Metropolitan Opera

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Coordinates: 40°46′22″N, 73°59′3″W

Image:Metropolitan Opera House At Lincoln Center.jpg
The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, seen from Lincoln Center Plaza
Image:Metropolitan opera 1937.jpg
A full house at the old Metropolitan Opera House, seen from the rear of the stage, at the Metropolitan Opera House for a concert by pianist Józef Hofmann, November 28, 1937.

The Metropolitan Opera Association of New York City, founded in April 1880, is a major presenter of Grand Opera. The Metropolitan is America's largest classical music organization, and annually presents some 240 opera performances. The home of the company, the Metropolitan Opera House is one of the premier opera stages in the world. The Met is one of the twelve resident organizations at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.


[edit] The Company

The Metropolitan Opera was founded in 1880 as an alternative to the Academy of Music. The Academy represented the highest social circle in New York society, and the board of directors were loath to admit members of new wealthy families into their aeire. The initial group of subscribers included the Morgan, Roosevelt, Astor and Vanderbilt families. Their creation, The Metropolitan Opera, long outlasted the Academy. Henry Abbey served as manager for the inaugural season.

Following Abbey's inaugural season, which had resulted in very large deficits, operas were given by a "pick-up" ensemble of relatively inexpensive German singers (which nevertheless included some of the most celebrated singers in Germany) who performed an international repertory, albeit in German.

This anomalous situation terminated at the time of the Great Fire, following which the Golden Age of Opera arrived at the Metropolitan under the celebrated management of Maurice Grau 1892-1903. The greatest (and most highly paid) operatic artists in the world then graced the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, notably the brothers Jean and Edouard de Reszke, Lilli Lehmann, Lillian Nordica, Nellie Melba, Milka Ternina, Emma Eames, Sofia Scalchi, Eugenia Mantelli, Jean Lassalle, Mario Ancona, Victor Maurel, Antonio Scotti and Pol Plançon.

From 1898 to 1986, the Metropolitan Opera went on a six-week tour following its season in New York. These were cancelled because of financial losses.

The administration of Heinrich Conried in 1903-1908, which saw the arrival of Enrico Caruso, unquestionably the most celebrated singer who ever appeared at the Old Metropolitan, was followed by the 25-year reign, 1908-1935 of the magisterial Giulio Gatti-Casazza, whose model planning, authoritative organizational skills and brilliant casts raised the level of Metropolitan opera to a prolonged and unforgettable Silver Age. Again, the greatest singers and conductors appeared at the Met.

The noted Canadian operatic tenor, Edward Johnson, was general manager between 1935 and 1950, successfully guiding the company through the dark years of the Depression and World War II. Zinka Milanov, Jussi Björling, Richard Tucker and Robert Merrill were first heard at the Met under his management. Sir Thomas Beecham, George Szell and Bruno Walter were among the great conductors of the Johnson era.

An aristocratic Austrian-turned-Englishman, Sir Rudolf Bing, was manager between 1950 and 1972. He presided over an era of great singing and glittering new productions, and guided the company's move to a new home in Lincoln Center. Among the many great artists Sir Rudolf introduced to New York audiences were Maria Callas, Birgit Nilsson, Renata Tebaldi, Joan Sutherland, Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Victoria de los Ángeles, Montserrat Caballé, Mario del Monaco, Franco Corelli, Carlo Bergonzi, Nicolai Gedda, Jon Vickers, Giorgio Tozzi and Cesare Siepi. Critics of Bing complained of a lack of great conducting during his regime, but he did offer such fine conductors as Fritz Stiedry, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Pierre Monteux, Erich Leinsdorf, Fritz Reiner, Karl Böhm and Herbert von Karajan.

Among the achievements of Bing's tenure was the integration of the Met's artistic roster. Marian Anderson's historic 1955 debut was followed by the introduction of a whole generation of fine African-American artists led by Leontyne Price (who inaugurated the new house in Lincoln Center), Grace Bumbry, George Shirley, and many others.

Following Bing's retirement in 1972, the Met's management was overseen by a succession of executives including Schuyler Chapin, Anthony Bliss, Bruce Crawford and Hugh Southern. All of these men led the Met in partnership with Music Director James Levine, the Met's guiding artistic force through the last third of the 20th century.

After a 16-year tenure, General Manager Joseph Volpe retired on 31 July 2006.

The current General Manager is Peter Gelb. Gelb began outlining his plans for the future in April 2006. These plans include more productions each year, ideas for shaving staging costs and attracting new audiences without deterring existing opera-lovers, whose average age, at the Met, is over 60. Gelb sees these issues as crucial for an organization which, to a far greater extent than any of the other great opera theatres of the world, is dependent on private financing.

