Company unplugged: New leaner name better fits Opera Philadelphia

A new name for the old Opera Company of Philadelphia has been a long time coming.

“The Opera Company of Philadelphia — that’s a lot of words,” said director David Devan. On Tuesday, in the middle of the opera season, he changed the company’s name to, simply, Opera Philadelphia. The leaner, hipper moniker represents what Devan says is the future of opera.

Last year, during the production of “La Boheme,” the company posted a YouTube video of its singers confessing the songs they have on their iPods. When they are not working, the singers tend to listen to Jack White, Metallica and sports talk.

“I love the Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum,” said soprano Leah Partridge. “If I’m cleaning house, or just to kind of clear my brain.”

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A couple years ago the Opera Company of Philadelphia scored a viral hit when it posted another YouTube video of their surprise pop-up performance in the Wanamaker Building in Philadelphia, racking up over 7.5 million views.

With a 10-year commitment to producing new operas, an ongoing chamber-opera series, a full-production season, and outreach to outlying neighborhoods, the company has been slowly redefining itself for the last few years. Now, with the name change to Opera Philadelphia, Devan says the company is better able to promote nontraditional works in nontraditional places.

“I think traditional — or, let’s call them classical — arts organizations need to think about the city as their performance space, as opposed to these narrowly defined opera houses and concert halls,” said Devan, who is thinking about staging operas that do not require full orchestration, or use electronic and amplified sound, to free a performance from the proscenium.

The next production, beginning next week, is “Silent Night,” a new work co-commissioned by Opera Philadelphia. It won a Pulitzer Prize last year.

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