The Met Philly

Philadelphia’s Met opened its doors in 1908 at the behest of the theatre impresario Oscar Hammerstein I and met with instant success, quickly becoming the area’s preeminent opera and orchestral theatre. Its run lasted for decades but eventually succumbed to neglect and became derelict. It remained in virtual ruin until 1995, when the local Holy Ghost Church began holding services there while helping to stabilise the building for their purposes. The church continues to hold services at the Met.

A massive renovation project was begun in 2017 with the goal of retaning the original interior and exterior design, including original plasterwork and the gold-painted rosettes adorning the 38ft proscenium arch above the stage.

Today, the 3,400-seat Metropolitan Opera is versatile in its ability to accommodate all types of audience. The space is made intimate by curtaining off sections of the two-level balcony which creates a room with a capacity of 2,700 or 1,900. Also, 835 of the floor seats in front of the stage can be removed for standing room that brings the capacity for general admission shows to as much as 4,000.

‘A lot of these rooms were made before sound reinforcement, and the acoustics are going to be excellent,’ says Clair Brothers, Josh Sadd. ‘Just in the realm of musicality, having a natural room is a great thing. Interestingly, the Met is a bit different in that it is not exclusively a music hall, club type venue. At its heart, it’s really a theatre.'

The Met Philly ArraysThe Met in Philly is a project conducted by Live Nation, which operates many properties in the area, including the Fillmore, where Clair Brothers provided a sound system in 2015. Clair Brothers’ involvement began when K2 Consulting’s Dustin Goen contacted Sadd about the Met project. ‘There’s an instant comfort level between us and our companies,' Goen says.

The team evaluated the project and made suggestions on equipment and implementation. ‘One can never be quite sure in advance how the room acoustics will end up sounding, given architectural variables and construction phases,’ Sadd warns.

The Met’s original acoustics were designed for unamplified performances, prompting the renovation teams make acoustical decisions such as hanging curtains to cover the sidewalls from front to back on all levels. They also gave large open areas in ceiling areas with an acoustical treatment to provide a natural sound. Consequently, the room retains its opera and aesthetics. ‘Add a great PA, and you’ve got a room with wonderful sound,’ Sadd observes. The Met’s main PA is now a Clair Brothers stereo C12 line array with 16 cabinets per side; eight iS218 double 18-inch subs flown per side; and eight CS218 double 18-inch subs beneath the stage.

Remaking the Met for amplified music required dealing with balconies and box elements where the architecture has a tendency to obscure the clarity of sound in areas. Several time-delayed speakers were installed to fill out the frequency range under the balconies, on walls behind columns and inside the box seat areas. Clair Brothers FF2 and kiTCurve12 front fills are aimed underneath the balcony to the left and right sides of the stage near the front.

In the rear of the room on the first level, where the intermediate Loge level balcony is situated, a series of kiTCurve12 under balcony speakers were installed in addition to 16 P8s distributed around the balconies and box seats as fill speakers. On the Mezzanine level, there are three separate arrays of three kiTCurve12s as over-balcony delays. All loudspeakers are time-aligned and equalised to provide further coverage and clarity throughout.

Prior to the grand opening, everyone involved – including Jim Devenney, senior systems designer at Clair Solutions, the project’s installation company – walked the room from the front row to the last. 'One of the guys from Live Nation told me that the best sound in the room was in the last seat,’ Sadd says. ‘So, I checked it out and was impressed with how intimate, natural and clear the sound was. You don’t feel far away at all.’

With Bob Dylan the first act on its stage 110 years after The Met its doors opened for the first time, this is the beginning of a new era and it is already ramping up to host more than 200 shows in 2020.

More: www.clairbrothers.com

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