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Rising Stars Brandon Cedel, John Chest, Layla Claire, Ying Fang, & Cecelia Hall Conclude Opera Philadelphia’s 2016-17 Season in New Co-Production of The Marriage of Figaro

Opera Philadelphia – “the very model of a modern opera company” (Washington Post) – continues to combine cutting-edge new commissions with fresh takes on the classics. To conclude a 2016-17 season highlighted by the knockout success of its world premiere production of Breaking the Waves, the company turns to iconic Mozartean comedy, with a new co-production of The Marriage of Figaro (April 28–May 7). With Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris leading five performances at the historic Academy of Music, celebrated young singers Brandon Cedel, John Chest, Layla Claire, Ying Fang, and Cecelia Hall anchor a stellar cast in the new Stephen Lawless staging that has already proven “as beautiful as it is humorous, as sophisticated as it is raunchy” (Kansas City Star).

The new co-production, which premiered in November at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and will soon travel to San Diego Opera and Palm Beach Opera, is the creation of Stephen Lawless, the visionary behind Opera Philadelphia’s “delightful” (DC Metro Arts) 2016 take on Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, with set and costume design by Leslie Travers, “whose richly detailed, character-defining costume designs were sumptuous, his regal set design crafty and versatile” (Kansas City Star). Click here to see a video about Opera Philadelphia’s Figaro set designs.

The production boasts a cadre of rising stars. Undertaking the title role is bass-baritone Brandon Cedel, whose appearance in Opera Philadelphia’s East Coast premiere of Kevin Puts’s Silent Night prompted the New Yorker’s Alex Ross to consider him “destined for stardom.” A recipient of the 2015 Richard Tucker Career Grant and the 2013 Grand Finals winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions, Cedel may be seen in the Met’s “Live in HD” broadcast of Manon Lescaut, which aired in movie theaters around the world.

The real-life husband-and-wife team of baritone John Chest and soprano Layla Claire make company debuts as the bickering Count and Countess Almaviva. Chest, who will represent the United States at the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in June, has appeared in leading roles from La bohème’s Marcello at Washington National Opera to the title role of Billy Budd in a new production at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. As Opera Now remarks, “The poised intensity of [his] presence and delivery complements the dark, rich colors in his voice.”

Likewise, Claire boasts “a rich dramatic soprano oozing with class and possibility” (The Guardian). Her Opera Philadelphia debut crowns a Mozart-filled season highlighted by performances as Don Giovanni’s Donna Elvira for her Salzburg Festival debut this summer, and as Pamina in The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera, where her previous engagements include creating the role of Helena in the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island.

Also making her company debut, as Susanna, is Chinese soprano Ying Fang, whose portrayal of the role at New York’s Juilliard Opera prompted Opera News’s Fred Cohn to declare:

“She gave a treasurable performance. The basic sound was pure and true; she colored it through judicious application of vibrato, as well as an alertness to the timbral implications of the Italian text, resulting in singing that was both deeply musical and full of character. This Susanna was never cute but always enchanting: any Figaro would be lucky to have such a woman as his bride. It would be a misnomer to call Fang ‘promising’ – she is already a fully achieved performer. I personally can’t wait to hear more.”

Having “perfectly inhabited” (New York Times) the role of Elvira in the Metropolitan Opera’s L’Italiana in Algeri earlier this season, Fang also recently drew praise in concerts with the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra.

Rounding out this magnificent quintet is Cecelia Hall, who returns as the flirtatious page, Cherubino, after doing “a beautiful job of singing and presenting the resourceful, hardscrabble Ruby” (Opera News) in Opera Philadelphia’s East Coast premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain two years ago. Besides appearing in four Frankfurt Opera productions this season, Hall – a finalist for the inaugural Warner Music Prize – has graced leading roles at Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Canadian Opera Company. Hall will return to Philadelphia in September to tackle the dual role of Clorinda and Sorrel in War Stories, a double bill of Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and Lembit Beecher’s I Have No Stories to Tell You, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Bass-baritone Patrick Carfizzi, whose “impressive bass is as powerful as it is handsome” (Opera Today), makes his company and role debuts as Dr. Bartolo after launching the season in La bohéme at the Met. Grammy Award-winning mezzo Lucy Schaufer, described as “splendidly gutsy” (The Telegraph, UK), gives her first performances as Marcellina. Tenor Jason Ferrante, praised by Opera News for “singing up a stylish storm,” makes his company debut in the dual roles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio, with Opera Philadelphia Emerging Artists Ashley Milanese and Thomas Shivone rounding out the cast as Barbarina and Antonio respectively.

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The production crowns a banner season for Opera Philadelphia. The runaway success of last fall’s world premiere production of Breaking the Waves – hailed as “among the best 21st-century American operas yet produced” (Opera News) – marked a catalytic moment, “changing many of the people who brought the piece to the stage – and the company itself” (Philadelphia Inquirer). The company also recently appointed Lawrence Brownlee as an Artistic Advisor, following the Grammy-nominated tenor’s headlining appearance in 2015’s world premiere production of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, which helped kick-start Opera Philadelphia’s “big commitment to new repertoire” (Wall Street Journal). This continues apace next season, with the launch of the company’s new, game-changing, annual season-opening festival. A twelve-day immersion featuring seven operatic happenings, three world premieres, and one superstar Festival Artist, at six venues across the city, the festival’s inaugural edition – O17 (Sep 14–25) – represents a radical new way to experience opera.

About Opera Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the 21st century. Described as “the very model of a modern opera company” by the Washington Post, Opera Philadelphia was the only American finalist for the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company. The company offers a wide variety of programs and performances, both on stage and in the community, which reach deep into Philadelphia. This September, Opera Philadelphia looks forward to launching the 2017-18 season with the inaugural edition of an immersive, 12-day festival featuring seven operatic happenings in six venues throughout the city. O17 will feature three world premieres and a Philadelphia premiere, 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 two additional productions in February and April, making it the only U.S. opera company producing an annual opera season that begins with a dynamic festival. The company’s community initiatives provide agency for residents to author their own transformative journey of self-discovery through programs in schools, cultural organizations, and community centers.

Click here to download high-resolution photos.
Opera Philadelphia presents The Marriage of Figaro

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
A new co-production with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, San Diego Opera and Palm Beach Opera
April 28, 30m; May 3, 5, 7m
Academy of Music
Performed in Italian with English supertitles

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, April 2017

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