Wandering around the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, composer David Hertzberg stares at the walls in wonder. He's been through the rooms many times, drinking in the works by Seurat, Modigliani, Renoir and other masters. It's not just paintings alone, or even the Asian and Egyptian sculptures and other artworks arranged around the rooms, or the doorhandles and other pieces of daily, everyday hardware that might have adorned a home a century ago. Rather, it's the way its all put together.
"I was really drawn to this place not just because I thought the collection is so extraordinary, but because it just feels so, to me, not like a museum," said Hertzberg on a recent walk through the collection. "It feels like a totally insane temple, or some kind of crazy shrine. The totality, the perfume of the way the things are displayed, it's so striking and so singular."
In his new commission for Opera Philadelphia's O17 inaugural festival, which kicked off this past Thursday, his task was to capture the essence of that collection and bring it to life. The opera, which will be performed in the Annenberg Court of the Barnes Foundation, premieres this Monday. The work is just one of seven opera presentations being held in a variety of venues during the 12-day festival, and one of three premieres.
A Tempo this Saturday at 7 pm continues its look a O17 with an interview with Hertzberg about the opera, which was also inspired by the story of the same name by Aleister Crowley. Host Rachel Katz will also speak with David Devan, Opera Philadelphia's General Manager and President, about the lead-up to O17 and the role it plays in this year's season.