Little Bits of History

It’s Not Over ‘Til the Fat Lady Sings

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 18, 2010

The Metropolitan Opera House

September 16, 1966: The New Metropolitan Opera House opens as part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts with the presentation of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra. The Metropolitan Opera has been in business since October 22, 1883 when Gounod’s Faust was presented. The first opera house was located on Broadway in the Manhattan district of New York City.

The Metropolitan Opera House of 1883 was built by a group of NYC industrialists to compete with the Academy of Music. Some of the original investors were the Vanderbilts, Morgans, and Astors who owned the “old” Met and kept box seats for their use. They rented out the building to an impresario or entertainment group who then produced the operas that were presented to the public. By 1933, the Metropolitan Opera Association was formed as a non-profit opera presenter. They purchased the opera house in 1940.

As far back as the turn of the century, the original building was considered too small for the company. However, financial concerns kept The Met where it was. Finally, the new Met was opened with 4,000 seats at Lincoln Center. The Proscenium, the archway over the front of the stage, measures 54 feet wide by 54 feet high. The main stage is 103 x 90 feet which is very similar to the old Met. However, there are additional side and rear stages that create an area that is six times greater than the old theater.

Twenty-nine operas have had their world premier at The Met, including Antony and Cleopatra. The three most frequently performed operas are La Boheme, Aida, and Carmen, in that order. Each year, more than 800,000 people attend performances while millions more experience the grandeur via radio and television.

“Every afternoon I listened to the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts and when I was four, I told my mother and father that it was my destiny to sing there, that I was going to sing at the Metropolitan Opera of New York City.” – Dixie Carter

“[Even the warhorses have been exercised. Five years ago, McKenzie came out with a new staging of Swan Lake that] whipped the audience at the Metropolitan Opera House into a frenzied ovation, … a ballet for both the tired critic and the tired businessman.” – Anna Kisselgoff

“An opera begins long before the curtain goes up and ends long after it has come down. It starts in my imagination, it becomes my life, and it stays part of my life long after I’ve left the opera house.” – Maria Callas

“Opera stars know that biology is destiny. Sometime in their 50s or early 60s, the powerful, flexible and ultimately mysterious instrument that has been the source of their artistry frays, cracks and disappears.” – Michael Walsh

Also on this day, in 1976 Shavarsh Karapetyan saved twenty people from drowning.

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