Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building (2013)
30 Lafayette Avenue (Peter Jay Sharp)
651 Fulton Street (Harvey)
321 Ashland Place (Fisher)
|Location||Brooklyn, New York|
|Type||Performing arts center|
Howard Gilman Opera House: 2,109
Harvey Theater: 874
Fishman Space: 250
Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, New York City
|Architect||Herts & Tallant|
|Architectural style||Renaissance Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||06000251|
|Added to NRHP||May 2, 2006|
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is a major performing arts venue in Brooklyn, New York City, known as a center for progressive and avant garde performance. It presented its first performance in 1861 and began operations in its present location in 1908.
Today, BAM has a reputation as a leader in presenting "cutting edge" performance and has grown into an urban arts center which focuses on both international arts presentation and local community needs. Its purpose is to provide an environment in which its audiences – annually, more than 550,000 people – can experience a broad array of aesthetic and cultural programs. BAM has been headed by Karen Brooks Hopkins, President, and Joseph V. Melillo, Executive Producer, for over 25 years.
- 1861: The Academy of Music on Montague Street is inaugurated on January 15, with a program including Mozart and Verdi. Mercadante’s Il Giuramento, the first opera performance, appears one week later with First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln in attendance
- 1864: The Brooklyn and Long Island Sanitary Fair raises money for the United States Sanitary Commission aiding sick and wounded Union Civil War soldiers
- 1884: George W. Cable entertain with readings and storytelling
- 1891: Booker T. Washington delivers a speech on full emancipation
- 1903: The first Brooklyn Academy of Music burns to the ground
- 1908: Brooklyn Academy of Music opens new home on Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene The gala opening features the Metropolitan Opera production of Charles Gounod’s Faust with Geraldine Farrar and Enrico Caruso.
- 1908: Isadora Duncan dances with Walter Damrosch conducting the New York Symphony Orchestra
- 1917: Sarah Bernhardt gives six performances in three days at the age of 73, despite an amputated leg
- 1931: Paul Robeson gives a song recital
- 1936: The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences merges with the Brooklyn Academy of Music
- 1937: Herva Nelli makes her operatic debut, as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana.
- 1940: President Franklin D. Roosevelt appears to packed crowds with 2,200 in the Opera House; 700 are onstage, and 6,000 outside in the street
- 1948: Pearl Primus and Company dance her experiences of Africa
- 1952: Physical deterioration necessitates the removal of the cornice at 30 Lafayette Avenue. A rescue plan includes paying New York City a rent of $1 a year for 100 years
- 1962: Rudolf Nureyev makes his American debut with the Chicago Ballet shortly after defecting from the Soviet Union
- 1967: Harvey Lichtenstein is appointed president of the Academy
- 1968: Merce Cunningham Dance Company performs its first extended New York season
- 1969: Robert Wilson makes his BAM debut with The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud
- 1971: The Royal Shakespeare Company makes its BAM debut with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Peter Brook
- 1973: BAM’s newly renovated ballroom is formally dedicated as the Lepercq Space, named after Paul Lepercq, chairman of the board
- 1977: A month before the fall season, a 30-inch city water main under Ashland Place bursts, causing severe flooding
- 1977: BAM presents the inaugural DanceAfrica, created by Chuck Davis, the country’s largest celebration of African-American dance
- 1981: The Next Wave series debuts with the Trisha Brown, Laura Dean, and Lucinda Childs dance companies and Philip Glass’ opera Satyagraha
- 1983: Laurie Anderson makes her BAM debut with United States: Parts I—IV in the second season of the Next Wave series
- 1983: Next Wave features The Photographer with music by Philip Glass, directed by JoAnne Akalaitis, and choreographed by David Gordon
- 1984: Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal makes its BAM debut with The Rite of Spring, 1980, Café Müller, and Bluebeard’s Castle
- 1987: BAM produces its first Martin Luther King Jr. tribute with the Brooklyn borough president’s office
- 1987: The BAM Majestic Theater is inaugurated with Peter Brook’s nine-hour-long The Mahabharata
- 1989: The American premiere of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Atys with Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris features the BAM debut of William Christie and Les Arts Florissants
- 1992: The American debut of Mark Morris Dance Group’s The Hard Nut
- 1995: The Swedish Royal Dramatic Theatre returns as part of a city-wide Bergman Festival with over 350 events; BAM’s Karen Brooks Hopkins is executive producer
- 1997: BAMcafé opens in the Lepercq Space
- 1998: The Carey Playhouse is converted to the four-screen BAM Rose Cinemas, home to BAMcinématek, featuring repertory, independent, and foreign films
- 1998: Ballett Frankfurt first appears at BAM in EIDOS : TELOS choreographed by William Forsythe
- 1999: Harvey Lichtenstein retires and is succeeded by Karen Brooks Hopkins (president) and Joseph V. Melillo (executive producer)
- 1999: The Majestic Theater is renamed the BAM Harvey Theater in honor of Harvey Lichtenstein, in conjunction with an endowment gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Trust
- 1999: BAMcafé Live begins programming free weekend music in the Lepercq Space
- 2002: Fiona Shaw plays the title role of Euripides’ Medea, directed by Deborah Warner; following its BAM run the Abbey Theatre production moves to Broadway
- 2003: Royal National Theatre / Market Theatre of Johannesburg production of The Island, originally directed by Athol Fugard
- 2005: Eat, Drink & Be Literary begins its first season in partnership with the National Book Awards in the BAMcafé
- 2006: Robert Redford inaugurates Sundance Institute at BAM, a three-year partnership
