Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky sings her first Lady Macbeth. Tenor Lawrence Brownlee appears in recital. A new production of a Hans Werner Henze work takes place at the Barnes. And a new chamber opera by Jennifer Higdon gets its world premiere.
All will be part of Festival O20 this fall, Opera Philadelphia announced Thursday as it released details of its 2020-21 season.
With Opera Philadelphia’s “O” festival heading into its fourth year, the company “has developed or will have developed 11 new works that have had 70 runs across seven countries for 280 performances,” said Opera Philadelphia chief David B. Devan. (These numbers also include works hatched before the start of the O festival.) “We never set out to do that, but when you realize it, it gives you more agency to keep doing that. It allows you to take risks.”
The 2020-21 season is structured the same way it has been recently, with much of the artistic punch packed into the fall festival.
Next season is, as usual, a mix of new and traditional works — Verdi’s Macbeth and Puccini’s Tosca, as well as pop-up cabaret performances featuring drag queens and blurred genres.
Much of the money for the operatic adventures comes from donations. The company’s budget for the entire 2020-21 season with be $12 million (down a bit from $12.7 million the year before), with $10 million of that from philanthropy and $2 million earned from ticket sales and other income sources.
The 2020-21 season opens Sept. 17 with the world premiere of Higdon’s work, her second for Opera Philadelphia.
Cold Mountain was heard in 2016 in the vast Academy of Music. This new piece, Woman With Eyes Closed, is slated for five performances in the Perelman Theater and promises more intimacy. “It’s a lot fewer forces than Cold Mountain,” says Higdon. “Five singers, 12 instruments, and 75 minutes. All the music for this is much more virtuosic and it’s like you’re having a chamber interaction.”
With a libretto by Chicago writer Jerre Dye, the piece uses as a jumping off point the 2012 theft of seven works of art from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam.
Macbeth runs Sept. 18-27 in a new production with Scottish director Paul Curran. Radvanovsky takes four of the performances, with Polish soprano Ewa Plonka taking the fifth. Italian baritone Roberto Frontali is Macbeth. Opera Philadelphia music director Corrado Rovaris conducts.
Henze’s El Cimarrón runs Sept. 19-24 at the Barnes Foundation. Written for four musicians, the piece tells the story of a Cuban slave, a role taken here by bass-baritone Willard White.
Lawrence Brownlee, the opera company’s artistic advisor, joins with tenor Michael Spyres in a Sept. 16 recital at the Barnes of bel canto works.
O20 will also feature recitals at the Curtis Institute of Music and Academy of Vocal Arts, and, with the Bearded Ladies Cabaret and FringeArts, a series of cabaret pop-up nights from Sept. 12-Oct. 4.
In January, the company will present two concert performances of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex at the Academy of Music. Robert Spano conducts the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra and Chorus; the cast includes tenor William Burden, bass-baritone Mark S. Doss, mezzo Rehanna Thelwell, and bass-baritone White. The piece is paired with Stravinsky’s Les noces.
Rovaris leads Tosca April 30-May 9 in a production from the Teatro Regio di Parma. For the Puccini favorite, Opera Philadelphia has signed soprano Ana María Martínez, making her company debut in the title role.
“It turns out our reputation with Corrado [Rovaris] working with artists doing their first roles has paid off. She was open to it for that reason," said Devan of Martínez taking on Tosca for the first time. “Especially when we approach standard repertoire, we look to things like which artist needs to discover this role, because there is excitement in that."
Festival O20 packages and full-season subscriptions are now on sale. Single tickets available June 1 (215-732-8400, operaphila.org).