HEARTBEAT OPERA will return to the stage for its eighth season this year. Heartbeat’s 2021-22 season kicks off in September with a free outdoor screening of BREATHING FREE, their visual album that connects Beethoven’s Fidelio with the work of black composers and lyricists such as Harry T. Burleigh, Langston Hughes and Anthony Davis to manifest a dream of justice, fairness and free breathing. BREATHING FREE builds on Heartbeat’s work in 2018 with incarcerated singers and prison choirs, and continues its exploration of race and the American prison system. Then in December, MESSY MESSIAH, Heartbeat’s beloved annual drag extravaganza, returns after six years of Halloween shenanigans for a new Christmas special. Looking ahead to winter 2022, Heartbeat plans to make its very first tour, reviving its production of FIDELIO, which the New York Times’ Joshua Barone called “urgent, powerful and poignant”, for seven performances in four cities, kick off at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Heartbeat will later present its pilot production of projects NO EVIL, QUANDO, ossia Project “0”, which is co-produced with Long Beach Opera and reshapes the music of Verdi’s operas La Traviata and Don Carlo and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice in 25 short minutes. footage. Heartbeat also continues to work on its very first commission, THE EXTINCTIONIST, an opera by Heartbeat musical co-director Daniel Schlosberg, librettist Amanda Quaid and Heartbeat co-founder and resident director Louisa Proske. The Extinctionist is battling climate catastrophe and one woman’s unorthodox choice, with the aim of presenting its world premiere in the winter of 2023.
At the helm are Artistic Director Ethan Heard, Associate Artistic Director Derrell Acon, Musical Co-Directors Jacob Ashworth and Daniel Schlosberg, and General Manager Annie Middleton. Heartbeat Opera was founded in 2014 and has since grown from an independent “start-up” to an internationally renowned player, always hailed as a leader in visioning the future of opera.
The 2021-22 season
BREATHING FREE, a visual album
September 18 at Pier 63, Hudson River Park Trust
A free outdoor screening with live performances
(Next additional screenings to be determined)
Focus on empowering black people in the arts
With excerpts from Beethoven’s Fidelio, Negro Spirituals and songs by
Harry T. Burleigh, Florence Price, Langston Hughes, Anthony Davis, Thulani Davis
Director: Ethan Heard
Director: Anaiis Cisco
Creative producer: Ras Dia
Musical co-directors: Jacob Ashworth & Daniel Schlosberg
Director of the movement: Emma Jaster
Watch the trailer without breathing
Nominated for the 2021 Drama League Award for Outstanding Digital Concert Production
In 2018, Heartbeat collaborated with 100 singers incarcerated in six prison choirs to create a contemporary American Fidelio told through the lens of Black Lives Matter. In 2020 – the year of George Floyd’s murder, a pandemic ravaging our prison population, and the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth – they organized a cycle of songs, animated by live music videos, mingling excerpts from Fidelio with Negro Spirituals and songs from Black Composers and Lyricists, which together manifest a dream of justice, fairness … and free breathing.
Jamilyn Manning-White in DRAGUS MAXIMUS, photo by Andrew Boyle
December 16 at 8 p.m. and December 17 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
roulette in Brooklyn
Directed by Ethan Heard
Music conducted by Jacob Ashworth
Arranged by Daniel Schlosberg
Watch WNET’s ALL ARTS feature on Heartbeat’s Drag Extravagances
Heartbeat’s beloved annual drag opera extravaganza returns in all its glory this December. Over the past seven years, Heartbeat has presented six fabulous extravagances in Brooklyn theaters: Hot Mama: Singing Gays Saving Gaia; Dragus Maximus: a homosexual opera odyssey; Everyone is a drag! Shakespeare in love … with opera; Queens of the Night: Mozart in Space; Miss Handel; and Purcell’s Fairy Queen. These interdisciplinary celebrations playfully blend opera classics with pop culture and drag to create an otherworldly experience that encourages audience members to embrace opera in a new way.
This year the show moves to December, just in time for Christmas. With familiar tunes from Handel, Tchaikovsky, Berlin and many more, this naughty show celebrates the holidays with wit and warmth. Expect tradition … with a touch of peppermint.
