This fall, Opera Philadelphia will yank opera out of the opera house and go into places where opera is usually not seen, or heard.
In November, the company will stage a contemporary work, “Svadba,” in a former municipal pump house on the Delaware River waterfront. The building, now undergoing renovation, will be the new home and performance venue of FringeArts, the company that stages the annual Fringe Festival.
“Svadba” is set in the hours before a traditional Serbian wedding. The music is written for six acapella voices, sung by the bride and bridesmaids.
The 50-minute opera has no men, no orchestra musicians, and very little set design, making it easily portable to almost any location.
“One of our missions is to advance the genre of opera,” said Opera Philadelphia director David Devan. “There is a broad range of of repertoire that I feel is better suited to be performed outside the opera house. There is new work that doesn’t need a 2,500-seat theater and an orchestra pit.”
“Svadba” will be staged in addition to Opera Philadelphia’s regular season of productions, all of which will be held in the more traditional theaters of the Academy of Music and Kimmel Center.
The FringeArts building — which will not be completed in time for the 2013 Fringe Festival — will cozily seat 200 people. The performance of “Svadba” will be followed by a traditional Serbian wedding feast, sans bride and groom.
The four performances meet Opera Philadelphia’s mission to foster new opera and new opera audiences.
“People relate to art differently — or performing art differently — depending on the space,” said Devan. “There is a real hunger for more intimate interaction with artists who are performing on an extremely high level.”
The performances are funded in part of the Knight Foundation. In the following season, Opera Philadelphia is planning a similar alternative opera in the Power Plant studio beneath the Ben Franklin Bridge.