Charlie Parker’s Yardbird marks the beginning of a five-year programme at the Hackney Empire, exploring exciting and innovative ways of presenting opera and celebrating the Black operatic voice.

Yardbird is a jazz-infused chamber opera by Daniel Schnyder that tells the story of the great bebop pioneer who revolutionised the world of jazz music, with libretto by award-winning African American poet Bridgette A Wimberly and the orchestra from English National Opera. The production is directed by Ron Daniels and the conductor will be Clark Rundell.

Lawrence Brownlee takes the title role as the legendary saxophonist, a role crafted around the effortless, improvisational style that makes him one of the world’s most sought after tenors. Grammy nominated soprano Angela Brown takes the role of his mother, Addie Parker, and baritone Will Liverman portrays jazz icon Dizzy Gillespie. The cast also includes Rachel Sterrenberg, Chrystal E Williams and Julie Miller.

Set in the famed jazz club Birdland on March 12th, 1955, the day Charlie Parker died, the opera invites audiences directly into the heart and mind of the great saxophonist as he composes his final masterpiece and revisits the inspirations, demons and women who fuelled his creative genius.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird marks the beginning of a four-year partnership between Hackney Empire, Opera Philadelphia and the Apollo Theater in Harlem. This partnership will see the co-commissioning and co-production of several new operas which will receive their European premières at Hackney Empire. The programme will present opera that is both local and global in its appeal and its origins, telling stories that will be accessible to an ever-expanding, wide range of audiences both in Hackney, across London and beyond. The Empire has the world on its doorstep and the world on its stage.

Prior to the London performances Charlie Parker’s Yardbird can be seen at the Harris Theater, Chicago on Friday 24 March at 7.30pm and Sunday 26 March at 2pm.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird is a co-production between Opera Philadelphia and the Apollo Theater. The opera opened at the Perelman Theater in June 2015, commissioned and produced by Opera Philadelphia. In April 2016 Yardbird was the first opera to be performed at New York’s historic Apollo Theater.


Charlie Parker’s Yardbird In association with English National Opera runs 9, 13, 15 & 17 June 2017 at 7.30pm 11 June 2017 at 5.00pm. To find out more and book tickets go to the Hackney Empire website.