‘Hatred masquerading as justice,’ is addressed in a new opera based upon the life of Oscar Wilde

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Opera Philadelphia is presenting the East Coast premiere of “Oscar” at the Academy of Music. “Based on quotations from the writings of Oscar Wilde and his contemporaries,” as the program notes, this new opera had its world premiere in Santa Fe in 2013. Theodore Morrison is the composer, and co-librettist with John Cox, who is famed for his stage direction. The opera has Walt Whitman as a narrator, who guides us through the days before the libel trial to Wilde’s sentencing and imprisonment, to his release and apotheosis among the literary immortals.

Evan Register conducted the noted countertenor David Daniels in the extraordinary role of Oscar Wilde. Mr. Daniels scored a triumph in this demanding role. Bosie, Wilde’s muse and lover Lord Alfred Douglas, was played by Reed Luplau.  Bosie is a non-speaking character in the opera. Mr. Luplau danced throughout the opera, in stirring choreographer by Sean Curran. Reminiscent of Benjamin Britten’s “Death in Venice,” Bosie is a recurring, dancing figure who appears to live mostly in Oscar Wilde’s imagination. There are brief scenes where Bosie is a mute actor, but kudos to Mr. Luplau for his dancing role as Bosie.

Strong support was provided by Heidi Stober as Ada Leverson, William Burden as Frank Harris, and the wonderful Dwayne Croft as Walt Whitman. Wayne Tiggs, Benjamin Sieverding, and Ricardo Rivera were exceptional in their dual roles.

The musical idiom is fresh and natural, based on natural speech reminiscent of Samuel Barber’s “Vanessa,” or the operas of Benjamin Britten, so you should have no fear understanding this work. There are also English supertitles.

Fearlessly, there are two kisses between both Oscar Wilde and Bosie during the opera.  To this we say, Bravo!

“Oscar” will have a limited run at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music until February 15.

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