Music Theatre Wales and Opera Philadelphia are working together to internationally 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, Music Theatre Wales and Opera Philadelphia 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 the genre forward, identifying outstanding artists and presenting innovative new work that celebrates the multicultural world in which we live.
Music Theatre Wales’ commissioning programme, New Directions, was brought to life with a series of three digital collaborations from artists new to opera. 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.
‘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,’ said Ismail. ‘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.’
The New Directions pieces are The House of Jollof Opera by Tumi Williams and Sita Thomas, a story about a budding chef who aims to impress a hard-working café owner with his speciality vegan Jollof, Pride (A Lion’s Roar) by Renell Shaw and Rachael Young (animation by Kyle Legall) which narrates the experience endured by many people of colour of being made to feel like you have to make yourself smaller to be accepted, and Somehow by Jasmin Kent Rodgman and Krystal S Lowe, an exploration of intimacy and relationships.
In exchange, Music Theatre Wales audiences will gain exclusive access to three of Opera Philadelphia’s digital works: They Still Want to Kill Us, an uncensored aria composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain which commemorates the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Save the Boys by Tyshawn Sorey, inspired by abolitionist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s 1887 poem of the same name, and Cycle of My Being, a song cycle which focuses on what it means to be a Black man living in America today, written by Tyshawn Sorey with lyrics by MacArthur Fellow Terrance Hayes and tenor Lawrence Brownlee.
‘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,’ said McCarthy. ‘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.
‘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.’
To find out more, visit the Music Theatre Wales website.
Header image: Opera Philadelphia’s Cycle of My Being.