Macy’s ‘Flash Opera’ has Web singing ‘Hallelujah!’

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This had to be a high note in everybody's Saturday shopping experience, as Sonie Berry, one of 650 vocalists, belted out Handel's "Messiah" in the Center City Macy's. The surprise event, involving 28 groups, was organized by the Opera Company of Philadelphia.

A flash-mob-style performance of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" at Macy's on Market Street has become a bit of a national phenomenon.

A video of the event, staged on Oct. 30 by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, has more than 3 million views on YouTube, rising as high as the fourth-most-viewed. Facebook users have recommended it more than 130,000 times, according to the OCP. National TV shows - including CNN and ABC World News - took notice as well.

And another three-quarters of a million have watched the surprise songfest, which utilized the famous Wanamaker Organ and about 650 area singers, on Philly.com. (See it at www.philly.com/philly/video/106492678.html.)

Usually, the local website's "most viewed" list is dominated by sports and crime news, as regulars know. But for at least a week, there at the top, or near it, has been " 'Flash Opera' at Macy's."

And this was no flash in the pan.

Inquirer critic Peter Dobrin broke the news on his ArtsWatch blog right after the event, and philly.com posted the video Nov. 1. The audience gradually grew, reaching 100,000 last Monday alone, hitting that mark again on Tuesday, with another 94,000 on Wednesday and 82,000 Thursday.

No video has ever done so well on Philly.com.

It's topped Wingette auditions, the Duck Boat accident and even Harry Kalas calling a Springsteen Grand Slam.

By a lot.

This year, only one article - about a record pot bust in New Jersey - has been viewed by more people.

Online comments tend to be coarse and critical. But this video has elicited primarily praise, such as, "just beautiful" . . . "brought tears to my eyes" . . . "Perfect way to start the Christmas season!" and "Gave me goosebumps, hooray for the 'Random Act of Culture'!" . . . Would love to have been there!!"

Actually, it wasn't the Opera Company's first brush with Internet greatness.

Its first pop-in performance was a "Flash Brindisi" in April at Reading Terminal Market. Video of that also generated more than 3 million views on YouTube.

To see the brindisi - a drinking song with a solo toast followed by others joining in - on Philly.com, go to: www.philly.com/philly/video/flash_brindisi.html.

The company feels "euphoric" about these successes, said director David Devan.

"It's been a home run! Our profile has soared, our confidence as a company has increased substantially, and our ability to harness and manage social media has grown exponentially," he said.

For more about the opera company, go to www.operaphila.org.

 


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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