OperaFix, November 12, Stephanie Blythe

This week we have chuck’s interview with Stephanie Blythe, who joined up with drag performer Dito van Reigersberg, also known as Martha Graham Cracker to create a 3 night serial gender-bending cabaret play series as part of Opera Philadelphia’s Festival O 2018.

September 24: Blythely After Hours, hosted by Stephanie Blythe as Blythely Oratonio
September 25: Fauréplay, hosted by Martha Graham Cracker
September 28: Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night which was followed by a dance party with DJ Manifest Love.

The 3 night series featured special guests Patricia Racette, Brenda Rae, Justin Vivian Bond, Machine Dazzle, Virgil Gadson, Cookie Diorio, Ashley Marie Robillard, and Siena Licht Miller.

Click to Listen


Queens of the Night

  • Theatre of the Living Arts (TLA)
  • Opera Philadelphia 018 Festival
  • Stephanie Blythe as Blythely Oratonio
  • Dito von Reigersberg as Martha Graham Cracker
  • Queens of the Night was a highly improvisational three-night, three-part Cabaret takeover.
    • Part One: Blythely After Hours
    • Part Two: A Faure’play
    • Part Three: Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night

Cendrillon by Jules Massenet

  • Laurent Pelly, production & costume designer
  • Bertrand de Billy, conductor
  • Stephanie Blythe, Madame de la Haltiere
  • Metropolitan Opera, NYC

Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibad Gluck

  • Mark Morris, director & choreographer
  • Stephanie Blythe, Orfeo
  • This production was originally created for Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
  • Mark Morris intended to model the role of Orfeo after K.D. Lang. David Daniels eventually sang Orfeo in the premiere production, then when Stephanie took over the role she decided to channel two singers:
  • Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. The only thing she couldn’t do was wear the dark sunglasses to complete the look.
  • The role of Orfeo is usually performed by a tenor or countertenor.
    Glimmerglass Opera had presented a whole season of Orfeo operas, cast with men as every Orfeo.

The character of Blythely Orantonio began a couple of years ago when Stephanie
was singing Mahler’s Eighth Symphony with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
John Jarboe & Dito van Reigersberg had attended the performance and went backstage.
Dito has a character alter ego when he performs: Martha Graham Cracker

Dito is the son of Stephanie & Fernando Reigersberg who were Stephanie’s host family when she was a student at Wolf Trap Opera in 1995 & 1996.

David Devan was at the same concert performance and went backstage also.
Stephanie mentioned how she’d like to do a show with Martha Graham Cracker for Opera Philadelphia and that was presented in 2017 at the Theatre of Living Arts.
That show was Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night.

Blythely Orantonio was born in the Beard Cage, John Jarboe’s performance studio, which is home to the Bearded Ladies Cabaret. He comes from the entertainer she has
always wanted to be.

This character has little to do with trouser roles, although Stephanie has performed
some of the Rossini ones and more often ones in Handel operas, for example:
Giulio Cesare and Tolomeo.

Classical performers are creating break out opportunities for themselves to fulfill desires that may fall outside their main performance presence.

  • James Whiteside, ABT Principal Dancer has been actively creating alternative work for his alter ego, JbDubs, a pop/dance artist. He’s also been collaborating with director/choreographer Arthur Pita on a new dance theater work: The Tenant.
  • Anthony Roth Costanzo, countertenor has been developing a concept album and multi-media work: Glass Handel that is already touring the country and world.

For Queens of the Night, John Jarboe brought together a very varied group of performers and creative staff such as: Brenda Rae – soprano, Mx Justin Vivian Bond – singer/cabaret doyenne, Machine Dazzle – costume designer and Jon Kazemi – music director and arranger.

Stephanie has developed other projects for herself, such as We’ll Meet Again: The Songs of Kate Smith. She was turned on by Kate’s voice and her story. Here was a woman who bucked convention. She was a completely natural artist, although she was not proud of having not received technical training. Kate Smith became a major star when no one who looked like her had ever done. She had great integrity and people who wrote great and memorable music for her.

The definition of a great artist: an artist who is very much defined by their art.

Stephanie, in her work with young artists is helping them to understand this idea, that the art form is something they can use as a tool to get closer to their audiences so people can get to know who they are.

Night of One Thousand Gowns is an annual fundraising event produced by the New York Imperial Drag Court. It is a celebration of all types of drag as well as the retiring of the past years Rulers and the coronation of the new Emperor & Empress.

Do You Want A Cookie?

  • The Bearded Ladies, producers
  • Philadelphia Fringe Festival 2018
  • This was a show that featured 14 different cabaret artists performing all over
    a three level warehouse space.

Stephanie believes that Cabaret artists explore something that is so deep, that is so worth of reverence because they’re unafraid, completely fearless. They use their art to explore who they are and to define who they are.

Classical artists spend so much time developing their instrument that they can forget that their instrument comes with a psyche, and then when something happens with their psyche which affects their instrument they are completely at a loss. Stephanie had an experience like this when she was a young artist.

Queens of the Night mixes the music of Barry Manilow and Journey with Puccini and Verdi, it is really something else.

WHAT’S NEXT: Two opera productions at Metropolitan Opera, NYC
Il Trittico by Giacomo Puccini

Credits: Chuck Sachs, interviewer; Peter Szep producer/editor

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