A Wilde Winter in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is the place for Wildeans this Winter

A catalyst and centerpiece of current activity is the Morrison/Cox opera Oscar which had its world premiere in Santa Fe, NM, last year to generally favorable reviews of its singers, orchestra, conductor Evan Rogister, and overall production values. Critics can look forward to an updated libretto for the East Coast premiere.

Oscar opens at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia on February 6, with successive performance on February 8 (matinee), 11, 13, and 15 (matinee).

Opera Philadelphia will be staging a series of events in support of Oscar.

Included is A Taste Of Opera: Wilde and Whitman In Song at the Free Library of Philadelphia on Monday, January 26, 2015. The evening will be a celebration of the lives of Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman through poetry and song, and it will be my pleasure to be presenting the segue readings between the musical pieces.

Over the following two evenings, at the Kimmel Center, there will be Opera Philadelphia’s forum Between the Notes at which Oscar composer Theo Morrison discusses the opera and its creation with Wilde scholar Dr. Margaret D. Stetz. Visit the opera web site for details of these and other events.

PoemsMargaret Stetz, whose presentation at the Drew conference in 2012 I valued highly, is also behind Everything is Going On Brilliantly: Oscar Wilde and Philadelphia, a groundbreaking exhibition at the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia. She, and longtime collaborator, Mark Samuels Lasner,  will showcase materials from several public and private collections  alongside unpublished materials on display for the first time, offering fresh insight into Wilde’s work and creative process.

Beginning Thursday, January 8, on WHYY-TV (Philadelphia’s local PBS station)  is a new arts magazine Articulate, hosted by Jim Cotter, which presents a fresh perspective on how the arts speak to us in our everyday lives. One program in the series is about Oscar Wilde for which I was privileged to be a principal on-camera contributor. For those segments, viewer discretion is advised.

160-mickleFebruary sees the debut of a new play Mickle Street by Michael Whistler at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia—the oldest theater in America.

The play recreates a meeting in Camden, New Jersey, (across the Delaware River  from Philadelphia), between Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman: one at the dawn of his career, the other enjoying his quiet fame. The title derives from the location of the last residence of America’s Great Grey Poet, which is now the site of the Walt Whitman House historic building. I can reassure pedants, like myself, who might note that the Wilde/Whitman meetings actually took place a different house nearby, that the benign switch of setting does have an artistic license; besides which, even Mickle Street is no longer called Mickle Street.

The author of the play, Michael Whistler, has kindly agreed to preview the work at the January Oscar Wilde Club, a gathering I organize in Philadelphia. I can recommend Meetup for those who wish to arrange live book clubs as a refreshing reversion to reality from autonomous anonymity online.

Wilde visited Whitman on the two occasions he lectured in Philadelphia.  For details of these see my web site at:

January 17, 1882 (Philadelphia 1)

May 10, 1882 (Philadelphia 2)

John Cooper

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John Cooper

John Cooper is a researcher, author, blogger and documentary historian. As a long-standing member of the Oscar Wilde Society in London, a founding member of the Oscar Wilde Society of America, and a former manager of the Victorian Society In America, he has spent 30 years in the study of Oscar Wilde, having lectured on Wilde, and contributing to TV, film, and academic journals including The Wildean and Oscholars. Online he is the designer, author and editor of this noncommercial archive Oscar Wilde in America, blogger, and moderator of the Oscar Wilde Internet discussion groups at Yahoo and Google. For the last 14 years he has specialized in new and unique research into Oscar Wilde in New York, where he conducts guided walking tours based on the visits of Oscar Wilde. In 2012 John rediscovered Oscar Wilde's essay The Philosophy Of Dress that forms the centerpiece to his recent book Oscar Wilde On Dress (2013).

3 thoughts on “A Wilde Winter in Philadelphia”

  1. Well, John, looks like you’ve been busy! That is a nice write up on Wilde/Whitman, one at dawn, t’other at twilight, very nice. In the opera I believe the guy singing Wilde is what’s called a counter-tenor. The character, from the snippets shown, seems to suffer a lot. The dancing boy is certainly talented. You might be interested in my latest subject, “Oscar as Environmentalist”! I’ll let you know when it gets published. I lke show business myself, having appeared in “Angels in the Outfield” and in many amateur productions, as well as in my own professional, “How To Make Love to a File Cabinet.” A prettty young blonde (woman) on hearing that title said plaintively, “It sounds so lonely”! She married a guy named Peter but not this one.

    Thanks for sending, John. Maybe I’ll read “Humanitad” today as I read is it “Discorides”(?) another long poem of his from 1881 and it’s an education! He was a GIANT from my home town, of Dublin, Ireland, one of several. Shall we ever see his like again?

    Best wishes and thank you, young man.

    Peter Garland


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