17 Things to Do in Philly This Week

REVIEW: Yannick Nézet-Séguin Soars in Met Opera’s New Otello

Aleksandrs Antonenko in the title role and Sonya Yoncheva as Desdemona in Verdi's "Otello". Photographed by Ken Howard/ Metropolitan Opera

Aleksandrs Antonenko in the title role and Sonya Yoncheva as Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello.” Photographed by Ken Howard/ Metropolitan Opera

Philadelphia sent a little touch of star quality to New York City’s Metropolitan Opera to lead the large-scale musical forces in a new production of Verdi’s Otello, which opened the company’s season last evening. Philadelphia Orchestra’s Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who has been widely regarded as one of the Met’s greatest conductors, brought an immense amount of control throughout Verdi’s challenging score in Bartlett Sher‘s dark production. In that sense, our Philly hometown hero was one of the stars of the night.

Sure, it is a little strange to start off a review of an opera by talking about the conductor, but Nezet-Seguin’s ability to lead a tight interpretation of Verdi’s work is extraordinary. But, then again, he had the remarkable talents of the Met’s orchestra and the amazing Met chorus, who both provided an inspired performance. 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 »

Pavarotti Coming to Prince Theater … Sort Of

Luciano Pavarotti, via Shutterstock

Luciano Pavarotti, via Shutterstock

Some of the biggest names in classical music—the late Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Sondra Radvanovsky, Ekaterina Gubanova—are coming to Philly this fall, at least in digital spirit, as the Prince Theater launches yet another innovative series of programming that will feature big-screen broadcasts of performing arts. Read more »

2015 Pew Grants Announced for Local Artists and Organizations

Cai Gui-Quiang's "Dream." Photo by Tatsumi Masatoshi.

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 »

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 »

Former Philly Artist Pens Grindr Opera

Photo via Facebook.

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.

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 »

The Interview: Philly-Born Opera Great Eric Owens

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. 

Eric OwensGive 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.

Why opera?
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.

Read more »

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