Opera Philadelphia

Published17 Aug 2022

Festival O Returns in Five Weeks

Excitement is building for the return of Opera Philadelphia’s Festival O after a three-year hiatus.  Festival O22 kicks off Wednesday, September 21, with the company premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s The Raven, a monodrama inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and Noh theater, presented in an immersive audience experience co-produced with Philadelphia’s Obvious Agency.

Over 12 days, the festival will feature more than 40 live performances, film screenings, recitals, and cabaret nights, presented in partnership with a who’s who of local and national artists and presenters, including FringeArts, Beth Morrison Projects, Bearded Ladies Cabaret, and the Academy of Vocal Arts.

The excitement for Festival O will build through a series of free pre-festival events, beginning on Thursday, Aug. 25, at Dilworth Park. Opera Philadelphia and East Passyunk Opera Project (ePOP) present a free concert beginning at 6:00 p.m. in the shadow of Philadelphia City Hall starring soprano Ashley Marie Robillard (Musetta in 2019's La bohème), tenor Aaron Crouch (Gondolier in September’s production of Rossini's Otello), and baritone Benjamin Dickerson, accompanied by pianist Aurelien Eulert. Presented as the capstone of Center City District’s summertime Arts on Center Stage series, the event will also mark the release of this year’s opera-themed beer, Hopera Philadelphia, a hazy IPA created in collaboration with Conshohocken Brewing Company. Sales of Hopera Philadelphia at performance venues as well as bars and restaurants throughout the region will benefit and raise awareness for Opera Philadelphia’s programs.

Obvious Agency
Obvious Agency co-founders Joseph Ahmed, Arianna Gass, and Daniel Park Credit: Plate 3 Photography

Local artists in an interactive experience

Edgar Allan Poe's haunting poem inspires an evening of immersive theater, the centerpiece of which is the company premiere of Toshio Hosokawa’s The Raven. The classic elegy transforms into a chilling monodrama for mezzo-soprano (Kristen ChoiRigoletto 2022) and chamber orchestra, led by conductor Eiki Isomura, inspired by the supernatural elements of Noh theater.

Before taking their seats on the stage of the Miller Theater for The Raven, audiences will plumb the facets of Poe’s verse as they travel through the theater with a performer as their guide. A collaboration between director Aria Umezawa and the Philadelphia-based Obvious Agency, this interactive discovery of grief, love, and the afterlife will transform how audiences encounter Hosokawa’s music.

“Each pathway that the audience might go on will be a different version of this experience, a different artists’ take … that will then inform how they are seeing the opera,” said Obvious Agency co-founder Joseph Ahmed.

Cookie Diorio
Cookie Diorio co-hosts Late Night Snacks Credit: Cass Meehan

Return of Late Night Snacks

The Bearded Ladies Cabaret returns to Festival O22 with Late Night Snacks, a new selection of guilty pleasures, soul nourishment, and tasty performances. The mixed plate pop-up cabaret bar is 50% Philadelphia flavor, 50% neighborhood jawn, and 100% good to the last bite. This after-hours bar features different artists every night—from opera singers to drag queens, cabaret stars to art clowns, and everything in between, all baked together and seasoned to perfection, taking inspiration from the stories and history of our community.  Located at “The Switch” (421 N. 7th St., Philadelphia), Late Night Snacks will run Wednesday through Sunday, September 10 through October 2, 2022.

Whether you come for one night, come every night, or just stop by on your way to the corner store or after another Festival O or Fringe Festival show, this potluck of a performance series is here to welcome you with music, drinks, and more enticing entertainment than you can fit on a single plate.  Guests will be welcomed into a “diverse celebration of talent and voice” (Phindie.com) that “embodies the Philadelphia Fringe Festival's freewheeling, party-hearty aesthetic” (Broad Street Review).  A selection of special guests will join hosts Jess Conda, Cookie Diorio, Eric Jaffe, John Jarboe, Anthony Martinez-Briggs (aka "US"), Sam Rise, and Adrienne Truscott throughout the month-long celebration.  A full cash bar is available throughout the festivities.

Late Night Snacks, co-directed by John Jarboe and Jackie Soro, will feature performances that are experimental and works-in-progress: ingredients may include artistic experimentation, adult content, consensual touch, ear worms, nudity, jubilation, great selfie material, and rampant queerness.  When available, The Bearded Ladies Cabaret will provide detailed ingredients for each show ahead of time online so guests can decide how best to snack.

Late Night Snacks is presented in partnership with Opera Philadelphia, FringeArts, and the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs.  Lead support for the project is from the William Penn Foundation, with additional support from Barbara Teichert.

Tickets to Late Night Snacks are pay what you wish at the door; no one will be turned away.  Additionally, tiered pricing will be available.  Advance registration can be made by visiting fringearts.com. 

About Festival O22 

Debuting in 2017, Opera Philadelphia’s annual, season-openingFestival Oimmediately garnered audience and critical acclaim, proving to bea hotbed of operatic innovation(New York Times) andone of the most enjoyable additions to the fall calendar in years”(Washington Post). Following a two-year, pandemic-induced hiatus, the annual 12-day gathering for opera lovers returns in September 2022 with its fourth iteration, O22, featuring the company premiere of Rossini’s rarely performed Otelloat the Academy of Music in an elegant production starring tenorKhanyiso Gwenxanein his U.S. debut in the title role and star tenorLawrence Brownlee as Rodrigo. The festival also presents Toshio HosokawasThe Raven, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s haunting poem and Noh theater, in an immersive evening at the Miller Theater starring mezzo-soprano Kristen Choi, and the world premiere of Black Lodge, a new cinematic opera with live musical accompaniment by the glam opera band Timur and the Dime Museum and the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra, produced by Beth Morrison Projects. Academy of Vocal Arts alumni Latonia Moore and André Courville lead twoAfternoons at AVArecitals, while Opera on Filmcelebrates opera on the big screen with a series of films ranging from adventurous shorts to bold, feature-length productions, including works by Joseph Losey, William Kentridge, Robert Townsend, Pedro Almodóvar, and E. Elias Merhige. All festival evenings can be capped off withLate Night Snacks, as the Bearded Ladies and a roster of deliciously dangerous and provocatively pleasurable performers operate an after-hours cabaret ina refitted industrial space, presented in partnership with the 2022 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.For more information, visitoperaphila.org. 

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