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NEWS
April 16, 1988 | By Daniel Webster, Inquirer Music Critic
The houselights dim, the conductor brings down the baton and the curtain goes up on the 11 o'clock news. That's the way it is when Channel 12 airs John Adams' opera Nixon in China (3 p.m. tomorrow). The opera, obviously, is based on the momentous visit in 1972 of President Richard M. Nixon, his wife, Pat, and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger to China. History changed in those five days, China began to open its doors and world political balances shifted radically. But is an opera a documentary?
ENTERTAINMENT
December 11, 2005 | By Peter Dobrin INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
In our town, we like to think we have it all at holiday time - the Pennsylvania Ballet's million-dollar production of The Nutcracker, the Philly Pops' jazz-lush standards, a Philadelphia Orchestra Christmas series of high orchestral-butterfat content, and any number of Messiahs. But there's an important piece missing in action, something you can't see and hear. Something you should. And something that's a lot more than a holiday chestnut - in fact, a piece that could be the answer to what ails a lot of arts groups both short- and long-term.
NEWS
November 12, 1992 | By Lisa Schwartz, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT
When it comes to opera, there's Vienna. There's Milan. New York. Now there's Pennsauken. Yes, Pennsauken - the town of 34,000 where an opera company that started in a living room is now hosting an American premiere. Mozart and Friends Festival, a Pennsauken-based community opera group, will present an American premier of The Beggar's Opera on Nov. 27 and 28 - an opera filled with colorful characters such as prostitutes, crooks and shady gentlemen. Beggar's is the fifth performance sponsored by Mozart and Friends, a nonprofit group that began in 1988, when Melinda Gaffney and 10 neighbors staged a performance of Mozart's The Magic Flute for their family and friends in her crowded Pennsauken living room.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 23, 1986 | By Daniel Webster, Inquirer Music Critic
Richard Strauss worshiped at the shrine of Mozart. Strauss, composer of gargantuan works that used orchestras of more than 100 players and incorporated wind machines, nevertheless proclaimed his admiration of Mozart's transparent instrumental pieces and the clarity of the operas that Mozart wrote with Lorenzo da Ponte. Der Rosenkavalier was, to Strauss, the counterpart of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, and when Strauss came to write the music for Die Frau ohne Schatten, he had Mozart's Die Zauberflote in mind as his model.
NEWS
January 20, 1988 | By Daniel Webster, Inquirer Music Critic
Arrigo Boito's great cantata on the Faust theme, Mefistofele, was staged Monday night at the Academy of Music in a way that argued for its continuing life as a cantata. The work, which will be repeated Friday, is the third in the Opera Company of Philadelphia series of operas on the Faust theme and the first with Paata Burchuladze in the pivotal role of Mefistofele. The choice of Burchuladze was significant, for the young Georgian bass is singing at the top of his form, his voice ringing through its full range.
ENTERTAINMENT
June 12, 1995 | By Lesley Valdes, INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
Lee Breuer, librettist and director of American Music Theater's newly revived hit, The Gospel at Colonnus, was back in town Friday night. Lulu was back in town, too: Lulu, the 15-year-old nymphet who preceded Nabokov's Lolita. Few remember Frank Wedekind, the turn-of-the-century German playwright who created her and inspired Georg Pabst's film noir and Alban Berg's opera. Now, Breuer and composer/trumpeter Jon Faddis have made another Lulu opera. Lulu Noire simplifies the storyline Berg used and pares it down to five singers.
NEWS
November 18, 1989 | By Peter Dobrin, Special to The Inquirer
As Ilana Davidson rehearses her role in Viktor Ullmann's The Emperor of Atlantis, she concentrates on singing the right notes, finding the right place on stage, and listening for cues. The 23-year-old opera student at the Curtis Institute of Music can take in the beautiful score and appreciate the power of its story. But it won't be until the production at Curtis has ended its four-performance run, which begins today, that she'll be able to begin to think about the opera's composer and the circumstances under which the work was written.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 30, 1993 | By Lesley Valdes, INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
Orchestra 2001, one of the area's more imaginative ensembles, concludes its season with excerpts from Andrew Rudin's brand new opera, The Three Sisters, based on the play by Chekhov. Soloists include the engaging mezzo-soprano Suzanne DuPlantis. The chamber orchestra, led by James Freeman, also will unveil a new work by Curtis student Shailen Tuli, which won the group's recent composition competition. Orchestra 2001 at Swarthmore College's Lang Concert Hall, College Avenue and Route 320, Swarthmore at 8 tonight and at the University of the Arts' Laurie Wagman Hall, 311 S. Broad St., at 8 p.m. Sunday.
ENTERTAINMENT
August 10, 1986 | By Daniel Webster, Inquirer Music Critic
The Santa Fe Opera is celebrating its 30th birthday in ways familiar to anyone who has shuddered at crossing that traumatic threshold. John Crosby's company, with its glorious home in the hills outside Santa Fe, is unique. Artists from all over are attracted not only to the setting but to the ambitious and stimulating productions of the company. The collegial atmosphere in the past has contributed to the quality of shows. The audience, too, is cosmopolitan, coming literally from all over the world to this mecca of American opera production, with its unusual repertory.
NEWS
May 25, 2010 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
The New York Philharmonic is not where audiences typically go for end-of-the-world adventures with potentially scandalous music. But in an event that's sure to draw at least as many listeners from outside the city as from its core audience, the orchestra this week not only will perform its first-ever fully staged opera, but will do so with a prickly, sprawling work that the usual operatic institutions lack either the moxie or the money to mount....
