Joint program with Fox Chapel Branch via Zoom
Speaker: Jonnet Solomon, Executive Director of the National Opera House
February 8, 2022 at 10 AM via Zoom
The National Opera House is rising like a phoenix from the ashes. Not literally . . . but almost. The derelict building stood forlorn – abandoned for nearly 30 years – when, in 2000, Jonnet Solomon ‘discovered’ it on Apple Street in Homewood. The formerly magnificent Queen Anne-style home wasn’t much to look at, but the historical marker attending it suggested a much richer history than its dilapidated exterior revealed.
The former headquarters of the National Negro Opera Company had just found its champion. Later that same year, Ms. Solomon purchased the structure along with Miriam White, a long-time resident of the neighborhood. Though Ms. White is now gone, Jonnet Solomon has worked ever since to preserve what could be saved of the old opera house and restore what could not.
The project received an enormous boost last April in the form of a $500,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation; in July, the African American Cultural Heritage Fund added another $75,000. The money will go a long way in helping the National Opera House project reach its estimated $2 million goal.
After moving to Pittsburgh from Guyana with her family in 1984, Ms. Solomon graduated from Duquesne University. Though trained as a tax accountant, music was always her passion. Jonnet is now the Executive Director of the National Opera House (since 2020) while serving simultaneously as the Executive Director of the Steel City Arts Initiative. The National Opera House gained prominence recently when it was declared one of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places for 2020, the purpose of which is to showcase examples of our nation’s heritage at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. The good news is that, in its 33-year history, fewer than 5% of listed sites have been lost. Jonnet Solomon’s mission is to make sure the National Opera House won’t be one of them.
Join us as Ms. Solomon describes her goals for the old opera house and her vision for what she hopes it will become.