The Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia have unveiled their first collaboration on a new production of Richard Strauss' lusty one-act opera "Salome."
The opera will be led by orchestra music director Yannick Nezet-Seguin and will be performed in the orchestra hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts for just two concerts in May 2014.
The singers will be on stage with the orchestra, which is usually out of view in opera, and the concert hall will be transformed for a theatrical production including custom-built stage designs, theatrical lighting and costumes.
"The Philadelphia Orchestra as a body of sound is unique in any repertoire it touches and we believe to have that kind of sound in any opera score is something which will be unique in the world," Nezet-Seguin said at a news conference Monday.
"Salome," which Strauss based on Oscar Wilde's play of the same name, features the "Dance of the Seven Veils" that scandalized audiences when it premiered in 1905 and led to it being banned around the world. It now is included in many companies' repertoires and Nezet-Seguin said it was among "the operas I can count on one hand which I would keep on a desert island."
The co-production will be "shaking it up a bit in ways our audiences might not expect," said orchestra president and chief executive officer Allison Vulgamore.
"It's not two companies in competition, it's two companies ... with audiences that actually don't know each other," she said. "One of the things we hope is that the opera audience meets the orchestra audience and the orchestra audience meets the opera audience."
Opera Philadelphia president and general director David Devan said the two companies began discussing the idea of collaboration in 2010. They picked "Salome" because "it has a narrative that allows us to be very stylized and make bold strokes," he said.
Designers are in the concept phase of the stage design process with the goal of "creating a physical world that will still keep the orchestra and the singers front and center but create a theatrical environment."
"I can't think of another city that could have brought a major orchestra and an opera company together in this way," he said. "It's a great opportunity for us ... to figure out how we create something new to engage our audiences and to create greater diversity of audience."
Finnish soprano Camilla Nylund will sing the role of Salome, American bass-baritone Alan Held is cast as Jochanaan, Canadian tenor John MacMaster will play Herod and German mezzo-soprano Birgit Remmert will perform as Herodias.
Opera Philadelphia has teamed up in recent productions with the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.