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ARTICLES BY DATE
ENTERTAINMENT
February 18, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Opera Philadelphia's 2015-16 season is converging from more distant points than usual - or, possibly, ever. La Traviata (October) is imported from Bucharest. And though Andy: A Popera (September) hails from nearby neighborhoods, it's a product of the artistically distant FringeArts. The new Jennifer Higdon/Gene Scheer opera Cold Mountain will arrive in February from Santa Fe. With an epic Civil War-era production at the Academy of Music and such stars as Nathan Gunn and Isabel Leonard, it occupies the largest part of the season budget (approximately $2.4 million)
ENTERTAINMENT
February 11, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Opera Philadelphia's winning streak with modern opera came to an abrupt halt in the first act of its current production, Oscar . This new work about Oscar Wilde's "gross indecency" conviction was so one-dimensional in its first half Friday at the Academy of Music that the opera - which might as well be titled St. Oscar - forgot how to be theater. Those committed to attending should take heart: Act II has far more dramatic viability, though it may be too little too late. Premiered in Santa Fe in 2013, Oscar promised a signature role for countertenor David Daniels.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 4, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
The new opera Oscar , about the demise of Oscar Wilde - poet, playwright, aesthete, wit - arrives Friday at the Academy of Music courtesy of Opera Philadelphia, and at an uncertain juncture: Though its authors and cast resolutely stand behind it, and the piece had good audience support at its 2013 Santa Fe Opera premiere, critics were underwhelmed. The 1895 trial for "gross indecency" that left Wilde jailed for two years and a broken man, dead at 46, is considered one of the great tragedies of British literature.
NEWS
January 2, 2015 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
NEW YORK - Perhaps no American composer has faced such an operatic challenge with such outward calm. Opera Philadelphia composer-in-residence David T. Little is devising a way to make John F. Kennedy sing - operatically, and on the eve of his 1963 assassination in Dallas. "At first, it was very slow. We settled on a baritone rather than a tenor. And there was his speech patterns. He had this very particular accent. Do we explore that? We chose not to. There were all these levels of choices before writing the music.
ENTERTAINMENT
December 10, 2014 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
The composer usually is first to come aboard, even in the most unconventional operas. However, the appointment of Opera Philadelphia's now-in-process ANDY: A Popera composer Dan Visconti was only announced this week - for a piece that has already had public workshop performances by the Philadelphia cabaret group the Bearded Ladies. "It's great to taste ways of working that are foreign to classical composers," said the 32-year-old Chicagoan. Director John Jarboe called the collaboration "radical . . . in form and process.
NEWS
December 8, 2014 | By Chris Hepp, Inquirer Staff Writer
One of the oddest and most frustrating episodes of Philadelphia's long-running governmental soap opera faded to a close Thursday. It did so absent any heroes, with a baffling plot, and its two stars shouting over one another's lines even as the curtain fell. Regardless of who ultimately is deemed at fault, the sorry debacle of the aborted sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works seems a drama fully deserving its scathing reviews and one that has done nothing to enhance the stature either of its lead actors - Mayor Nutter and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke - or the city.
NEWS
November 23, 2014 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
How funny can anyone really expect opera to be? Intentionally funny, that is. Supposed comic masterpieces such as Falstaff and Die Meistersinger basically offer levity. Italian opera buffa gets laughs when singers behave with unexpected silliness. So we won't hold it against Curtis Opera Theatre that its production of Rossini's La scala di seta at Prince Music Theater was good mostly for giggles and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi owed many laughs to fast-and-loose surtitle translations full of local references.
ENTERTAINMENT
October 23, 2014 | BY JENELLE JANCI, Daily News Staff Writer jancij@phillynews.com, 215-568-5906
WHEN OPERA star Kathleen Battle performs in Philadelphia Friday, she won't be singing Handel or Mozart. Instead, her lyric soprano will ring out in spirituals, such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Glory, Glory Hallelujah. " "Many times, what gets commented on is the spirituals only," Battle, 66, said in a recent interview. "Sometimes you want someone to comment on your Schubert, as well. People are drawn to the spiritual. It has a universal appeal. " The Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall will host "Underground Railroad: A Spiritual Journey - An Evening with Kathleen Battle," marking Battle's first performance in Philadelphia since 2003.
NEWS
September 26, 2014 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
"Everything is brighter and better in Seville" - at least onstage at the Academy of Music, where Opera Philadelphia's set designer, Shoko Kambara, author of the above comment, is patrolling the riotous variations-on-orange scenery being installed for the classic opera The Barber of Seville . Scenery arrives decorated with eye-crossing patterns. The cotton candy is as bright as Christmas lights. The towering orange tree will be bushier by opening night on Friday. The bicycle has a handlebar basket full of barber equipment - plus a flask for swigging.
ENTERTAINMENT
September 16, 2014 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
The great Gothic monsters of 19th-century literature elude convincing musical treatment, probably because these semi-folkloric creatures lose their bite and mystery when baring their souls in music. Wisely, the Philadelphia Opera Collective veered away from direct dramatization of the monster at hand in By You That Made Me, Frankenstein , characterizing the circumstances behind the famous Mary Shelley novel. Seen on Saturday in the thick of the current Fringe Festival, this 90-minute, two-act opera of sorts was presented in the second-floor parlor of the cozy 19th-century-ish Benjamin Franklin Club, in something close to a site-specific performance.
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