Friday Arts

Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD




The Making of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD

Art of Life — Produced by Karen Smyles

Saxophonist Charlie Parker revolutionized the world of music with his legendary approach to jazz music. His compositions and playing were greatly influential in the development of bebop. Parker’s fast-paced and complicated chords, which often combined other musical genres, were groundbreaking. The nickname “Yardbird” was given to him early in his career, and was later shortened to “Bird”, and stayed with him throughout his life.

Unfortunately, that life was much too short and filled with tragedy. In 1955, Parker died at the age of 34 from excessive drug use. He died in the home of a friend in New York City, but his body remained unidentified in the morgue for days after.

Opera Philadelphia brings his story to the stage in Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, their first world premiere in almost four decades. The opera was created for American tenor Lawrence Brownlee and premieres as part of Opera Philadelphia’s Aurora Series for Chamber Opera at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater, June 5th – 14th.

But don’t expect the opera to mimic the 1988 film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. The opera will tell his story from a very unique perspective, with mostly original music.

Art of Life goes behind-the-scenes for one of their early rehearsals in the Kimmel’s Innovations Studio. We talk with Lawrence Brownlee, Angela Brown who plays Parker’s mother, director Ron Daniels, composer Daniel Schnyder, and librettist Bridgette Wimberly, and witness the excitement that is building around Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD.



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