Jazz Lives Philadelphia @ The Met.
The dilapidated Metropolitan Opera house has been dark for decades, used only by a church group that fortunately stabilized the 108-year old building but lacked the funds to fully renovate the place.
On Saturday, however, it was filled with music for the first time since the 1980s.
Built in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein, grandfather of the legendary lyricist and playwright, the facility offered opera five days per week for two years, back when North Philly was the land of the Nuveau Riche, home to the industrialists who profited from the factories around the city.
Hammerstein ran into financial problems and sold the building to the Metropolitan Opera Company, thus the name. It operated as The Met for many years, offering Vaudeville performances as well as plays and operas. The building was sold again and again later, becoming, among other things, a basketball arena, a home for wrestling and then a church.
Over the years, the building continued to crumble.
Eric Blumenfeld took over the property a few years ago and the interior is now in a major rehabilitation phase. Reports say that Blumenfeld, who is also converting the Divine Lorraine into residential housing, wants to make The Met a music venue again.
Jazz Lives Philadelphia, a nonprofit that aims to celebrate jazz locally, hosted the show Saturday with performances by Candice Hoyes, Josh Lee & The Family, The Daud El-Bakara Quintet and the Jazz Lives Philadelphia Big Band, featuring Ted Nash, who is a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
Hundreds of people stood in the massive, unheated space as the music bounced around the cavernous room.
When it was built, the facility seated 4,200 people. Once completed, The Met could hold more fans than most of the other large venues in the city, like the the Tower Theater (around 3,100 people), the Electric Factory (roughly 3,000) and The Fillmore (approximately 2,500). The Met has the ornate, turn-of-the-century look of The Trocadero but would be about four times the size.
It was an exciting experience, creating a lot of optimism for the future of the building.