The opera ‘Oscar’ finds a path to Philadelphia

David Daniels (Oscar Wilde), Heidi Stober (Ada Leverson) and William Burden (Frank Harris). The new opera Oscar, about the demise of Oscar Wilde – poet, playwright, aesthete, wit – arrives Friday at the Academy of Music courtesy of Opera Philadelphia, and at an uncertain juncture: Though its authors and cast resolutely stand behind it, and the piece had good audience support at its 2013 Santa Fe Opera premiere, critics were underwhelmed.

The 1895 trial for “gross indecency” that left Wilde jailed for two years and a broken man, dead at 46, is considered one of the great tragedies of British literature. Still, there were complaints about Oscar – Wilde came off as too saintly, the opera was too verbose, it seemed derivative of Britten’s Death in Venice, with an older gay man whose love object was played by a nonspeaking dancer (even though Wilde’s real-life lover, young Lord Alfred Douglas, or “Bosie,” was hardly the silent type).

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