Preview: Charlie Parker's Yardbird

Opera Philadelphia and New York's Apollo Theater join forces for the New York premiere of the opera, set during Bird's final day

Opera Philadelphia and the Apollo Theater have announced that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, by composer Daniel Schnyder and librettist Bridgette Wimberly, both Harlem residents, will have its New York premiere in a co-production between the two institutions on 1 and 3 April, 2016. The engagement marks the first time opera will be performed at the Apollo Theater and the first time Opera Philadelphia will play New York.

Set in Birdland on 12 March 1955, the day Charlie Parker died, the opera "...invites audiences directly into the mind and heart of the great saxophonist as he composes his final masterpiece, and revisits the inspirations, demons, and women who fueled his creative genius." The New York premiere reunites tenor Lawrence Brownlee (pictured right), in the title role as the legendary jazz saxophonist, with many other members of the original cast and with the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, directed by Corrado Rovaris, who performed the work’s world premiere in June 2015.

David B Devan, General Director and President of Opera Philadelphia, commented: “The world premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird was a watershed moment in the history of Opera Philadelphia, capping our 40th anniversary season with a nationally acclaimed new work as we were expanding the company’s impact in both our community and as a leader in our field. We are thrilled to partner with the incredible Apollo Theater, a driving force in shaping America’s music landscape, to bring this opera to New York City, where Bird helped to create bebop.”

Parker played at the Apollo on many occasions, the first of which was in 1943 alongside Little Benny Harris and Dizzy Gillespie in the Earl Hines Orchestra. Gillespie also appears in Charlie Parker's Yardbird, played by baritone Will Liverman (pictured left, with Brownlee).

Opera Philadelphia reports that it is " serious dialogue with several opera companies and jazz festivals in Europe..." but at present no European dates for Charlie Parker's Yardbird have been confirmed.

Tickets for the two Apollo Theater shows, scheduled for Friday 1 April at 8.00pm and Sunday 3 April at 3.00pm, can be booked via the theater's website.

Text by Bruce Lindsay, photos by Dominic M Mercier

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