Metropolitan Opera Company

Metropolitan Opera Company,

term used in referring collectively to the organizations that have produced opera at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City. The original house, at West 39th Street and Broadway, was built by members of New York society who could not be accommodated with boxes at the Academy of Music. The first presentation, on Oct. 22, 1883, was Gounod's Faust. Among the early managers were Henry E. Abbey, Leopold DamroschDamrosch, Leopold,
1832–85, German conductor. After taking a degree in medicine, he became (1857) first violinist in the ducal orchestra at Weimar, where he was a friend of Liszt and Wagner.
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, Edmond Stanton, and Maurice Grau. A devastating fire prevented production of any opera during the season 1892–93, and rebuilding was undertaken by a new company, the Metropolitan Opera and Real Estate Company. The first of the galaxy of great stars to make the house famous had already appeared. There was no resident company in the season 1897–98, but the Maurice Grau Opera Company was active from 1898 to 1903, and the period was brilliant with virtuoso singers. The Conried Metropolitan Opera Company was formed in 1903, with Heinrich Conried as manager.

In Nov., 1903, Enrico CarusoCaruso, Enrico
, 1873–1921, Italian operatic tenor, b. Naples. The natural beauty, range, and power of his voice made him one of the greatest singers in the history of opera. He studied for three years with Guglielmo Vergine and made his operatic debut in Naples in 1894.
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 made his debut and by the following season had assumed his place as the dominant figure of the company. Conried retired in 1908, and the following season saw the coming of Giulio Gatti-CasazzaGatti-Casazza, Giulio
, 1869–1940, Italian operatic manager. In 1893 he succeeded his father as director of the municipal theater at Ferrara. After directing (1898–1908) the La Scala Opera Company in Milan, he became (1908) director of the Metropolitan Opera, New
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 as director and Alfred Hertz, Gustav MahlerMahler, Gustav
, 1860–1911, composer and conductor, born in Austrian Bohemia of Jewish parentage. Mahler studied at the Univ. of Vienna and the Vienna Conservatory.
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, and Arturo ToscaniniToscanini, Arturo
, 1867–1957, Italian conductor, internationally recognized as one of the world's great conductors. He studied cello at the Parma Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1885.
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 as conductors; the name was now Metropolitan Opera Company. Toscanini's departure in 1915 was a serious artistic loss for the company. In Feb., 1935, during Gatti-Casazza's final season, Kirsten FlagstadFlagstad, Kirsten
, 1895–1962, Norwegian soprano. She made her debut in 1913 but sang only in Scandinavia until 1934, when she appeared at the Bayreuth Festival. In 1935 she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, as Sieglinde in Wagner's Die Walküre
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 made her debut. Herbert WitherspoonWitherspoon, Herbert
, 1873–1935, American basso, b. Buffalo, N.Y.; grad. Yale, 1895, studied music with Edward MacDowell. He studied both painting and singing in New York City, London, Paris, and Berlin.
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 was appointed in May, 1935, to succeed Gatti-Casazza but died only a few weeks later. Edward JohnsonJohnson, Edward,
1881–1959, Canadian tenor and operatic manager, b. Guelph, Ont. As Eduardo di Giovanni, he sang in Italian opera houses (1912–19). In 1920 he joined the Chicago Opera Company and in 1922, the Metropolitan.
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 was appointed in his place. In 1932 the Metropolitan Opera Association, Inc., was formed, and performances were thenceforth underwritten by public subscription. In 1940 the association bought the house from the Metropolitan Opera and Real Estate Company, marking the final step in transference from private to public sponsorship. In June, 1949, Rudolf BingBing, Rudolf
, 1902–97, Austrian operatic manager. Naturalized a British subject in 1946, he was general manager of the Glyndebourne operatic festivals (1934–49) and artistic manager of the Edinburgh International Festival (1947–49).
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 was appointed to succeed Johnson. A controversial figure, he brought many noted singers to the company, including Marian AndersonAnderson, Marian,
1897–1993, American contralto, b. Philadelphia. She was the first African American to be named a permanent member of the Metropolitan Opera Company, as well as the first to perform at the White House.
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, Renata TebaldiTebaldi, Renata
, 1922–2004, Italian lyric soprano. She received early musical training at home and at the Boito Conservatory, Parma. In 1944 she made her professional debut and in 1946 sang at the reopening of La Scala in Milan.
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, Franco CorelliCorelli, Franco
, 1921–2003, Italian tenor. He made his operatic debut at Spoleto in 1952 as Don José in Bizet's Carmen and debuted with the Metropolitan Opera in 1961, singing Manrico in Verdi's Il Trovatore.
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, Joan SutherlandSutherland, Dame Joan,
1926–2010, Australian coloratura soprano and one of the most famous singers of the 20th cent. Sutherland studied in her hometown of Sydney, where she made her concert debut (1947) in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas
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, Maria CallasCallas, Maria Meneghini
, 1923–77, Greek-American soprano, b. New York City. At 13, Callas moved to Greece, where she studied at the Royal Conservatory in Athens. Her professional debut took place in 1947 at Verona.
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, Birgit NilssonNilsson, Birgit
, 1918–2005, Swedish soprano. Her powerful voice first came to international attention at the Munich Opera, where she was heard (1954–55) as Brünnhilde in Wagner's Die Walküre and in the title role in Strauss's Salome.
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, Tito Gobbi, and Leontyne PricePrice, Leontyne
, 1927–, American soprano, b. Laurel, Miss., as Mary Violet Leontine Price. She studied voice at Juilliard with Florence Page Kimball. Subsequently she appeared as Bess in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
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. Among the many other great stars who have appeared at the Met over its many years are Marcella SembrichSembrich, Marcella
, 1858–1935, stage name of Praxede Marcelline Kochanska, Polish coloratura soprano. She studied piano and violin at the Lemberg Conservatory. Urged by Liszt to train her voice, she studied in Vienna and Italy and made her operatic debut in Athens in 1877.
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, Dame Nellie MelbaMelba, Dame Nellie,
1861–1931, Australian soprano, whose name originally was Helen Porter Mitchell. After study with Mathilde Marchesi in Paris, she made her operatic debut in Brussels in 1887.
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, Lilli LehmanLehmann, Lilli
, 1848–1929, German operatic soprano. She made her debut in 1865 in Prague and in 1870 joined the Royal Opera, Berlin. Her stature as one of the greatest singers of her time was realized in London and in New York City where she was a member of the
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, Feodor ChaliapinChaliapin, Feodor Ivanovich
, 1873–1938, Russian operatic bass. His powerful and supple voice, together with his tremendous physique, his gusto, and his superb ability as a naturalistic actor, made him one of the greatest performers in the history of opera.
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, Lauritz MelchiorMelchior, Lauritz
, 1890–1973, Danish heroic tenor. He made his debut in Copenhagen in 1913, singing a baritone role in I Pagliacci, and sang regularly at the Bayreuth Festivals from 1925 to 1931.
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 and Luciano PavarottiPavarotti, Luciano
, 1935–2007, Italian tenor. He made his debut in Italy in 1961, in London in 1963, and in the United States in 1965. He appeared regularly at New York's Metropolitan Opera from 1968 to 2004.
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. Metropolitan Opera concerts have been a regular feature on radio since 1931 and on television since 1977.

