Metropolitan Opera House

 

History

Impresario Oscar Hammerstein (grandfather of the famous lyricist) brought his operatic franchise to Philadelphia, where he built one of the grandest opera houses in the nation: over 4,000 seats, a gorgeous design, and a bold challenge to the Academy of Music (run by the Metropolitan Opera Company) downtown. After only two sold-out seasons of grand opera in a full-on Philadelphia opera war, Hammerstein ran into debt and had to sell his wildly popular opera house to his competitor. But the population and business boom on North Broad at the turn of the nineteenth century faded quickly, and future owners would have difficulty drawing crowds and earning profit. The Met Company left after a few years of opera, vaudeville, and plays. Another company turned the Met into a ballroom in the 1930s. A sports promoter later covered the orchestra pits with flooring so basketball, wrestling, and boxing could take place. Attendance waned as the neighborhood was increasingly abandoned and deteriorated. In 1954 the Met was sold to the Reverend Thea Jones, who used the Met for a huge church congregation that once more filled the rafters. But the congregation decreased and the building deteriorated rapidly, as plaster began falling and the second level was sealed off with a tarp. By 1994, the building was declared imminently dangerous, but was saved from demolition by Reverend Mark Hatcher and his church, which purchased the building in 1996 and raised funds to repair the church in a neighborhood that has finally seen some resurgence.

Research: Sarah L. Hunter
Site Photos: Joseph E.B. Elliott

Project: Revival

Now the Holy Ghost Headquarters Revival Center, the building has also housed a basketball court, ballroom dancing, wrestling matches, and church service. This metamorphosis drives the artists’ work – a performance that fuses original music composition and dance choreography that explore the many histories of the building for visitors.

Co-Producer
Group Motion Dance Company
This project has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through Dance Advance; the Argosy Foundation; the William Penn Foundation; the Independence Foundation; and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Artists

Group Motion Dance Company
Group Motion has been introducing innovative contemporary dance works to local, national and international audiences for over 40 years. They are known for their compelling collaborations with distinguished avant-garde artists that span many creative fields. Group Motion specializes in site-specific work that allows them to bring dance directly to the community and expands the creative landscape to include historical structures and public places. They find inspiration in universal sources – from myth, nature, and social issues to relationships and everyday adventures. The dances evolve from a theme and develop through a unique collaboration process between the dancers, choreographers, and associated artists. Whether the dance is abstract or theatrical, humorous or thoughtful, the effect is always direct communication between the performers and the audience – always inviting a response.

Phil Kline
Phil Kline’s work employs music in many mediums and contexts, ranging from experimental electronics, performance art and sound installations to songs, choral, theater and chamber music. The Philadelphia Inquirer has praised Kline’s originality and called him “…one of America’s most important compositional voices.” Kline’s work has been heard in every imaginable type of venue, from the streets of Greenwich Village to formal concert halls like London’s Barbican Centre. He has received multiple grants and awards from prominent funders such as the Rockefeller New York State Music Fund and the American Composers Forum.

Wally Cardona
Bessie award winner Wally Cardona has been recognized nationally and internationally for creating vast yet intimate landscape works that use the performance setting itself as an integral partner in the creation of movement. Brooklyn Magazine hailed him as “one of the most adventurous choreographers of his generation, a master of passionate abstract dances.”He has been the recipient of numerous choreographic awards including the 2006 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in choreography. Cardona’s company, the Wally Cardona Quartet (WC4) was founded in 1997. Since then, he has received commissions from several prominent dance companies and festivals throughout the world.