Saturday, February 28, 2015

Geno's, the opera

Man does not live by cheesesteak alone. He needs opera.

Geno's, the opera

Man does not live by cheesesteak alone. He needs opera.

And three times on Saturday, he got it. In another one of the Opera Company of Philadelphia's flash-opera events, chorus members milled about in line at Geno's Steaks, dressed like any number of other customers, and then, at three appointed times a half hour apart, belted out the "Anvil Chorus" from Verdi's Il trovatore.

Customers ate it up - at least, some did, looking over-the-moon delighted. Others smiled mildly, looking up nervously from their wax-paper wrapped prizes. A few barely noticed, but applauded politely at the end.

If the Opera Company was hoping to bring opera to newbies, it didn't quite work out that way with one listener.

"This was my first cheesesteak, but not my first opera," said Daniel Kolak, a philosophy professor visiting, with his family, from Pomona, N.Y. (far right in the photo). "I've heard some good opera at the Met, but it never gave me goosebumps like it did today. This is the people's opera."

Kolak - author of I Am You: The Metaphysical Foundations Of Global Ethics, among other titles - said he found cosmic synchronicity in his day in Philadelphia. His son won a gold medal in a gymnastics meet at Temple University, he had his first cheesesteak, "and now this. You feel like you're at the center of the universe. What a great city. This place is full of magic."

The Opera Company of Philadelphia has been sneaking up on unsuspecting listeners all over town. One event, at Macy's in 2010, was captured on video and is closing in on eight million hits.

The Inquirer's Tom Gralish has video of Saturday's "Anvil Chorus."

Saturday's visit to Geno's could have brought one complication. This is the place notorious for signs in the window asking customers to order in English. Chorus members wondered if anyone would object to their singing in Italian. But no one from Geno's voiced an objection.

Chorus member Renee Cantwell said she considered ordering her cheesesteak in Italian. "I wonder what they'd do if we tried it," she said.

Cantwell, a mezzo, opted for English in all matters cheesesteak. But in Verdi, it was sempre Italiano.

Peter Dobrin Inquirer Classical Music Critic
About this blog

Peter Dobrin is a classical music critic and culture writer for The Inquirer. Since 1989, he has written music reviews, features, news and commentary for the paper, covering such topics as the Philadelphia Museum of Art at the Venice Biennale, expansion of the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra's bankruptcy declaration in 2011, Philadelphia's evolving performing arts center and the general health of arts and culture.

Dobrin was a French horn player. He earned an undergraduate degree in performance from the University of Miami, and received a master's degree in music criticism from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Elliott Galkin. He has no time to practice today.

Reach Peter at

Peter Dobrin Inquirer Classical Music Critic
Latest Videos:
Also on
Stay Connected