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Arts Desk

ANDY: A Popera, Cold Mountain and More - Opera Philadelphia's Most Far-Reaching Season

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Inspired by the life, fame, and philosophy of Andy Warhol, ANDY: A Popera is a cabaret/opera hybrid that will feature original music by Dan Visconti and Heath Allen, and a cast of Opera Philadelphia and Bearded Ladies regulars.

What's the news about Opera Philadelphia’s just-announced 2015-2016 season? As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns reports, the season is the company’s most far-reaching yet.

Radio script:

David Patrick Stearns: Opera Philadelphia now has the quickest opera ever made: ANDY, A Popera, is a "pop" opera about Andy Warhol, that's part cabaret, part, well, nobody is all that sure perhaps, not even the theater group The Bearded Ladies that has devised it. Opera Philadelphia General Director David Devan has always favored a diversified operatic portfolio.

David Devan: ...it's a multi-channel universe and we have to be multi-channel. We need to cover a lot of territory. That's why we're working with people who don't look like us.

DPS: Composer Jennifer Higdon and librettist Gene Scheer spent three years finding the right subject, and another 28 months writing what will be the grandest of opera, the Civil War odyssey Cold Mountain. In contrast to ANDY: A Popera, this one has been developed in secret, in workshops closed to the public. Even Higdon isn't sure why.

Jennifer Higdon: I'm a pretty open person. I show people things all the time...but I'm new to this genre...and just following everybody's lead.

DPS: Already, some insiders are wondering if it’s a great American opera. That’s dangerous talk in advance, but David Devan doesn’t shy away from it.

David Devan: I really think this piece is headed toward the repertoire, and I don't say this very often.

DPS: Composer Higdon is more guarded. 

Jennifer Higdon: I think it's best to keep your expectations level, and be open to whatever it is.

DPS: With its $2.5 million price tag, Cold Mountain is the biggest budget item. So rather than creating a new production of La Traviata to open the season, Opera Philadelphia will borrow one from...Bucharest? Well, via a Facebook friend, Devan's team found designs for a Traviata that had all the visual lushness they wanted.

David Devan: This is social media at its finest...If we built one, this is the one we would've built.

DPS: The rest: The Elixir of Love, the ultra-lightweight Donazetti opera, and Richard Strauss' uber-sophisticated Capriccio consisting of smart, refined people singing about what is more important in opera, the words or the music. Now, really, how could that possibly be interesting? Well, there are some of us who think that's the question that lies at the heart of most operatic matters.