With help of $2.5 million Knight grant, Opera Philadelphia planning two-week festival

 Lawrence Brownlee, Will Liverman and Rachel Sterrenberg onstage in Opera Philadelphia's performance of

Lawrence Brownlee, Will Liverman and Rachel Sterrenberg onstage in Opera Philadelphia's performance of "Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD." (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Opera Philadelphia, the city’s major opera company, has received one of the largest grants in its history to stage a festival next year.

The $2.5 million grant is one of the largest amounts ever given by the Miami-based Knight Foundation, which has partnered with the company to present experimental opera: on the lawn of the Independence Mall; premieres; and a hybrid opera-cabaret in a renovated warehouse in Kensington.”We believe that opera has the potential to be a living, breathing, galvanizing force for a community, more than it is now,” said Annie Burridge, Opera Philadelphia’s managing director. “The Knight Foundation found this belief very interesting, and they have been investing in our experimentation.”

The next experiment is the company’s largest — to forgo part of its regular subscription season in favor of a two-week festival presenting seven productions simultaneously. Because 20 percent of its audience travels from outside the region to see Opera Philadelphia productions, Burridge said, a destination festival could propel the company into the national and international spotlight.

“It will take $15 million to pull it off, to pay for programming, a customized ticketing system, and extra staffing,” she said. “The $2.5 million grant puts the company at more than 80 percent of that goal.”

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