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Opera Philadelphia’s 2016-17 Season Juxtaposes World Premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves with Puccini’s Turandot and American Premiere Tour of Third World Bunfight’s Radical Take on Verdi’s Macbeth

Tuesday, February 16 − Opera Philadelphia’s 2016-17 season serves notice that the company is, as the Washington Post reports, “the very model of a modern opera company.” As General Director & President David B. Devan and Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris announced today, the 2016-17 season takes a bold first step towards the company’s new “binge-watching” format, packing three productions into an eleven-day period in fall 2016 while offering two additional operas in spring 2017. Devan describes the slate as an “exciting warm-up” to fall 2017, when the company will begin launching each annual season with a twelve-day festival featuring seven operatic happenings across multiple venues.

Highlighting the fall season is the world premiere of Breaking the Waves, a chamber opera by composer Missy Mazzoli, a graduate of Opera Philadelphia’s Composer in Residence program, and librettist Royce Vavrek, who based it on the Oscar-nominated 1996 film by Lars von Trier. Presented in the Kimmel Center’s intimate Perelman Theater, the opera stars soprano Kiera Duffy as the troubled Bess McNeill and baritone John Moore as her lover and eventual husband, Jan Nyman (Sep 22–Oct 1, 2016). During that same period, audiences can also enjoy Christine Goerke in the title role of a lavish production of Puccini’s Turandot at the Academy of Music, complete with an Opening Night Gala and a free “Opera on the Mall” HD broadcast, alongside the American Premiere Tour of an African-themed Macbeth from South Africa’s most provocative director, Brett Bailey, and his innovative theater company, Third World Bunfight. This will be co-presented with FringeArts at the Prince Theater as part of the Curated 2016 Fringe Festival.

Spring brings star mezzo Stephanie Blythe’s 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 Emilio Sagi’s original staging of the opera (Feb 2017). An impressive cast draws the season to a comedic close in a new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the Academy of Music (April–May 2017). Rovaris, who leads “with supple moments of personal expressiveness” (Philadelphia Inquirer), will conduct all three of the season’s Academy of Music productions: Turandot, Tancredi, and The Marriage of Figaro.

General Director Devan explains:

“Opera Philadelphia is thrilled to offer audiences a season that pairs master composers like Mozart, Puccini, and Rossini with a cutting-edge contemporary composer like Missy Mazzoli. We are excited to provide star singers like Christine Goerke and Stephanie Blythe with the opportunity to explore fresh takes on Puccini’s Turandot and Rossini’s Tancredi, and to welcome incredible talents like Brenda Rae, Marco Berti, Joyce El-Khoury, John Chest, and Layla Claire to make their Opera Philadelphia debuts in the 2016-17 season. I invite opera lovers from all over the globe to join us as these incredible artists explore some of their most inspired work on our stages.”

About the 2016-17 productions:

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, 2016
Perelman Theater

Breaking the Waves (photo: courtesy of Opera Philadelphia)

Breaking the Waves (photo: courtesy of Opera Philadelphia)

Based on the Oscar-nominated 1996 film by Denmark’s Lars von Trier, 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 a “ravishing chamber opera” (New York Times). Set in the Scottish Highlands in the early 1970s, their new work tells the story of a religious young woman, Bess McNeill, and her love for her husband, Jan, a handsome oil rig worker. Jan becomes paralyzed in an off-shore oil rig accident, and Bess’s marital vows are put to the test when he encourages her to seek other lovers and return to his bedside to describe her sexual adventures. He insists that sharing these stories will feel like making love together and that their love for each other will keep him alive. Bess’s increasing selflessness leads to a finale of divine grace, but at great cost.

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. Together with librettist Royce Vavrek, she has succeeded in adapting von Trier’s “fierce, wrenchingly passionate film” (New York Times) into a visceral chamber opera.

Missy Mazzoli (photo: Marylene Mey)

Missy Mazzoli (photo: Marylene Mey)


Royce Vavrek (photo: Ricardo Beas)

Royce Vavrek (photo: Ricardo Beas)


James Darrah (photo: Rus Anson)

James Darrah (photo: Rus Anson)


Mazzoli says:

“I have never had a story sing to me like Bess McNeill’s in Breaking the Waves. Immediately upon seeing this film I felt that Bess’s crushing vulnerability, steadfast faith and shocking bravery could manifest in a refreshing and provocative new character on the operatic stage. I imagine music that illuminates the complexity von Trier brings to his characters – a chorus of men sing a hymn that is beautiful but chilling in its austerity; Jan sings to Bess of his desires in a way that is at once tender and calculating; Bess sings a delicate melody with a turbulent and distorted accompaniment that hints at her inner rages and longings. In creating music for Bess McNeill and her world I see an opportunity to create a new kind of heroine, and a new kind of opera that presents complex characters in an intricate and unblinking light.”

Vavrek adds:

“Bess’s journey is operatic: from her unbridled commitment to Jan, to his absences that lead to her desperation, to her unquestioning willingness to put herself in harm’s way believing that her sexual sacrifices will save his life. Her story sings, and with Missy I believe that we can translate her singular narrative into an important, intoxicating work of contemporary opera.”

Soprano Kiera Duffy, who sings with “penetrating insight and luminosity” (New York Times), creates the role of the troubled Bess, with John Moore’s “burnished-bronze” (Opera News) baritone an ideal fit for her husband, Jan. Eve Gigliotti lends her “rich and resonant mezzo” (Time Out New York) to the role of Bess’s sister, Dodo, with tenor David Portillo – whose voice impressed Opera News with its “luxuriant warm glow that seduced the ear” – as the sympathetic Dr. Richardson.

