Drama, music and a show with a surprising amount of citrus. Opera Philadelphia gets ready for their mainstage season with a festival dedicated to bringing opera to new audiences and unexpected venues. Festival O19 celebrates great music and storytelling with 12 days of exciting and groundbreaking performances, including an award-winning world premiere and a cabaret in South Philly. O19 unites seasoned opera lovers and audiences experiencing their first shows starting Sept. 18. Here’s everything you need to know about the festival.
Everything you need to know about Festival O19
O19 begins with the anticipated opening of the award-winning “Denis and Katya”, a new opera produced by Opera Philadelphia. The chamber opera tells the dramatic true story of two Russian teenagers who livestreamed a standoff with police that resulted in their deaths. Their story is compared to the classic romance and tragic ending of “Romeo and Juliet”. The teenagers allegedly ran away together after a family confrontation and ended up killing themselves after firing at police. The opera, which is performed in both English and Russian with English subtitles, was composed by Philip Venables and libretto by Ted Huffman. Considering the nature of the teengaers’ deaths, the opera provides poignant commentary on social media and a global response to tragedy. “Denis and Katya” received a top international honor when the show won the FEDORA Generali Prize for Opera 2019. “Denis and Katya” runs for eight performances from Sept. 18-Sept. 28. Tickets are $60-$150.
With equal parts comedy and devastation, “Let Me Die” will have its first run of performances as a partnership between FringeArts and Opera Philadelphia. Joseph Keckler’s multimedia masterpiece is described as a “festive meditation, a strange ritual, and a morbid medley of epic proportions” in which a rock style meets opera. “Let Me Die” runs for eight performances from Sept. 21-28 at FringeArts (140 N Columbus Blvd). Tickets are $15-$60 or $2 with a FringeACCESS festival pass.
Handel’s “Semele” brings one of the most dramatic and scandalous myths to life. This English opera follows the story of the mortal Princess Semele as she falls in love with Jupiter, the king of the gods, and becomes the target of Jupiter’s wife, Juno. Opera Philadelphia’s revival of an ancient tale is a co-production with Opera Omaha starring Amanda Forsythe, Daniela Mack and Alek Shrader. “Semele” runs for five performances from Sept. 19-28. Tickets are $29-$179.
The first show of Opera Philadelphia’s mainstage season at the Academy of Music (240 S Broad St.) revives a comedic opera that is rarely performed in the United States, but remains a favorite on European stages. Famous for its “March”, Sergei Prokofiev’s satirical opera “The Love for Three Oranges” follows the story of a young sweet prince cursed by a witch to wander a faraway land in search of three oranges. “The Love for Three Oranges” runs for four performances from Sept. 20-Sept. 29. Tickets are $25-$275.
Other Festival O19 Shows
Don’t miss the free annual “Opera on the Mall” viewing on Friday Sept. 14. This year, Opera Philadelphia brings a screening of Pucchini’s classic “La bohème” to the lawn in front of Independence Hall (520 Chestnut St.) for a night of opera appreciation for the masses. Last year’s screening attracted more than 4,000 attendees.
Head for a night at the opera in South Philadelphia to see “Late Night Snacks”, a Fringe Festival show starring the Bearded Ladies and honored guests. This queer cabaret will feature a range of opera singers on select nights including cast members from “The Love for Three Oranges”. The Bearded Ladies use the magic of inclusive performance to turn a converted auto shop at 1316 S. Percy St into an intimate cabaret venue. “Late Night Snacks” runs through Sept. 29. Tickets are available on a sliding scale from $0 to $45.
Visit operaphila.org for festival information and to purchase tickets.