Sunday, February 26, 2017

Opera Philadelphia Drops Jaws

I mean that in a good way.

Opera Philadelphia has announced their 2017-18 season, and it is astonishing:

  • The Magic Flute
  • Elizabeth Cree, Kevin Puts, libretto by Mark Campbell. World premiere.
  • We Shall Not Be Moved, Daniel Bernard Roumain, libretto by Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Bill T. Jones directs & choreographs. World premiere.
  • War Stories, Philadelphia premiere,
    • Il combatitmento di Tancredi e Clorinda, Monteverg
    • I Have No Stories to Tell You, Lembit Beecher, libretto by Hannah Moscovitch
  • The Wake World, music & libretto by David Hertzberg. World premiere.
  • Written on Skin, George Benjamin
  • Carmen
Three, count 'em, three world premieres, plus Written on Skin and a Philly premiere. Wow.


Cameron Kelsall said...

I've been on their press list for the last couple years, and their commitment to new works has constantly impressed me. Not to mention that the quality of a lot of the work they've championed has been superb--particularly "Breaking the Waves," which I think is a strong candidate for opera of the decade. The 2-week, multi-site opera festival they are opening their season with is super ambitious and should be interesting (in addition to the Zauberflote and the new works, it also features a Sondra Radvanovsky recital at the Kimmel Center).

Lisa Hirsch said...

Their strategy is very smart: some of the season plays strongly to people who want standard rep without schlepping to the Met, the rest plays to people who want new and unusual work.

I'm hoping "Breaking the Waves" will make it out here; also, of course, "Written on Skin." I am half-surprised that Santa Fe hasn't picked up the Benjamin. Seems down their alley.

Cameron Kelsall said...

Yes, they do manage to strike a nice balance between classic operas and more off-the-beaten path rep--especially impressive since they usually only produce 3-5 works per season. Also, perhaps due to the proximity to New York, they manage to get pretty good soloists; this past season we've had Goerke as Turandot, Blythe as Tancredi, and the cast of our upcoming Figaro is full of promising up and comers, many of whom trained at the Met (Ying Fang, Layla Clare, Cecelia Hall, etc).

I've yet to see or hear Written on Skin, so I'm super excited that they're doing it; though I'm somewhat surprised that they're putting what's likely to be a rather niche work up in the giant Academy of Music. (Although they've only scheduled four performances instead of the usual five--I'm guessing they've assumed a mid-week performance probably won't draw a huge audience). Usually for smaller works they go to the Perelman Theater inside the Kimmel Center, where Breaking the Waves premiered.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Smart to do only four of the Benjamin, under the circumstances. And that's good casting in the standards!

MEW said...

It's only a small portion of the season that's going to standard rep because, as it turns out, there aren't that many people who DO want standard rep without shlepping to the Met - or (more to the point) to the Riverview Plaza, University 6, or King of Prussia Mall.

(Yeah, I never thought I'd see the day that you could watch opera at the King of Prussia Mall.)

And I expect that the Kimmel Center is happy to have fewer nights at the Academy taken up by standard rep from Opera Philly, because that's more nights for income-generating touring Broadway shows.

About Written on Skin: I think that, in the context of this season and the O17 festival, it isn't a niche work - it's the centerpiece. And I expect David Devan and the company decided that if Written on Skin can (more or less) fill the Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in the dead of summer, it can fill the Academy.

Speaking of the Perelman, I saw Curtis do Doctor Atomic there on Saturday night. R.B. Schlather's staging, at least of the first act, was an off-putting mess (the second act worked better, the portrayal of Edward Teller as The Joker from Batman notwithstanding), but I came away with a lot more respect for the opera itself than I had after seeing it at the Met. And the singer who played Kitty Oppenheimer deserves to become famous - I think she has the potential to become the kind of artist that Dawn Upshaw did.