Performing Arts in Philadelphia

Here are some of the magical musicals, spectacular shows and outstanding orchestras and operas in Philadelphia this season.

Opera Philadelphia

The Love for Three Oranges photo courtesy of Opera Philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s opera company has been hailed by the New York Times a as “one of the most creative and ambitious companies” in the U.S. and by Opera News as establishing itself as “a model for innovation in the classical-music industry.” Opera Philadelphia mixes traditional and new repertoire that engages the public. The season begins with O19 Festival, September 18-29, and a world premiere production of “Denis & Katya,” winner of the 2019 FEDORA-GENERALI Prize for Opera, the company premiere of Handel’s English-language opera “Semele,” the company premiere of a new production of Prokofiev’s comedic gem, “The Love for Three Oranges,” by South African director Alessandro Talevi, plus Philadelphia Fringe Festival performances including the world premiere of “Let Me Die” by Joseph Keckler.

  • Upcoming performances include: Verdi’s “Requiem,” performed in Latin, January 31-February 2, 2020; Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly,” performed in Italian with English supertitles, April 24-May 3, 2020.

The Philadelphia Orchestra

Photo by J. Griffin for the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The legendary Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the finest music ensembles in the world with leaders such as Leopold Stokowski, who developed the “Philadelphia Sound,” and Eugene Ormandy, who toured the orchestra in China as global ambassadors. The “Fabulous Philadelphians” continue to break new ground under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 120th season exploring the range, creativity and power of women kicked off with an opening night concert and gala with Audra McDonald.

  • Upcoming performances include: Celebration Through Music: A China Story, featuring the return of Chinese composer and conductor Tan Dun with a program that highlights the Orchestra’s longtime relationship with China, including music by Dan and John Adams as well as works celebrating Chinese musical culture, October 12; Halloween Spooktacular, with Aram Demirjian conducting, October 26; “The Phantom of the Opera” silent film with organ accompaniment, featuring organist Peter Richard Conte on the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ, October 31; Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, November 24; BeethovenNOW: The Violin Concerto featuring Susanna Mälkki conducting and violinist Gil Shaham, November 29-30; Organ and Brass Christmas with Erina Yashima conducting, December 1; Bach’s Mass in B Minor with German baritone Benjamin Appl, December 5-7; Wynton Marsalis’ Blues Symphony, December 12-14; Christmas Kids’ Spectacular, December 14; Vienna Boys Choir-Christmas in Vienna, December 15; The Glorious Sound of Christmas, December 19-21, Messiah, December 22; New Year’s Eve, December 31. Read More: Holiday Performances in Philadelphia

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Hamilton Company Tour, part of the Kimmel Center's Broadway Philadelphia series. Photo by J. Marcus.

The state-of-the-art performance venue, the Kimmel Center is home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concerts and also hosts touring Broadway productions and world-renowned artists at historic venues and theaters including the Academy of Music, Merriam Theater and Forrest Theater.

  • Upcoming performances: The Office! A Musical Parody, September 28; Marc Maron, October 10; Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries with Adam Ben-David on Piano, October 30; A Hilarious (Uncensored) Conversation with Alec Baldwin, November 13; Taj Express: The Bollywood Musical Revue, November 14; Béla Fleck & The Flecktones, December 3; Wynton Marsalis’ Blues Symphony, December 12-14.
  • Broadway performances: “Hamilton,” the musical sensation, is onstage in Philadelphia through November 17. Tickets are hard to get and pricey, however there is a digital lottery that makes forty $10 tickets available for each show. Register on the Hamilton app or on the website at 11 a.m. two days before each performance.
  • Upcoming Broadway performances: “RENT 20th Anniversary Tour,” October 18-20; “Come From Away,” October 22-November 3; “Mean Girls,” November 19-December 1; “The Spongebob Musical,” December 3-15; Cirque Dreams: Holidaze, December 26-29; “The Band’s Visit,” January 7-9; Riverdance 25th Anniversary Tour, January 21-26; “Hello Dolly!” February 18-March 1; Les Miserables, March 17-29.

Walnut Street Theatre

Young Frankenstein at the Walnut Street Theatre. Photo by M. Garvin.

Founded in 1809, the Walnut Street Theatre is America’s oldest theater and is also the official State Theatre of Pennsylvania and a National Historic Landmark. Walnut Street Theatre produces an exciting season of Broadway-quality musicals and plays, along with its acclaimed WST for Kids series and Independence Studio on 3 season.

  • Onstage: “Young Frankenstein,” from the creators of the Broadway sensation, The Producers, comes the silly and irreverent production based on the book by Mel Brooks, through October 20.
  • Upcoming: “Shrek the Musical,” based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and originally produced on Broadway by DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street productions, November 5-January, 2020; Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the annual classic children’s production, November 30-December 22; “A Woman of No Importance,” classic comedy of manners by Oscar Wilde, January 14-March 1, 2020.

