Opera Is Now Open: Opera Philadelphia Unveils its Plans for O17

Audience at Opera Philadelphia’s “Opera on the Mall” (Photo credit: Dominic M. Mercier)

Audience at Opera Philadelphia’s “Opera on the Mall” (Photo credit: Dominic M. Mercier)

Before a packed house of patrons, press, staff, and collaborators in the Kimmel Center’s Dorrance H. Hamilton Rooftop Garden, Opera Philadelphia unveiled its exciting plans for O–an annual twelve-day Urban Opera Festival that will debut in September 2017, to kick off its 2017-18 season. The innovative initiative continues the internationally acclaimed company’s ongoing mission to bring opera into the 21st century and to reach diverse new audiences, realizing its vision that “Opera Is Now Open.”

Philadelphians and visitors have already seen such inventive outreach efforts by Opera Philadelphia as the delightful pop-up performances at the Reading Terminal Market, the central court at Macy’s, and other public spaces; the popular “Opera on the Mall” (a free open-air HD broadcast on Independence Mall, which has brought in many first-time opera attendees over the past five years); and the recent site-specific collaboration with the Bearded Ladies Cabaret, Andy: A Popera, based on Pop artist Andy Warhol and staged in a Northern Liberties warehouse for the 2015 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

Along with its continuing collaborations with FringeArts and Independence National Historic Park, O17 will feature new partnerships with the Wilma Theater, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, and Art Sanctuary, to bring in cross-over audiences and to offer creative events in unexpected settings for both newcomers and longtime aficionados. Under the concept that “opera’s home is no longer a house,” the seven upcoming O17 productions, which run the gamut from the classic to the avant-garde, will be performed not only in the company’s traditional venues, but at its partnering organizations’ alternative sites.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph at a student meet and greet for Opera Philadelphia’s We Shall Not Be Moved (Photo credit: Philip Todd)

Marc Bamuthi Joseph at a student meet and greet for Opera Philadelphia’s We Shall Not Be Moved (Photo credit: Philip Todd)

Among the O17 productions are three world premieres (including Elizabeth Cree—a chamber opera by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell; and We Shall Not Be Moved—developed by composer Daniel Bernard Roumain and librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph from the company’s Hip H’opera program in local inner-city schools); one Philadelphia premiere (War Stories, which pairs Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda with I Have No Stories To Tell You, created by composer Lembit Beecher and librettist Hannah Moscovitch in 2014, in response to the 17th-century masterwork); and an exclusive East-Coast appearance of Barrie Kosky’s original interpretation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, from Komische Oper Berlin.

The inaugural O17 festival, scheduled for September 14-25, 2017, will capture the thrill of an opening night for participants throughout the city, with more than 25 performances, a solo recital and Master Class for emerging artists by renowned soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, and numerous complementary lectures, tours, receptions, and culinary happenings. For more information about Opera Philadelphia’s cutting-edge direction and programming, visit the website at operaphila.org.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.