Opera Philadelphia to Perform at Rajant World Music Benefit Nov. 8
by Melissa Jacobs
Can opera be a form of social activism? It can if Elizabeth Braden is conducting. Braden, the first female conductor and chorus master of Opera Philadelphia, believes that music can also be healing and unifying. She’s turned poetry by Black Americans into operas, and organized LGBTQ-themed operas. “As performers, we often cross genres and cultures,” Braden said. “We have something to say and we want to share it.”
Braden is sharing it in force. This fall marks Opera Philadelphia’s first full season of in-performances since the pandemic started. And, Braden and six members of Opera Philadelphia will make a special appearance at the Rajant World Music Benefit for UNICEF at City Winery in Philadelphia. The group will perform Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns,” the so-called “cigarette chorus” from “Carmen” and two poems set to music: Langston Hughes’ “Dreams” and “For The Beauty Of The Earth” by Folliott S. Pierpoint.
Rajant’s special concert features performers from a wide variety of musical genres, including rock and R&B. “I love all forms of music,” Braden said. “When it comes to instruments and voices, there is more that unites us than divides us.”
A graduate of West Chester University, Braden won the Opera Philadelphia job in 2004 after spending nearly 20 years as the musical director of Wallingford Presbyterian Church. Choral music was Braden’s passion for most of her life; she listened to opera only when forced to do so. “When I was a child, a friend’s dad used to play opera – loudly – and we hated it,” Braden said with a laugh.
But Braden knows that she was lucky to have a culturally rich childhood in her hometown of Easton, PA. Many children around the world grapple with hunger, disease and the devastation caused by war. “It hurts my heart to think about it,” Braden said. “So when we were asked to participate in a concert that raises funds for UNICEF USA, it was a definite yes.”
UNICEF helps children in every part of the globe, including Ukraine. Currently, UNICEF estimates that 5.2 million Ukrainian children are in immediate need of food, shelter and clothing. UNICEF’s emergency response teams are working tirelessly to help those children. “As artists, this is something we can do to bring attention to UNICEF,” Braden said. “It’s a wonderful way to use our voices to further UNICEF’s great mission.”
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