Cai Gui-Quiang’s “Dream.” Photo by Tatsumi Masatoshi.
Over 50 Philadelphia area cultural organizations and artists received grants from The Pew Center for the Arts and Heritage, marking the Center’s 10th year of grant making. Recipients from theater, visual arts, opera, music, dance, and other mediums received more than $9.6 million dollars in grants.
“Our 2015 grantees exemplify the diverse and dynamic cultural life of our region,” says Paula Marincola, the Center’s executive director. “As we reflect on the past 10 years of grant making in this vibrant community, we also look forward to the extraordinary cultural experiences this talented and ambitious group of artists and organizations will bring to Greater Philadelphia’s audiences.” Read more »
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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Erik Ransom | Photo via Facebook.
No, it’s not Verdi, but the plot of GRINDR: The Opera reads like something you’d find staged at Opera Philadelphia or The Met (and we think that iPhones would be allowed throughout the performance). From the synopsis:
We meet GRINDR, a mythical siren from remote antiquity who has been awoken from her millennial slumber by technology. Her power, which is derived from human lust, is exhibited as she manipulates her gay devotees in a soaring soprano…GRINDR: The Opera is entirely sung-through and intended to be staged with a cast of five actors: The four men and the Siren, GRINDR, who is intended to be a masked man in drag.
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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’
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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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!
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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The Philly native turned bass-baritone opera great has performed in concert halls the world over. This month he returns to star in Don Carlo at the Academy of Music. Opens April 24th.
Give us your Philly bio.
Born and raised in Mount Airy. Went to Central, then Temple and the Curtis Institute of Music. And Settlement Music School. So my connection is not at all tangential.
I started out with piano and oboe, but I had been a fan of opera for quite some time, since I was eight or nine—just listening to it on LPs. I saw Tosca at the Met at 16, and opera won the battle.
I know you’ve performed at the Met, Carnegie Hall, throughout Europe. Any favorite houses?
Well, actually, the Academy of Music. It’s the oldest continuously operating opera house in the country. It’s just beautiful.
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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 »
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:
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 »
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 »