REALMS: A Soul Opera at Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) and Astro Nautico announce REALMS: A Soul Opera, the debut theatrical work of Kingsley Ibeneche. Slated for two performances on July 26 in the Museum’s historic main atrium, REALMS is the only original work of theater to be featured in PMA’s summer-long “Friday Nights” series. Tickets are free with admission.

Known for singing, songwriting, and dancing, Ibeneche pushed personal boundaries to incorporate creative movement, dramatic monologue, and live music into the experimental format of REALMS. Songs featured include those from his Realms EP, released on Astro Nautico in February to critical acclaim from Afropunk, OkayPlayer, The Fader, and more.

Ibeneche’s “soul opera” comes to life through the creative intermingling of themes from ancient Greek tragedy, Elizabethan soliloquy, Nigerian high life, and futuristic boom-bap. Executive music direction for REALMS is offered by Lee Clarke, with branding and costume design by Marcus Branch. The play was produced by Kingsley Ibeneche with Bennett Kuhn and Paul Jones of Astro Nautico.

As a child dancing and singing in a Nigerian-American church community in Camden, NJ, Ibeneche was introduced to ritual music’s ancestral power. He sang for years in the exaltation of that community. As an adolescent, secular spaces gave Ibeneche a chance to experiment with expressive body movement in inviting ways, culminating in formal training in dance at University of the
Arts in Philadelphia. Today Ibeneche is an accomplished dance performer, having shared the stage with Travis Scott, James Blake, Halsey, and others on mainstream platforms like the Video Music Awards and Saturday Night Live. But no matter how meteoric he ascends as a dancer, Ibeneche feels limited on stage as a backup dancer. You have to listen to his voice to understand why one medium is not enough for his expression.

REALMS: A Soul Opera
Friday, July 26, 5:00 p.m. – 8:45 p.m.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia
Tickets are free with museum admission or purchase online