Published on 29/11/21


Music Theatre Wales and Opera Philadelphia to share bold digital work that redefines opera for our times.

Published on 29/11/21

Following the successful 2019 co-commission and co-production of Denis & Katya by Philip Venables and Ted Huffman, the two companies are sharing new digital pieces created by Black, Asian and global majority artists. Commissioned in parallel, Music Theatre Wales and Opera Philadelphia’s digital programmes propel our genre forward, identifying outstanding artists and presenting innovative new work that celebrates the multi-cultural world in which we live.

New Directions, a new commissioning programme created by Music Theatre Wales, was brought to life with a series of three digital collaborations from artists new to opera. These pieces will stream on the Opera Philadelphia Channel beginning Wednesday 1st December. Led by Artistic Associate Elayce Ismail and Director Michael McCarthy, New Directions questions what opera is and what it can be by commissioning and working with artists who bring new musical perspective and previously untold stories to opera.

The New Directions pieces are:

The House of Jollof Opera
by Tumi Williams and Sita Thomas

Pride (A Lion’s Roar)
by Renell Shaw and Rachael Young with animation by Kyle Legall

by Jasmin Kent Rodgman and Krystal S Lowe

In exchange, Music Theatre Wales audiences will gain exclusive access to three of Opera Philadelphia’s digital works:

By Daniel Bernard Roumain

An uncensored aria performed and composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain. Featuring mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges and directed by multimedia artist Yoram Savion. This piece commemorates the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, originally created to mark one year since the murder of George Floyd.

By Tyshawn Sorey

Inspired by “Save the Boys,” an 1887 poem by abolitionist, writer and Black women’s rights activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, performed by the outstanding countertenor John Holiday and pianist Grant Loehnig. 


A song cycle that centers on what it means to be a Black man living in America today, by Tyshawn Sorey with lyrics by MacArthur Fellow Terrance Hayes and superstar tenor Lawrence Brownless, who sings the piece. 

These works will be available via a unique link on MTW’s website, also starting on 1st December 2021 Elayce Ismail, artistic associate, Music Theatre Wales said:

“There are so many barriers to working in opera, and also to accessing it as an audience member, from the perception of what the art form is and who it is for, through to access to training. New Directions aims to chip away at some of these barriers and revitalise what opera can be, who makes it and who it’s made for. Opera is such a dynamic art form and I think it can absolutely resonate with contemporary audiences, but to do so it needs new artists and new ideas to invigorate, challenge and develop it. For New Directions we’ve brought together three brilliant pairs of collaborators, who each bring different creative practices to the mix, and who have been generous and inquisitive in our discussions about the potential of opera. It's been wonderful seeing how each of our creators has embraced the challenge, and the added element of creating work remotely for digital audiences, to make three unique and compelling new operatic works.”

Michael McCarthy, director, Music Theatre Wales said:

“MTW has been a force for change and development in opera in the UK, and we are thrilled to partner with Opera Philadelphia, a company renowned for embracing innovation and developing opera reflective of our time. By sharing our New Directions digital commissions with an international audience we hope these original pieces created by Welsh and UK artists will contribute to the evolution of our artform. At the same time, we will be offering UK audiences an opportunity to see three powerful new pieces from Opera Philadelphia that I believe resonate with the work we are making through New Directions

Our two companies first partnered on Denis & Katya by composer Philip Venables and librettist Ted Huffman, and through that experience we recognised that we shared a mutual desire to give opera a bit of a kick, questioning the way it is written and how it is produced and perceived. I have been impressed by Opera Philadelphia’s digital commissions released over the past year and by their ability to bring new voices to the art form and to deliver remarkable and memorable experiences, and this partnership will allow our shared audience to consider all these digital works in a broader context. The world has changed and so must we. If we want to reach new audiences and stimulate wider interest in the creation of new opera with the huge potential it has, we need to be working with artists who can lead us in new and unexpected directions.”

For more information on accessing Opera Philadelphia’s work, visit  


Editors Notes:

About Music Theatre Wales:

Music Theatre Wales exists to breathe new life into opera and music theatre as contemporary forms of artistic expression. Based in Wales, we are changing the way opera is made and perceived, by addressing who makes it, by reaching out to new and more diverse audiences, and by creating new work that responds to and reflects society: Giving opera a new voice and new ownership; celebrating opera as a multidisciplinary form.


At the heart of our work is the ambition to discover and support the development of new talent and new ideas. We are working with outstanding artists who are new to opera, especially those who have been ignored or excluded by opera, with young people across Wales, and with communities who have not traditionally participated in opera. Developing the diversity of the company, the people we work with and the audiences we reach. 


About Opera Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia, the only American finalist for both the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company and the 2020 International Opera Award for Best Festival, is “the very model of a modern opera company” (Washington Post). Committed to developing opera for the 21st century, the company is recognized as “a hotbed of operatic innovation” (New York Times). For more information, visit

The Opera Philadelphia Channel creates a digital space in which artists can perform and explore, through a series of new commissions by visionary composers and dynamic performances produced for the screen. Season subscriptions priced at $99 are offered along with pay-per-view rental options for individual performances. The channel is available for viewing on computers and mobile devices, and on TV screens via Chromecast and the Opera Philadelphia Channel app on AppleTV, Android TV, Roku, and Amazon FireTV. For more information, visit