Opera Philadelphia to Make Historic Apollo Theater Debut
Today’s historic announcement by Opera Philadelphia may be, by far, a much more significant one than their heavily publicized O17 festival: They’ll be bringing the first ever opera to the stages of the acclaimed Apollo Theater in New York City.
And it’s lead character is a man of color. So are the vast majority of the singers, a rarity when even productions of Otello and Aida often times employ non-black actors to take on leading roles.
Opera Philadelphia will be staging their production of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at the New York venue in 2016, the positive result of what could have been a dead end for the production. The opera was scheduled for a bow at New York’s Gotham Chamber Opera, but that company went out of business earlier this year. The move to the Apollo not only puts opera in the spotlight in the legendary venue, but also blurs the line between fiction and reality.
“The real Charlie Parker played the Apollo Theater, and I am honored to be bringing this opera about Bird’s life and music to Harlem with Opera Philadelphia and the Apollo,” says the show’s leading man, acclaimed tenor Lawrence Brownlee. “Taking on this role is a challenge that I have greatly enjoyed and I am thrilled to revisit it in New York, where Charlie enjoyed some of his greatest triumphs.”
In fact, the Apollo booked Parker and the bebop band The Earl Hines Orchestra (also comprised of Little Benny Harris and Dizzy Gillespie) back in 1943, and this engagement was widely considered the key to bringing bebop to a larger audience. Later, in 1950, Parker’s dream of recording with string instruments was realized at the Apollo, where he recorded Charlie Parker With Strings.
The Apollo staging of Yardbird will only get two performances, April 1st and 3rd, but will feature the vast majority of the Philadelphia cast, including Brownlee, Will Liverman, Tamara Mumford, Rachel Sterrenberg, Chrystal Williams, and the stunning Angela Brown as Brownlee’s mother, Addie. New to the cast will be Elena Perroni, who is replacing Angela Mortellaro. Music Director Corrado Rovaris will lead the staging.
Tickets to the Apollo production go on sale today at 10 am and can be purchased via Ticketmaster or via the Apollo’s website.