New York’s Metropolitan Opera Company wasn’t always housed at the famed Lincoln Center Theater. From the Met’s inception until September 1966, performances took place on Broadway between 39th and 40th Streets West, in a building nicknamed “The Yellow Brick Brewery” for its industrial facade designed by J. Cleaveland Cady. The new home of the Met at Lincoln Center was engineered by the man behind Rockefeller Center, Wallace K. Harrison, and displays two larger-than-life murals by modernist artist Marc Chagall.
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I am scribbling notes for this blog from Orchestra Prime seat G22 at the Metropolitan Opera. The gorgeous Swarovski crystal chandeliers have begun their ascent to the ceiling of this vast and grand auditorium, the lights are dimming, the maestro is about to appear in the orchestra pit.
Our Smithsonian travelers – 25 of us who have gathered from all over the country for four days of opera – are totally primed to experience the magnificent Renée Fleming as Thäis – a fourth-century Egyptian courtesan who is transformed into a true believer by a monk and enters a convent somewhere deep in the Sahara desert. The monk, Athaneal, belatedly acknowledges his love for her and is tormented by his unrequited passion. Not a likely story? Well, they seldom are – but with 19th-century opera, we are talking about grand emotions and larger than life characters, not cinema verité. (more…)