The Arts in Philadelphia
Catherine Kerrison, December 2005
Although the holiday season will be winding down by the time the AHA arrives in Philadelphia, you will still be able to sample musical and theatrical offerings in the splendid venues of which the city is justifiably proud.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is the showpiece of the city's cultural center at Broad Street on the Avenue of the Arts. The center was an ambitious joint project of the city and the Philadelphia Orchestra to build a venue to showcase the performing arts. Occupying a full city block, its gleaming glass roof more than 150 feet high, the Kimmel Center opened its doors December 16, 2001. It houses the splendid Verizon Hall, a 2,500-seat concert hall whose cello-like shape is paneled in rich mahogany, and the Perelman Theatre, a more intimate, 650-seat recital theatre, equipped with a rotating stage. From its rooftop garden, you can get a fine view of the city. You can judge the acoustics of Verizon Hall during several performances scheduled there during the meeting. On Thursday, January 5, the Philadelphia Orchestra offers an "access concert," a 70-minute concert "designed for the curious listener." Demonstrations and interviews with the musicians precede the complete performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15. On Friday, January 6 and Saturday, January 7, the Philadelphia Orchestra presents Virtuosic Violin, featuring Leila Josefowicz on violin and Rossen Milanov conducting. On Sunday afternoon, you can choose between a program of all-American music with baritone Thomas Hampson in Verizon Hall or the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia in the Perelman Theatre, performing selections from Copland, Weber, and Haydn. To view programs and buy tickets in advance, visit www.kimmel
center.org or call 215-893-1999.
The Curtis Institute of Music, one of the finest music conservatories in the world, is nearby at 18th Street and Locust. On Sunday afternoon, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society presents the Mendelssohn Quartet performing a program of Ligeti, Dutilleux, and Schoenberg. For details, visit www.pcmsconcerts.org or call 215-569-8080.
The Philadelphia Orchestra also owns the magnificent Academy of Music in the heart of the arts district. Dating from 1857, "the Academy is the oldest grand opera house in the United States still used for its original purpose," according to its web site. The magnificent crystal chandelier (16 feet in diameter and weighing 5,000 pounds) crowns a rich interior decorated with busts of Mozart, Poetry, and Music and murals of allegorical figures on the ceiling. Although there will be no performances during the AHA meeting, it is well worth a visit, and tours are available (215-893-1935, reservations are required).
Area theatre offerings will particularly delight children. The Walnut Street Theatre's holiday program, Beauty and the Beast, continues through January 8. Designed by William Strickland, the Walnut Street Theatre (1809) is the oldest continuously operating theatre in the United States. Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette were said to have attended performances of Richard Sheridan's The Rivals here in 1812; its stage has been trod by Edwin Booth, Edwin Forrest, Helen Hayes, Houdini, George M. Cohan, Edward G. Robinson, George C. Scott, Jack Lemmon, Mike Nichols, Claudette Colbert, Jane Fonda, Julie Harris, Katharine Hepburn, Ethel Waters, and Jessica Tandy. Visit www.wstonline.org or call 215-574-3550 for ticket information. The Arden Theatre in Old City Philadelphia (near Christ Church) is home to the Arden Theatre Company, a professional regional theatre. For tickets and information about, The Dinosaur Musical, which centers on an unlikely friendship that could help save the planet after a meteor strike, visit www.ardentheatre.org or call 215-922-1122. For plainer fare close by, call the Roxy Theatre at 215-923-6699 for its movie listings; or visit www.phillymovietimes.com for other local listings.
—Catherine Kerrison (Villanova Univ.) is a member of the Local Arrangements Committee.