Sing of queens: Vocal festival welcomes operatic drag show

Flower power: Stephanie Blythe’s performance as Blythely Oratonio will combine opera, rock, and disco.
Dominic M. Mercier

It’s not over ’til the bearded lady sings!

A three-day festival of vocal performances will conclude with a rock oratorio from an opera singer dressed as a man who is dressed as a woman. The seventh annual Resonant Bodies festival, returning to Roulette in Boerum Hill from Sept. 3-5, will feature three recitals from notable singers each night, ending with bearded drag queen Blythey Oratonio, the male persona of mezzo soprano Stephanie Blythe. The acclaimed opera diva says that her bearded alter-ego gives her more options to express her artistry.

“Blythely is Stephanie, it is not that he allows me to do something, it is me, the character allows me to sing opera roles that I normally don’t sing as a soprano,” Blythe said.

She developed the character of Blythely, a tenorissimo, for a show to benefit the Philadelphia Opera, in which she performed with famous Philly drag queen Martha Graham Cracker.

She found that donning the beard allowed her to mix genres and connect with the audience in a unique way, she said.

“My reason for wanting perform, whether I am performing this or an American cabaret, is to make contact with the audience, because Blythely can say things that Stephanie can’t say on stage, because he is a drag queen and he is outrageous!” Blythe said.

During her show on Sept. 5, Blythe will sing a mash-up of disco, rock, and opera, using skills she has developed from her many opera performances.

“I still sing with a supported technical tone, I am just employing a different style,” she said. “I employ the same technique — it doesn’t sound like an opera singer singing rock ’n’ roll, it sounds like an opera singer singing opera.”

The founder of the Resonant Bodies festival said that she is excited to see Blythe to explore a new genre and direction.

“I love a performance that connects to a performer’s personal fulfillment of their greater life purpose. I feel that Stephanie is setting an example of what it means to be fearless and bold. I am looking forward to laughing, and to the change of pace her set will offer in the overall Festival arc.,” said Lucy Dhegrae.

The festival offers a unique artistic experience for singers like Blythe, and for the audience, said Dhegrae.

“There is no other festival that focuses on creative vocalists in this way, that gives them this level of curatorial freedom, and that showcases the voice from so many perspectives. For those who are enchanted by the power of the human voice, this is your Mecca,” she said.

The Resonant Bodies Festival at Roulette (509 Atlantic Ave. at Third Avenue in Boerum Hill, www.resonantbodiesfestival.org). Sept. 3–5 at 7:30 p.m. Stephanie Blythe performs on Sept. 5. $20 ($50 for three-night pass, $75 VIP).

Reach reporter Chandler Kidd at ckidd@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–2525. Follow her at twitter.com/ChanAnnKidd.
Moustache and music: Stephanie Blythe will perform as her drag queen persona Blythely Oratonio at the Resonant Bodies festival in Boerum Hill on Sept. 5.
Marty Sohl

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