporary music scene. Similarly, Alberta-born, Brooklyn-based librettist and lyricist Royce Vavrek has been recognized as “an exemplary creator of operatic prose” (New York Times), while Los Angeles-based director James Darrah, a recent Musical America “New Artist of the Month,” has been credited with creating “one of the strongest, most theatrically imaginative, musically and dramatically compelling productions” (Wall Street Journal) of Britten’s Peter Grimes.

Opera Philadelphia has assembled a first-rate cast to realize the creative team’s vision. To create the role of troubled Bess, the company chose soprano Kiera Duffy, known for her “penetrating insight and luminosity” (New York Times). Singing opposite her as Jan is John Moore, who impressed Opera News with his “arresting burnt-umber baritone and personality to burn.” Tenor David Portillo, whose voice moved Opera News with its “luxuriant warm glow that seduced the ear,” portrays Jan’s sympathetic doctor, Dr. Richardson, and Eve Gigliotti lends her “rich and resonant mezzo” (Time Out New York) to the role of Bess’s faithful sister-in-law, Dodo. Steven Osgood, who helped premiere Mazzoli and Vavrek’s Song From the Uproar, will conduct the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra.

The opera represents the most recent of the “new and challenging works” (Daily Beast) yielded by Opera Philadelphia’s innovative American Repertoire Program. Founded in 2011 with a commitment to producing a recent American work in each of ten consecutive seasons, and thereby fostering a new generation of homegrown opera composers to tell authentically American stories, the program confirms the company’s role as “one of the leading instigators of new work in the country” (Opera News). Click here to see Mazzoli, Vavrek, and Darrah discuss Breaking the Waves over Scotch whiskey.


Music by Giacomo Puccini; libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni
Co-production with Minnesota Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera, and Seattle Opera
Sep 23, 25m, 28, 30; Oct 2m
Academy of Music

Puccini’s final work is one of his grandest, featuring exotic locales, forbidden romance, and gorgeous melodies, including the rousing aria “Nessun dorma.” This kaleidoscopic co-production, called “miraculous” by Opera News, boasts stunning sets, costumes, and choreography. Grammy Award-winner Christine Goerke – “a multi-hued miracle of gale-force power” (Wall Street Journal) – brings her “rich and full sound” (New York Times) to the title role of Princess Turandot, with Italian tenor Marco Berti making his Opera Philadelphia debut as her would-be love, Prince Calaf. Joyce El-Khoury lends the “genuine radiance” (Opera News) of her soprano to the role of Liù, the slave girl whose love for Calaf is unrequited. Renaud Doucet directs the colorful production, with Music Director Corrado Rovaris, praised for conducting “with supple moments of personal expressiveness” (Philadelphia Inquirer), at the helm of the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra. This production of Turandot is highlighted by a black-tie Opening Night Gala on Friday, September 23, as well as a FREE HD broadcast in Independence National Historical Park that marks the company’s sixth annual Opera on the Mall on Saturday, October 1.

Music by Fabrizio Cassol after Giuseppe Verdi; libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play by William Shakespeare
American Premiere Tour, as part of the Curated 2016 Fringe Festival
Production from Third World Bunfight
Co-presented by Opera Philadelphia and FringeArts
Sep 24 & 25 (sold out)

This radical take on Verdi’s Macbeth sets Shakespeare’s story in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, amongst the wars and ruthless exploitation tearing that invisible corner of the world apart. The ongoing conflict is fueled by multinational corporations and corrupt regional governments and generals, greedy for the natural resources that swell their pockets. As in so many parts of the developing world, there is scant regard for the bloodshed and despair at the bottom of the supply chain. Within a milieu of multinational double-dealings, ethnic conflict, ruthless militia, “blood minerals” and glittering Chinese imports, a Congolese warlord, General Macbeth, and his ambitious wife murder the king and unleash atrocities on the crumbling province that they seize. As the UK’s Telegraph declared, in a five-star review: “There can be no denying the power and originality of this astonishing appropriation of Verdi’s Macbeth.Verdi’s score has been rewritten and adapted for twelve onstage musicians by Belgian composer Fabrizio Cassol. The work will be performed by a tight ensemble of ten South African opera singers and members of the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, led by Serbian conductor Premil Petrovic. Of the co-presentation with Opera Philadelphia, FringeArts President and Producing Director Nick Stuccio commented:

“We hope that this is a big step toward an ongoing relationship between our two institutions. At FringeArts we envision September as the timeframe for people to take risks, be experimental, think progressively. Opera is an iconic, typically classical art form that has a rich history of risk-taking. This co-presentation of Brett Bailey – one of the world’s most daring, provocative artists – is emblematic of the risk that both of our organizations value so highly.”

