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From: RAYMOND GOUIN <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:RAYMOND GOUIN <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 11 Jun 2018 11:00:54 -0400

text/plain (39 lines)


I was briefly involved in the attempts to save the old Met. Of greater import, I was in close proximity to the Met’s management during the 1960s so I can write based upon knowledge and not speculation or conjecture.

The condition of the old house had no bearing on whether to save it or not. Neither did the ideas of the day with regard to the saving of old and historically important structures. Also, while the need to generate income from the structure that would replace the old Met was of some import, it was given much greater weight than it actually had so as to serve as a fig leaf to cover the actual motivation behind the Met’s decision to tear down the old house.

That decision was near exclusively based upon the fear that – if allowed to remain standing – the Met would face stiff competition from another opera company that would ensconce itself in a newly refurbished old house where the Met would not only have to compete with another opera company having a venue where it could compete on near equal terms with the productions at Lincoln Center, but also where the Met would have to compete with itself in the form of the cachet, history and sentiment attached to the Met’s 75 year occupancy of the old building. To exacerbate the situation, there was subsequent confirmation from sources as to several potential competitors – at least two of which had credibility or viability – who, through the years, expressed an interest in taking over the old Met so as to give reasonable credence or substance to the Met’s fears.

As a result of that fear, the Met organized and developed a highly effective lobbying effort to assure that there would be no government support of any “sentimental” effort to “save the old house” (the words of the Met’s management, not mine).

The Met’s lobbying effort in this regard began in 1955 and achieved positive results as early as 1956. Thereafter, the Met would not even consider exploring the possibilities of moving to a new location (including other locations speculated upon prior to Lincoln Center) without the acceptance as a precondition to its consideration agreement that the old Met would be torn down.

That is why, when the Lincoln Center move became a reality, there was no active or actual political support to save the old house, a prerequisite to any chance of success in that endeavor.  None came from the City of New York. None came from any individuals of import in the state government. The only action that was taken was in the form of a courtesy bill filed in the General Assembly by an upstate legislator at the request of two of his constituents, which bill died in the Assembly without any support from the legislators.

It was my knowledge of the above which led to the brevity of my participation in the save the old Met campaign – by the time that campaign began -- spurred by the pending move to Lincoln Center  -- the Met already had a ten year history of successfully lobbying and obtaining commitments from those in power to guarantee that the building would be torn down.

Best from Boston.
Ray Gouin

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