Gelb is being watched to see if his enthusiasm at Sony Classical, where he previously worked, for "cross-over" productions (e.g. Yo-Yo Ma playing country music) might spill over into the Met's schedules. He calls himself "an old-style producer," but saw little future for purely classical recording when working in the classical-record business, an attitude that caused some anger.

[edit] The Met on radio and movie theatre screens

[edit] MET radio broadcasts

The Met is also known worldwide for its live radio broadcasts. The broadcast season, corresponding to the live production season, generally extends from December to the following May. The first broadcast was on December 25, 1931, a production of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel.

The famous Saturday afternoon broadcasts sponsored by Texaco began on December 7, 1940 with Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte's Le nozze di Figaro. After its merger with Chevron, the combined company, ChevronTexaco ended its sponsorship in April 2004, but the Met found financing to continue them through 2005. The 2005-2006 season was sponsored by Toll Brothers, manufacturers of luxury homes.

In the seven decades of its Saturday broadcasts, the Met has been introduced by the voices of only three permanent announcers. The legendary Milton Cross served from the inaugural broadcast until his death in 1975. He was succeeded by Peter Allen, who retired at the end of the 2003-2004 season. In addition, announcer Lloyd Moss twice substituted for Cross, and Deems Taylor was heard briefly as co-host during the early years. The present announcer, Margaret Juntwait, began her tenure in the 2004-2005 season.

[edit] MET on satellite radio

Metropolitan Opera Radio, a 24/7 opera channel carrying four evenings each week of live broadcasts from the current season plus archived broadcasts from past seasons during other hours, was created in September 2006 when the Met started a multi-year relationship with Sirius Satellite Radio. Margaret Juntwait was named the official announcer of Metropolitan Opera Radio. <ref>Sirius Radio's announcement of new relationship with the MET</ref>

[edit] MET broadcasts to movie theatres

Beginning with the 30 December 2006 Saturday matinee live performance of the 100-minute version of Julie Taymor's production of The Magic Flute, the MET will show six productions from the 2006/2007 season in selected movie theatres across the USA, Canada, and Britain via satellite download to the big screen.

[edit] Opera houses

[edit] The "Old Met"

The first Metropolitan Opera House opened on October 22, 1883, with a performance of Faust, was located on 1411 Broadway, the whole block between West 39th Street and West 40th Street on the west side of the street (40°45′15″N, 73°59′15″W) in the Garment District of Midtown. The original Metropolitan Opera House was designed by J. Cleaveland Cady and was gutted by fire on August 27, 1892. Following the fire the building was renovated extensively. As early as the turn of the century, the building was deemed too small for the company. Attempts to move the company to larger quarters, including a move to what is now Rockefeller Center, were thwarted for financial reasons. Only in 1966 did the opera company move to its present location at Lincoln Center. The original building, having failed to obtain landmark status, was razed in 1967.

[edit] The present-day Met

The Metropolitan Opera House, with approximately 3,800 seats, is located at Lincoln Center at Lincoln Square in the Upper West Side and was designed by architect Wallace K. Harrison. Although west-east roads do not run through Lincoln Center itself, the Metropolitan Opera House is parallel to the block from West 63rd Street to West 64th Street. The rear of the House meets Amsterdam Avenue and the entrance to the Opera House is at Lincoln Center Plaza which begins at Columbus Avenue. The building is clad in white travertine and the east facade is graced with five similar arches. On display in the lobby are two murals created for the space by Marc Chagall. The gold Proscenium is 54' wide and 54' high. The main curtain is custom-woven gold damask and is the largest tab curtain in the world.

The "New Met" opened on September 16, 1966, with the world premiere of Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra.

The Metropolitan Opera performs grand opera in rotating repertory, each week presenting seven performances of 4 to 5 different productions. The highly mechanized stage and support space facilitates this presentation. There are 7 full stage elevators, (60' wide, with double decks) and three slipstages, the upstage one containing a 60' diameter revolve (turntable). There are 103 motorized battens (linesets) for overhead lifting and there are two 100' tall fully-enveloping cycloramas.

In 1999 and in 2001, the Metropolitan Opera House hosted the MTV Video Music Awards while Radio City Music Hall was being renovated. It is regularly the location for touring opera and companies (such as the Kirov Opera), as well the principal venue for the American Ballet Theatre.

[edit] Notable Conductors

[edit] References


[edit] Bibliography

  • Meyer, Martin The Met: One Hundred Years of Grand Opera, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983. ISBN 0-671-47087-6
  • Robinson, Francis, Celebration: The Metropolitan Opera, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc, 1979. ISBN 0-385-12975-0
  • Wasserman, Adam, "Sirius Business", Opera News, December 2006

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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