15 Outstanding Philly Arts Moments in 2015

Philly looked great on the big screen, huge music accolades, crazy light shows and more that made this a standing-O-worthy arts year in Philadelphia.

Ticket arts writers weigh in on what they think are the most important local arts moments of 2015. 


Lisette Oropesa’s in Opera Philly’s “Traviata”

Brava, Diva!

It’s been a banner year generally for Opera Philadelphia, but Lisette Oropesa’s Violetta in Traviata (her first performance of the role) was special. The beautiful young soprano met every vocal demand — fiendishly difficult as they may have been – and acted it superbly. Opera lovers around the world pay attention to debuting Violettas – the great ones are so rare. Here in Philly, we found one. —David Fox

Philadelphia Film Society Saves the Prince

The gorgeous Prince Theater seemed to be in quite a bit of limbo: The resident production company had vacated a number of years ago, and their presentations were random at best. With PFS purchasing the building, the theater has becoming a bustling hub not only for movies (it’s now the only mainstream movie theater in Center City) but performing arts, and their Razz Room is hosting some of the hottest NYC cabaret acts around. —Bryan Buttler

Last night Fillmore Philadelphia opened in Fishtown. The Fillmore Philadelphia is located at 1000 Frankford Avenue at the site of a defunct, 100-year-old factory. Live Nation's House of Blues Entertainment (HoBE) division will run the new venue which can hold 2500 in the main concert room and theres a 450 seat venue called the Foundry on a 2nd floor which where smaller acts will perform.

The Fillmore Opens in Fishtown

News broke in April that the old Ajax building in Fishtown would be converted into a shiny new Live Nation Music venue. It officially opened in October with a performance by beloved local rock duo Hall & Oates and has gone on to host a lineup of up-and-coming acts, like Frank Turner and Gary Clark Jr. A breath of fresh air in a year that saw the shuttering of two storied local music venues: North Star Bar and Legendary Dobbs. —Josh Middleton

A Superb Anniversary for 11th Hour

The local company, devoted to musical theater, celebrated their 11th birthday with their first world premiere: Michael Ogborn’s Field Hockey Hot, a laugh-out-loud satire, full of catchy tunes and clever jokes, that served as a showcase for a wonderful ensemble cast, and Jennie Eisenhower’s tour-de-force starring performance. Beyond this, the company also mounted estimable concert explorations of Kiss of the Spider Woman and A New Brain. I can’t wait to see what year 12 will bring! —DF


Future Sensations at Eakins Oval

Future Sensations at the Oval

The giant interactive light-up exhibit kicked off the summer season at Eakins Oval, and if you followed just about any Philadelphian on Instagram, you saw a ton of shots of the glowing exhibit. It was the only U.S. stop of the touring exhibition, placing Philly with the likes of Shanghai, Sao Paulo, and Paris, and it demonstrated the city’s love for public art. —BB

Philly Named Best Music City in the Country

Vivid Seats, a website for buying and selling music, sports and theater tickets, compiled a list of the 20 best North American cities for live music. It should come as no big surprise that Philly was at the top of that list — the very, very top at No. 1. They analyzed factors like number of concerts and average ticket price for upcoming shows to rank the cities, all of them being from the U.S. except for Toronto. They noted that Philly was particularly great for genres like alternative, blues, jazz, country and folk. —Katiera Sordjan

Scott Greet in "The Whale"

Scott Greet in “The Whale”

Let Us Now Praise Scott Greer

The idea is almost axiomatic in Philadelphia, where season after season, Scott Greer is an audience and critic favorite. 2015 brought two especially memorable performances. He was terrific as the showboating Frank Rizzo, a role that played to his galvanizing charm (and landed him a role in a film about Cecil B. Moore). But he really knocked me out with his quiet, heartbreaking turn in The Whale at Theatre Exile – unforgettable. —DF

Mural Arts’ Open Source Project

Thanks to this first-of-its-kind super ambitious project from the Mural Arts, Philly is now home to a handful of drool-worthy new murals from superstar artists from around the globe. Some of our favorites include MOMO’s colorful, abstract design on the Sonesta Hotel, which, at 220-feet-tall, made history as the tallest in Mural Arts’ history; Nigerian-born artist Odili Donald Odita’s stunning piece on the Brandywine Workshop and Archives; and French muralist JR’s massive photographic mural on the Graham Building. —JM

Yannick Nézet-Séguin | Photo by Janet Reagan

Yannick Nézet-Séguin | Photo by Janet Reagan

The Year of Yannick

Sure, the highly in-demand musical director is no stranger to Philly, but 2015 proved to be something of a watershed year for Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He received his first two Grammy nominations, led an incredibly staged production of Bernstein’s Mass at the Kimmel, won countless honors by major musical organizations, and opened The Met’s season with a new version of Otello—BB
In a word, bravo!

Billie Holiday Named to Philly Walk of Fame

File this under “It’s About Time.” On her 100th birthday, Philadelphia Music Alliance announced that it was inducting jazz legend — and West Philly native — Billie Holiday into the Walk of Fame on the Avenue of the Arts. It was made official in October during an induction ceremony that also saw the addition of The Roots, Cinderella The Trammps and more. —JM

Inis Nua’s Hail Mary Pass

Their production of Penelope was supposed to open at another venue, but at the last minute, the show had to find a new home. This would be enough to flatten most directors, but not Tom Reing. With little time to adjust, he delivered a beautifully staged, superbly acted production of Enda Walsh’s gorgeous play. In January, we’ll get to see what Reing and Inis Nua can do in their brand new home, The Drake. I can’t wait! —DF

Orbiter 3

Orbiter 3

The Birth of Orbiter 3

What do you get when you mix five of Philly’s most intelligent theater artists together to create a sustainable incubator for new plays? Orbiter 3! The concept is not only genius, but in its short inception has produced two of the season’s most thought-provoking and emotionally gripping works: Moon Man Walk and A Knee That Can Bend. It’s more than buzz: This ensemble of artists is the real deal and is creating some serious art that is challenging and inspiring. Put them on your must-see list in 2016 — whatever they’re staging. —BB

Pig Iron’s Glorious Anniversary

The beloved local company turned 20 this year, and they celebrated it movingly with a revival of Gentlemen Volunteers – one of their first pieces, and still one of their best. But how would it fare two decades later, with a new cast? As good as ever – and how wonderful that a new generation can discover them. Did I call Pig Iron local? Not quite accurate; now they belong to the world. —DF

Michael B. Jordan in "Creed"

Michael B. Jordan in “Creed”

Philadelphia Looks Great in Creed

Philadelphians will enjoy how the city is showcased in the latest installment of the Rocky franchise, Creed. It’s not glitzy and glorified. As the first movie did so well, this film communicates the gritty beauty of the city, and we approve of their location choices in Fishtown (Johnny Brenda’s) and North Philadelphia (Max’s Cheesesteaks). Yes, the Italian Market is in there, but only for a few seconds. —Victor Fiorillo

Opera Philadelphia’s Going to The Apollo

Yes, the company spent a lot of time and money announcing their upcoming O17 festival, but the transfer of their production of Yardbird to New York’s Apollo is of much more cultural significance. It’s the first opera ever to play the historic venue, and it’s led by a predominantly black cast. —BB

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