Even with 14 years of brand recognition under your belt, it’s a good time to rethink your identity when three of the four words in your name no longer fit your current mission. That was the conundrum faced by Center City Opera Theater in 2013. Seeking to expand its audience beyond Philadelphians, the company realized that “Center City” was far too regional a term. And since its dedication to producing new works meant that the line between opera and musical theater was becoming blurry, “Opera” had to go as well.
Newly rechristened as Vulcan Lyric, the company will present its inaugural summer festival under its new identity over the next two and a half weeks.
Vulcan Lyric founder and General Director Andrew Kurtz says that the less descriptive, more dramatic name actually makes a better fit for what the company is doing now. “Vulcan was the Roman god of origin and creation, and we’re forging new paths,” he explains. “And everything we do is telling stories through song, so that’s where ‘Lyric’ comes in.”
The integration of musical theater forms other than opera also takes into account Opera Philadelphia’s recent move into producing new works, previously Center City Opera Theater’s sole domain. Kurtz says that the desire for innovation in Philly runs deep enough to sustain both companies.
“Philadelphia naturally has a curiosity about new work,” he says. “It gives voice to our audiences and our artists with themes and topics that are important to us today and keeps the art form vibrant and alive. I certainly love Puccini and Verdi and hope to hear more of them in my lifetime, but if the art form is going to keep growing and be as meaningful today for our audiences as it used to be 100 or 200 years ago, then it’s really important that there be companies that take a very active role in developing it.”
The first Vulcan Lyric summer fest will consist of four modern works in repertory spanning the breadth of the company’s refocused mission.
The world premiere of composer Jeff Myers’ “Maren of Vardø: Satan’s Bride” is based on the true story of a 12-year-old girl in 17th-century Norway accused of being a witch.
“Heathers: The Musical” is the Off-Broadway rock musical based on the 1988 cult classic dark comedy.
Mexican composer Daniel Catán’s 1991 opera “La hija de Rappaccini” is presented as part of Vulcan Lyric’s Latino Audience Development Initiative; and last is the Philadelphia premiere of Tom Cipullo’s “Glory Denied,” the true story of the longest-detained American prisoner of war in Vietnam.
If you go
Vulcan Lyric Summer Festival
July 30-Aug. 16
1412 Chestnut St.