- 2006: BAM celebrates Steve Reich @ 70, including choreography by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Akhram Khan
- 2007: Visual artist William Kentridge directs his interpretation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute
- 2007: Sufjan Stevens performs The BQE, a Next Wave Festival commission exploring the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway
- 2008: Paul Simon performs in three BAM-produced concert engagements in a month-long residency, Love in Hard Times: The Music of Paul Simon
- 2009: BAM launches The Bridge Project, a transatlantic partnership with London’s Old Vic and Neal Street Productions; productions of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, directed by Sam Mendes, open at BAM before touring the globe
- 2009: BAMcinemafest is inaugurated, featuring independent films and repertory cinema from around the world
- 2009: Cate Blanchett plays Blanche Dubois in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Liv Ullmann
- 2010: Ground is broken on the BAM Richard B. Fisher Building, named in his honor by his widow, Jeannie Donovan Fisher, with substantial support from New York City
- 2010: Alexei Ratmansky creates a new version of The Nutcracker for American Ballet Theatre’s five-year seasonal residency at BAM
- 2010: DanceMotion USA, a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State produced by BAM, showcases contemporary American dance abroad; the first tours features Evidence, ODC/Dance, and Urban Bush Women
- 2011: BAM celebrates ¡Sí Cuba!, a citywide festival of Cuban culture, with the BAM presentations of Creole Choir and Ballet Nacional de Cuba
- 2011: BAM’s 150th anniversary celebration begins with the restaging of the landmark production of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Atys, conducted by William Christie with Les Arts Florissants
- 2012: Jimmy Kimmel Live! broadcasts a week of shows from October 29 to November 2.
19th and early 20th centuries
Founded in 1861, the first BAM facility at 176-194 Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights was conceived as the home of the Philharmonic Society of Brooklyn. The building, designed by architect Leopold Eidlitz, housed a large theater seating 2,200, a smaller concert hall, dressing and chorus rooms, and a vast "baronial" kitchen. BAM presented amateur and professional music and theater productions, including performers such as Ellen Terry, Edwin Booth, Tomas Salvini, and Fritz Kreisler.
After the building burned to the ground on November 30, 1903, plans were made to relocate to a new facility in the then fashionable neighborhood of Fort Greene. The cornerstone was laid at 30 Lafayette Avenue in 1906 and a series of opening events were held in the fall of 1908 culminating with a grand gala evening featuring Geraldine Farrar and Enrico Caruso in a Metropolitan Opera production of Charles Gounod's Faust. The Met would continue to present seasons in Brooklyn, featuring star singers such as Caruso, right through until 1921.
In 1967 Harvey Lichtenstein was appointed executive director and during the 32 years that Lichtenstein was BAM's leader, BAM experienced a renaissance. BAM is now recognized internationally as a progressive cultural center well known for The Next Wave Festival (started in 1983). Artists who have presented their works there include Philip Glass, Peter Brook, Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham, Laurie Anderson, Lee Breuer, ETHEL, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Steve Reich, Seal, Alice in Chains, Robert Wilson, BLACKstreet, Ingmar Bergman, The Whirling Dervishes and the Kirov Opera directed and conducted by Valery Gergiev among others. Lichtenstein gave a home to the Chelsea Theater Center, in residence from 1967-1977.
BAM is currently under the leadership of President Karen Brooks Hopkins and Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo.
BAM's Peter Jay Sharp Building houses the Howard Gilman Opera House and the BAM Rose Cinemas. It was designed by the firm Herts & Tallant in 1908. It is a "U" shaped building with an open court in the center of the lot between two theater wings above the first story. It measures 190 feet along Lafayette Avenue, 200 feet deep, and 70 feet high. The building has a high base of gray granite with cream colored brick trimmed in terra cotta with some marble detail above. It is located within the Fort Greene Historic District.
BAM's facilities include:
In the Peter Jay Sharp Building, at 30 Lafayette Avenue:
- Howard Gilman Opera House, with 2,109 seats.
- Rose Cinemas (formerly the Carey Playhouse) opened in 1997, allowing Brooklynites the chance to see more art films without having to go to Manhattan.
- Lepercq Space, originally BAM's ballroom, now a flexible event space and home to receptions, rentals, and BAMcafé. BAMcafé is open for dinner on nights when there is a performance in the Opera House. BAMcafé Live is a free series of live music performances on select Friday and Saturday nights.
- Hillman Attic Studio, a flexible rehearsal/performing space
In the BAM Harvey building, at 651 Fulton Street:
- Harvey Theater, with 874 seats, formerly known as the Majestic Theater, named in Lichtenstein's honor in 1999. A renovation by architect Hugh Hardy left the interior unpainted and with often exposed stonework, giving theater a unique feel of a "modern ruin". In April 2014, CNN named the BAM Harvey as one of the "15 of the World's Most Spectacular Theaters." 
In the Fisher Building, 321 Ashland Place:
- BAM Fishman Space, a 250-seat black-box theater
- BAM Fisher Hillman Studio, a flexible rehearsal and performance space
- New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Postal, Matthew A. (ed. and text); Dolkart, Andrew S. (text). (2009) Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.) New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p.243
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.
- Kathy Howe (September 1996). "National Register of Historic Places Registration:Brooklyn Academy of Music".
- New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission "Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District Designation Report" (September 26, 1978)
- Brooklyn Academy of Music
- Brooklyn Academy of Music on NYC-ARTS.org
- Brooklyn Academy of Music on NYCkidsARTS.org