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Opera Philadelphia Places Signature Festival On Hold

By Sara Schabas on February 19, 2024

Opera Philadelphia
We Shall Not Be Moved, Opera Philadelphia, Festival O, 2020 (Photo: Dave DiRentis)

On February 13th, Opera Philadelphia announced its 50th anniversary season. The season includes an American premiere by Missy Mazzoli, a little-known work by the 18th-century Black composer Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Noticeably missing was the company’s signature Festival O, which traditionally opens Opera Philadelphia’s season. Instead, announcements about the festival will be shared in spring 2024.

Why it’s happening: Opera Philadelphia’s director, the Toronto-born David B. Devan, has been tightening budgets at the company ever since pandemic-related difficulties led to two $800,000 deficits in recent seasons. Devan has now adopted what he calls a strategic slowness technique when it comes to programming, allowing the company to adapt as their budget allows.

Big picture: Large opera companies program seasons years in advance in order to book top-level singers, directors, and to budget for productions. Following Covid-19, productions were rescheduled, postponed and cancelled indefinitely, sending the opera world into disarray. As composer Missy Mazzoli put it, whose work will be featured next season, “As long as it’s not cancelled, right?” Fingers’ crossed this company’s innovative festival returns.

Sara Schabas
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