Philadelphia Arts Lover Brings The World Together With Beautiful Opera
Why We All Need Opera Director Karen Saillant To Spread Joy During Difficult Times!
Every summer for the last 16 years, the picturesque Italian town of Citta’ della Pieve, (located between Rome and Florence), has hosted Karen Lauria Saillant’s opera festival where guests were treated first-hand to the beautiful world premiere Italian operas; a staggering 16 operas in 16 years.
However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the structure of the 17th world premiere Italian opera had to be changed, because Saillant is not permitted to travel to her beloved “second home” in Italy.
Finding a creative outlet during a global health pandemic is no easy feat, but it is something that opera and arts lover Saillant is able to accomplish with great aplomb, especially with the creative genius of her beloved Italian town.
So much so that the town has created a celebration of 16 years of her creating remarkable works of art that are ceremoniously praised around the world
Her cultural collaboration, passion for the arts, and inability to give up on even her most lofty creative endeavors are truly unique, as is her story, which involves a glorious tribute: “Traveling Opera Images 2020,” taking place through Sept. 30th
Saillant, a loving mother of two grown sons, was raised in the Philadelphia foster care system in which she faced many emotional difficulties. She didn’t meet her biological mother until age 13 and met her father as an adult.
Yet, despite these humble beginnings she grew up to be an opera singer and is now a distinguished opera director in Italy and Philadelphia. When her beloved husband was in a coma for a year and a half, she compassionately cared for him in the living room of their home and learned the power of unspoken language. All of these experiences have informed her creative process.
After performing in regional opera houses in Italy and the U.S., in 2003 she founded International Opera Theater, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, where she has continued to nurture her passion for art and life, and spread this cultural joy in the U.S. and abroad.
All of this is vital to Saillant. “When the artists performing are in harmony with nature, then the audience experiences catharsis and the expansion of their frame of reference,” she recently explained. “The challenge is to find ways to support the artist “being in harmony with nature.”
“I believe that the audience comes into the theater, and they have the possibility to have an experience that when they leave, has changed their world view. This opens audience members to new ways of thinking. The great powers of music, theater, art, and opera that are presented by artists in harmony with nature truly expand our frame of reference. This is about an extraordinary expression of communication that goes beyond speaking.”Says Karen Lauria Saillant of the International Opera Theater
This riveting arts story is a celebration of not only Saillant, but scores of Philadelphia-area children, costume makers, set and lighting designers, librettists, composers, educators, and families, in addition to artists from 75 plus countries who have taken this extraordinary journey with Saillant, fueling our collective love for opera, and arts.
In fact, more than 70 local children have performed in 11 of the operas, raising their sweet voices in Italian after instruction from Saillant and native Italian professors here in Philadelphia and in Italy. Their parents’ credit Saillant for giving the gifts of opera, music, and the arts to their children, starting a life-long love for the arts and culture, while at the same time building their confidence.
One of her collaborators is another unique artist, Mi-Kyoung Lee, the Head of the Fibers program at the University of the Arts, who has designed costumes and sets for many of the 16 operas, and was joined by her proteges and UArts interns in these projects. Other interns have come from UPENN, Rowan University, Drexel University, and dozens of other notable universities throughout the US.
This year, the picturesque town of Città della Pieve, will return all the affection and dedication received by Saillant in all these years with a tribute: “Traveling Opera Images 2020,” in which the stages will be retraced of the work done to date by International Opera Theater, through the photos of Ornella Tiberi and the creativity of videographer, Diego Parbuono, and designer, Francesca Tiriboco, a musical and photographic journey, taking place through Sept. 30th, along the streets and windows of the old town.
Compilation audios, with photographs from Saillant’s operas performed in Citta’ della Pieve over the past 16 years will be incorporated throughout the Italian town through Sept. 30 via opera worn clothing displayed in the windows of various stores. Also, photographs from opera productions with QR codes in the storefront windows that can be viewed by the Italian city locals, as well as Philadelphia natives and those throughout the world via YouTube.
This has never been a frivolous quest for Saillant, her performers, other creators, and audience members worldwide.
“The future of world peace is in the hands of our children. The opportunity to not just see an opera, but to be part of the creative process in harmony with nature — in a town that retains its connection to the roots of Italianita’ — that is a powerful experience,” she said.
“Opera was created during The Renaissance, in Italy, not far from our town. Opera was believed to have the power to heal their tainted society,” this passionate woman explained. “These children who sang in front of Italian audiences had never spoken Italian before they participated in one of our operas.“
Find the International Opera Theater here.
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