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Watch and Listen: Preview of Opera Philadelphia's The Love for Three Oranges on WRTI 90.1

Courtesy of Opera Philadelphia
Scene from The Love for Three Oranges

Cast members of Opera Philadelphia's upcoming production of Sergei Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges visit WRTI 90.1 to perform highlights from the comic opera—one of several productions featured in Opera Philadelphia's Festival 019 from Sept. 18th to 29th. WRTI's Susan Lewis is host.

The Love for Three Oranges was written in 1919 and premiered in 1921 in Chicago; although it often plays in Europe, it is rarely performed in the U.S. The opera tells the story of a melancholy prince who is cursed by a witch to obsess over and find three oranges, in possession of a menacing cook, each of which contains a princess. Will the prince overcome the scheming witch and find love and happiness in the end?

Opera Philadelphia offers a 21st-century take on the work, calling it a "zesty love story and a pithy fairytale."

The "March" from the operabecame popular in the U.S. when CBS Radio featured it in The FBI in Peace and War, a crime drama broadcast on the radio from 1944 to 1958.


Act II, Scene 1—The Prince has hypochondria. His physical health is fine, but he thinks he is gravely ill. This scene establishes the characters of the sick Prince and the court jester Truffaldino, who drags the Prince to his party in an attempt to make him feel better. The scene with the famous “March.” (Tenor Jonathan Johnson, tenor Barry Banks)
Act III, Scene 2—After the witch Fata Morgana curses the Prince, making him fall obsessively in love with three oranges, he and Truffaldino set out on a quest to find his beloved fruit. They track the oranges to the castle of a giant cook. In this scene, Truffaldino uses his magic ribbon to seduce the Cook and grab the oranges. (Bass Zachary James, tenor Barry Banks, tenor Jonathan Johnson)
Act III, Scene 3—Inside each of the giant oranges is a princess. We won’t spoil what happens, but eventually the Prince and Princess Ninetta, whom he finds inside the third orange, profess their love for one another in this "love duet.” (Tenor Jonathan Johnson, soprano Tiffany Townsend)

Opera Philadelphia Music Director Corrado Rovaris calls the work “one of the most important fairy tales in the history of opera.” In the fun-loving spirit of the work itself, Opera Philadelphia says “the time is ripe for The Love for Three Oranges to finally make its Opera Philadelphia debut.” 

At the Academy of Music, Opera Philadelphia performs the production created by director Alessandro Talevi for the 2014 Maggio Musicale in Florence, Italy. Performances are Friday, September 20th and 27th at 8 PM, and Sunday, September 22nd and 29th at 2 PM.


Jonathan Johnson – Tenor Jonathan Johnson makes his company debut as The Prince in The Love for Three Oranges. Johnson is also an Emerging Artist for Opera Philadelphia, where he will be singing in community recitals and special events throughout the 2019-2020 Season. Johnson is from Macon, Georgia, and holds a Master’s degree and Professional Artist Certificate from the A.J. Fletcher Institute of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has performed with Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Diego Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and more.

Zachary James – Bass Zachary James last appeared at Opera Philadelphia in Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves and returns as the Cook in The Love for Three Oranges. He has appeared on Broadway and with opera companies around the world including Teatro Real in Madrid, LA Opera, English National Opera, and more, and will make his Metropolitan Opera debut in the 2019-2020 season. A Florida native, James is a graduate of the Musical Theatre program at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, where he was recently awarded the Outstanding Alumni Award, and also studied at Florida State University, University of Tennessee Knoxville and the Goethe Institut in Berlin.

Barry Banks – Tenor Barry Banks makes his Opera Philadelphia debut as Truffaldino in The Love for Three Oranges. He has performed with opera companies around the world including The Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Teatre del Liceu and the Salzburg Festival. The 2019-2020 season will not only include debuts at Opera Philhadelphia and at Dallas Opera, but will also include the world premiere of Matt Aucion’s Eurydice at Los Angeles Opera.

Tiffany Townsend – Soprano Tiffany Townsend makes her Opera Philadelphia debut as Princess Ninetta in The Love for Three Oranges. Townsend studied at Millsaps College and recently received her Professional Studies Certificate in Opera from The Curtis Institute of Music. She has performed in numerous operas at Millsaps and Curtis, including last spring’s Empty the House, and has as appeared in concert with The Mississippi Chorus, Millsaps College Singers, The New York Festival of Song, and George Crumb's Winds of Destiny with The Juilliard Percussion Ensemble in Alice Tully Hall.

Annie Brooks – Pianist Annie Brooks has enjoyed a multi-faceted career as soloist, chamber musician, and vocal and chamber coach. As an opera coach, Dr. Brooks has worked with the Stony Brook Opera, Manhattan-based Occasional Opera, and Aspen Opera Theater Center. She currently works as Assistant Professor of Collaborative Piano at Wingate University. Dr. Brooks graduated magna cum laude from Western Washington University, and continued on to earn a Master’s degree at Stony Brook University under full tuition scholarship in 2014. During the 2015-16 Season, she earned her Doctorate of Musical Arts at Stony Brook University.

David Levy – David Levy is Senior Vice President, Artistic Operations at Opera Philadelphia. David oversees the production, music and artistic administration and operations for the Opera. He came to Opera Philadelphia as Director of Production in 2011, following five years in the same position with Kentucky Opera. From 2000 to 2006 he worked at Washington National Opera as Artistic Administration Manager. He received his M.F.A. in Stage Lighting Design from UCLA in 2000. Between 1994 and 1997 he held various stage management, production and design positions with Washington National Opera and his hometown company Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. He received his B.A. in Theater Arts from Duke University in 1994.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.