Kelly Griffin in FIDELIO, photo by Russ Rowland
Heartbeat’s First Tour
February 10, 12 and 14, 2022 at the Met Live Arts, New York City
February 19 at the Mondavi Center, UC Davis, California
February 22 at the Scottsdale Performing Arts Center, Arizona
February 26 and 27 at the Broad Stage, Santa Monica, California
Music by Ludwig van Beethoven
Original libretto by Joseph Sonnleithner & Georg Friedrich Sonnleithner
Adapted and directed by Ethan Heard
Arrangements and music conducted by Daniel Schlosberg
New dialogue in English co-written by Marcus Scott and Ethan Heard
With Derrell Acon (Roc), Curtis Bannister (Stan), Kelly Griffin (Leah),
Victoria Lawal (Marcy), Tim Mix (Pizarro)
and more than 100 singers imprisoned in six prison choirs
Heartbeat planned to run its Fidelio in 2020, on the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Then the pandemic struck, particularly affecting the incarcerated and forcing them to postpone the tour. Next, George Floyd was assassinated, triggering a much needed racial calculation. Now, with humility and a renewed sense of purpose, Heartbeat has the opportunity to bring the tour back and even expand it. The story of their Fidelio is more urgent and current than ever:
A black activist is wrongly imprisoned. His wife, Leah, disguises herself to infiltrate the system and free it. But when injustice reigns, a woman’s courage may not be enough to save her love. Featuring the voices of imprisoned people, this daring adaptation pits corruption against courage, hatred against hope.
Heartbeat is excited to continue their work on this Fidelio, updating the booklet for our current moment, deepening the company’s commitment to anti-racism in everything it does, collaborating more with its prison choir partners, sharing the production and sparking important conversations. This tour is Heartbeat’s biggest and most ambitious endeavor to date. They have the opportunity to reach thousands of new audience members, including hundreds of young people, in four cities across the country.
QUANDO, ossia Project “0”
In-person screenings with live performances in New York and Long Beach, April 2022
A co-production with Long Beach Opera
The pilot production of NO EVIL Projects
Creation produced by Derrell Acon
Music conducted and arranged by Daniel Schlosberg
In-person screenings with live performances in New York and Long Beach in April 2022
(date to be confirmed)
Some of the most beautiful and famous music in the opera canon becomes the landscape for this fierce social satire of sex, activism, and everyday performance. Music from Gluck’s Verdi La Traviata and Don Carlo and Orfeo ed Euridice operas is repurposed and transformed into a 25-minute short film that follows a young couple with starry eyes as their night on the town unfolds in a surreal whirlwind of decadence , intrigue and ultimately, a vengeful justice.
The short, a co-production with Long Beach Opera and produced by Heartbeat’s new Associate Artistic Director, Derrell Acon, will screen as-is, followed by a second screening featuring live songwriters disrupting and actively re-enacting the music. of the score for a unique theatrical experience. No two performances will be the same, as the ending will change with each iteration of the live performances, and audiences will be challenged to reexamine their perception of art and its role in transforming society.
NO EVIL is an initiative to create a self-replenishing seed fund for new opera projects by the creators of BIPOC (black, indigenous and other people of color). Acon is in conversation with OPERA America, the Sphinx Foundation, and other industry colleagues about the full structure of NO EVIL Projects, which is slated to launch in 2022.
Acon states, “As the Equity in the Arts Specialist for the OPERA America New Works Forum, I have had the opportunity to facilitate the adjudication committees of all BIPOCs for the award, and have was deeply impressed by the nuance of perspective and intentionality centered in these discussions. I am convinced that the financial barriers faced by marginalized creators in the field require even more attention and action – and, frankly, MONEY! “
A new opera in one act
Music by Daniel Schlosberg
Libretto by Amanda Quaid, after her play
Directed, designed and developed by Louisa Proske
Music conducted by Jacob Ashworth
World premiere production coming in winter 2023
In the 2020-21 season, Heartbeat Opera commissioned their very first opera, The Extinctionist, a one-act work that deals with the catastrophic effects of climate change and a woman’s unorthodox choice to sterilize to save the planet. and become the very first “Fire extinguisher.” Dark comedy turns a woman’s body into a battleground of our political anxieties, conflicting desires, and individual responsibility.
Last May, The Exctintionist was featured in The New York Times, which chronicled Heartbeat’s long-standing commitment to reinventing classic works and its further expansion in commissioning. A semi-staged production of the opera premiered in May 2021 at PS21 in Chatham, New York, and the world premiere is slated for winter 2023.