At the helm of Opera Philadelphia’s world premiere production will be up-and-coming Los Angeles-based director James Darrah; naming him December’s New Artist of the Month, Musical America recently described Darrah as “an artist who refuses to be limited by the conventional ‘oil and water separation’ of disciplines.” Steven Osgood, who helped premiere Mazzoli and Vavrek’s Song From the Uproar, will conduct the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra. Click here to see the video trailer for Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996).



Turandot (photo: courtesy of Opera Philadelphia)

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. Proclaimed “a multi-hued miracle of gale-force power” (Wall Street Journal), Grammy Award-winner Christine Goerke brings her “rich and full sound” (New York Times) to the title role of Princess Turandot, with superb Italian tenor Marco Berti making his Opera Philadelphia debut as her would-be love, Prince Calaf. Joyce El-Khoury brings 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 Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris conducting the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra.

Christine Goerke (photo: Christian Steiner)

Christine Goerke (photo: Christian Steiner)

This production of Turandot is highlighted by a black-tie Opening Night Gala on Friday, September 23 and a FREE HD broadcast in Independence National Historical Park that marks the company’s sixth annual Opera on the Mall on Saturday, October 1. Click here to see Opera Philadelphia’s video preview of Turandot.

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, 2016

A scene from Third World Bunfight’s Macbeth (photo: Morne van Zyl)

A scene from Third World Bunfight’s Macbeth (photo: Morne van Zyl)

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.

Music by Gioachino Rossini; libretto by Gaetano Rossi
American premiere of production from Opéra de Lausanne
Feb 10, 12m, 15, 17, 19m, 2017
Academy of Music

Tancredi (photo: courtesy of Opera Philadelphia)

Tancredi (photo: courtesy of Opera Philadelphia)

Renowned mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, heralded as “a once-in-a-generation opera singer” (New York Times), makes her highly anticipated title role debut in Tancredi, a medieval story of chivalry and tragic love, now transported to the art nouveau world of Europe at the end of World War I.

Stephanie Blythe (photo: Chris Lee)

Stephanie Blythe (photo: Chris Lee)

 Soprano Brenda Rae brings her “knockout coloratura skills” and “luminous nobility” (Opera News) to the role of Amenaide, with tenor Michele Angelini – an artist who “displays a voice of silken loveliness as well as graceful agility” (Dallas Morning News) – in his company debut as her father, the powerful Argirio. Emilio Sagi directs the American premiere production, which bowed in March 2015 at Opéra de Lausanne, with Rovaris leading from the pit. Click here to see Opera Philadelphia’s video preview of Tancredi.

The Marriage of Figaro
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
A new co-production with Lyric Opera of Kansas City
April 28, 30m; May 3, 5, 7m, 2017
Academy of Music

Brandon Cedel (photo: Peter Konerko)

Brandon Cedel (photo: Peter Konerko)

A cadre of impressive voices will make Opera Philadelphia’s a Figaro to remember. John Chest brings “the dark, rich colours” (Opera Now) of his baritone to the role of the Count, with Layla Claire’s “luminous soprano” (New York Times) as the Countess. Ying Fang adds her “coquettish flair” (New York Times) as Susanna, with Brandon Cedel’s “ample, agile bass-baritone” (New Yorker) in the title role, Cecelia Hall, a mezzo “on the brink of stardom” (Chicago Classical Review) as the flirtatious page, Cherubino, and Patrick Carfizzi, whose “impressive bass is as powerful as it is handsome” (Opera Today) as Bartolo. Stephen Lawless directs, with Rovaris leading the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra.

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 2015 International Opera Award for Accessibility, a category that recognizes innovative ideas that broaden access to opera. The company is charting a bold new path to September 2017, when Opera Philadelphia 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: 2016-17 season

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, 2016
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, 2016
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, 2016
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*

Gioachino Rossini
American premiere of production from Opéra de Lausanne
February 10, 12M, 15, 17, 19M, 2017
Academy of Music
Libretto by Gaetano Rossi
Performed in Italian with English Supertitles

TANCREDI: Stephanie Blythe
AMENAIDE: Brenda Rae*
ARGIRIO: Michele Angelini*
ORBAZZANO: Daniel Mobbs
ISAURA: Nian Wang*
CONDUCTOR: Corrado Rovaris
DIRECTOR: Emilio Sagi*
SET DESIGN: Daniel Bianco*
COSTUME DESIGN: Pepa Ojanguren*

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Marriage of Figaro
A new co-production with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, San Diego Opera and Minnesota Opera
April 28, 30M, May 3, 5, 7M, 2017
Academy of Music
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
Performed in Italian with English Supertitles

COUNT: John Chest*
COUNTESS: Layla Claire*
FIGARO: Brandon Cedel
SUSANNA: Ying Fang*
CHERUBINO: Cecelia Hall
BARTOLO: Patrick Carfizzi*
MARCELLINA: Lucy Schaufer*
CONDUCTOR: Corrado Rovaris
DIRECTOR: Stephen Lawless
SET & COSTUME DESIGN: Leslie Travers*

*Opera Philadelphia debut

Performance and ticketing information:
Turandot, Tancredi, and The Marriage of Figaro are 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 beginning Tuesday, February 16 at noon at, or by calling 215-732-8400 (Monday through Friday, from 9:30am to 4:30pm).  Single tickets will go on sale in August 2016 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, February 2016

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