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 »

WATCH THIS: Opera Diva Joyce DiDonato Singing at Stonewall Will Leave You In Tears

Joyce DiDonato Stonewall

Well, I sure didn’t think I’d be bursting into tears first thing this morning as I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, but leave it to extraordinary opera singer Joyce DiDonato to change all that.

DiDonato, an extremely open advocate for gay rights, recently filmed a performance of “When I Am Laid in the Earth” from the opera Dido and Aeneas at the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village. She’s surrounded by many a gay icon, too: Temple alum and DOMA-defeater Edie Windsor and playwright Terrence McNally (whose Mothers and Sons is opening this week at Philadelphia Theatre Company) are both in the bar crowd as DiDonato sings a passionate rendition of the aria.

The recording was made in memory of Mark Caron, the gay man who was shot and killed several blocks away from Stonewall. New York City police said the shooting was clearly a hate crime.

“The idea of a murder happening blocks away from the Stonewall Inn is incomprehensible to me,” DiDonato said in an interview with NPR, who also produced the recording. “It shouldn’t happen anywhere. It tells me that we’re not done talking, and we are not done working for people to comprehend what equality is about and why it is important.”

This isn’t the first time DiDonato has spoken out for LGBT rights: The singer dedicated a rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” at the London Proms concert to gay men and women in Russia who were being persecuted. At the Santa Fe Opera, she dedicated her performance to a gay New Mexican teen who killed himself after being bullied:

Santa Fe Opera

Opera Diva Deborah Voigt Coming to Free Library

Deborah Voigt Header

Deborah Voigt was fired because she was too fat.

I hate to start a piece about the extraordinarily talented Ms. Voigt by pointing out her weight—this is an artist who has literally had standing ovations that have lasted a half-hour after her iconic performances of Aida and interpretations of Wagner. However, that’s the story everyone knows about the soprano after her very public 2003 termination from the Royal Opera House‘s production of Ariadne auf Naxos. Voigt, who, at the time, weighed in at nearly 330 pounds, literally could not fit into a black dress that designers created for the opera. And this was all a secret, until she told the truth in an interview several months later. Read more »

Wilmington’s Susan Stroman Makes Sloppy Met Debut in The Merry Widow

Renee Fleming in "The Merry Widow."

Renee Fleming in “The Merry Widow.”

Halfway through a bawdy can-can dance number at Maxim’s, which is supposed to be the height of Susan Stroman‘s new production of The Merry Widow at the Metropolitan Opera, the stage curtains unexpectedly fell this past Tuesday night: There was a major technical malfunction that caused the show to come to a complete halt for nearly 30 minutes. Kelli O’Hara, the Broadway chanteuse making her operatic debut in this Widow, was in a split, held high in the air by her fellow performers. She jokingly shouted, “It’s a party!,” which caused the audience to laugh uncomfortably. Read more »

The Death of Klinghoffer : The Opera So “Controversial,” You Can’t See It in Philly

A scene from The Death of Klinghoffer.

A scene from The Death of Klinghoffer.

When I arrived at the Metropolitan Opera in New York to see The Death of Klinghoffer, the John Adams’s work that has caused an international uproar, I was expecting tensions to be high at the theater. However, I was not prepared to have my Kiehl’s shopping bag confiscated and checked (along with every single bag opera goers brought into the venue).

The security measures were extremely tight, almost ridiculously so: I purchased a bottle of water at the concession stand and was not permitted to bring it in the auditorium. This isn’t a house rule, mind you; it was a rule for this particular production.

To be frank, I was intimidated, overwhelmed, and a little on-edge before the opera even started. But then, the house lights dimmed; the orchestra and chorus began the Prologue, titled “Chorus of Exiled Palestinians,” and I left the insane world the Met administration created to get into the opera house to see a piece of art; I took in what I would argue is one of the most profound modern opera works that has been produced by the company. Read more »

Out Baritone Jonathan Beyer Talks About His Gay Take on the Academy of Music’s The Barber of Seville

Jonathan Beyer

Jonathan Beyer

Jonathan Beyer met his boyfriend of eight years, Brandon Cedel, when they were both students at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. They lived in Center City for a good number of years, where, as Beyer gleefully points out, they were once voted the “cutest couple” in their apartment building.

“We beat out these old grandmas,” he says. Read more »

Why the Jay-Z and Beyonce of Opera Love Philly

Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez

Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez

Hometown superstar tenor Stephen Costello and his remarkable soprano wife, Ailyn Perez, have international opera careers that span the globe. They are both the recipients of the Richard Tucker Award, given to American opera singers who show great potential for a renowned career. They’ll be returning to Philly to perform at Opera Philadelphia‘s 40th Anniversary Gala on September 12th.

Read more »

Curtis Institute Graduate Amanda Majeski To Make Early Metropolitan Opera Debut

Amanda Majeski.  Photo by Dario Acosta

Amanda Majeski. Photo by Dario Acosta

The esteemed Curtis Institute of Music has yet another reason to celebrate: one of their graduates, soprano Amanda Majeski, will be making her Metropolitan Opera debut a little early this September as the Countess in the company’s new production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro.

It was announced today that Majeski, initially scheduled to sing the role in December, will be performing the Countess for all performances of the opera, replacing Marina Poplavskaya, who has withdrawn from the production due to illness. This marks not only Majeski’s Met Opera debut, but also her Met Opera Opening Night debut, a major milestone for a young performer.

Read more »

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