Opera Philadelphia’s ‘HBO-like’ channel sets premiere date

Lawrence Brownlee
Shervin Lainez

Typically, the fall is a busy time for all arts organizations in the city, especially Opera Philadelphia. Before COVID-19 hit, the 2020-21 season was supposed to be chock full of colorful performances and exciting premieres, but now, with large gatherings and live showcases of the arts put on hold, the organization has pivoted to a digital format. 

Earlier this summer, Opera Philadelphia announced a brand new channel “in which artists can perform and explore, through a series of new commissions by visionary composers and dynamic performances produced for the screen.” Annual subscriptions priced at $99 will be offered along with pay-per-view options for individual performances. The channel will be available for viewing on computers and mobile devices, and on TV screens via Chromecast and the Opera Philadelphia Channel app on AppleTV, Android TV, Roku, and Amazon FireTV.

“Guided by the current global health pandemic and recommendations from city and state health experts, Opera Philadelphia is committed to safely engaging with our audiences, artists, musicians, staff, and our community,” said David B. Devan, General Director & President of Opera Philadelphia in a statement when the announcement was made. “We have made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel Festival O20 and postpone many of the operas and events planned for our theaters, but we are thrilled to reimagine much of the proposed season, and expand it with new offerings, to be delivered to homes across the world via the Opera Philadelphia Channel.”

The Opera Philadelphia Channel is being described as if opera met HBO, and the new viewing experience now has a launch date: October 23rd. The first performance will be special as well with Opera Philadelphia’s own Artistic Advisor who also happens to be a renowned tenor, Lawrence Brownlee center stage. 

“I am thrilled to invite everyone to join us for a night of arias, songs, spirituals, and conversation as we launch this exciting digital season on the Opera Philadelphia Channel,” Brownlee said. “We all need music in our lives right now, and I am so happy to have this opportunity to sing with three incredible sopranos with deep ties to the city of Philadelphia, Lindsey Reynolds, Sarah Shafer, and Karen Slack, joined by my longtime friend and collaborator, Myra Huang, on piano.”

Myra HuangProvided

The tenor can be seen in ‘Lawrence Brownlee & Friends in Philadelphia’ (Oct. 23rd, 8 pm) and later on with ‘Cycles of My Being’ (Nov. 20th, 7 pm.) The first will feature a diverse lineup of guest artists who will be performing some of their favorite songs in their repertoire, and the latter will feature a song cycle composed by multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey that centers on what it means to be a Black man living in America today.

“These are divided times, but the goal of Cycles of My Being is neither to widen those rifts, nor to re-open old wounds,” Brownlee said. “The goal is foster mutual respect, understanding, and communication across races and generations. History unfolds in cycles, and with this work, we hope to balance the stark challenges of our present reality with a resolute resilience, and an unwavering hope for a better future.”

Brownlee will also take part in the channel’s premiere of La Traviata (Oct. 30th at 7 pm) featuring rising soprano Lisette Oropesa. According to the release, The broadcast will be preceded by an interview with Oropesa conducted by Lawrence Brownlee and featuring Jack Mulroney Music Director Corrado Rovaris, who reflect on the preparations that went into the important role debut and looking back on the five-year anniversary of the production, which co-starred tenor Alek Shrader (Alfredo) and baritone Stephen Powell (Germont).

“I am so thankful for the leadership provided by our company’s Board of Directors and to the staff of Opera Philadelphia for creatively adapting to this moment in our history,” Devan continued in his previous statement. “Through the broadcasts of these new performances and a robust series of roundtable conversations, lectures, panel discussions, and educational programming, we aim to create a space of inclusivity and belonging among people in the City of Philadelphia and opera lovers across the globe.”

According to the release, subscribers and ticket holders for any of the postponed theatrical productions have been contacted by guest services to discuss options, including applying the value of their tickets to an Opera Philadelphia Channel subscription or a future production, donating all or a portion of the value to support the company, and refunds. Annual subscriptions for the Opera Philadelphia Channel are now on sale at operaphila.org or by calling 215-732-8400. Individual pay-per-view purchase options are now on sale as well.

To learn more information, visit operaphila.org