Opera Philadelphia Announces Ambitious, Star-Studded New Season

david daniels opera

Star countertenor David Daniels will perform the title role in Theodore Morrison’s “Oscar” in February.

Opera Philadelphia’s 40th anniversary repertoire, announced earlier this week, is the company’s most ambitious and star-studded to date. Some of opera’s most well-known singers will be performing in the City of Brotherly Love as part of the five-production 2014-2015 season.

It is one of the first times in recent history that Opera Philadelphia has attracted internationally known and acclaimed performers to its stages at the Academy of Music and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts — it’s not every day that Philadelphia audiences are treated to the likes of David Daniels (who many would contend is the world’s leading operatic countertenor), Lawrence Brownlee (an internationally known bel canto specialist, although he won’t be performing from that repertoire in Philly), and Eric Owens (a Philadelphia native whose bass-baritone has been heard at opera houses the world over.)

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The Academy of Music’s 157th Anniversary Concert and Ball with Jill Scott and the Bacon Brothers

academy-music-157-anniversary-concert-ball-21-michael-bacon-kevin-bacon-1765-940x540

The 157th Anniversary Concert and Ball, Philadelphia’s annual white-tie gala, celebrated the Academy of Music’s 157th birthday on Saturday, January 25th.

Music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra along with host stars the Bacon Brothers and special guest artist Jill Scott entertained attendees during the concert. Nézet-Séguin told the audience that he had been a long-time fan of Scott’s and when he found himself in his dream job of conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, he just had to perform with the home-town girl. He called it a dream come true.

The night began with an open house reception before the anniversary concert at the Academy of Music where guests dined on delights by chef Jose Garces. During the concert portion, newly installed Adele Schaeffer, chair of the board of trustees of the Academy of Music, told the audience that the evening’s funds would be used to restore the building’s HVAC system, which dates back to 1966. After the concert, guests made the annual trek up Broad Street to the Hyatt at the Bellevue Hotel. The ball included dinner and dancing to the music of six bands, including The Eddie Bruce Band, in the Grand Ballroom.

See HughE Dillon’s photos from the Academy Ball after the jump »

The Return of Jill Scott

jill-scott-phila-academyEach January, the who’s who of Philadelphia pays big bucks to attend the Philadelphia Orchestra’s annual Academy Ball and Concert at the Academy of Music. There are glorious gowns and fine jewels. There’s lots of society gossip. And there’s always a special guest performer, with past rosters showcasing everyone from Rod Stewart and Billy Joel to Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang. But this year, for the 157th edition of the grand fete, the Orchestra has chosen a much more local talent: North Philadelphia-born-and-raised Jill Scott.

Now, if you’re wondering Where the hell has Jill Scott been?, it’s not an unfair question. After a long series of Grammy- nominated songs and albums and her own 2009 show on HBO (The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency), Scott more or less went underground—but not without good cause. In 2009 she had a baby boy, and one year later, she was sued by her longtime record label for millions of dollars for breach of contract, tying up her life and career. That suit has since been settled.

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Russet Now Offers Weekend Brunch

Russet Dining Room

Chef-Owners Andrew and Kristin Wood are now offering brunch at Russet. The BYOB is offering seasonally-inspired brunch dishes every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m.

Andrew’s savory dishes will show off his expertise in butchery and charcuterie.

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Sbraga in the Real World

Trey Popp finds that Kevin Sbraga can really shine at his eponymous restaurant on Broad Street.

Over-cute missteps and fast-corrected blunders aside, Sbraga more often showed a rare ability to make the smallest detail stand out. His apple cider miso-glazed black cod was good enough to order twice even without the bok choy chip that shattered on the tongue like a brittle autumn leaf. Yet my most memorable bite of that dish was a forkful of bacon-y adzucki beans bearing a single cilantro leaf. It’s hard to say why—hard even to know why—but it was just so right.

Two and a half stars – Good to Excellent

Sbraga: In the Spotlight [Philadelphia magazine]

PW Calls Sbraga “Stellar”

Brian Freedman buys into the Sbraga experience from the foie gras soup forward.

There’s just so much to love at Sbraga, not least of which is the fact that its namesake—Kevin Sbraga—is doing, night after foot-aching night, what so many other so-called celebrity chefs don’t. He cooks. And his earnestness is palpable, his successes very well-earned.

“Top Chef” Winner’s Sbraga on South Broad Street Is Both Familiar and Exotic [Philadelphia Weekly]

Migrating Fish Opens Its Doors Tonight

Mike Stollenwerk is set to open his new location for Fish tonight at 13th and Locust. Unlike his former location, this Fish will actually serve non-seafood. Land-lovers can order the lamb sausage, poussin and ribeye. Former 10 Arts pastry chef Monica Glass will be crafting the sweets at Fish and we have her initial menu as well.

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Two Bells for Sbraga

Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga receives two bells from Craig LaBan. LaBan sees promise for the Avenue of the Arts restaurant but had issues with the service and some of the details.

I found a handful of exciting ideas on these TV-gorgeous New American plates, but a surprising number of flavor details still needed more tweaking. His deep-fried Poussin rendition of Buffalo chicken was dry and bland. The fried sweetbreads for his revamp of vitello tonnato (a fairly common concept these days) were too thickly breaded. I love a chef with playful notions like the crimson beets roasted in pine needles beneath a “snow” of shaved frozen Gorgonzola and a “soil” of black trumpet streusel. It’s just unfortunate the caraway seeds in that pastry had a grittiness too close to the texture of something dug from the earth.

Two Bells – Very Good

Sbraga [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Sbraga [Official Site]

Sbraga Updates Menus

Sbraga has updated its menus for 2012. Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga has made a significant amount of changes since the restaurant opened just a couple months ago. But before anyone starts panicking, the much praised foie gras soup is still on the menu. And also good news, the four-course prix fixe is still a very reasonable $45.

Of the new dishes we’re most intrigued by the scallop, beets, pork and cabbage middle course and the Wagyu skirt steak with oysters, chron, radish and celery third course (an $18 supplement).

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