By Pat Ciarrocchi
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The romantically tragic story of Oscar Wilde comes to the stage of the Academy of Music, with Opera Philadelphia’s “Oscar.”
It’s a provocative story of a forbidden love that brings a dynamic lead vocalist to the opera stage in a way that hasn’t been done before.
Oscar Wilde was the toast of the literary world, as a playwright in the late 19th century, until a scandalous love affair with a man ruined his reputation and destroyed his private life.
David Daniels is “Oscar.”
“This is about a human story, human rights, and about how this man was treated for gross indecency, which means a homosexual man,” Daniels says.
Opera Philadelphia’s production is the East Coast premiere. It was written for Daniels and his voice, which is strikingly high-pitched.
“I’m called a counter tenor,” said Daniels. “The easiest way to describe it is … male alto.. a very high voice. Not unusual in pop singing — you heard it from Michael Jackson.”
“Oscar” turns on the story of his gay love affair with a young dancer named Lord Alfred Douglas. He was known as “Bozie.” The relationship ultimately leads to Oscar’s imprisonment and death. “Bozie” is portrayed by the classically trained dancer, Reed Luplau, who only dances in this opera. He does not sing.
“There’s a whole other element to what I have to say as an actor and a dancer for being Bozie on stage…and not having to speak, ” said Luplau.
For Daniels, who is a veteran of the Metropolitan Opera stage, this role is powerful personally.
“I’m an openly gay man, in love with a gay man on stage, playing a gay man, Oscar Wilde. I’m used to being in love with Cleopatra…Although the dialogue is getting better than it used to, and people are feeling more comfortable with coming out, it’s still horrible out there.”
He calls the hate crimes in the LGBT community “very troubling,” and he says that’s why the message in “Oscar” needs to be heard.
Opera Philadelphia’s “Oscar” is at the Academy of Music through Sunday, February 15th with five performances. For more, visit: www.theartsinphilly.org.