From Development server
9 December 2015

Opera Philadelphia and Apollo Theater to Present New York Premiere of Charlie Parker's Yardbird

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OPERA PHILADELPHIA AND THE APOLLO THEATER announced today that the organizations have partnered to co-present the New York premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at the Harlem theater on April 1 and 3, 2016.  

The opera—set in the Birdland jazz club on the day of Charlie Parker’s death—is the work of composer Daniel Schnyder and librettist Bridgette A. Wimberly, both residents of Harlem. The Apollo performances will feature tenor Lawrence Brownlee in the title role as the American jazz saxophonist and composer; joining him will be soprano Angela Brown as Parker’s mother, Addie Parker, and baritone Will Liverman as Dizzy Gillespie. All three artists will reprise their roles after having taken part in the work’s world premiere performances in Philadelphia in June 2015. Likewise, Opera Philadelphia music director Corrado Rovaris will conduct the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra in the performances. At the time of its world premiere, Yardbird capped Opera Philadelphia’s fortieth anniversary season, and marked the first opera to emerge from the company’s new-opera initiative, the American Repertoire Program. 

“We are thrilled to partner with the incredible Apollo Theater, a driving force in shaping America’s music landscape, to bring this opera to New York City, where Bird helped to create bebop,” said David B. Devan, Opera Philadelphia’s general director and president.

The New York premiere of Yardbird at the Apollo had previously been announced under the aegis of Gotham Chamber Opera’s 2015-16 season, and was slated to be presented by that company as part of the second NY Phil Biennial. On October 1, Gotham ceased all operations, and cancelled all future performances by the company. Efforts by Opera Philadelphia and the Apollo appear to have salvaged the Yardbird performances, which will take the Apollo stage in Ron Daniels’s world-premiere production

“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 and endured some of the hardships and trials that ultimately brought his life to a premature end,” Lawrence Brownlee said in a statement issued today by Opera Philadelphia and the Apollo Theater. “ I think this opera will bring people an even greater appreciation for the man behind the music that we all love so much.”

More information can be found at Opera Philadelphia.

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