New Mill House to host one-night-only opera about water

Pictured left to right is Will Blair, Brooke Blair and Craig Hendrix at the historic Kelly Pool in the Water Works New Mill House  Credit: Tirzah Blair
Will Blair, Brooke Blair and Craig Hendrix created an opera designed to be performed at the historic Kelly Pool in the Fairmount Water Works.
Credit: Tirzah Blair

The New Mill House at Fairmount Water Works was originally designed to house the turbines that pumped water from the Schuylkill River to the residents of Philadelphia; it later became the site for Kelly Pool, which served the community until it was hit by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Now, after a brief reopening for this year’s Hidden City festival, the building will become an even more unlikely venue: a makeshift opera house.

“Tributaries: A Modern Cantata” will take over Kelly Pool for one evening, on Saturday at dusk. The multimedia piece, composed by Agave Opera Company founder Craig Hendrix and co-created by Philadelphia composers Will and Brooke Blair, takes the setting as inspiration for a minimalist cantata that explores the impact of water on life in three different centuries.

“We’re using the vastness and drama of the space as part of the production,” says Blair. “The deep end of the pool functions as an orchestra pit, and the ledge of the pool directly behind that seemed the perfect space for a makeshift stage. So rather than change what’s there, we’re working with elements that almost seemed to be designed for something like this.”

Hendrix wrote the minimalist piece for three singers, each of whom represents one tributary of the river in eastern Pennsylvania: the Tulpehocken, the Maiden and the Manatawny. In the cantata’s fourth movement, the three come together in a wordless ensemble piece dedicated to the Schuylkill itself. The music is composed for an eight-piece ensemble, with brass and Brooke Blair’s ambient guitar. “My brother has always taken an ambient, dreamy approach to electric guitar that never really reads as electric guitar,” Will says. “He provides ambient effects that mimic what strings would do. This is definitely not a rock opera.”

It is, instead, a unique sensory experience that not only uses the acoustics of the space to full effect, but its visual elements as well. The production team chose dusk because of the way the setting sun bounces off the Schuylkill and through the pool room’s stained glass windows, creating rippling effects across the ceiling.

“We’ve never done anything like this before, and the space is inspiring,” Blair says. “It’s an opportunity to work with a large ensemble in a historic place. It was an experience that was a little too special and unusual and bizarre to pass up.”

Tributaries: A Modern Cantata
Dec. 14, 4 p.m.
Fairmount Water Works
640 Waterworks Dr.
$15-$120, 215-685-0723
www.tributaries.ticketleap.com



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYC pension funds valued at $160b: Scott Stringer

The five NYC pension funds that thousands of city employees contribute to saw its fifth year in a row of increased returns, up $23 billion from last year.

Local

Man dies trapped in elevator shaft at Bronx…

A man in his twenties died after being trapped in an elevator shaft of a Bronx building early Monday, police said.

International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…