When the Metropolitan Opera’s international radio series resumes this season, the voice of its new host will sound familiar to Philadelphians.
Debra Lew Harder, the popular WRTI-FM (90.1) classical personality, is leaving Temple’s radio station to become only the fifth host in the history of the Met radio broadcasts.
Tuesday is her last day on the air at WRTI.
“It’s a little unexpected, honestly,” said Harder, who landed the job after sending in a resume and cover letter “on a lark.”
Her tryout involved several rounds of interviews, reading a synopsis of La bohème and conducting an impromptu interview on Verdi’s Requiem.
A pianist with doctorates in both music and medicine, Harder is host of WRTI’s Midday Classics and creator, producer, and host of Saturday Morning Classical Coffeehouse. Her shifts will be covered by current WRTI on-air talent for the next few months, said general manager William Johnson.
Harder, who joined WRTI in 2016, said she had expected to stay at the station long enough to become the classical answer to jazz host Bob Perkins. He is 87 years old and still going strong.
But the Met, she said, represented an “amazing opportunity. It’s such a legendary company and a legendary broadcast history.”
The series has had only a few announcers since its start: Milton Cross from 1931 to 1975; Peter Allen until 2004; Margaret Juntwait through 2015; and Mary Jo Heath, who retired at the end of last season.
Harder will host the Saturday radio matinees that air from December to June (and are carried by WRTI), as well as twice-weekly broadcasts on SiriusXM. Her debut is Sept. 27 with Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, which opens the Met’s 2021–22 season.
Harder said she’s looking forward to playing a part in presenting a genre she has loved since she was a child.
“There is something about the human voice that is so moving to me and to so many. To be immersed in that world, bringing opera to people in their cars and in their homes, is such a joy. It actually brings tears to my eyes to think about that.”