A Brief History of New York’s Metropolitan Opera

A Brief History of New York's Metropolitan Opera

The New York Metropolitan Opera (The Met) is the most well known brand of classical music organization throughout the music world in North America. This is one of the top venues on the planet for opera. In 1883, this company was founded by few prominent families in the New York City. These included iconic names as Vanderbilt, Astor and J.P. Morgan. This was the first opera house built at Broadway 39th Street and a premiere performance was held on 1883, October 22. The company for the first season elected to sing in Italian and even operas were originally composed in German and French. After severe fiscal distress from the cost overruns of the first season, it engaged inexpensive German singers for several years to perform The Met.

The 19th century end was the time when the Metropolitan Opera enjoyed a reputation for showcasing the best Europe opera singers. This included continental starts Lilli Lehmann, Nellie Melba alsongside the De Reszke brothers (Edouard and Jean), Pol Plancon and Mario Ancona. Enrico Caruso gave his debut in 1903. He gave more performances before he died in 1921 at the Met. This was the era that showed important American opera singers rise and each wanted to be heard on the Metropolitan Opera stage. The early stars were Lillian Nordica and Emma Eaves, followed by Rosa Ponselle and Geraldine Farrar.

The Met enjoyed a unique stamp. In the years 1908 to 1935, the New Yorks Metropolitan Opera attracted top singers and it became prominent as Mets Silver Age. It saw luminaries such as Lauritz Melchior, Beniamino Gigli, Laurence Tibbett, Maria Jeritza and more.  Between 1950-1972 there was another dynamic manager, Rudolph Bing. His efforts removed all the old practices and there were regular weekly performances. The Met attracted singers such as Nicolai Gedda, Carlo Bergonzi, Elisabeth Schwartzkopf and Joan Sutherland, singing operas in a range.

In between 1990 to 2006, Joseph Volpe held the general manager post and he expanded the company’s touring schedule and got involved in world premieres. Among the singers in this period who got prominence were Anna Netrebko, Angela Gheorghiu, Renee Fleming, Ben Heppner and Bryn Terfel. In 2006, the general manager was Peter Gelb. His innovations included outdated productions going back to early 1970s to give fresh interpretations. This was the only chance for many opera fans to hear to this opera production.

Gelb created ‘The Met in HD’ and in 2006-2007, Met had six operas and sold over 300,000 tickets. In 2007-2008 it held eight performances and had more than one million theater goers. Now it includes innovative stagings with HD expansion on the Met stage. There have been labor negotiations in the past years and the economy downturn in the 2008-2009 saw patronage dropping its funding levels to the lowest in decades and the Met pursues to be high quality opera in the Western hemisphere.  Even today, with lots of struggle, the New York’s Metropolitan Opera Company boasts of its showcasing the best singers in the beloved operas.

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