REVIEW: Opera Philadelphia’s La Traviata

A scene from "La Traviata."

A scene from “La Traviata.”

The name on everybody’s lips is gonna be Lisette Oropesa … or, at least, she’s the name on everybody’s lips who sat through Friday night’s opening performance of Opera Philadelphia’s La Traviata.

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 »

INTERVIEW: Opera Philadelphia’s Down-To-Earth Diva Lisette Oropesa

Lisette O

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 »

Opera Philadelphia Has Found Its Queer Beard

John Jarboe

John Jarboe

“I bought some nail polish, so if you’re stressed, you can do your hands and do your toes.”

This is what Opera Philadelphia‘s newest director said to his cast before a tech rehearsal. He’s dressed in camouflage cargo shorts, green sneakers, and a silver and white iridescent sparkly tank top. He indeed took his own advice: His nails were painted and very glittery.

This doesn’t sound like the typical director that a major opera company would hire to mount the start of their season, but one might argue that Opera Philadelphia isn’t typical. John Jarboe is the nail polish-donning man at the helm of the company’s first show of the year, ANDY: A Popera, based loosely on the life of Andy Warhol.

Now, that’s gay.

The artistic director of the popular avant-garde queer cabaret cohort, The Bearded Ladies, Jarboe makes no qualms what he thinks about those patrons who might not be thrilled with Opera Philadelphia’s choice of staging a new opera in a warehouse in the middle of Northern Liberties. Read more »

25 Gay Things to Do in Philly This September

Madonna is headed to the City of Brotherly Love this month. Photo via Shutterstock.

Madonna is headed to the City of Brotherly Love this month. Photo via Shutterstock.

The Pope who? There’s a lot more going on in Philadelphia this September besides a visit from the Vatican. We rounded up 25 LGBT events, shows, and minglers that will keep you busy during back to school season.

Faced with Discrimination Photobooth: Equality Pennsylvania is teaming up with the William Way Community Center for this free event where guests can take a picture and describe why discrimination is a problem that isn’t just theoretical. Thursday, September 3rd, 11 am, free, William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce Street

Sharon Needles: The RuPaul icon “with the look of a cover model and the soul of a shoe” will be at Kung Fu Necktie for a one-nigh only show, featuring the Haus of Ham and The Homophones. Thursday, September 3rd, 7 pm, $20-50, Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 North Front Street

FringeArts Festival 2015: There’s so many queer performances at this year’s FringeArts Fest that we’d be here all day if we listed all of them: everything from You Are the Hero to Not For Profit to Growing Into My Beard. In short, there’s something for everyone. Opens Thursday, September 3rd, various times, prices, and locations
Read more »

David Devan and the Future of Opera in Philadelphia

David Devan on-set inside the Academy of Music. “We need to be inventive,” he says, “and we’re in the city that invented America.” Photograph by Chris Crisman

David Devan on-set inside the Academy of Music. “We need to be inventive,” he says, “and we’re in the city that invented America.” Photograph by Chris Crisman

“Toi toi toi!”

It’s the opera equivalent of “break a leg,” and David Devan is saying it to everyone in sight as he darts around the bowelsof the Academy of Music like a squirrel. No one seems to know the phrase’s origin, but everyone says it right back, despite the fact that it sounds like a toddler reaching up from his playpen and begging for his rattle. Devan dashes off again — David Devan does a lot of dashing — and as the clock ticks toward eight o’clock this opening night, he’s up-down, up-down, up-down the curving back staircases of the Academy, squeezing in every last air-kiss and hug and look of delighted surprise, the kind good hostesses give at dinner parties when you bring the right bottle of wine. Read more »

Opera Philadelphia’s Yardbird Opens to a Standing Ovation


Friday night was opening night for Opera Philadelphia’s much-anticipated Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at the Kimmel Center. Tenor Lawrence Brownlee stars as Charlie Parker with soprano Angela Brown, who mesmerizes as his mother, Addie Parker. Baritone Will Liverman makes his debut as jazz icon Dizzy Gillespie. The opera is set in the famed NYC jazz club Birdland. About 100 Opera Philadelphia theatergoers attended the opening night party on the second tier of the Kimmel Center, including Ann Ziff from the Metropolitan Opera in NYC, Mayor Michael Nutter, First Lady Lisa Nutter and several people from the Apollo Theater in NYC, where Yardbird will appear later this year. Guests dined on cuisine from Jose Garces Catering, walked the red carpet, posed for photos and relished in the evening’s show, which concluded with a standing ovation. I wish I could say go see it, but it’s completely sold out.
Photos after the jump »

Chatting With the Women of YARDBIRD

From left: Chrystal Williams, Rachel Sterrenberg, Angela Mortellaro, and the author.

