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.

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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.

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Philly to Get Two Screenings of Met Opera’s Otello Starring Renee Fleming

Jothan Botha and Renee Flemming in a scene from Verdi's "Otello."

Jothan Botha and Renee Flemming in a scene from Verdi’s “Otello.”

The Metropolitan Opera‘s lavish staging of Verdi’s Otello, staring legendary soprano Renee Fleming, will get two Philadelphia screenings as part of the opera company’s award-winning Live in HD Summer Encores program.  Philly residents can save a trip to New York by viewing the opera at 7PM on July 9 at the United Artists Riverview Stadium Theater (1400 S. Columbus Boulevard) or at the University City Penn 6 Theater (4012 Walnut Street).

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INTERVIEW: Frederica Von Stade Comes to Opera Philadelphia

Frederica Von Stade in "A Coffin in Egypt."

Frederica Von Stade in “A Coffin in Egypt.”

To say that the extraordinary Frederica Von Stade (better known to opera fans as Flicka) has had a remarkable career is an understatement: the American mezzo-soprano has performed at nearly all of the world’s leading opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, the Paris Opera…and the list goes on.  Widely acclaimed for her interpretations of both the bel canto and French repertoires, Ms. Von Stade has sung leading roles in La CenerentolaIl Barbiere di SivigliaLa Sonnambula, and La Damnation de Faust.  Now, Philadelphia audiences will have the chance to see Flicka first-hand in Opera Philadelphia‘s production of A Coffin in Egypt: these performances mark Ms. Von Stade’s Opera Philadelphia debut.  I had the pleasure of chatting with Flicka about her legendary career and the future of opera. Read more »

Barihunks: These Singers Will Make You Hit the High Notes

Barihunks Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek and Zachary Gordin

Barihunks Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek and Zachary Gordin

You’d never think you’d see “opera” and “NSFW” in the same sentence, but what if I told you there’s a website for those of us who like Mozart, Verdi, and Wagner AND like our men without shirts (or, in some cases, without pants)? Well, it is true, and it’s called Barihunks!

The word “Barihunks” (pronounced bare-a-hunks, NOT berry-hunks, as per very specific instructions from the blog’s founders) was coined by opera director Francesca Zambello when she cast sexy baritone Nathan Gunn in a production; you’ll see why he got the name when you check out his picture below (Gunn is also the Director of the American Repertoire Council at Opera Philadelphia). Two opera professionals, both who wish to remain anonymous due to their roles on boards of predominant opera companies, developed the Barihunks website as a joke—that is, until the blog succeeded beyond all expectations. Read more »

INTERVIEW: Don Giovanni Star Michelle Johnson

Michelle Johnson singing "Oberto."

Michelle Johnson singing “Oberto.”

When you first meet Philadelphia-based soprano Michelle Johnson you can’t help but notice her infectious personality. Perhaps that, along with her extensive training at Philly’s own Academy of Vocal Arts, has made her one of the most celebrated opera singers in the region. Johnson has won nearly a dozen vocal competitions (including the prestigious grand prize in the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions) but this down-to-Earth diva keeps a grounded approach to her own work.

You can catch her starting tonight in Opera Philadelphia‘s production of Don Giovanni, but first, get to know her right hereI had the pleasure of catching up with Johnson in the midst of her rehearsals for Giovanni. We talked about her remarkable career thus far, the real “problem” behind shows like American Idol, and what jealous Puccini diva she’s just dying to play.

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