Festival O23 features 11 days, and 30 opera performances across Philadelphia

ByWendy Daughenbaugh WPVI logo
Sunday, September 17, 2023
Festival O23 is 11 days of opera performances across Philly
Opera Philadelphia is staging its fifth Festival O and it includes Simon Boccanegra, Unholy Wars and the world premiere of 10 Days in a Madhouse.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Opera Philadelphia is staging its fifth Festival O, and it includes Verdi's sweeping Simon Boccanegra.

"It's actually the first time in 40 years that this opera is coming to Philadelphia," says Opera Philadelphia Vice President Frank Luzi, "This is grand opera with a whiff of HBO drama."

It's the story of a man rising to power just as his long-lost daughter returns.

"There's lots of machinations and poison plots and political intrigue," Luzi says.

Unholy Wars is a new opera based on a Baroque classic, Monteverdi's Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.

The original work looks at the Crusades through the eyes of the Christian invaders.

Grammy award-winning Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman flips the script to the Arab perspective in this new opera, "basically extrapolating on what could have been if they just lay down their swords," Sulayman explains. "It's an offering. It's a meditation, and there are no clear answers to anything."

The festival also features the world premiere of 10 Days in a Madhouse, a new opera based on a 19th-century essay by investigative journalist Nellie Bly.

"It's got everything I love, it's got a strong female character. It's about social justice," says Composer Rene Orth.

Bly fakes insanity to expose conditions at the notorious Blackwell's Asylum in New York.

"Opera tends to focus a lot on women suffering," says Orth, "this piece isn't about that."

With everything from dubstep to trap music, the opera is the creation of an all-female team.

"Which, like I don't want to talk about but I do feel like I should point out because it rarely happens," says Orth who asks, "Will you come see it?"

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September 21-October 1