Opera Philadelphia’s opulent production of Verdi’s Otello in 2010. Kelly & Massa Photography.
Mission & History
Since 1975, Opera Philadelphia has been Philadelphia’s professional opera company, performing at the historic Academy of Music, and also at the Kimmel Center’s contemporary and intimate Perelman Theater. Opera Philadelphia strives to deliver outstanding productions of both traditional and exciting new works that resonate with the community; to identify, cultivate, and cast rising young talent alongside internationally-acclaimed singers; and to present innovative programs that educate, broaden, deepen, and diversify the opera audience, both in Philadelphia and beyond.
Opera Philadelphia has always been committed to delivering outstanding productions of traditional repertoire, often in new and innovative ways. While lush, opulent productions of blockbuster titles such as Carmen, Tosca, La Traviata, and Otello often fill the stage of the Academy, the company is also known for its new productions, such as renowned visual artist Jun Kaneko’s two stunning productions of Fidelio and Madama Butterfly, a vibrant doublebill of L’enfant et les sortilèges and Gianni Schicchi, and the Company premiere of Gluck’s Orphée & Eurydice, all of which employed the latest in vibrant computer animations and projected images.
Opera Philadelphia is also dedicated to presenting new operatic works, including East Coast and American premieres. In June 2010, Opera Philadelphia presented the U.S. Premiere of Hans Werner Henze’s arresting opera Phaedra in an exciting new production from director Robert Driver. A unanimous critical success, the opera garnered national attention with The New York Times declaring “… the Opera Company of Philadelphia has scored a substantial artistic coup with the American premiere of Phaedra” and The Philadelphia Inquirer saying “Phaedra seems to come from a force and range of expression that can’t be fettered by anything traditional…Just fasten your seat belt and take the ride.” Other notable new work productions include the East Coast premiere of Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison’s ground-breaking opera, Margaret Garner, the Philadelphia Premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s Grammy Award-winning Ainadamar produced by Curtis Opera Theatre, and the East Coast Premiere of Academy Award winner Tan Dun’s Tea: A Mirror of Soul.
Building on this success, in 2011, the Opera Company announced its American Repertoire Program, a ten year commitment to produce a contemporary American work each season. The initiative launches in June 2012 with Dark Sisters, a new opera with music by Nico Muhly and a libretto from Stephen Karam. The opera, which tells the story of a polygamist family during a period of crisis, was co-commissioned with New York’s Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group and had a critically-acclaimed November 2011 World Premiere. Other upcoming American Repertoire Program productions include the 2013 East Coast Premiere of Silent Night by Kevin Puts with a libretto by Mark Campbell, co-produced with Minnesota Opera, and two co-commissions with The Santa Fe Opera: Oscar, by composer Theo Morrison in 2015, and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain in 2016.
One of the company’s most significant additions to the scope and distinctiveness of its artistic offerings has been the introduction of the Aurora Series for Chamber Opera at the Perelman Theater. Creating a home for innovative chamber opera in Philadelphia, the Aurora Series features two productions of cutting-edge works in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater each year, including one produced by the Curtis Institute of Music in association with OCP and Kimmel Center Presents. Aurora Series titles have included The Rape of Lucretia, Wozzeck, Orphée & Eurydice, and Phaedra, among others, with Curtis Opera Theatre’s area premiere of Elegy for Young Lovers and OCP’s Dark Sisters lying ahead in 2012. The Wall Street Journal called the Aurora Series, “… a savvy move that has been a success with audiences” in 2011, and more unique productions are on the horizon.
Rising Talent and Internationally-Acclaimed Stars
Since the Company’s founding, OCP has had a strong tradition of identifying and cultivating rising young talent and casting these future stars alongside internationally acclaimed singers. OCP is fortunate to have two of the country’s foremost operatic training grounds here in Philadelphia, with The Academy of Vocal Arts and The Curtis Institute of Music. Each season, Opera Philadelphia engages artists from these institutions in a variety of programs, from education and outreach events, to supporting roles in mainstage productions. This year, Opera Philadelphia expanded its scope for identifying young talent, announcing the nation’s first comprehensive, collaborative operatic Composer In Residence program. In collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group, the Opera Company selected New York-based composer Lembit Beecher as its first Composer In Residence. With a second composer set to be selected later this year, the goal of the CIR program is to foster tomorrow’s American operatic masterpieces through personalized creative development and intensive, hands-on composition opportunities.
Committed to ensuring opera’s future, not only artistically, but from the perspective of audience development, Opera Philadelphia is devoted to creating educational programs which introduce the rich heritage of opera to the curriculum of public and private schools, as well as sponsoring programs that appeal to both longtime and new opera audiences. The Company’s award-winning Sounds of Learning™ program, which has brought opera to more than 130,000 area students, advances interdisciplinary learning by integrating opera into the core school curriculum. OCP and Art Sanctuary’s collaborative program, Hip H’opera, was launched in 2006 and works to build the self-esteem of at-risk youth by bridging the gap between classical music and pop culture.
In recognition of opera’s ever-changing adult audiences, Opera Philadelphia also continues to expand outreach and enrichment programs, including the Taste of Opera lecture series, Opera Overtures pre-performance lectures, downloadable podcasts, among others. In 2010, Opera Philadelphia’s popular Knight Foundation-funded “Random Acts of Culture” went viral and made headlines nationwide. The company’s rendition of the “Hallelujah” Chorus featuring over 650 area choristers at Macy’s accompanied by the famed Wanamaker Organ has garnered over 7.5 million views on YouTube and major national press attention, as have other Random Acts around the city.
With more than 35 years of a strong operatic tradition in its past, Opera Philadelphia looks to a future that continues to bring audiences the best and the brightest in programming, production quality, artistry, and outreach in new and innovative ways; envisioning a community where opera is a key source of civic pride that actively contributes to the quality of life and inspires community engagement.
For subscriptions and information, visit www.operaphila.org or call 215-732-8400