Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Event Slides Per Node 1415

  • Actors stand on stage wearing sunglasses while surrounded by projections of graphs and maps.
  • Two figures sit on stage surrounded by projected graphics and photos.

New Opera as Art and Social Discourse
A Conversation with the Creators of A Marvelous Order

7:30 pm Wednesday, February 10, 2021

“Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order ... composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance—not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing off en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with new improvisations.”

— Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Joshua Frankel and Judd Greenstein will discuss their multimedia opera, A Marvelous Order, which explores the epic struggle between Robert Moses, master builder, and Jane Jacobs, self-taught oracle of urban insight, over the fate of New York City in the mid-twentieth century. 

The conversation will include a video featuring highlights of their work in progress. Their discussion will center on the genesis and development of the opera, which features a libretto by former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. 

Frankel, the opera’s animator and director, and Greenstein, the composer, will also discuss the work’s themes, including the intersection between urban design and social justice, and how control over our built environment can be reclaimed by communities from oppressive leaders who abuse their authority. 

A Marvelous Order humanizes the struggle between power and protest movements in a way that only opera can.

The Center for the Performing Arts has supported the development of A Marvelous Order, both in person and remotely. In September 2019, members of the creative team spent most of a week at Penn State working on the development of the project and interacting with students at Eisenhower Auditorium and in classrooms. 

The world premiere performance of the opera is tentatively scheduled for November 2021 at Eisenhower Auditorium. The performance will be part of a residency at Penn State.

In conjunction with A Marvelous Order, Woskob Family Gallery at the Penn State Downtown Theatre is hosting an exhibit featuring selections of Frankel’s animation for the opera. The projected animation can viewed 6 p.m.–1 a.m. daily through the front windows of the theatre at 146 S. Allen St., State College. The exhibit runs until mid-March.

The live event was recorded on Wednesday, February 10. A recording of it will be available for streaming from 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 127:30 p.m. Friday, February 19.


How to Watch

The performance will be streamed on this page for free. When streaming becomes available, a "Watch" button will appear. 

The recorded event is about 1 hour and 4 minutes in length.

2020–2021 Up Close and Virtual season sponsors


This presentation is part of The Reflection Project, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Contributions from the members of the Center for the Performing Arts and a grant from the University Park Student Fee Board help make this program free of charge.

Help us continue to provide free streaming programs with a donation of $5 or more. Or join as a member starting at $60 and receive benefits.