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Opera on Alzheimer's to Debut in Philadelphia Festival

FILE - Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia dance inside the Alzheimer Foundation in Mexico City, April 19, 2012.
FILE - Patients with Alzheimer's and dementia dance inside the Alzheimer Foundation in Mexico City, April 19, 2012.

An opera involving two characters with Alzheimer's will premiere at Opera Philadelphia as part of the company's latest festival of experimental fare.

Unveiling its 2018-19 season on Tuesday, the opera house of the US East Coast's second most populous city announced a festival dubbed 018, a follow-up to last year's inaugural stretch of new works.

The September 20-30 festival will feature the world premiere of "Sky on Swings," an opera about two women with Alzheimer's who come together in a care home.

Composed by Lembit Beecher with a libretto by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch, "Sky on Swings" explores "the impermanence of memory and the new hallucinatory experience, untethered from identity and history, which can follow in its wake," the opera house said in its announcement.

Another world premiere will be "Glass Handel," a multimedia opera performed and co-produced by countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo featuring new arrangements of music by leading US composer Philip Glass and videos by Oscar-winning director James Ivory.

"Glass Handel" starts as a traditional concert but members of the audience will be presented with different visuals, leading them on divergent paths.

"Opera Philadelphia is really pushing the boundaries of what opera can be, and we want to take it even further and reach out to new audiences," Costanzo said.

Highlights of Opera Philadelphia's 2018-19 season will include the US premiere of the much talked-about Robert Carsen production of Benjamin Britten's opera "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

The production of the opera based on the Shakespeare play premiered in 1991 at the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence in France and caused a stir with the stage's sleek sheets of green under a crescent moon.

Opera Philadelphia's inaugural experimental festival last year featured the world premiere of "We Shall Not Be Moved," which won wide critical praise.

The hip-hop-infused opera, directed by leading choreographer Bill T. Jones, reflects on the 1985 police helicopter attack in Philadelphia on the black liberation group MOVE.