Composed by Daniel Schnyder with librettist Bridgette Wimberly, Charlie Parker's Yardbird was announced earlier this year with Gotham Chamber Opera. It's future was uncertain however, with the closing of Gotham in October. With the help of Opera Philadelphia, who will co-produce and who debuted the opera in June, Yardbird is set to play April 1 and 3, 2016.
Parker has a special history with the Apollo, where he developed the bebop style and conducted a handful of bold musical experiments. One of such performances produced the 1950 album "Charlie Parker with Strings," a recording meant to bridge the gap between jazz and classical music.
"The real Charlie Parker played the Apollo Theater, and I am honored to be bringing this opera about Bird’s life and music to Harlem with Opera Philadelphia and the Apollo," said Brownlee, who plays the famed musician, in a press statement. "Taking on this role is a challenge that I have greatly enjoyed and I am thrilled to revisit it in New York, where Charlie enjoyed some of his greatest triumphs and endured some of the hardships and trials that ultimately brought his life to a premature end. I think this opera will bring people an even greater appreciation for the man behind the music that we all love so much."
The New York premiere reunites Brownlee with much of the original cast alongside maestro Corrado Rovaris and the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, who performed to five sold-out audiences in June. The company will again be joined by stage director Ron Daniels.
"Set in the famed Birdland jazz club on March 12, 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," state Apollo press notes. "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," added David B. Devan, general director and president of Opera Philadelphia. "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."
Tickets to Charlie Parker’s Yardbird are available by visiting Apollotheater.org or by calling (800) 745-3000.