“Dear Julia” Opening Reception @ Philadelphia Magic Gardens | Friday, April 29
In the nearly 50 years Isaiah and Julia Zagar have lived on South Street, Isaiah has been the more recognizable name, known for his mural-sized, mirror-dotted mosaics adorning the neighborhood and the Magic Gardens. This new exhibit, on display through June 26, is a “visual love letter” to Julia, with mixed-media work by both Zagars alongside other artists. Proceeds are going to The Julia Zagar Residency Program for Women Artists.
Capriccio by Curtis Opera Theatre and Opera Philadelphia, at the Perelman Theater. (Photo by Cory Weaver)
In the middle of World War II, Richard Strauss premiered his final opera, Capriccio — an elegant “conversation piece,” set in a grand salon outside Paris, where an aristocratic brother and sister debate with their guests whether music or poetry matters more.
If this sounds unforgivably frivolous — trust me: it’s not. Capriccio is funny, beautiful, and profoundly moving. But it is difficult to get it right. So let’s cheer the co-production by Curtis Opera Theatre and Opera Philadelphia. Superbly done, both musically and theatrically — and presented in the ideally intimate Perelman Theatre — it’s a major achievement. Read more »
The big news from today’s 2016-17 season announcement from Opera Philadelphia is pretty simple: It’s all about the ladies.
In fact, when browsing the full lineup for the upcoming year, the three main highlights can easily be boiled down to Opera Philadelphia’s casting of two superstar singers for 2016 and 2017, plus the premiere of a female composer’s new work. Here’s a breakdown of the leading ladies that will be taking center stage:
Christine Goerke: The soprano caused quite a stir back in 2013 when she appeared as Die Färberin in the Met Opera’s production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, garnering massive critical acclaim which led the company to sign her as Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Ring Cycle during the 2018-19 season at the New York venue. Goerke won’t be singing Wagner while in Philly, but she will star as the title role in Puccini’s final opera, Turandot, at the Academy of Music, September 23-October 2.
Most of the characters in Jennifer Higdon‘s first opera want to return to the literal Cold Mountain. However, at the end of the nearly three-hour show, which had its East Coast premiere with Opera Philadelphia on Friday evening, you’re left to wonder why. There’s no doubt that this operatic adaptation of the classic novel-turned-film sparks some sparks with a fabulous cast, but the overall pacing of the production makes you feel like you’ve been physically fighting in the drawn-out American Civil War depicted in the opera.
Part of that may very well have to do with the scope of narrative that’s trying to be covered here, told through a series of interconnected scenes and flashbacks. It’s almost too much: Gene Scheer‘s libretto is heavy and often times puts unneeded weight on both the action and the singers. The first act of Cold Mountain suffers tremendously from this, as the one huge stationary set piece (which eerily looks like the barricades from Les Miserables) doesn’t allow for the action to move beyond a small playing area.
Higdon’s score, while complex, layered, and interesting, often fell victim on Friday night to conductor Corrado Rovaris. The orchestra severely overpowered the singers, especially in act one, and there were multiple times when the top-notch performers could hardly be heard over the pit. Read more »
Before the lights come up at some of the world’s biggest opera houses, you can hear Isabel Leonard‘s voice backstage. But you won’t catch her singing a tune from her wide classical repertoire, ranging from Mozart to Poulenc. She’s singing lullabies to her son over the phone.
“My son is older now and his new question is, ‘Mama, when are you gonna stay at home and work here forever?'” Leonard told me. “It’s like someone stabs me with a knife! I think he gets that Mama has to work. If you were to ask me what the most important thing in my life is, I’d say it’s my son and my work, because work is how I can give everything to my son.” Read more »
Ticket arts writers weigh in on what they think are the most important local arts moments of 2015.
Lisette Oropesa’s in Opera Philly’s “Traviata”
It’s been a banner year generally for Opera Philadelphia, but Lisette Oropesa’s Violetta in Traviata (her first performance of the role) was special. The beautiful young soprano met every vocal demand — fiendishly difficult as they may have been – and acted it superbly. Opera lovers around the world pay attention to debuting Violettas – the great ones are so rare. Here in Philly, we found one. —David Fox
Philadelphia Film Society Saves the Prince
The gorgeous Prince Theater seemed to be in quite a bit of limbo: The resident production company had vacated a number of years ago, and their presentations were random at best. With PFS purchasing the building, the theater has becoming a bustling hub not only for movies (it’s now the only mainstream movie theater in Center City) but performing arts, and their Razz Room is hosting some of the hottest NYC cabaret acts around. —Bryan Buttler
And it’s lead character is a man of color. So are the vast majority of the singers, a rarity when even productions of Otello and Aida often times employ non-black actors to take on leading roles. Read more »
Any opera company that says it’s trying to emulate Netflix is taking a risk, and that’s exactly what Opera Philadelphia announced last evening during a much-publicized press event.
The organization is launching a 12-day urban opera festival, O17, that has a signature catch phrase: Opera is now open. The goal is to essentially break down the perceived barriers associated with the art form, and to draw large audiences throughout the city to “binge watch” opera for two weeks at the Academy of Music, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Wilma Theater, amongst other locations. Read more »
In fact, Ms. Oropesa, the dramatic soprano who stars in the staging at the Academy of Music, brings so much gusto, so much soul to her Violetta, that it is sort of a miracle that the entire stage doesn’t blow up at the end of the three-hour show. Yes, she’s that good, and I’ve never seen an Opera Philadelphia audience react with such fervor to a performer in recent memory. Read more »
When Lisette Oropesa started studying to play Verdi’s tragic heroine Violetta in La Traviata for Opera Philadelphia, she read the book-turned-play The Lady of the Camellias, which is the source material for Traviata. It’s based loosely on a real story, and it didn’t do much for Oropesa’s nerves.
“It was depressing as can be,” she recalled. “I couldn’t do anything with the role for three months. It was miserable and disgusting.”
But there was another layer to Oropesa’s emotional journey to master Violetta: Her mother, an opera singer herself, has performed the role for years. It was literally in her blood. Read more »