Quantum Theatre has spent three decades presenting risky, exciting theater in unexpected places — from the Frick Park Lawn Bowling Greens to the Lexington Technology Park in Point Breeze to a former burger restaurant at the Waterfront in Homestead.
For Quantum, performing in an actual theater with seats and ushers counts as unexpected — and that’s exactly what it’s doing with “Idaspe,” which runs Oct. 7-15 at Downtown’s Byham Theater. It’s a Baroque-era opera written by Riccardo Broschi (1698-1756), adapted by acclaimed London composer Claire van Kampen (who directs the production) and Pittsburgh’s own Chatham Baroque.
The work features the soaring voice of countertenor John Holiday, a 2017 Marian Anderson Vocal Award winner and 2020 contestant on “The Voice.”
It’s safe to say that not a lot of kids growing up in suburban Houston dream of singing Baroque opera, but, to be fair, Holiday sings a bit of Beyonce and Ella Fitzgerald, too.
“I’m always looking forward to a challenge — even if it’s Baroque music by Broschi,” says Holiday, rolling his “r’s” with relish on a Zoom call. “Broschi was the brother of a very, very famous castrato, Farinelli, so I was intrigued by a lot of his writing from early on, as I learned about Baroque music. There’s a lot of stuff in the story that’s really compelling, and I thought, ‘Let’s go forward and see what happens.’”
“Idaspe” is a story both ancient and modern about two refugee children fleeing the Middle East who end up in the rough, colorful port city of Naples. In this strange place, the criminal underworld is more welcoming than legitimate business, and the siblings work their way up the ranks to become bosses of two opposing clans.
Holiday plays Idaspe, who is allied with the heroic Dario, played by acclaimed mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux.
“Idaspe is a lover and a fighter,” says Holiday. “His character, for the entire opera, is fighting for his love and for the honor of his name. He’s willing to die if he thinks it’ll bring him honor, honor to his family or to his name and honor to the woman that he loves.”
The performance will be sung in Italian, with English text projected above the stage.
Holiday’s strikingly dramatic voice is called a countertenor, which is similar to a male soprano. He can hit high notes that few others can.
“I’ve been singing since I was 2 years old, and opera kind of chose me,” says Holiday.
Of course, he’s probably better known for his appearances on TV. He didn’t win “The Voice,” but still came away a winner — he fell in love with fellow contestant Rio Souma.
“I got to meet and know John Legend and so many other incredible artists like Kelly Clarkson and Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton, but mostly I came away from that show with my husband,” says Holiday. “I, of course, am so fiercely in love with and just so excited to create a life with him. What I won was more important than being number one.”