Opera will return to the Met Philadelphia for what is believed to be the first time in more than eight decades when the Academy of Vocal Arts presents BrAVA Philadelphia! March 28.
The concert by the influential vocal training institute near Rittenhouse Square will feature both current residents of the school as well as alumni. The list of singers isn’t fully set, but confirmed are sopranos Angela Meade, Latonia Moore, and Vanessa Vasquez; tenors Michael Fabiano, Bryan Hymel, and Taylor Stayton; mezzo-soprano Hannah Ludwig; and bass-baritone André Courville.
Christofer Macatsoris, AVA’s music director, will conduct the singers and orchestra in varied repertoire yet to be determined.
AVA has researched the performance history of the old Metropolitan Opera building, says Camille Mola, a spokesperson for the school, and believes this will be the first time since the 1930s that opera has been heard at Broad and Poplar Streets.
The building opened in 1908 with a production of Carmen, and, after the New York opera company’s last production there in 1920, Mola said, the building was the site in 1931 for the U.S. premiere of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, produced by the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company with Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in the pit.
Some sources list May 5, 1934, as the date of the last opera performance at the opera house — a Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci production by the Philadelphia-Chicago Grand Opera Company, though these references do not carry proper citations, she said.
The building has been used as a movie house, ballroom, sports venue, and church. After decades of neglect and deferred maintenance, it reopened in December with a special appearance by Bob Dylan following a reported $56 million renovation. Now called Met Philadelphia, it hosts more than a dozen shows a month as a Live Nation venue.
BrAVA Philadelphia! is a fund-raiser for the school, and the concert will be configured so that gala patrons will sit at dinner tables on the stage, while concert-only tickets will be sold for seats in the rest of the house.
Singers will be on stage, and an orchestra “pit” will be created in an area where seats are being removed in front of the stage.