March 06, 2019

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird is Headed to Chicago!

In 2015, Charlie Parker’s Yardbird premiered at Opera Philadelphia and soon went on to become the first opera ever performed at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater. Now, it’s headed to the Windy City this March 24 and 26, and Chicago audiences will experience firsthand the opera that has critics and fans alike raving. With an all-star cast (the role of Charlie Parker was specifically crafted for renowned tenor Lawrence Brownlee!), breathtaking music that skillfully crosses genres, and an unforgettable story of musical genius and personal redemption, Yardbird will be the talk of the town. Here’s a taste of what’s been said about this new opera since its world premiere.

On Lawrence Brownlee:

“Lawrence Brownlee, internationally renowned bel canto tenor, was a passionate and beautifully sung Charlie Parker.” -Bachtrack

“Brownlee’s voice unfolds in one facile, brilliant line, clean and precise. Perfect.” -Parterre

“The rich, buttery tenor of Lawrence Brownlee soars as if it’s on wings.” -The Root

“Even though he’s a fixture singing star parts...this is by far the most complete and exciting performance of his...a star turn in the very best sense of the word.” -Observer

“Brownlee was a wonder.” -Philadelphia Inquirer

“Brownlee's singing was excitingly florid, with Bird-like arpeggios. This was not surprising from a man who's known for Rossini's elaborate cabaletti, but Brownlee added unexpected eloquence.” -Opera Critic

On the music:

“The opera is both sensitive and compelling.” -Jazz Times

“The libretto is superb, haunting…” -Observer

“A brilliantly conceived mixture of genres.” -Broad Street Review

“Schnyder (composer) orchestrated the work deftly, drawing on other musical traditions and combining them skillfully with quite sophisticated classical structures.” -Opera News

“A 90-minute, swift-paced chamber opera with a pulsing, jazz-infused score…” -The New York Times

On the cast:

“Angela Brown as Addie Parker (Charlie Parker’s mother) was astonishing.” -Philadelphia Inquirer

“When the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (Will Liverman) appears and he sings with Parker, his friend and colleague, it feels like a jam session.” -The Wall Street Journal

“Lawrence Brownlee, Angela Brown, and Will Liverman not only sang beautifully, but their acting gestures were also perfectly attuned to one another and at times heartrending.” -Broad Street Review 

“The soprano Angela Mortellaro grabs her moments in the role of Doris, Parker’s proprietary third wife. Rachel Sterrenberg makes an ideal Chan.” -The New York Times

“In the role of Parker’s famed friend and colleague, Dizzy Gillespie, baritone Will Liverman sings with both security and charisma.” -Parterre

“Angela Brown sung with dramatic gusto and vocal glamour.” -Observer

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird is made possible by

Lead sponsor

Lauter McDougal Family Foundation


Eisen Family Foundation

The Ferguson-Yntema Family Charitable Trust

Joseph and Madeleine Glossberg

Eric and Deb Hirschfield

Kenneth R. Norgan

Dan J. Epstein Family Foundation/ Judy Guitelman & ALAS Wings

Scenery designed by Ricardo Hernandez
Costumes designed by Emily Rebholz

Scenery and Costumes constructed by Opera Philadelphia
Production owned by Opera Philadelphia

Photo: Dominic M. Mercier/Philadelphia Opera