Your guide to Opera Philadelphia’s O17 Festival

The Magic Flute, part of Opera Philadelphia's O17 Festival.

The Magic Flute, part of Opera Philadelphia’s O17 Festival.

Philadelphia loves a festival. September brings about the annual Fringe Festival, a seventeen-day exploration of just about everything the local arts community has to offer. Other important additions to the city’s festival culture include SoLow Fest, which highlights experimental theater and solo performance, and Philadelphia Women’s Theater Festival, whose mission is to “foster and encourage women in the performing arts by offering unique opportunities for exposure; professional, artistic, and personal development; and a platform for performance.”

Classical music has been late to the party, but it’s about to infiltrate Philly’s festival culture in a big way: Opera Philadelphia will hold its inaugural O17 Festival from September 14-25, 2017. The festival will feature five operas—three of which are world premieres—performed at various locales across the city, as well as a recital and master class by world-renowned soprano Sondra Radvanovsky. Here’s everything you need to know about the musical smorgasbord that awaits.

opera-philadelphia-o17-festival-previewOperas and Events:

Elizabeth Cree

Venue: Perelman Theater (Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad Street)
Score by Kevin Puts
Libretto by Mark Campbell
Production by David Schweitzer
Performance dates: Thursday 9/14, Tuesday 9/19, Thursday 9/21 at 8PM; Saturday 9/16 and Saturday 9/23 at 2:30PM
The team behind the Pulitzer Prize–winning Silent Night return to Opera Philadelphia with a new work that’s already been called “the most anticipated opera of 2017” (Operawire.com). Based on Peter Ackroyd’s acclaimed novel, the opera follows the trial of a poor woman in 1880s London convicted of poisoning her husband to death. How did she get here? To answer this question, the narrative explores a host of period details, including the terrifying crimes of Jack the Ripper and the gilded splendors of the Victorian age. Acclaimed mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack makes her company debut in the title role, under the baton of Music Director Corrado Rovaris. (Performed in English with English supertitles.)

The Magic Flute

Venue: Academy of Music (240 S. Broad Street)
Score by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder
Production by Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky
Performance dates: Friday 9/15, Wednesday 9/20, Friday 9/22 at 8PM; Sunday 9/17 and Sunday 9/24 at 2:30PM
When Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky’s filmic production of Mozart’s Magic Flute appeared at LA Opera in 2013, Opera News critic Simon Williams wrote that the innovative staging “sheds new light on a work with which we are perhaps all too familiar.” Philadelphians will get the chance to see the exclusive East Coast engagement of this production, which originated at Komische Oper Berlin in 2012. Andrade and Kosky engage influences throughout the history of cinema—from the expressionist masterpieces of Fritz Lang and F.W. Murneau to the trippily existential works of David Lynch—to offer a fresh spin on one of opera’s most enduring works. The cast includes fast-rising tenor Ben Bliss as Tamino and Curtis grad Jarrett Ott as Papageno. (Performed in German with English supertitles.)

We Shall Not Be Moved
Venue: Wilma Theater (265 S. Broad Street)
Score by Daniel Bernard Roumain
Libretto by Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Production by Bill T. Jones
Performance dates: Saturday 9/16, Sunday 9/17, Monday 9/18, Thursday 9/21, Saturday 9/23, Sunday 9/24 at 8PM
The world premiere opera We Shall Not Be Moved engages with Philadelphia history to tell a unique, compelling, and original story that blends elements of the natural and supernatural world. After a group of runaway teenagers take refuge in an abandoned rowhome that happens to be the exact location of the former MOVE headquarters in West Philly, they are drawn into a conversation with the spirits who populate and haunt the historic site. What will they learn? Daniel Bernard Roumain’s score rejects easy classification, incorporating elements from myriad music genres, poetry, and the spoken word tradition. The legendary director and choreographer Bill T. Jones will create a production that accentuates the opera’s disparate elements. We Shall Not Be Moved is a co-production of Opera Philadelphia and FringeArts, as part of the 2017 Fringe Festival. (Performed in English with English supertitles.)

The Wake World
Venue: The Barnes Foundation (2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway)
Score and libretto by David Hertzberg
Production by R.B. Schlather
Performance dates: Monday 9/18, Tuesday 9/19, Saturday 9/23, Sunday 9/24, Monday 9/25 at 8PM
Last year, Opera Philadelphia approached David Hertzberg, the company’s composer-in-residence, about the prospect of composing an original work to highlight one of the most legendary art collections in the world: The Barnes Foundation. The result is The Wake World, which will be performed within the very galleries that inspired its creation. Based on a short story by the British mystic and occultist Aleister Crowley, The Wake World will allow audience members to “experience Dr. Barnes’s collection like never before as they follow a wide-eyed seeker and her guardian angel on a dreamlike voyage.” Opera Philadelphia Chorus Master Elizabeth Braden conducts. (Performed in English with English supertitles.)

