The Apollo and Opera Philadelphia Announce Multi-Year Partnership to Co-Create a New Canon of Black American Opera

Reported on Monday, March 25, 2024.

Pictured Above: The Family Stand and the OGs come to live in an abandoned home on Osage Avenue. Photo Credit: Dominic M. Mercier.

Newsroom Post: PHILADELPHIA, PA

 

Philadelphia, PA – Having previously partnered in 2016 and 2017 on the New York premieres of the contemporary operas Charlie Parker’s Yardbird and We Shall Not Be Moved, The Apollo and Opera Philadelphia today announced a new, multi-year partnership that will support the creation of new operatic work by Black artists.

To support this effort, the companies will share resources, ideas, infrastructure and talent through joint research, artist residencies, workshops, and artistic planning, in both Philadelphia and New York. The two organizations will extend this work by collectively seeking out commissioning and producing partners to advance projects into other markets.

Pictured Above: The Family Stand, from top left: John Henry (bass-baritone Aubrey Allicock), Un/Sung (spoken word artist Lauren Whitehead), John Blue (countertenor John Holiday), John Little (tenor Daniel Shirley) and John Mack (baritone Adam Richardson). Photo Credit: Dave DiRentis.

“The Apollo is very excited to continue its relationship with Opera Philadelphia as we work to support emerging Black voices in opera and build on the creative collaborations that led to the groundbreaking New York premieres of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird and We Shall Not Be Moved, two operas that have gone on to be staged all over the globe,” said Kamilah Forbes, Executive Producer of The Apollo. “We hope to manifest this joint objective through the co-commissioning and co-development of new work over the next five years, as well as a shared effort to identify emerging talent.”

“Together, The Apollo and Opera Philadelphia will identify, develop, and present work that not only reflects the multicultural world that we live in, but calls in those cultural groups who have long been excluded from traditional opera,” said David B. Devan, General Director & President of Opera Philadelphia. “Together, we will work to create a new American canon of work that challenges, reflects, and is in dialogue with the most pressing issues within our communities.”

In 2020, The Apollo launched the New Works Initiative to expand upon The Apollo’s mission to support the creation of new work by Black artists. Moreover, the expansion of The Apollo’s mission continues to align with Opera Philadelphia’s commitment to presenting innovative programming relevant to the multicultural experience that broadens and diversifies the opera audience.

“When developing work that will seed a new canon that centers the Black experience it is important to not only uplift new stories, but to also seek out all the various ways that those stories are being told. Working with Opera Philadelphia to find and develop those new stories within the art form of opera is exciting not just in terms of process, but what this will mean for access to opera within our community,” said Kelley Girod, Director of New Works at The Apollo.

Pictured Above: The opera takes place in a ghostly version of the Birdland jazz club. Photo Credit: Sofia Negron.

Since the 2015 world premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, composed by Daniel Schnyder with a libretto by Bridgette A. Wimberly, Opera Philadelphia has commissioned and staged 10 additional world premieres, earning a reputation as one of the world’s leading instigators of new opera. We Shall Not Be Moved, developed by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and director Bill T. Jones, was co-commissioned and co-produced with The Apollo, receiving its world premiere in Philadelphia in September 2017 followed immediately by a New York premiere at The Apollo in October 2017.

“I’ve proudly worked with The Apollo for close to a decade. Our joint efforts and goals have centered Black creative artists, stories, and artistry in an art form in which that is not often the case,” said Sarah Williams, Opera Philadelphia’s Director of New Works and Creative Producer. “An authentic partnership of this magnitude is what dreams are made of and how we create a wonderland of opportunities and experiences. I look forward to expanding upon the foundation we have already built and celebrating what’s to come.”

ABOUT THE APOLLO
The legendary Apollo—the soul of American culture—plays a vital role in cultivating emerging artists and launching legends. Since its founding, The Apollo has served as a center of innovation and a creative catalyst for Harlem, the city of New York, and the world.  The legendary Apollo—the soul of American culture—plays a vital role in cultivating emerging artists and launching legends. Since its founding, The Apollo has served as a center of innovation and a creative catalyst for Harlem, the city of New York, and the world. In 2024, The Apollo opened The Apollo Stages at Victoria, which include two new theater spaces, and will begin the renovation of its Historic Theater, marking the first ever expansion and renovation of The Apollo in its 90-year history. For more information about The Apollo, visit www.ApolloTheater.org. Read more about the project here: www.apollotheater.org/renovation-restoration-and-transformation/

ABOUT OPERA PHILADELPHIA
Opera Philadelphia, the only American finalist for both the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company and the 2020 International Opera Award for Best Festival, is “the very model of a modern opera company” (Washington Post). Committed to developing opera for the 21st century, the company is recognized as “a hotbed of operatic innovation” (New York Times). For more information, visit operaphila.org.

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