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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 11:42:33 -0700

text/plain (135 lines)

I will waste another post in response to Bob's mentioning the decrepit
nature of the old house and the physical problems with the roof etc.  Yes,
there were probably major structural problems due to lack of maintenance
and construction of facilities in roof top areas that were never intended
to support their weight, but all of this could have been addressed.  When
the Disney Organization rebuilt the New Amsterdam Theatre it was in
dreadful repair and its roof, and roof garden theatre were threatening to
collapse into the auditorium.  All structural problems were addressed.
Obviously with the will and financing, nothing is impossible.  The theatre
could have been resurrected and restored - but that would have only been
possible with the change of mindset and how we view our architectural and
cultural history - something that happened in New York with the loss of
Penn Station (the greatest single architectural rape in American History)
and the Old Met.  That laid the ground work for the Landmarks Preservation
Commission and eventually, the saving of Grand Central Station which was
scheduled to go the way of Penn Station and the Old Met.  Obviously, there
have historical and architectural gems that have vanished since, but many
more would have without it.


On Fri, Jun 8, 2018 at 11:30 AM, Donald Levine <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> 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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