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Performing Arts in Philadelphia

December 2, 2022

Considered to be one of the top showstopping theater cities around the U.S. with the oldest theater in America built in 1809, Philadelphia continues to entertain audiences centuries later with magical musicals, spectacular shows and outstanding orchestras and operas.

A Guide to Onstage Shows in Philadelphia:

Opera Philadelphia

A scene from Seattle Opera’s 2019 staging of Lindy Hume’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, coming to Opera Philadelphia April 29-May 8 at the Academy of Music.
Opera Philadelphia returned to the Academy of Music stage in spring 2022 for the first time since September 2019 with four performances of Verdi’s unforgettable tragedy Rigoletto, which had not been performed by Opera Philadelphia in 15 years. Photo by S. Martini.

Philadelphia’s opera company has been hailed by the New York Times as “one of the most creative and ambitious companies” in the U.S., by Opera News as establishing itself as “a model for innovation in the classical-music industry,” and by The New Yorker as “the most vital alternative to the Met on the East Coast.” Opera Philadelphia mixes traditional and new repertoire that engages the public – taking opera out of the opera house and onto the streets, into parks and museums and other interesting venues throughout the city. The season opens each September with a Festival, featuring world and company premieres, partnering with the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. In 2020, the opera company launched the Opera Philadelphia Channel, allowing fans to stream performances from home.

  • Upcoming performances: Opera Philadelphia’s untraditional 2021-2022 season included performances that fans could enjoy from the comfort of their homes by streaming new works created for the Opera Philadelphia Channel, including performances that celebrate Philadelphia’s historic pipe organs, an art film of Francis Poulenc’s La voix humaine and the cinematic adaptation of Henze’s El Cimarrón, and more. To learn more about the season’s digital offerings, click here.

    Opera Philadelphia’s 2022-2023 season launches in September 2022. In February 2023, Opera Philadelphia Chorus and Orchestra will take center stage for a rarely-performed masterpiece, Carmina Burana + Credo (February 3 & 5, 2023). Then in the spring of 2023, a new production of La bohème (April 28 & 30 and May 5 & 7, 2023) will serve as a reminder that opera is a living, breathing art form.

The Philadelphia Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin were awarded the Grammy for Best Orchestral Performance in 2022 for their recording of Florence Price’s First and Third Symphonies. 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 Kimmel Cultural Campus

The state-of-the-art performance venue, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts 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, Miller Theater and Forrest Theater.

Walnut Street Theatre

The Walnut Street Theatre is America's oldest theater and is found just a short walk from Independence Hall along Walnut Street. Photo courtesy of Walnut Street Theatre.

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.

Arden Theatre Company

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.

  • Upcoming performances: Arden Theatre Company is celebrating its 35th Anniversary during its 2022-2023 season. The season includes Every Brilliant Thing (November 3 – December 18, 2022). Productions in early 2023 include Clyde’s (January 26 – March 12, 2023) and August Wilson’s Radio Golf (March 16 – April 16, 2023). The season rounds out with performances of Violet (May 25 – June 25, 2023). For more information, click here.

Philadelphia Ballet

The Nutcracker 2018 Pennsylvania Ballet now Philadelphia Ballet
George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Photo by A. Iziliaev.

Philadelphia Ballet (formerly 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.

Penn Live Arts (formerly Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts)

Audience at the Zellerbach Theatre at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (Penn Live Arts). Photo by M. Garvin.

Founded in 1971, the Annenberg Center — now Penn Live Arts — 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. Rebranded as Penn Live Arts in 2021, the performing arts presenter seeks to continue the Annenberg Center’s 50-year history of being a multidisciplinary performing arts leader in Philadelphia while also deepening the connection with the University of Pennsylvania and upholding a commitment to presenting innovative national and international artists both inside the Center’s walls and beyond.

The Philly POPS

The Philly POPS performing John Williams' classic Star Wars score at Verizon Hall. Photo courtesy 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.

The Met Philadelphia

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

Formerly the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House, The Met Philadelphia was originally built in 1908 by opera impresario Oscar Hammerstein. The grand venue now hosts a variety of local, national and international touring acts, including comedians, solo artists, and chart-topping musical groups.

  • Upcoming performances: For a full schedule of events at The Met Philadelphia, click here.

Philadelphia Theatre Company

Photo 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: Philadelphia Theatre Company’s 2022-2023 season called Song & Liberation includes shows Empathitrax (February 10 – March 5, 2023) by local writer and actress Ana Nogueira, who appeared on “The Vampire Diaries” and originated the role of Eliza in early workshops of Hamilton, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (April 7-30, 2023), a modern classic about one of Billie Holiday’s final performances in the City of Brotherly Love. To learn more about the 2022-2023 season, click here.

PHILADANCO! The Philadelphia Dance Company

Celebrated around the world for its innovation, creativity, and preservation of predominantly African American traditions in dance, PHILADANCO! The Philadelphia Dance Company is known for breaking barriers and building bridges across cultural divides. Founded in 1970, the West Philadelphia-based non-profit organization provides one of the most successful dance training programs in the nation, along with captivating performances at the Kimmel Center.

  • Upcoming performances: PHILADANCO! returns to the Kimmel Cultural Campus Perelman Theater stage in spring 2023 for Moving… Beyond Forward (April 21-23, 2023). For a full list of upcoming performances, click here.

The Curtis Institute of Music

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.

  • Upcoming performances: The Curtis Institute of Music presents digital performances, including student recitals and ensembles, online via its Facebook and YouTube pages. For the latest calendar of performances, click here.

For more arts and culture experiences in Philadelphia, click here.

Cover photo: Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick. Photo by C. Kendig.

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