Opera Philadelphia puts the Met's 2017/18 season to shame Opera on the Mall. Photo by Hughe Dillon.

Opera Philadelphia puts the Met's 2017/18 season to shame

Jenna Simeonov

Now, that’s a season announcement.

Opera Philadelphia’s 201718 season is the latest bit of proof that the company is wholly fascinating. Their line-up includes three world premieres, two Philadelphia premieres, and two new productions; they’ve also unveiled the O17 Festival, which features seven operatic events over twelve days, in six venues across the city.

If your interest isn’t piqued by a new production of George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, or by the brand new Elizabeth Cree by Kevin Puts and Mark Cambell of Silent Night fame, audiences will still be treated to two fantastic operatic standards. Barrie Kosky’s surreal, David Lynch-inspired production of Die Zauberflöte will make your eyes pop, and the stellar Paul Curran brings a new production of Bizet’s Carmen in the spring of 2018.

A scene from Barrie Kosky’s Die Zauberflöte, at Opera Philadelphia in September 2017. Photo by Robert Millard/LA Opera.

The new season in Philadelphia seems almost a picture-perfect foil to the bland announcement by the Metropolitan Opera earlier this month. Out of 26 productions, 20 are revivals, and only one (one!) is an opera written in the 21st century. You may argue that Opera Philadelphia is more agile and capable of more risk than the behemoth that is the Met, but when the likes of Barrie Kosky and Paul Curran are in the house, and when Philadelphia sees a new production of Written on Skin - arguably one of the most successful 21st century operas to date - before New York does, it’s clear that there’s no true David-Goliath relationship between the two companies.

It’s a little bit like looking for a place to grab dinner when you’re a tourist in a new city. The Met’s season is like eating in Times Square, or along the Ramblas in Barcelona, or in Leicester Square in London, where the wait staff stand outside their restaurants, shoving their photo-laden menus in your face as you walk by; Opera Philadelphia’s season is like the better food, better prices, and better atmosphere in the restaurants found along the quiet streets adjacent to the tourist traps. There’s nothing wrong with eating “meh” crèpes next to the Louvre, but if it’s a really good meal you’re looking for, you’re in the wrong place.

A scene from War Stories, at Opera Philadelphia in September 2017. Photo by Stephanie Berger.

Perhaps the safe and obvious season at the Met is part of what allows Opera Philadelphia to think so widely outside the box. Our hunch, though, is that the missions between these two companies are entirely different, and they represent two sides to opera’s place in North American society. In New York, you can get the big and famous; in Philadelphia, your interest in opera can be truly fostered.

For full details about Opera Philadelphia’s 201718 season, click here.

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