Opera Philadelphia

Relive Festival O18

By Opera Philadelphia

“Philadelphia is reaffirming that classical music has a legit place in 21st century American art, and anyone who cares about opera ought to pay attention.” - The Denver Post

“’None of this old tired stuff done in the same way’ could really be the festival’s motto.” - The New York Times

“Opera in Philadelphia really can claim to offer something for everyone.” - The Washington Post

Festival O18 comprised 11 days of operatic happenings across Philadelphia.

On the Academy of Music stage, a new production of Lucia di Lammermoor was unveiled from award-winning director Laurent Pelly, thrilling audiences in Philadelphia before it moves on to Vienna in 2019. Brenda Rae as Lucia was "Donizettian’s dream, singing with poised limpid tone, savvy musical execution, and flawless coloratura" (Opera Today). Schmopera also praised the cast, which included Michael Spyres, Troy Cook, and Christian Van Horn, writing that “The evening featured world class bel canto lines, alongside mind-blowing vocal pyrotechnics, making it some of the best singing that the Academy of Music has heard in a while."

Down Broad Street at the Perelman Theater, Sky on Swings, from composer Lembit Beecher, librettist Hannah Moscovitch, and director Joanna Settle, made a triumphant world premiere starring Frederica von Stade and Marietta Simpson. "It would be hard to imagine a more apt and poignant metaphor for the ambitious O18 Festival than the world premiere of Lembit Beecher and Hannah Moscovitch’s Sky on Swings" (Parterre Box). 

The Theatre of Living Arts on South Street hosted both Ne Quittez Pas: A Reimagined La voix humaine and the three-night serial Queens of the Night, dubbed "The Ring Cycle of drag, tenors, and rock & roll." Patricia Racette, "whose soaring passionate soprano is thrilling" (Phindie) dazzled as La voix humaine's Elle and director James Darrah presented a radical new prologue set in a Cocteau universe starring baritone Edward Nelson, actors Marc Bendavid and Mary Tuomanen, and pianist Christopher Allen.

In between performances of Ne Quittez Pas, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe took the TLA by storm as tenor Blythely Oratonio, smitten with Dito van Reigersberg's Martha Graham Cracker, in a drag trilogy from director and performer John Jarboe culminating in the Friday night genre- and gender-bending caba-play Dito & Aeneas: Two Queens, One Night.

Across town at the Barnes Foundation, Anthony Roth Costanzo's Glass Handel moved audiences – literally – in an operatic installation that combined the best of the best from the world of opera, dance, fashion, art, and film. The experience was made immersive by rolling the audience through the Barnes' Annenberg Court on "People Movers," as they took in live painting from George Condo, dancing choreographed by Justin Peck, and costumes from Calvin Klein's Raf Simons, all set to a score of the music of George Frideric Handel and Philip Glass. Glass Handel is pure entertainment inviting the curious to sit back and enjoy the ride...literally" said Musical America.

At Field Hall at the Curtis Institute of Music, two rising talents gave festival-goers a glimpse at the future of opera. Mezzo-soprano Siena Licht Miller and soprano Ashley Marie Robillard performed with pianist Grant Loehnig in two intimate Friday afternoon recitals. "The two again proved fine interpreters across a wide-ranging and demanding program." (Parterre Box).

Capping the festival was Opera on the Mall, a free screening of O17's hit opera We Shall Not Be Moved, a deeply personal work for Philadelphia that explored its history and touched on current issues, proving opera can be fresh and relevant. Approximately 4,000 people gathered on the mall for the screening and praised the experience on social media as "awesome," and "truly opera for all."

Wrote Limelight Magazine"The symbolic significance of the setting combined with the mass presence of the public raises the bar for opera as a medium for education and reflection on the most challenging social ills."

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