Arden Theatre Company

Nkrumah Gatling in Ragtime. Photo by Wide-Eyed Studio.

Since 1988, Arden Theatre Company, a professional theatre in Old City, brings to life great stories by great storytellers. Productions include classics, new works, musicals and children’s theatre.

  • Onstage: “Ragtime,” a re-imagined production of the Tony Award-winning tale that follows the intersection of cultures, classes, and nationalities fighting for their American dream in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow, through October 20.
  • Upcoming: “The Snow Queen,” a journey through the four seasons from the classic story by Hans Christian Anderson, November 27-January 26, 2020.

Pennsylvania Ballet

George Balanchine's The Nutcracker photos by A. Iziliaev for Pennsylvania Ballet.

The Pennsylvania Ballet was started in 1963 by George Balanchine protégée, Barbara Weisberger and is considered one of America’s leading ballet companies, performing at the Academy of Music, the oldest opera house in the United States.

  • Upcoming performances: “Don Quixote,” October 10-20, World Premieres, November 7-10, “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” December 6-31. Read More: Holiday Performances in Philadelphia

Annenberg Center

Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble photo by J. Downs.

Founded in 1971, the Annenberg Center is one of the nation’s foremost urban performing arts centers on the University of Pennsylvania campus and serves as a cultural destination in Philadelphia, offering a broad range of programs in theatre, music and dance.

  • Upcoming performances: Hiromi, October 12; Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble, November 30; PHILADANCO Xmas Philes, December 12-14; Paul Taylor Dance Company, January 24–25, 2020; MUMMENSCHANZ, February 16, 2020.

The Philly POPS

Philly POPS Gospel Choir courtesy of the Philly POPS.

The largest standalone pops orchestra in the United States, the Philly POPS is a 65-piece orchestra, under the direction of Todd Ellison, performing at both The Kimmel Center and the Met Philadelphia.

  • Upcoming performances: POPS Goes to Hollywood: From Raiders to Gotham, featuring music from Star Wars, Batman, Lord of the Rings, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and more (costumes encouraged), September 27-29; POPS Rocks Abbey Road: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles’ Masterwork, the “The Fab Four’s” final studio album, featuring Beatles tribute band Classical Mystery Tour, November 8-10; A Philly POPS Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season! an original program featuring the Philly POPS Festival Chorus, The Philadelphia Boys Choir, The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas Gospel Choir, and organist Peter Richard Conte and special guest – Broadway favorite Mandy Gonzalez from Hamilton fame – with David Charles Abell conducting, December 7-21.

The Met Philadelphia

View from Grand Salle Box Seating courtesy of The Met Philadelphia.

Formerly the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House, The Met Philadelphia was originally built in 1908 by opera impresario Oscar Hammerstein.

  • Upcoming performances: Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, September 26-27; Incubus, October 5-7; Toto, October 20; Philly POPS presents “Nightmare Before Christmas,” October 24-25; Rosanne Cash and Ry Cooder, November 3; Erykah Badu, November 5; Steely Dan, November 6-9; Sara Bareilles, November 16-18; Hozier, November 19; Bob Dylan, November 21; Philly POPS presents Uptown Christmas, November 29-December 1; Madonna, December 7-11; Pentatonix, December 15-16; Moscow Ballet, December 19.

Philadelphia Theatre Company

Courtesy of Philadelphia Theatre Company.

Founded in 1974, Philadelphia Theatre Company has presented over 150 world and Philadelphia premieres, many of which have moved on to New York and other major cities, helping to earn Philadelphia a national reputation as a hub for new play development. The theater is housed in the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts.

  • Upcoming performances: “A Small Fire” with Bebe Neuwirth, starring two-time Tony and Emmy Award winner Bebe Neuwirth in the Philadelphia premiere of Adam Bock’s raucous, funny and unexpectedly touching play, October 18-November 10; “Everything is Wonderful” by Chelsea Marcantel, the story of an Amish couple who struggles to maintain their faith and cling to their way of life when their two sons perish in a terrible accident, February 14 – March 8, 2020.

Curtis Institute

Curtis Institute of Music photo by D. Swanson.

The renowned, exclusive conservatory, the Curtis Institute trained the likes of Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber and offers student recital series, Curtis Symphony Orchestra, Curtis Opera Theatre, Family Concerts, and more.

The first annual Philadelphia Music Week takes place October 15-21, a new festival showcasing the diverse musical offerings in the city, presented by Curtis Institute, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and REC Philly.

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