The Academy of Music

The Grand Old Lady of Locust Street

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Photo by G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia
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Napoleon LeBrun built the Academy of Music in 1857, modeling its lavish interior on La Scala Opera House in Milan.

Philadelphia’s most revered performing space is an elegant socialite outside, with a discreet brick and gaslit-façade; inside, it’s a prima donna done up in scarlet with gold caryatids and a 5,000-pound crystal chandelier.

The oldest known opera house continuously in use in the U.S., the Academy is home to the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Ballet and “Broadway at the Academy,” a series of national productions.

For more than a century, its most famous resident was the Philadelphia Orchestra, which returns every January to play the Academy Anniversary Concert and Ball.


The History

The Academy's lavish interior is modeled after La Scala Opera House in Milan.

Momentous occasions have happened at the Academy of Music, which is a designated National Historic Landmark. In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant was nominated for his second term here; four years later (1876), Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” had its first U.S. performance.

John Phillip Sousa introduced his “The Stars and Stripes Forever” here, Philadelphian Jeannette MacDonald made her debut at age 6, Leopold Stokowski introduced Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand,” and Igor Stravinky’s “The Rite of Spring” was staged with Martha Graham dancing.

Don’t Miss

Ushers are among the Academy and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s most knowledgeable fans, and they welcome questions. One-hour tours of the Academy are also available with an advance reservation.

The Pennsylvania Ballet’s Nutcracker is a must see for children at Christmas.

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