From left: Chrystal Williams, Rachel Sterrenberg, Angela Mortellaro, and the author.

Rachel Sterrenberg, Chrystal Williams, and Angela Mortellaro all play the wives of the same man in Opera Philadelphia’s upcoming production of Charlie Parker’s YARDBIRD, and before you think that the opera’s drama stems from these three women tearing each other apart on stage over their husband’s infidelities, you ought to do some research on the real Charlie Parker. At least, that’s what these talented singers did before rehearsal.

The opera tells the story of Parker, a celebrated jazz prodigy, who was tortured by his own genius, in a sense. He took a number of wives and lovers, all of whom seemed to provide him with the inspiration that he needed … at the moment.

Read more »

A Tale of Two Verdis, a 100 Miles Apart

Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Sondra Radvanovsky in the Met Opera's 'Un Ballo in Maschera.'

Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Sondra Radvanovsky in the Met Opera’s ‘Un Ballo in Maschera.’

The fact that two major opera companies within 100 miles of each other are concurrently staging Verdi’s Don Carlo has caught national attention: Opera Philadelphia’s production opened Friday night starring Eric Owens, who is regular Metropolitan Opera fare (and excellent in his role debut as King Philip II here at the Academy), while the Met’s production wrapped up this weekend, ironically featuring Philly’s own Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin leading the work.

Leah Crocetto and Dimitri Pittas in Opera Philadelphia's 'Don Carlo'

Leah Crocetto and Dimitri Pittas in Opera Philadelphia’s ‘Don Carlo’

But just as serendipitous is the fact that last week, both companies opened two different dramatic Verdi operas—Un Ballo in Maschera at the Met and Carlo at Opera Philly—within a day of each other. Ironically, both productions have eerie similarities in their stagings, and yet, despite the sameness, they are as different as can possibly be.

Both productions take liberty by moving the opera’s plot out of the traditional era in which it is normally set and moving it into a nondescript time period. The Met’s Ballo, a revival of the 2012 production by David Alden, has the feel of a turn-of-the-century film noir, although some moments feel even more modern: The great ballroom scene is literally wall-to-wall mirrors, which causes nearly a blinding effect from the audience’s point of view. Carlo in Philly, staged by Tim Albery, employs a rather dystopian setting, part Spanish crusades, part post-apocalyptic war zone. The stage is highly raked with a giant dome upstage that seems to be some sort of portal to the outside world. It’s eerie.

Read more »

In the Wings: The Cast of Opera Philadelphia’s Don Carlo

Verdi’s classic tale of a love triangle gone wrong is taking shape at the Academy of Music as Opera Philadelphia presents Don Carlo. We wanted to lighten up the otherwise tragic tale, so we sat down with the opera’s three leads, Leah Crocetto (Elisabetta), Michelle DeYoung (Princess Eboli), and Dimitri Pittas (Don Carlo) and had them take our rapid-fire Q&A about their experiences on stage and, boy, did they reveal some interesting secrets!

Leah Crocetto

Leah Crocetto

Leah Crocetto

My name is … Leah Joanne Crocetto, the first born daughter of Richard and Marcia Crocetto of Waterbury, CT and Brookfield, CT, respectively.

I am a … superhero. No. But if I were a superhero, I would want my super powers to be the ability to fly. Invisibility would be to hard: There would be too much information to glean. Flying. Yep! Flying is the ability for me. I would, of course use my super power for good and quick travel. It would come in handy in this job.

On opening night … my family will be here! I am so excited whenever they are in the audience. I will also look into the balcony and feel my dad with me. I dedicate each performance to him.

Read more »

PHOTOS: Opera Philadelphia Puts a Gilligan’s Island Twist On Ariadne Auf Naxos

Opera Philadelphia‘s annual co-production with Curtis Opera Theatre put audiences through quite a whiplash of styles during its sold-out performances at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater last weekend. Strauss’s melodic Ariadne Auf Naxos was set in a modern art museum with the characters of the iconic television show Gillian’s Island (and Baywatch) invading the production in a humorous twist. Of course, there was the music, a knockout series of arias that showcased some of the amazing talent studying at the Curtis Institute. We have a gallery of some of the fabulous production shots below, and get ready for the next opera invading Philadelphia: Verdi’s Don Carlo, at the Academy of Music starting on April 24.

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