Opera Philadelphia’s Elizabeth Cree: a tale of sadism, lesbianism, and alcoholism

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Librettist Mark Campbell and composer Kevin Puts have created a dazzling new opera, Elizabeth Cree, at the Perelman Theater until September 23.  They based their opera on the novel, The Trial of Elizabeth Cree, by Peter Ackroyd.  Elizabeth Cree, a co-production with Chicago Opera Theater, is an Opera Philadelphia O17 Festival production.


The plot of Elizabeth Cree is complex and totally unpredictable. Having so many surprise plot twists, it is impossible to offer a synopsis of the plot without giving away some of the excitement of discovery. Generally speaking, Elizabeth Cree deals with family, both biological and one of affinity, the theater world of Victorian England, a Jack-the-Ripper murderer (with grisly scenes of visual and verbal gore), alcoholism, lesbianism, prostitution, starvation, and … well, you get the picture. The story begins in 1878 and ends in 1881, set in London. Karl Marx happens to be one of the characters involved in the plot. Deftly directed by David Schweizer, it is masterfully conducted by Music Director Corrado Rovaris.


Set aside all prejudices you may have about a World Premiere Opera. Elizabeth Cree is, simply put, a great opera. It deserves to be heard and seen here again and elsewhere. Musically, the composer weaves influences from Bartok, Samuel Barber, and his own rich talent to create this brilliant work. The bold and clever animation effects by Mr. Nichols are seamlessly integrated and complementary to the opera. The Design Team includes: David Zinn (Sets/Costumes); the aforementioned Alexander V. Nichols (Lighting/Projection); David Zimmerman (Wigs/Makeup); Jesse Robb (Choreography); and Flying by Foy (Flying Effects). All are consummate professionals who have created an astounding experience.


The singers are, quite simply, wonderful in their roles. Deserving special mention are a few of the principals. As the eponymous heroine, Daniela Mack grabs our attention and never allows us to look away. She is a fine actress and singer. Troy Cook, a fine singing actor, is John Cree. Joseph Gaines as Dan Leno will rivet your attention from the moment you lay eyes on him. His nuanced singing, allied with exceptional diction, enhances his terrific stage presence.


Of special interest to our readers, consider that Mark Campbell, Troy Cook, and Joseph Gaines are all out and proud. Author Peter Ackroyd had, for many years, a male partner. Here we have an amazing confluence of gay talent working on this opera.


Festival O18 will be September 20-30, 2018. For further information about Elizabeth Cree now at the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center, call 215.732.8400, or visit www.operaphila.org

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