Location of the Academy of Music
The Academy is situated in the heart of the Avenue of the Arts (Broad St. below Philadelphia's City Hall), Philadelphia's premier arts district, which encompasses a wide range of performing arts, visual, and community-based organizations that have joined together to foster the city's economic revitalization and re-establish Philadelphia's position as a great cultural center.
Seating Capacity and other info
The main hall (capacity 2,897) is constantly in use for concerts, theatre performances such as Wicked or The Lion King and operas, ballets, and other events.
The Ballroom (capacity 350), was inspired by the design of the Hall of mirrors at Versailles as is rarely used for big ticket events.
History of the Academy of Music
Philadelphia's Academy of Music is both a celebrated historical landmark and a current focus of cultural life in the city. Opened in 1857, the Academy is the oldest grand opera house in the United States still used for its original purpose. It remains one of the busiest halls in the world and hosts a myriad of community functions and cultural activities, including performances by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Ballet and Philly Pops with Peter Nero. The Academy is owned by The Philadelphia Orchestra Association and is managed by The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. As early as 1839 attempts were made to build a grand opera house in Philadelphia. It was not until 1852 that a stock offering was tendered for what is know today as "the Grand Old Lady of Locust Street." To make it official and as an appeal to the public, the "Charter and Prospectus of The Opera House or American Academy of Music" was published in 1852. This document set forth the features of construction, the details of management and the advantages of investing in the proposed endeavor. An architectural competition for the Academy's design was announced in October 1854 and was won by the Philadelphia firm of Napoleon Le Brun and Gustavus Runge. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 18, 1855. At that time, the center of Philadelphia was at Fifth and Chestnut Streets. The residential area at Broad and Locust Streets was chosen as the site for the new opera house, partially because it was free from traffic noises. Due to budgetary restrictions, the architects decided to concentrate most on the design of the interior while leaving the exterior "perfectly plain and simple like a Markethouse." It was expected that, at a later date, the exterior would be faced with marble. Bronze gas lanterns, which were donated by the Philadelphia Gas Works and were installed in 1968, were reproduced from pictures of the originals which were installed in 1885 and later removed. In their proposal, Le Brun and Runge stated that "acoustic and optical effects have been very carefully studied, and particular attention given to the comfort and accommodation of the audience." Their design features an "open horseshoe" shape which offers greater visibility than most opera houses to the audience seated on both sides of the balconies. The auditorium is enclosed by a solid three-foot brick wall, the inner sides of which are lined with studding and pine boards to absorb sounds and prevent echoes. Supported by 14 Corinthian columns, the balconies are recessed upward in a tiered fashion and the front of the first balcony is adorned with medallions of stylized design. The opulent interior of the hall is further enriched by the magnificent crystal chandelier 50 feet in circumference, 16 feet in diameter, and 5,000 pounds in weight. Originally the chandelier had 240 gas burners, but it was electrified in 1900. It was rewired in 1957 and, at that time, it was fitted with an electric-powered winch, allowing it to be lowered in five minutes rather that requiring four hours and 12 people to lower it by hand. A bust of Mozart executed in bas-relief majestically crowns the proscenium arch. Above, and to the left, is the seated figure of Poetry, and, to the right, that of Music. Charles Busher and Adolph Bailey designed and executed the exquisite carved and gilded wood sculptural decorations throughout the hall. Karl Hermann Schmolze painted the ceiling murals of allegorical figures. The American Academy of Music opened with a Grand Ball and Promenade Concert on January 26, 1857. The American premiere of Verdi's opera Il trovatore was presented at the Academy on February 25, 1857. Other noted operas that had their American premieres here include Gounod's Faust, Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos and Wagner's The Flying Dutchman. The list of renowned artists who have performed at the Academy reads like a "who's who" of the past century of performing arts history, with such greats as Marian Anderson, Maria Callas, Enrico Caruso, Aaron Copland, Vladimir Horowitz, Gustav Mahler, Anna Pavlova, Luciano Pavarotti, Itzhak Perlman, Leontyne Price, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Artur Rubinstein, Isaac Stern, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Joan Sutherland, and Pyotor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, among many others. The history of the world-famous Philadelphia Orchestra is inextricably involved with that of the Academy. Wolfgang Sawallisch began his tenure as the sixth Music Director of the Orchestra in 1993. He continued the musical excellence of his predecessors Fritz Scheel, Carl Pohlig, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, and Riccardo Muti. Numerous presidents have visited the Academy of Music since its opening. In this hall Ulysses S. Grant was nominated for his second term of office in 1872. President Grover Cleveland attended a gala celebration of the centennial of the U.S. Constitution with his newlywed wife in 1886, and a special wooden floor was placed over the parquet seats, allowing 1,500 guests to dine, dance, and celebrate with the President and his new bride. The wooden floor was again installed in 1889 for the first indoor football game in Philadelphia, between the University of Pennsylvania and the Riverton Club of Princeton. Richard Nixon came to the Academy in 1970 to attend a Philadelphia Orchestra concert and present Eugene Ormandy with the Presidential Medal of Freedom Even the Academy of Music basement has a rich history. In 1857, it held a restaurant with elegant decor and crystal chandeliers. Off the main area were drawing rooms where ladies sipped sherry and gentlemen smoked their cigars. During World War II, the restaurant was converted into the "Stage Door Canteen," serving refreshments and featuring appearances by stars of stage, screen, opera, concert, and radio, including favorites Abbott and Costello, Duke Ellington, Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Gertrude Lawrence, Yehudi Menuhin, and Frank Sinatra. The Canteen continued operating from June 1942 until October 1945 and hosted a total of 2,500,000 men and women from the armed services during these years. As it approached its centennial, the Academy of Music was beginning to show its age. In the early 1950s, The Philadelphia Orchestra Association purchased the Academy and established the Restoration Fund Office to raise funds for restoration and improvements throughout the Academy. The Academy of Music Anniversary Concert and Ball, inaugurated in 1957 on the 100th anniversary of its opening, is a major annual event in Philadelphia. The Concert and Ball hosts local and international attendees, guest artists and conductors, and is one of the most successful fundraising events in the country. Proceeds from these galas have furthered numerous restoration projects, including a new main house curtain, designed and woven by Scalamandré, conservation of the ceiling murals and wood sculptures, the restoration of the main lobby and grand staircase to their former splendor, and the renovation, soundproofing, and carpeting of the ballroom. Two new elevators were installed, thanks to the generosity of Ambassador and Mrs. Walter H. Annenberg, making all levels of the auditorium accessible to the physically challenged. The Academy was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963. A multi-million-dollar renovation has been underway at the Academy since 1994. The six-phase project involves major structural work, backstage theatrical modernization, and improvements to audience services that are designed to take the Academy of music into the 21st century as one of the foremost performing arts centers in the world.
Broadway at the Academy is usually very popular and consists of touring theatre shows for certain seasons including Jersey Boys, Lion King, Wicked the musical, Les Miserables, West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera and possibly in the future Book of Mormon and Billy Elliot. Academy Broadway musicals are fun and artistically satisfying reproductions of Broadway shows and possibly popular Off-Broadway shows set in Philadelphia.