What a great privilege to be here in Santa Fe for the world premiere of OSCAR with our great commissioning and producing partner, The Santa Fe Opera. It was also fantastic to have twenty of our Philadelphia opera patrons traveling with us to share in the joy of a new opera being brought to life.
As many of you know, we at Opera Philadelphia have made a commitment to develop and produce one new opera by an American composer, each season, for a decade! The American Repertoire Program has already produced DARK SISTERS and SILENT NIGHT and now, OSCAR. I love this part of our work for a number of reasons:
- Working with great artistic partners who bring new ideas and perspectives that further develop our artistic understanding and expression.
- Working directly with gifted creative individuals who bring our collective stories to life including composers, librettists, and dramaturges.
- Working with talented interpretive artists including singers, conductors, directors, and designers who add shape and dimension to these operas, further expanding our artistic understanding and capacities.
In the partner category, we have been blessed to work with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group to create DARK SISTERS. Then, with our partner The Minnesota Opera, we added the Pulitzer prize-winning SILENT NIGHT to the opera canon. The Santa Fe Opera, our newest partner, has been an amazing addition to this constellation of fellow opera collaborating producers. Like us, The Santa Fe Opera also cares deeply about bringing creative and performing artists together with the goal of adding repertoire to the canon of operas.
David Daniels as Oscar, Heidi Stober as Ada Leverson and William Burden as Frank Harris. Photo: Ken Howard.
On to OSCAR… I am extremely proud of this work. OSCAR has an incredibly powerful message to deliver and the opera accomplishes this with integrity, wit and commitment. The resources that we, The Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia, have been able to put together for this work are considerable and I believe, have paid off tremendously. The cast is absolutely first rate and the production is something truly wonderful to behold.
My special thanks go out to Theo Morrison and John Cox for lovingly writing this opera and for being so committed to telling this story of love, freedom and the right to pursue a life of happiness. At a dinner before the opening, I was moved to tears as these two gentlemen described their personal reasons for creating this work and the impact that it had had upon them. Also present at the dinner was the only grandchild of Oscar Wilde, Merlin Holland. Mr. Holland, an accomplished biographer, shared his pleasure in how the opera has so sensitively portrayed this tumultuous time in Oscar’s life. In his book, The Wilde Album, Holland has written about how the scandal of Oscar’s trials affected his wife and two children.
In addition to attending the opening night – there’s nothing like a world premiere to get the adrenaline of a general director going – I was also able to attend the second performance this past Wednesday. With new works, we often see that with each subsequent performance an opera will grow and mature, and this was the case with OSCAR. Both performances were greeted with standing ovations and, by Wednesday, I felt the piece had really come into its own.
Knowing the cast personally, I am confident that each of them will delight in the experience of continuing to bring this story to life in the remaining three performances (and I hope audiences experience that delight as well). Almost all of the Santa Fe cast will be coming to Philadelphia to perform OSCAR in February 2015 at the Academy of Music. I am thrilled that Opera Philadelphia will be providing this cast with further performance opportunities so that our audiences can experience this important and moving work of art.
Bravi tutti and onward to 2015.
Reed Luplau (in mask) as Bosie, David Daniels as Oscar and the chorus as prisoners in Act II. Photo: Ken Howard.