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Three must-see shows at Opera Philadelphia's O17 Festival

By David Fox

If you’re still waiting for the fat lady to sing, your idea of opera is hopelessly outmoded. Opera Philadelphia’s 12-day O17 Festival redefines perceptions of the genre with a mix of cutting-edge works and premieres staged in unconventional spaces across the city. These three shows are worth lining up for.

The Magic Flute

Nothing’s more traditional than Mozart, right? Except that this, his final opera, unfolds as a strange allegorical fairy tale. Fans of Broadway may recognize the opera’s early incorporation of song and spoken dialogue as a precursor to the modern musical. This multimedia production, helmed by directors Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky, takes that a step further by evoking the mythology of American cinema with hat tips to everyone from Charlie Chaplin to David Lynch. Click here for time and date information. Academy of Music, 240 S Broad St. Sept 15, 20, 22 at 8pm; Sept 17, 24 at 2:30pm. $20–$250.

We Shall Not Be Moved

This world premiere staged by the extraordinary Bill T. Jones seems absolutely current while at the same time tackling a brutal chapter of Philadelphia history: the 1985 MOVE bombing. Composer Daniel Bernard Roumain and librettist Marc Bathumi Joseph’s genre-defying piece features opera singers alongside spoken-word artists, hip-hop performers and R&B and jazz musicians. Wilma Theater, 265 S Broad St. Sept 16–18, 21, 23, 24 at 8pm; $50–$100.

The Wake World

Here’s your chance to experience two of Philadelphia’s preeminent cultural institutions in a new way. This O17 Festival world premiere one-act opera by composer-in-residence David Hertzberg and director R.B. Schlather takes audiences through the galleries of the Barnes Foundation. Featuring Opera Philadelphia’s chorus and soloists, The Wake World fuses the Barnes’s groundbreaking, peculiarly arranged art collection with the occult-fused works of writer Aleister Crowley. It should be quite the dreamlike journey. The Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. Sept 18, 19, 23–25 8pm; $50–$150.

To discover more shows playing during the O17 festival, visit Opera Philadelphia’s website here.

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