by Michael Caruso

Donald Nally will lead The Crossing in concert Sunday, June 15, 4 p.m. in the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. The concert opens the choir’s “Month of Moderns.” Taking part will be soprano soloist Rebecca Hoke of Chestnut Hill (a soloist at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church) and baritone Colin Dill of East Falls. West Mt. Airy’s Ken Lovett and Laura Ward are rehearsal pianists for The Crossing. Lovett is the organist at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian; Ward is a founding member of Lyric Fest.

Nally explained, “The Crossing’s sixth annual ‘Month of Moderns’ begins June 15 with the East Coast premiere of Ted Hearne’s ‘Sounds from the Bench.’ It’s based on Philadelphia poet Jena Osmon’s book that follows the road to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the ‘Citizens United’ case that established “corporate personhood.”

“The piece is a substantial addition to the choral repertoire,” Nally continued. “It’s composed for choir, two electric guitars and drums. The program is rounded out by unaccompanied, contemplative works including local premieres by Michael Gordon, Anne Boyd, Huang Ruo and Harold Meltzer.”

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West Mt. Airy’s Jonathan Stiles, a member of the corps de ballet of the Pennsylvania Ballet since 1999, will retire from the company at the end of the troupe’s final set of performances in its 50th anniversary season. Entitled “50th Finale,” the program of four ballets plays the Merriam Theater June 12-15.

A native of North Carolina, Stiles received the major part of his training from Duncan Noble at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he earned his bachelor of fine arts degree. Prior to coming to Philadelphia, Stiles spent two years dancing with the Cincinnati Ballet.

Looking ahead to his future after ballet, Stiles earned a graduate certificate in nonprofit administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. On a more personal note, Stiles and his wife, Martha Chamberlain, a former member of the Pennsylvania Ballet, recently welcomed the birth of their first daughter.

“50th Finale” features “In the Night,” choreographed by Robbins to music by Chopin; “La Chasse,” choreographed by Neenan to music by Schubert, and others.

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Opera Philadelphia is bringing its 2013-14 season to a close with its most compelling production of this season and one of the most compelling new operas I’ve experienced in the last 10 seasons. “A Coffin in Egypt,” with music composed by Ricky Ian Gordon to a libretto by Leonard Foglia based on a play by Horton Foote, also served to bring back to the opera stage one of America’s most beloved singers – mezzo Frederica von Stade. Making her company debut, the recently turned 69-year-old von Stade dominates the Perelman Theater’s stage throughout the opera’s 80 minutes without intermission in a way only a true artist can ever do.

“A Coffin in Egypt” focuses on 90-year-old Myrtle Bledsoe as she looks back in anger, resentment and self-pity over a life that has been nothing but a series of disappointments to her. Or so it seems. After a litany both deep and broad of betrayals and humiliations, Myrtle is granted a glimmer of discernment and approaches the realization that, while all her relatives and friends have died before her, she may have mercifully been granted her long life to give her time to forgive herself after having forgiven everyone else.

Foglia superbly handled the stage direction himself, and Timothy Myers conducted the chamber pit orchestra with a deft ear for the score’s delicately crafted colors. And in a small but evocative role, Andorra’s Ben Sheaffer made his company debut as Captain Lawson. “A Coffin in Egypt” continues June 11, 13 and 15.

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