Four Opera Companies Commission ASL Series From NYC Artist Collective

By Francisco Salazar

The Boston Lyric Opera alongside Opera Omaha, Opera Columbus, and Portland Opera have commissioned a new work.

In an ongoing effort to make the art form more accessible, relevant, and resonant for a diverse audience, the companies have commissioned a work from New York artist collective UP UNTIL NOW a series of short, American Sign Language-based films of opera arias.

The first of the series will be a cinematic ASL take on “What Makes a Man a Man” from “CHAMPION: An Opera in Jazz” by Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer. The short will premiere exclusively on BLO’s streaming platform. The short features baritone Markel Reed.

The other two films in the series are based on “His Name is Jan” from Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek’s “Breaking the Waves” sung by soprano Kiera Duffy, and a medley of “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” and “Pa-Pa-Pa-Papageno” from W.A. Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” sung by bass-baritone John Taylor Ward and countertenor Jordan Rutter in a queer reimaging of the storyline. Both will premiere on May 4.

On-screen cast members in the series include renowned Deaf actors Monique Holt, Dickie Hearts, and Andrew Morrill, along with Kazen-Maddox, Seth Gore, Zavier Sabio, and Alberto Medero. The videos are directed by Kazen-Maddox, Newbury, and James Matthew Daniel, and co-produced by Kim Whitener.

The series is available on Boston Lyric Opera’s through May 2022 with distribution later through Opera Omaha’s 2022-2023 season.