Opera on the Mall Draws Thousands to Independence National Historical Park for LA BOHÈME

On Saturday, October 6, 2012 the Opera Company of Philadelphia treated 3,000 area residents to La bohème on the Mall, a free, open-air broadcast at Independence National Historical Park of the Company’s season-opening production of Puccini’s beloved opera.

For the second consecutive year, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation sponsored this HD opera initiative. Opera aficionados and neophytes came together to watch the opera in the shadow of the Liberty Bell.

The pre-curtain entertainment included behind-the-scenes video interviews with the artists and director Davide Livermore, who discussed the production inspired by masterpieces from the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The company’s Knight Foundation Random Act of Culture videos from Geno’s Steaks, Ikea, 30th Street Station and Reading Terminal Market were a popular addition to the broadcast. Attendees Tweeted about the event while engaging in online polls run through Facebook and the OCPBoheme iPhone app.  Glow in the dark necklaces, provided by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, added to the festivities.  Attendees were able to visit an ‘artist’s canvas’ photobooth, featuring props inspired by the production.

The crowd was greeted by Mayor Michael A. Nutter, as well as Independence National Historical Park Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod and Opera Company of Philadelphia General Director and President David B. Devan.  As darkness descended upon the area, new and old opera lovers were transported to Paris in 1896 to see the story of the poet Rodolfo and his beloved Mimì.  They were enchanted by the art-inspired production and thrilled by the singing of the cast, including Bryan Hymel, Norah Amsellem, Troy Cook, and Leah Partridge, all of whom were in attendance to watch themselves on the big screen.

When the opera was over, thousands of appreciative audience members left Independence Mall, transformed by what they had seen. One patron commented, “We and our grandaughters (13 and 17 years) were thrilled by the opera and the whole experience. The singers had extraordinary voices. Using the art from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes as part of La bohème was a beautiful and unique idea. We also loved viewing Random Acts of Culture. Thanks for entertaining us before the opera and during intermission. After we were leaving, our granddaughters asked to be taken someday to a live opera. We're looking forward to it and also returning to Opera on the Mall. Thank you, thank you.”

La bohème on the Mall introduced the art form to hundreds of new opera lovers and galvanized the city through the art-inspired production and the chance to take part in this communal experience.


Rave reviews from attendees:

“I'd come back next fall for sure, and I'd love to come back more often… A great way to introduce opera!”

“An excellent introduction to the experience of opera for people who think opera is stuffy and only for rich people.”

“This was my first and will not be my last. Great performances as well as inspirations.”

“When the conductor tapped his baton to start the music, the bell in Independence Mall began to toll the hour (7pm). I looked behind me to the clock tower on Independence Hall and then across the night sky to the National Constitution Center and – surrounded by the history, the beautiful evening, and the music – had to fight back the tears. Wow!”