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In 'ANDY: A Popera' Andy Warhol’s Legacy Lives On

A mash-up of pop music and opera, ANDY: A Poperais a collaborative production of Opera Philadelphia and The Bearded Ladies (a cabaret company) developed over a two-year period. Its edginess and improvisation is a hallmark of cabaret, but it's also imbued with the spirit of opera.  

JohnJarboe of The Bearded Ladies directed the production and conceived a libretto that captures the spirit of the iconic pop artist, a gay man born to immigrant parents in Pittsburgh. Heath Allen and Dan Visconti composed the music that adds to this melange of classical opera and cabaret. Allen comes from a more popular music background; Visconti draws from his contemporary classical roots.  

Composers Heath Allen and Dan Visconti provide the score that carries this journey forward. Here’s what they say about melding popular and classical notes.

In rehearsal.

Radio Script:

Meridee Duddleston: There’s the short, quick way to describe the new show ANDY: A Popera. Try this one by the production's director and writer, John Jarboe.

John Jarboe: It’s a pop opera with 12 opera singers, six cabaret performers, and a five-person band in a warehouse in North Philly with an unlimited bowl of booze. Ingredients unlisted.

MD: Ingredients unlisted? This is adults-only entertainment. But the party punch also reflects the adventuresome spirit of unlikely drinking companions in this co-production of the distinguished Opera Philadelphia and the scrappy cabaret company The Beaded Ladies. But it’s not the pop artist’s life’s story.

JJ: We’re not telling the story of Warhol, then. We’re telling the story of how a boy becomes a brand; how a man becomes a phenomenon; how a little boy named name Andrei Warhola replicates himself into 12 opera singers to become Andy Warhol.

MD: Fifty years ago, the artist obsessed with image and replication elevated consumer goods (Campbell’s soup cans, Brillo boxes; and celebrities, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley) to museum works. He raised questions about popular culture that reverberate today.

JJ:  It feels like he’s more alive than dead. When I look at a Facebook wall, when I look at Instagram, when I look at Twitter, I often think about Warhol. I’m amazed at how much I think he would have loved the way we engage with image today. Fifteen minutes of fame is really no longer a joke. 

MD:  Leave your phone on, but leave the kids at home. Take pictures. Take video. Warhol’s playful, enigmatic, complex essence lives on in ANDY: A Popera -  a pop opera that promotes audience participation to whole new level.