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Subject: Re: the real final night at the old Met 1966
From: Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 8 Jun 2018 11:30:20 -0700
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I will try my hand at this.  I was twelve at my first visit to the Old Met
in Nov. 1964.  I believe I saw about 10 performances total in the Old House
before it closed in 1966.  I remember sitting in the orchestra (my parents
seats), parterre (first ring), grand tier (2nd ring), and family circle
(5th ring - on my lonesome - yes, back then my parents allowed me to take
the LIRR all by my self into the city).  I remember a few things.  First,
being in the orchestra and having one of those beloved support columns
sharing my space and a smigen of my view, a real side view in a parterre
box close to the stage, and the sense of being really far away in the
family circle.  The acoustics never seemed a problem to teenage me.  I do
remember feeling isolated in the family circle but never so as at the New
Met.  While the capacity of both houses was very close (3600 plus in the
old house to 3800 plus in the new house), the actual physical dimensions of
the new house seem much greater.  The old house was a horse shoe, the new
one is a modified horse shoe/fan shape.  As for views, yes there were
obstructions in the old house but the new house has hundreds of partial
views (most of the side balconies) and great acoustics in certain places
but shitty acoustics in other, especially anywhere under a deep overhang -
the rear orchestra is the worst offender here as its the deepest and lowest
but the last 3-4 rows of the Grand Tier and Dress Circle are no bargains
sound wise either.

The gorgeous baroque interior from the 1903 Carrere and Hastings renovation
was the glory of the house.  I remember all of the halls and public spaces
as being dingy and cramped.  Obviously, they had not been well maintains by
the time of the closing.  But the new house has far better facilities when
you are not in your seats.  I believe it would have been nice of some
arrangement could have been made to preserve the house for visiting troupes
and the like but the Met needed the income that development of the property
gave them.  Of course, it is all moot now as they eventually sold the land
and has resorted to the farce of mortgaging their Chagalls. (Peter Gelb,
thy name is putz - although the Met Board has to be totally complicit in
this).

I have no doubt that today, even ten years after, some way would have been
found to preserve the house - air rights would have been transferred and we
would all be enjoying the beauties of the auditorium with the added bonus
of totally renovated and updated public spaces and use of the theatre that
negated the severe short comings of the back stage areas.

One final note, there used to be a plaque on the 39th street side that
noted the block as being the location of the former Metropolitan Opera
House.  When the building was sold, that seemed to vanish as the garmentos
or whom ever made the decision, decided to replace it with a memorial to
Golda Meir, an estimable lady whose only relationship with New York I think
was as UN Ambassador from Israel.  A native of Milwaukee and a tough as
nails PM, she deserves remembrance but I believe the Met Plaque should have
remained.

Donald

On Fri, Jun 8, 2018 at 11:08 AM, David Kubiak <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> There was what I think must have been a repeat of an older documentary on
> the transition from the old to the new Met (Leontyne Price was completely
> disarming in her appreciation of how great a singer she was -- that's a
> real
> diva).  I thought the documentary was very sophisticated in its
> presentation
> of the kind of thinking that was typical in the NY of Robert Moses, and for
> that matter, Rudolph Bing.
>
> My question is this.  There must be only a few people left on the List who
> remember the old house.  Do you feel there should have been steps taken to
> make it more practical rather than tearing it down?  It may be my
> imagination, but once the technology gets good enough I hear on the Sirius
> broadcasts a kind of very particular resonance from the the original house
> that the new house utterly  lacks.  It's different from, but almost as
> pronounced as Bayreuth, whose broadcasts you can identify just from the
> sound.
>
> I realize that many seats had obstructed views, there was no place to store
> productions, etc., etc.  But should the old Met have been saved, and would
> our changed perceptions of historic architecture be able to do it today?
>
> David Kubiak
>
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