MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison Opera presents the Midwest premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird on Friday, February 10 and Sunday, February 12 in the Capitol Theater at Overture Center for the Arts.
On Tuesday, Kathryn Smith, Madison Opera’s General Director stopped by Wake Up Wisconsin to talk about the production.
With music by Daniel Schnyder and a libretto by Bridgette A. Wimberly, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird tells of the legendary jazz musician and the people closest to him.
The opera is set on the day that saxophone great Charlie Parker died in 1955. As his body lies unclaimed in a New York City morgue, Parker returns in spirit to the jazz club Birdland, determined to compose a final masterpiece. Family and friends blend in and out of his memories, including his three wives, his mother, his friend Dizzy Gillespie, and even his drug dealer.
Charlie Parker’s Yardbird premiered in June 2015 at Opera Philadelphia and was subsequently presented by the company at the Apollo Theater in New York in April 2016. The New York Times praised it for its “pulsing, jazz-infused score,” while the Wall Street Journal said, “its rhythms snap and swing, its melodies – including real arias – seize the ear, its ensembles crackle with energy.” Madison Opera will be only the second company to present this work, which runs 90 minutes without an intermission.
“I saw Charlie Parker’s Yardbird when it premiered in Philadelphia and instantly knew it would be a perfect operafor Madison,” says Smith. “The very American story and the exciting jazz-inflected music fit perfectly into our ever-expanding range of repertoire.” She adds, “It’s not a straight-forward narrative of Parker’s life, but rather elements of his life as refracted through his memories and imagination, and particularly his relationships with the women in his life.”