Opera Singer Anthony Roth Costanzo’s Favorite Philadelphia Spots

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How this die-hard New Yorker came to love Philly’s big-time arts and small-scale streets.

Anthony Roth Costanzo sang his first opera at the age of 13. Since then, the award-winning countertenor has performed in opera houses around the world. He has also brought his angelic voice to a number unorthodox venues, from Joe’s Pub and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to Madison Square Garden, reflecting his commitment to bringing opera to new and diverse audiences.


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At Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation this fall, he’ll open Glass Handel, a multimedia opera production co-produced with Visionaire, with costumes by Raf Simons, choreography by Justin Peck, and a live painting performance by George Condo. It coincides with the release on Decca Gold of ARC, his album of arias by Philip Glass and George Frideric Handel, which features music videos by some of today’s leading contemporary artists, including Mickalene Thomas and Maurizio Cattelan. He shared with Departures some of his favorite Philadelphia spots, old and new, where he has been performing for more than twenty years.  


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Opera Philadelphia / The Academy of Music

Home to Opera Philadelphia and the most European opera house in North America, this utterly cool, totally classic theater is where I performed with Luciano Pavarotti in 1996, and as recently as last season in a daring new production of the contemporary opera “Written on Skin.” The opera company (Opera Philadelphia) is not only one of the best in the country, but it’s also one of the most forward thinking. Their Vanguard festival takes lots of risks, and their programming generally simultaneously relates to the community and pushes opera forward and away from the traditional. And with its bell-like acoustics, the Academy of Music makes 2,500 seats feel intimate.


Courtesy Parc

Parc

The first place I go when I get to Philly is Parc. There’s something so comforting about the perfect French bistro fare, and I am always soothed by a baguette with cultured butter. It’s also open late—perfect for post-opera snack attacks. 227 S. 18th Street, 215-545-2262

Omoi Zakka

I discovered this tiny little shop in 2011 when walking the charming Philly streets around Rittenhouse Square. They have everything from fascinating books to amazing home and office gifts, and adorable and affordable bags and apparel. Rittenhouse location, 1608 Pine Street, 215-545-0963, Old City location, 41 South 3rd Street, 215-454-6910


Courtesy The Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation is one of the most spectacular and idiosyncratic collections I’ve ever seen. I love how instead of a rope to keep you from getting too close to the art, they have inlaid darker wood into the floor as a guide—it's a beautiful detail.  2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 215-278-7000


Courtesy Fette Sau

Fishtown

Venture east of Center and enjoy a gorgeous walk through historic Philly, to the adorable Fishtown neighborhood, which is undergoing a renaissance of epic proportions. “Fette Sau” is down-home bbq in a sophisticated industrial setting. The meats are locally sourced and the menu changes daily.1208 Frankford Avenue, 215-391-4888

Boyds Philadelphia

What was once a classic clothing boutique of the more traditional still has an old world flair—but it's been remade by a third-generation family member, Alex Gushner. I can find many a garment that floats my idiosyncratic boat among all the chic suits and ties. 1818 Chestnut Street,  215-564-9000


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Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

The architecture and colors are wild at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. The shows are beautifully curated, but the permanent collection is also a highlight. Galleries located at 128 North Broad Street and 118 North Broad Street, 215-972-7600.

DanDan

DanDan serves Sichuan and Taiwanese and the atmosphere is strikingly modern, but many of the dishes here are strikingly authentic and all of them totally delicious. The three-cup chicken has so much flavor it could knock you out, while the crispy salt and white pepper chicken is clean and crispy. There are so many gems on the “vegetarian menu” that it’s worth being a temporary vegetarian for at least one visit. 126 S. 16th Street, 215-800-1165