Music Theatre Wales and Opera Philadelphia to share bold digital work that redefines opera for our times.


Following the successful 2019 co-commission and co-production of Denis & Katya by Philip Venables and Ted Huffman, the two companies are sharing new digital pieces created by Black, Asian and global majority artists. Commissioned in parallel, Music Theatre Wales and Opera Philadelphia’s digital programmes propel our genre forward, identifying outstanding artists and presenting innovative new work that celebrates the multi-cultural world in which we live.
New Directions, a new commissioning programme created by Music Theatre Wales, was brought to life with a series of three digital collaborations from artists new to opera. These pieces will stream on the Opera Philadelphia Channel beginning Wednesday 1st December. Led by Artistic Associate Elayce Ismail and Director Michael McCarthy, New Directions questions what opera is and what it can be by commissioning and working with artists who bring new musical perspective and previously untold stories to opera.


The New Directions pieces are:


The House of Jollof Opera by Tumi Williams and Sita Thomas
Pride (A Lion’s Roar) by Renell Shaw and Rachael Young with animation by Kyle Legall Somehow by Jasmin Kent Rodgman and Krystal S Lowe
In exchange, Music Theatre Wales audiences will gain exclusive access to three of Opera Philadelphia’s digital works:
THEY STILL WANT TO KILL US
By Daniel Bernard Roumain
An uncensored aria performed and composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain. Featuring mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges and directed by multimedia artist Yoram Savion. This piece commemorates the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, originally created to mark one year since the murder of George Floyd.

SAVE THE BOYS
By Tyshawn Sorey

Inspired by “Save the Boys,” an 1887 poem by abolitionist, writer and Black women’s rights activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, performed by the outstanding countertenor John Holiday and pianist Grant Loehnig.

CYCLES OF MY BEING
A song cycle that centers on what it means to be a Black man living in America today, by Tyshawn Sorey with lyrics by MacArthur Fellow Terrance Hayes and superstar tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who sings the piece.

These works will be available via a unique link on MTW’s website, also starting on 1st December 2021Elayce Ismail, artistic associate, Music Theatre Wales said: “There are so many barriers to working in opera, and also to accessing it as an audience member, from the perception of what the art form is and who it is for, through to access to training. New Directions aims to chip away at some of these barriers and revitalise what opera can be, who makes it and who it’s made for. Opera is such a dynamic art form and I think it can absolutely resonate with contemporary audiences, but to do so it needs new artists and new ideas to invigorate, challenge and develop it. For New Directions we’ve brought together three brilliant pairs of collaborators, who each bring different creative practices to the mix, and who have been generous and inquisitive in our discussions about the potential of opera. It’s been wonderful seeing how each of our creators has embraced the challenge, and the added element of creating work remotely for digital audiences, to make three unique and compelling new operatic works.”

Michael McCarthy, director, Music Theatre Wales said: “MTW has been a force for change and development in opera in the UK, and we are thrilled to partner with Opera Philadelphia, a company renowned for embracing innovation and developing opera reflective of our time. By sharing our New Directions digital commissions with an international audience we hope these original pieces created by Welsh and UK artists will contribute to the evolution of our artform. At the same time, we will be offering UK audiences an opportunity to see three powerful new pieces from Opera Philadelphia that I believe resonate with the work we are making through New Directions.

Our two companies first partnered on Denis & Katya by composer Philip Venables and librettist Ted Huffman, and through that experience we recognised that we shared a mutual desire to give opera a bit of a kick, questioning the way it is written and how it is produced and perceived. I have been impressed by Opera Philadelphia’s digital commissions released over the past year and by their ability to bring new voices to the art form and to deliver remarkable and memorable experiences, and this partnership will allow our shared audience to consider all these digital works in a broader context. The world has changed and so must we. If we want to reach new audiences and stimulate wider interest in the creation of new opera with the huge potential it has, we need to be working with artists who can lead us in new and unexpected directions.”

For more information on accessing Opera Philadelphia’s work, visit https://www.musictheatre.wales/

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