John Legend performs Dec. 4 during opening week at The Met Philly. (Courtesy Live Nation Philadelphia)
Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Opera House has already lived many lives. It’s about to live another one.
The venue, which opened with 4,000 seats in 1908 as the largest theater of its kind in the world, has been the home of various opera companies, a movie theater, a ballroom, a sports venue and a church. On Dec. 3, it will be reborn as The Met Philly, a home for live music downtown.
The 110,000-square-foot space, which takes up an entire city block at Broad and Poplar streets, has been transformed into a posh concert venue in a partnership between concert promoter Live Nation, developer Eric Blumenfeld, and the Holy Ghost Headquarters church.
“The venue sat vacant for decades and the area was neglected,” said Geoff Gordon, regional vice president for Live Nation. When Blumenfeld bought the building in 2017 with a development plan, Live Nation agreed it “was a crown jewel, being ignored, and we all had a vision to bring the building back to life.”
Under the terms of the new partnership, Live Nation has a 29-year lease to operate and program the venue, Gordon said.
“The venue sits right in the heart of Philly’s downtown, and once we open, we will revitalize the entire area,” he said.
Renderings of the main room set up for a theater production and the Grande Salle lounge. (Courtesy Live Nation Philadelphia X2)
The new configuration will have fixed seating for 3,400 and space for 4,000 in a general admission setup — making the space bigger than the Philadelphia market’s other midsize spaces, such as the Fillmore, Franklin Music Hall, Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, the Academy of Music and Tower Theatre in Upper Darby.
The space has gone through a $56 million restoration and will be Philadelphia’s largest non-arena music venue, Gordon said.
Gordon plans for Live Nation to “bring a very broad menu of artists and acts to the venue,” starting with Bob Dylan, who will open the building Dec. 3.
Already booked are John Oliver, Mariah Carey, Weezer, Impractical Jokers, Jim Gaffigan, John Legend and podcast sensation “My Favorite Murder,” plus recently added shows like Tedeschi Trucks Band and Weird Al Yankovic.
“The programming speaks for itself,” Gordon said. “We’re looking for inclusion.”
“We’re looking at a wide array of programming,” Gordon said. We have room for everything from traditional concerts to dance music shows, table-and-chair floor plans for awards shows, supper club-style attractions, large Cirque-type theatrical productions, corporate events and even boxing matches.”
In addition to the main room, there are other more intimate spaces throughout the vast building, he said.
The concessions will be strictly upscale and provided by James Beard-winning chef Jean-Marie Lacroix’s Brûlée Catering.
“When we heard about the opportunity to revitalize the venue, we wanted to see something magnificent take place in this incredible and historic landmark destination,” said Jack O’Brien, vice president of operations for Brûlée, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Spectra.
“This is a breathtaking building,” he said. “Four stories, incredible sightlines, a wonderful feel. This was an opportunity to do something special. I’m in awe of what I’ve seen so far; it will be breathtaking when it’s unveiled in December.”
O’Brien said Brûlée would design a different food and beverage experience for each performance. “We’re taking an interesting approach; we’re going customize each menu,” he said. “We’re going to work with Live Nation to see what we can serve that will resonate with the performer and the kind of guest that will come to each show.”
This will not be traditional concession foods, O’Brien said, pointing to “small plates, similar to a Broadway theater” for many shows featuring crudités (traditional French appetizers consisting of sliced or whole raw vegetables typically dipped in a vinaigrette or other dipping sauce), charcuterie (prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, and pâtés) and antipastos.
“We also want to incorporate the Philadelphia feel, so we’ll also have things like stuffed pepper shooters, fresh-baked Philly-style pretzels with pimento cheese dip and local craft beers,” he said.
O’Brien also said the venue will host private events such as weddings, parties and private dance parties.
“We’re just blocks away from the Philly convention center,” he said. “We plan to market the venue to all the conventions that book the center.”
Gordon said ticket pricing will depend on the act. “Ticket prices are always determined by artists guarantees and expenses,” he said. “We definitely want to make the tickets affordable to most of the people.”
The midsize, midlevel venue fits in nicely with Live Nation’s strategy to have multiple venues in important cities that are perfect for whatever acts they want to bring to town, Gordon stressed.
“This is part of a bigger picture,” he said. “Live Nations’ vision to is cultivate acts and audiences to add to the other properties that Live Nation owns and operates in the city of Philadelphia, like The Fillmore, the Punchline Comedy Club, and the arenas and stadiums in the vicinity that we program.”
“The Met Philly will be the perfect-sized venue for many shows,” he said. “We also see the Met Philly as being the type of venue where acts can play multiple days in a smaller room. John Oliver, for example, will play four shows here. Center city Philly has not had this type of venue for a long time.”