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Viewpoint: Philadelphia, Here We Come!

By F. Paul Driscoll

Viewpoint Philadelphia Independence Hall lg 817
Philadelphia’s Independence Hall
© Christian Goupi/Agefotostock

OPERA HAS a long and distinguished history in the city of Philadelphia. The glorious Academy of Music on South Broad Street has housed opera performances since the first season of its existence, in 1857. The Academy offered the U.S. premieres of Wagner’s Fliegende Holländer (1876), Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (1928) and Berg’s Wozzeck (1931), among many other works, and the Metropolitan Opera appeared at the Academy regularly for almost eighty years, beginning in the nineteenth century and continuing until 1961. Among the Met’s many notable Academy performances were the company premieres of Roméo et Juliette (1884) and Menotti’s Amelia al Ballo (1938); the company debuts of Johanna Gadski (1899) and Risë Stevens (1938); Maria Callas’s only Met performance outside of New York (1956); and the legendary performance in which Caruso sang Colline’s “Vecchia zimarra” when his colleague Andrés de Segurola became hoarse during the last act of La Bohème (1913). 

Philadelphia’s rich musical culture fostered the growth of several beloved opera companies, including the Max Maretzek Italian Opera Company, Philadelphia Civic Opera, Philadelphia Grand Opera and Philadelphia Lyric Opera, all now the stuff of memories. With all due respect to the glories of the past, opera’s only chance to survive and prosper—its only shot to engage the passions and the pocketbooks of contemporary audiences—is to embrace change, whether through new work, new production schemes or new venues. In just a few seasons, Opera Philadelphia has established itself as a model for innovation in the classical-music industry. Next month the company inaugurates a groundbreaking new festival format, presenting seven “operatic happenings” throughout the city over the course of twelve days, encompassing six venues, from the Academy of Music and the Perelman Theater to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Collection. It’s a risky move, in many ways, but a courageous one—which is why OPERA NEWS has devoted the bulk of the editorial pages in this issue to exploring the offerings of O17. See you in Philadelphia! spacer 

Viewpoint Driscoll Signature 815
Editor in Chief 



The opinions expressed in OPERA NEWS do not necessarily represent the views of The Metropolitan Opera Guild or The Metropolitan Opera. 



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