Monday, November 17, 2008

Metropolitan Opera House

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center
Broadway and West 65th Street

The Metropolitan Opera was founded in 1883. The first Metropolitan Opera House was built on Broadway and 39th Street by a group of wealthy businessmen who wanted their own opera house. In the company’s early years everything was sung in Italian (even Carmen and Lohengrin), soon followed by a shift to German (including Aida and Faust), before finally settling on a policy of performing works in their original language.

The Metropolitan Opera House (Broadway at 39th St.) in 1905.

Enrico Caruso first sang at the Met in 1903, and by the time of his death had performed there more times than with all the world’s other opera companies combined. Arturo Toscanini made his debut in 1908 (there were two seasons with both Toscanini and Gustav Mahler on the conducting roster). Later, Bruno Walter, George Szell, Fritz Reiner, and Dimitri Mitropoulos contributed powerful musical direction. James Levine made his debut in 1971 and has been Music Director since 1976 (holding also the title of Artistic Director 1986-2004).

Almost from the beginning, it was clear that the opera house on 39th Street did not have adequate stage facilities. However, it was not until the Metropolitan Opera joined with other New York institutions in forming Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts that a new home became possible. The new Metropolitan Opera House, which opened at Lincoln Center in September of 1966, was equipped with the finest technical facilities. Seating capacity is 3,800.

Hansel und Gretel was the first complete opera broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera on Christmas Day, 1931. Regular Saturday afternoon live radio broadcasts quickly made the Metropolitan Opera a permanent presence in communities throughout the United States and Canada. The Met continues its hugely successful radio broadcast series — now in its 77th year — the longest-running classical music series in American broadcast history, which is now heard in 42 countries around the world.

In 1995, the Metropolitan introduced Met Titles, a unique system of simultaneous translation. Met Titles appear on individual computerized screens mounted in specially built railings at the back of each row of seats, providing libretto translations into English, Spanish and German. “Met Titles” are provided for all Metropolitan Opera performances, and have recently expanded to include Spanish and German for select operas.

In the 2006-07 season, the company launched Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD, a series of performance transmissions shown live in high definition (HD) in movie theaters around the world. The series expanded from six to eight opera transmissions in 2007-08, reaching over 600 participating venues in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Each season the Metropolitan stages more than two hundred opera performances in New York. More than 800,000 people attend the performances in the opera house during the season, and millions more experience the Met through advanced new media distribution initiatives and state-of-the-art technology.

Click images to enlarge.

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