The world-class singers and musicians you may see at Carnegie Hall, Vienna State Opera or the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts can also be found this month at “Kimmel North.”
That’s what Ellen Bildersee humbly teases as the name she gives Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel during its annual Broadway Opera Cabaret.
KI will host its 19th Broadway Opera Cabaret, featuring Philadelphia-area and world-renowned opera singers, on Jan. 7 at 7:45 p.m.
Local performers include soprano Rachel Sigman, mezzo Kaitlyn Beth Tierney, tenor Remy Martin and baritone Matthew Lulofs, along with Kat Bowman on piano.
They’ll sing some familiar Broadway tunes, opera arias, duets, trios and quartets from Fiorello!, Li’l Abner, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Carousel, Kismet, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, The Secret Garden, South Pacific and more.
Bildersee curates the performance each year alongside her husband, Bob. It originally started as a Yom Hashoah program at KI with four Curtis Institute of Music students.
They did a musical program commemorating those lost during the Holocaust, which included a specific piece of music originally written in Terezin.
“It was a very moving concert,” she said. From there, world-class musicians have performed at KI in more secular portions, led by the KI Music Arts program.
The Bildersees connected with the Curtis Institute and Opera Philadelphia to book more talent, such as classical pianist and Curtis faculty member Gary Graffman, violinist Pinchas Zukerman, pianist Yuja Wang, and violinist Ray Chen, to name a few, some of whom have performed numerous times at KI.
The set list includes more recent Broadway hits like “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton and “Follow Your Heart” from Urinetown, and classics like “Lily’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden, “We Are Women” from Candide, “Some Other Time” from On The Town, “Maria” and “Tonight” from West Side Story, and “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun.
Bildersee is looking forward to “So In Love” from Kiss Me Kate, a song from “the Golden Age of Broadway” she and her husband hold close to their 54-year marriage.
“We very often find a link in our programs with our faith: Either the composers are Jewish or the artists are Jewish, or something to that effect,” added Bildersee, who also teaches piano.
On the opera side, they’ll sing songs from La Bohème, Carmen, Romeo and Juliet and The Pearl Fishers.
“They’re all beautiful voices,” she added. The audience can participate, too: Some songs will have the lyrics projected on a screen so they can join in, like “Getting to Know You” from The King and I and the chorus of “The Country’s in the Very Best of Hands” from Li’l Abner.
The KI Music Arts program is 67 volunteers strong. The profits from the concerts go toward charities like Magen David Adom or the USO, though a majority goes back to KI’s education programs. The concerts are also sponsored by KI donors and community advertisers.
Tickets go for $40, but students 23 and under are free.
“It’s a great place to sing, and I love performing there,” said Rachel Sigman, who also participated in the concert last year and curated this performance.
Sigman said the musical selections have a mass appeal for everyone to enjoy.
“My fellow performers are great actors, too, so it’s not only going to sound beautiful, it’s going to be a very emotional, heartwarming experience,” she noted.
The Huntingdon Valley native and current Glenside resident said she is looking forward to a duet from Peter Pan by Leonard Bernstein, “Spring Will Come Again,” a song she said is not often performed.
Bildersee’s goal is to present beautiful music that would not ordinarily be available to the Greater Philadelphia region and community.
“We make it easy for people who are limited in their ability to go into Philadelphia to see world-class music. We’re trying to present the same class of music in our area to enable people who can’t get down for reasons of mobility or financial or other reasons,” she said. “We feel we want to provide this for people who don’t have it.”
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