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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.



A Sneak Peek at Opera Philadelphia’s 2015-16 Season

Isabel Leonard.

Isabel Leonard.

Opera Philadelphia announces their 2015-16 season today, and we’ve got a first-hand preview of the divas and divos they are bringing to town to belt their brains out. Opera enthusiasts will recognize many a famous name as they peruse the upcoming talent that will take to the stage to perform classic tunes from Verdi and Donizetti, plus a few new arias they’ve never heard of before in works making their East Coast or world premieres. You’ll even note some very well-known Philly-bred artists will be making their company debuts. Read more »

5 Things To Expect When You See Oscar at Opera Philadelphia

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David Daniels in “Oscar.”

 

It’s the opera that has the entire city buzzing, and clearly theres a reason: Oscar is probably the largest production Opera Philadelphia has staged in some time—at least as far as it’ talent and technical elements are concerned—and it generally is a major home run for the company. You still have a few chances to catch the staging at the Academy of Music before it fades away on February 15th. Here are some things you can absolutely count on as you take in the performance. Read more »

Opera Philadelphia Debuts Oscar

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Friday night the much-anticipated Opera Philadelphia production of Theodore Morrison and John Cox’s Oscar opened at the Academy of Music. Opera fans were out in force, fashionably dressed, with a few men wearing tuxedos.

The production is a co-commission with the Santa Fe Opera; it opened at the Santa Fe Opera in 2013 under the stage direction of Kevin Newbury and conductor Evan Rogister, who are back for the Philly run. Countertenor David Daniels plays the title role. He does an amazing job conveying the emotions of Oscar Wilde during turbulent times, as well as his love for bad boy Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie), who is played by Australian dancer-actor Reed Lupla. Lupla has been acting for a while, but this is his first opera. Although he didn’t speak, Lupla made a huge impression with movements and dancing. It’s a very emotional, timeless piece about love and the choices we make.

During intermission there was a supporters reception in the ballroom, where champagne and dessert were served. After the show, everyone headed across the street to Varalli Restaurant for a cast party.

The East Coast premiere of Oscar at The Academy of Music runs from February 11th to 15th.  Information at  www.operaphila.org.

Photos after the jump »

11 Things to Do in Philly This Week: Lots of Food, Music for a Cause, and Strange Underwater Creatures



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