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By Culturekiosque Staff


"They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art."

— Charlie Parker

Opera Philadelphia has commissioned a new opera based on the life of legendary saxophonist Charlie Parker (1920 - 1955), best known as "Bird" (short for "Yardbird"), one of the most influential soloists in the history of jazz and a central figure in the development of bebop. American tenor Lawrence Brownlee will star as Parker in a work written for him by composer Daniel Schnyder, with a libretto by poet and playwright Bridgette A. Wimberly. Soprano Angela Brown will costar as Charlie’s mother, Addie Parker. Entitled Yardbird, the opera is being developed in partnership with Gotham Chamber Opera.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird will receive its World Premiere in June 2015 in the Aurora Series for Chamber Opera at the Perelman Theater, capping Opera Philadelphia’s 40th Anniversary Season, which will also feature the East Coast Premiere of Oscar by Theodore Morrison and John Cox. Both works are a part of the company’s American Repertoire Program, a commitment to produce at least one American work in each of ten seasons.

 "Since launching the American Repertoire Program in 2012, Opera Philadelphia has been committed to supporting composers who are telling American stories, and in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird we will chronicle an iconic musician whose triumphs and tragedies are truly operatic," said David B. Devan, General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia in a recent press announcement. "Daniel Schnyder and Bridgette Wimberly are crafting a work that captures Charlie Parker’s complex musical genius and troubled life in an engaging an honest way. We are honored to bring together a diverse group of artists, some of whom are new to opera, to create a work that will expand the boundaries of operatic music through the influence and infusion of Parker’s music." 

The opera will be conducted by Corrado Rovaris, Opera Philadelphia’s Jack Mulroney Music Director, who first met Schnyder in 2011. "I was taken with his compositional style," said Rovaris, who suggested Schnyder consider composing a piece for Brownlee. "When Daniel listened to Lawrence Brownlee, he immediately likened the color of his voice, the virtuosity of his singing, and his technical command to that of Charlie Parker. Thus, the idea for the opera was born."

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