Click here to see Opera Philadelphia’s video preview of Third World Bunfight’s Macbeth.

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 The Opera Philadelphia season continues in the spring, with two more productions led by Rovaris at the Academy of Music. In February, star mezzo Stephanie Blythe gives her highly anticipated first appearances in the title role of Rossini’s Tancredi, which also features the company debut of soprano Brenda Rae, in the American premiere of a new staging of the opera by Emilio Sagi. And, headed by Brandon Cedel in the title role, an impressive cast draws the season to a comedic close in April and May, 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. Next 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

Click here to download high-resolution photos.


Opera Philadelphia: fall productions

Missy Mazzoli
Breaking the Waves
World Premiere
American Repertoire Program
Co-commission and co-production with Beth Morrison Projects
September 22, 24M, 27, 29, October 1M
The Perelman Theater
Libretto by Royce Vavrek
Performed in English with English supertitles

BESS McNEILL: Kiera Duffy
JAN NYMAN: John Moore*
DODO McNEILL: Eve Gigliotti
Dr. RICHARDSON: David Portillo
BESS’s MOTHER: Patricia Schuman
TERRY: Zachary James*

CONDUCTOR: Steven Osgood*
DIRECTOR: James Darrah*
COSTUME DESIGN: Chrisi Karvonides

Giacomo Puccini
Co-production with Minnesota Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Utah Opera, and Seattle Opera
September 23, 25M, 28, 30, October 2M
Academy of Music
Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni
Performed in Italian with English Supertitles

TURANDOT: Christine Goerke
CALAF: Marco Berti*
LIÙ: Joyce El-Khoury*
TIMUR: Morris Robinson
PING: Daniel Belcher
PANG: Julius Ahn*
PONG: Joseph Gaines

CONDUCTOR: Corrado Rovaris
DIRECTOR: Renaud Doucet

Music by Fabrizio Cassol after Giuseppe Verdi
American Premiere
Opera in the City | Part of the Curated 2016 Fringe Festival
Production from Third World Bunfight
Co-presented by Opera Philadelphia and FringeArts
September 24 & 25 (sold out)
Prince Theater
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play by William Shakespeare
Performed in Italian with English Supertitles

MACBETH: Owen Metsileng*
LADY MABETH: Nobulumbko Mngxekeza*
BANQUO: Otto Maidi*
CHORUS: Sandile Kamle*, Jacqueline Manciya*, Monde Masimini*, Siphesihle Mdena*, Bulelani Madondile*, Philisa Sibeko*, Thomakazi Holland*

CONDUCTOR: Premil Petrovic*
CHOREOGRAPHY: Natalie Fisher* with Owen Metsileng* and Nobulumbko Mngxekeza*

*Opera Philadelphia debut

Performance and ticketing information:

Turandot is performed at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets. Performance times are Wednesdays at 7:30pm; Fridays at 8pm; and Sunday matinees at 2:30pm.

Breaking the Waves is performed at the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Broad and Spruce Streets. Performance times are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, and Saturday matinees at 2:30pm.

Macbeth is performed at the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street. Performance times are Saturday and Sunday at 7pm.

Full season subscriptions are available at, or by calling 215-732-8400 (Monday through Friday, from 9:30am to 4:30pm). Single tickets are on sale at or 215-893-1018.

Opera Philadelphia is supported by major grants from 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.

Media Contacts

Opera Philadelphia: Frank Luzi, [email protected], (215) 893-5902
21C Media Group: Glenn Petry, [email protected], (212) 625-2038

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© 21C Media Group, September 2016

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