War Stories
Venue: Philadelphia Museum of Art (2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway)
Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda
Score by Claudio Monteverdi
I Have No Stories to Tell You
Score by Lembit Beecher
Libretto by Hannah Moscovitch
Production by Robin Guarino
Performance dates: Thursday 9/14, Saturday 9/16, Sunday 9/17, Tuesday 9/19, Thursday, 9/21, Saturday 9/23 at 8PM
An ambitious double bill, War Stories pairs Monteverdi’s 1638 tale of a Christian crusader who kills his lover, disguised as a Muslim soldier, in battle, with a contemporary opera about the trials faced by soldiers struggling to reenter civilian life. The site-specific production makes use of PMA’s vast and varied spaces: Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda will be performed in the medieval stone cloister, while I Have No Stories to Tell You will be staged in the Great Stair Hall. Opera Philadelphia favorites Craig Verm (The Elixir of Love) and Cecelia Hall (The Marriage of Figaro, Cold Mountain) sing Tancredi and Clorinda, as well as their contemporary counterparts. (Performed in Italian and English. Due to staging requirements, supertitles will be made available on attendees’ mobile devices through Mobile Titles.)

Sondra Radvanovsky Recital and Master Class
Venue: Perelman Theater (Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad Street)
Performance dates: Sunday 9/17 at 2:30PM (Recital), Monday 9/18 at 2:30PM (Master Class)
Opera Philadelphia landed a major coup when it signed American-Canadian soprano Sondra Radvanovsky as its inaugural festival artist. Known for her blazing interpretations of Verdi and Puccini heroines, Radvanovsky will appear in a piano recital at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater, followed by a master class with local voice students. Pianist Anthony Maolini will serve as accompanist. Just seven days after appearing in Philadelphia, Radvanovsky will open the Metropolitan Opera season, singing the title role in a highly anticipated new production of Bellini’s Norma.

Opera on the Mall:

For seven years, Opera Philadelphia has transmitted one opera per season to Independence National Historical Park free of charge, bringing opera to a whole new audience of Philadelphians. This season’s transmission will be a broadcast of The Marriage of Figaro, captured live in April on the Academy of Music stage. The broadcast will take place on Saturday, September 23 at 7PM. Registration for free tickets will begin on Monday, August 23.

Tickets and Availability:

Tickets for the O17 festival are moving fast, according to Frank Luzi, Opera Philadelphia’s vice president of communications. “War Stories is sold out, and we are adding a preview performance on Thursday, September 14,” Luzi said. (Tickets for this added performance are available now.) We Shall Not Be Moved and The Wake World are also both nearly sold out, according to Luzi. Better availability remains for Elizabeth Cree, The Magic Flute, and Sondra Radvanovsky’s recital.

Opera Philadelphia offers a priority waitlist available to members and donors starting at the Partner level ($1,000). Additionally, they have created a new ticket alert system to notify patrons if and when tickets become available to currently sold out performances. Patrons who sign up for notifications will be immediately informed when a new block of tickets goes on sale; however, ticket sales will be first come, first served. “Ticket availability may change based on exchanges and group order modifications, so we encourage guests to check back frequently,” Luzi said. “Typically these changes happen closer to the performance date.”

Luzi also encouraged interested patrons to download the MyOperaPhila smartphone app. “We will be using the app to communicate any last-minute ticket availability and other special events,” Luzi said.

Rush Tickets and Discount Offers:

Opera Philadelphia offers a variety of discounted tickets and rush options for music lovers on a budget. Student rush is available beginning two hours prior to curtain for performances at the Academy of Music and Perelman Theater. Students can purchase available tickets for 50% off face value, or buy $10 amphitheater (Academy) or second balcony (Perelman) seats. Advanced student rush tickets are available for members of Open Arts Philly, and half-price youth tickets are available for patrons aged 18 years or younger with the purchase of a full-priced adult ticket. Additionally, WHYY members can purchase remaining tickets at 50% off face value beginning two hours prior to curtain. All discount ticket options can be found on the company’s special offers page.

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About the author

Cameron Kelsall

Cameron Kelsall has been writing about theater, classical music and the arts for more than ten years. He currently contributes to several Philadelphia-based publications, including Phindie, Broad Street Review and Talkin' Broadway, and reviews Broadway and Off-Broadway productions for Exeunt Magazine. Cameron also serves as a judge for the Barrymore Awards. You can follow him on Twitter @CameronPKelsall.