Curtis Opera Theatre Presents Riders to the Sea and Empty the House at Perelman Theater May 2–5

PHILADELPHIA—April 25, 2019—The Curtis Opera Theatre performs a double bill of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Riders to the Sea alongside Empty the House by Curtis alumna and Opera Philadelphia Composer in Residence Rene Orth, at the Perelman Theater on May 2 at 7:30 p.m., May 4 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and May 5 at 7:30 p.m. The production is driven by a female-led creative team, with conductor Daniela Candillari and director Mary Birnbaum. The culmination of Curtis’s 2018–19 season, these performances are presented in partnership with Opera Philadelphia and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts as part of the Curtis Opera Theatre at the Perelman series.

This double bill production explores two stories of families in crisis. In Riders to the Sea by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a grief-stricken widow laments the loss of her many sons to the sea. It’s a poignant prelude to Empty the House, in which a daughter returns to her childhood home for a weekend with her mother and is confronted by painful memories. Both works explore the complicated relationships between mothers and children, brothers and sisters, the loved and the lost.

Empty the House was composed by Curtis Institute of Music alumna and Opera Philadelphia Composer in Residence Rene Orth, and features a libretto by Mark Campbell, whose works have won coveted awards including a Pulitzer Prize for Silent Night and a Grammy Award for The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Empty the House was premiered in the Curtis Opera Studio during the 2015–16 season, and Ms. Orth has expanded the orchestration from nine to 25 players for this new production.

“The women [characters] are more fleshed out in their stories,” elaborates Ms. Orth. “They’re more human. I’ve also added more sound design and electronics to mix in with the orchestra. I started out really conservatively…the first time around, knowing I’d want to explore more as I gained more experience and confidence in opera. The sound design helps with some extra ideas we’ve added in—for instance a theme of water runs through the piece now, which I think also helps tie it in with Riders to the Sea.” Curtis student Dennis Chmelensky originally premiered the role of Paul, and will reprise the role on May 2 and 4 with fellow students Sophia Hunt, Tiffany Townsend, and Patrick Wilhelm.

Tickets are available from Opera Philadelphia Guest Services at or (215) 732-8400.

Conductor Daniela Candillari leads members of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in this fully-staged double bill, sung in English with English supertitles, and presented without intermission. Both Ms. Candillari and stage director Mary Birnbaum previously worked with Rene Orth in Opera Philadelphia’s Double Exposure production in May 2018, and make their Curtis Opera Theatre debuts with this production.



Curtis Opera Theatre at the Perelman

in partnership with Opera Philadelphia and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts


Riders to the Sea
Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, libretto by Ralph Vaughan Williams and J.M. Synge

Empty the House
Music by Rene Orth, libretto by Mark Campbell


Thursday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 4 at 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 5 at 7:30 p.m.

Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts


Fully-staged production with members of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. Sung in English with English supertitles.

Tickets are available at or by calling Opera Philadelphia Guest Services at (215) 732-8400.



Conductor: Daniela Candillari
Stage Director: Mary Birnbaum
Scenic Designer: Grace Laubaucher
Costume Designer: Amanda Seymour
Lighting Designer: Anshuman Bhatia


CAST (in singing order)

Riders to the Sea May 2 and 4 May 4m and May 5
Nora Sage DeAgro-Ruopp Merissa Beddows
Cathleen Olivia Smith Lindsey Reynolds
Maurya Emily Damasco Sophia Maekawa
Bartley Patrick Wilhelm Patrick Wilhelm
A Woman Hannah Klein Hannah Klein
Chorus Merissa Beddows
Ziyi Dai
Hannah Klein
Sophia Maekawa
Lindsey Reynolds
Anastasiia Sidorova
Ziyi Dai
Emily Damasco
Sage DeAgro-Ruopp
Hannah Klein
Anastasiia Sidorova
Olivia Smith
Empty the House May 2 and 4 May 4m and May 5
Faith Sophia Hunt Sophia Hunt
Paul Dennis Chmelensky Patrick Wilhelm
Brenda Tiffany Townsend Tiffany Townsend


Riders to the Sea and Empty the House are presented as part of Curtis Opera Theatre at the Perelman in partnership with Opera Philadelphia and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

The Curtis Opera Theatre season is sponsored by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation.

Empty the House is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency.


About the Curtis Opera Theatre

Under the artistic direction of Mikael Eliasen, the Curtis Opera Theatre has become known for imaginative productions, bold concepts, and absorbing theatre. Promising young singers work alongside established professional directors and designers, resulting in fresh interpretations of standard repertoire and contemporary works. All of Curtis’s 25 voice and opera students are cast repeatedly each season, receiving a rare level of performance experience on stage and appearing frequently with Opera Philadelphia, Curtis on Tour, and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra. As a result Curtis graduates have sung with opera companies all over the world, including La Scala, Covent Garden, the Vienna Staatsoper, Houston Grand Opera, the San Francisco Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera.


About Opera Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the 21st century. Described as “the very model of a modern opera company” by the Washington Post, Opera Philadelphia was the only American finalist for the 2016 International Opera Award for Best Opera Company and was a 2017 finalist for Best Festival. After opening its 2018–19 season with the immersive Festival O18, Opera Philadelphia closes the season with a revived production of Puccini’s La bohème (April 26–May 5, 2019). The company’s third fall festival, O19, will take place September 18–29, 2019. For more information, visit


About the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Located in the heart of Center City, Philadelphia, the Kimmel Center’s mission is to operate a world-class performing arts center that engages and serves a broad audience through diverse programming, arts education, and community outreach. The Kimmel Center Campus is comprised of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts (Verizon Hall, Perelman Theater, SEI Innovation Studio, and the Merck Arts Education Center), the Academy of Music (owned by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association), and the Merriam Theater. The Kimmel Center is also home to eight Resident Companies: The Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Philadelphia, The Pennsylvania Ballet, The Philly POPS, PHILADANCO, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and Curtis Institute of Music. With nearly 9,000 seats per night, The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is the region’s most impactful performing arts center, and the second largest in the country. TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank, is the season sponsor of the Kimmel Center’s 2017–18 Season. American Airlines is the official airline of Broadway Philadelphia. For additional information, visit



# # #

Sign Up for Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest Curtis news and stories.


Curtis Mourns the Passing of R. Anderson Pew

The Curtis Institute of Music is deeply saddened to share the news that R. Anderson "Andy" Pew passed away on June 25,…

Melissa Reardon (Viola '00) Joins the Borromeo Quartet

Curtis alumna Melissa Reardon (Viola '00) has joined the Borromeo Quartet. The Grammy-nominated violist was appointed to the award-winning ensemble following the…

Mezzo-Soprano Katie Trigg Profiled in the New Zealand Herald

The Curtis Institute of Music welcomes mezzo-soprano Katie Trigg to the school this fall. The rising young singer was recently profiled in…