February 14 - October 4, 2015
Philadelphia is a city rich in operatic history dating back to the mid-1700s when the colonists attended operas performed by the British. The early 1800s marked the city's first grand opera production – Mozart's Don Giovanni -- and just a few years later, Philadelphia hosted the American debut of Mozart's The Magic Flute. In 1857, with the opening of the Academy of Music, the city's premiere opera house, Philadelphia hosted world-famous performers, conductors, and composers.
The Academy soon became a frequent venue for New York's Metropolitan Opera. For nearly 80 years, from the 1880s through 1961, the Met performed once a week in Philadelphia. At the same time, the city had its own companies including the Philadelphia La Scala Opera Company, Philadelphia Civic Grand Opera Company, and the Philadelphia Lyric Opera.
Then, in 1975, the Lyric Opera merged with the Civic Grand to form the Opera Company of Philadelphia – known today as Opera Philadelphia. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015, Opera Philadelphia, the city's only grand opera company, has earned a reputation as "one of the world's leading instigators of new operatic work, its dedication to telling American stories written by American composers, and its fresh approach to producing grand opera from the traditional repertoire." In the last few years, in addition to the company's innovative programming under the leadership of David B. Devan, Opera Philadelphia has been committed to introducing opera to a wider, more diverse audience.
Some of the company's popular initiatives include Opera on the Mall – a free, live broadcast of each season's opening opera at Independence Mall; pop-up performances like Random Acts of Culture -- a performance at Macy's Center City that featured over 650 area singers accompanied by the famous Wanamaker Organ; and Hip H'Opera – an in-school program that bridges the gap between classical music and popular culture.
As Devan has proudly said, "Our ultimate goal is to be a source of civic pride by creating opera in our city…We are not a company in Philadelphia. We are Philadelphia."
Bravo! To 40 years of excellence.
William Lewis and Jessye Norman, Oedipus Rex 1982, Photo Trudy Lee Cohen
Anna Netrebko, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, 2002, Photo Kelly & Massa
Elizabeth Reiter and Tamara Mumford, Phaedra, 2011, Photo Kelly & Massa