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The Academy of Vocal Arts

Advanced training for opera singers

Iolanta at the Academy of Vocal Arts

Students Perform Iolanta at the Academy of Vocal Arts Credit: The Academy of Vocal Arts


The Experience

The only tuition-free institution in the U.S. devoted exclusively to advanced opera studies transforms talented singers into illustrious interpreters. When they are chosen for this competitive, four-year certificate program, many singers already have masters’ degrees and are performing in regional opera houses. So, the singing starts on a high note at the fully staged productions in the AVA’s historic headquarters, a 19th-century townhouse that includes the 150-seat Helen Corning Warden Theater.

Dramatic values are keen, with singers coached in acting, movement, languages and audition skills. Veteran AVA Music Director Christofer Macatsoris conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia for AVA productions. Opera scenes, art song and oratorio recitals are open to the public.


Philadelphian Helen Corning Warden and voice teacher Edgar Milton Cooke established the professional training school in 1934. Graduates have sung in the world’s leading opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Milan’s La Scala. Bass James Morris, sopranos Ruth Ann Swenson and Indra Thomas, baritone John Packard and tenor Jesus Garcia are among its impressive roster.

Insider Tip
Go early to linger over the lavish and arresting interiors at the Helen Corning Warden Theater, which includes the distinctive Frank Furness-designed, hand-carved mahogany interior and bas-reliefs inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Pre-Raphaelite style paintings by protégés of William Morris Hunt.

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