Opera Philadelphia creates outstanding productions of both classic and new operatic works that resonate within the community, assembles the finest international creative artists, and presents a wide array of programming that educates, deepens, and diversifies the opera audience in Philadelphia and beyond. Performance offerings include large-scale works at the historic Academy of Music, intimate chamber operas as part of the Aurora Series for Chamber Opera at the Perelman Theater, and frequent community performances which focus on creative partnerships and enhanced accessibility. The company has also launched the American Repertoire Program, a commitment to produce a new American work in each of ten seasons, which began in 2012. Silent Night, the production featured in this month’s segment was created as part of the program and was an enormous hit for Opera Philadelphia this past February.
If you want to see more of the company’s cutting-edge productions you won’t want to miss the company premiere of Powder Her Face, composer Thomas Adès’s provocative debut opera based on a real-life sex scandal that rocked the British aristocracy in the 1960s. The work is based on the life of Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, in Adès’s high-society satire, Britain’s so-called “Dirty Duchess,” whose sensational divorce trial, complete with explicit Polaroids and allegations of depraved sexual exploits, riveted the U.K. in 1963.
The Duke bitterly divorced Margaret on grounds of her nymphomania, producing in court those compromising photos along with a list of her 88 alleged “conquests,” including three members of Britain’s Royal Family and Hollywood stars like Bob Hope, Maurice Chevalier, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and David Niven. In her prime, the Duchess’s beauty was so well known she was mentioned in Cole Porter’s song “You’re the Top.” She and the Duke lived in Scotland’s Inveraray Castle, a grand estate featured this past season on the hit BBC TV series Downton Abbey.
Renowned soprano Patricia Schuman, whose career has included leading performances at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala and Covent Garden among others, makes her role debut as the Duchess. The production is directed by William Kerley and conducted by music director Corrado Rovaris, with music that includes aspects of stage musicals and jazz.
Margaret Campbell, Former Duchess of Argyll
Patricia Schuman, Soprano, Powder Her Face