From the day the Charlie Parker opera illustration flew from our creative director’s pencil (well stylus, I suppose), we all felt a frisson of anticipation. That was almost 18 months ago because we visualize each season to support the marketing effort, long in advance of the operas themselves. Ford had captured Charlie’s improvisational style as though he’d captured a few of the notes that never made it to a score.
I confess to being an opera lover. It caught me when I was six and has never let me go. I’ve seen and heard a lot of it, in venues from the American Midwest to La Scala and Covent Garden. Mostly, as you see more of it, you discover ever more enthralling performances of operas you know well. Charlie Parker Yardbird held all the promise of uncertainty.
So, a year and a half later, in the scorching middle of June, I finally saw Lawrence Brownlee and his show-stealing co-stars at the Perelman Theatre in the thrilling, penultimate performance of Opera Philadelphia’s world premiere. Now it’s my second round, on an Independence Day afternoon that can’t make up it’s mind to be sunny or cloudy or wet or warm, and one of those live performances is playing on WRTI while I’m putting together Portobello mushroom burgers alongside a zucchini, corn and arugula salad—a coincidental improvisation for sure, on the traditional grill.
Yardbird was captivating from the moment of conception because allowing one powerful genre to inform another is a risky notion that breaks with convention—generally not the sort of thing the opera tradition is known for. When done successfully, as Yardbird has been, that break embraces the freedom to imply that traditional standards of perfection are just one way rather than the ultimate goal.
We have a saying that’s become something of a watchword around the studio—imperfection is perfection. It’s really just another way of saying don’t bother doing the same thing over and over again just because it worked superbly well a few times. Yardbird has become my latest, favorite analogy for why we bring provocative thinking, not just interpretative thinking and battle-tested solutions—to our work on behalf of clients. This is what makes the work really, really hard but intensely rewarding. It’s a meritocracy of ideas, the creative business, and you’re only as good as your last one. Here’s to more Yardbirds—one great way to think about freedom.