The Philadelphia Opera Collective’s stellar new opera celebrates the astronomical accomplishments of Annie Jump Cannon (Kirsten C. Kunkle) and fellow female scientists, Antonia Maury (Kristy Joe Slough), Williamina Paton Fleming (Crystal Charles), Henrietta Swan Leavitt (Isadora Nah), and Cecelia Payne (Kayla Grasser), who at the turn of the 20th century, were light years ahead of their times. Though undervalued in terms of pay and esteem while working at the Harvard College Observatory, these diligent pioneering women collectively managed to map and discover hundreds of thousands of stars and other complex celestial phenomena without access to a telescope (Harvard did not permit women to use telescopes, or receive degrees at that time). Annie sings a new alphabet for the classification system she invents (still used today), while Mr. Donahue (William McGlone) and Star (Anthony Crosby), who may be more than he seems, orbit her attention. In another number, Antonia, crushed by the rejection of her theory paper, is further crushed by her employer, Pickering (Michael A. Lienhard). Williamina, former maid, mellifluously points out that people too, can also be more than they seem.
The empyreal combination of Brenna Geffer’s libretto and Josh Hartman’s musical composition and performance, accompanied by Gabriel Rebolla, expressive acting and movement, lovely ethereal voices, coming from both on stage and off, in conjunction with minimalist black box staging, and concise costuming (Crissy Leasher) gives an overall expansive, out of this world aura to this enjoyably novel and inspirational production. A quantum leap in entertaining, enlightening opera.
[Skybox at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St., 3rd fl.] September 16-19, 2015; fringearts.com/jump-the-moon.
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