The new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center for the Performing ArtsLincoln Center for the Performing Arts,
in central Manhattan, New York City, between 62d and 66th streets W of Broadway. Lincoln Center is both a complex of buildings and the arts organizations that reside there.
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 opened in 1966 with a premier performance of Samuel BarberBarber, Samuel,
1910–81, American composer, b. West Chester, Pa. Barber studied at the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia. His music is lyrical and generally tonal; his later works are more chromatic and polytonal with striking contrapuntal elements.
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's Antony and Cleopatra, written especially for the occasion. The new building featured acoustics superior to those in the old structure and a lobby decorated with murals by Marc ChagallChagall, Marc
, 1887–1985, Russian painter. In 1907, Chagall left his native Vitebsk for St. Petersburg, where he studied under L. N. Bakst. In Paris (1910) he began to assimilate cubist characteristics into his expressionistic style in such paintings as
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. Bing retired in 1972. He was replaced by Goeran Gentele, who was killed in an automobile accident in July, 1972, a few weeks after he had succeeded Bing. The opera's assistant manager, Schuyler ChapinChapin, Schuyler Garrison
, 1923–2009, American operatic manager and cultural impresario, b. New York City. The scion of an old and distinguished American family, he studied composition with Nadia Boulanger but found his talents lay elsewhere.
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, was named manager (1972–75). From 1974 to 1981, John Dexter was director of production and Anthony Bliss executive director. Bliss then served as general manager (1981–85) and was succeeded by Bruce Crawford (1985–89), Joseph Volpe (1990–2006), and Peter Gelb (2006–). James LevineLevine, James,
1943–, American conductor, b. Cincinnati, Ohio. A piano prodigy, he was a soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony at the age of 10. After extensive musical studies, he served (1964–65) as an apprentice to George Szell with the Cleveland Orchestra,
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, who joined the Met as principal conductor in 1973, was artistic director from 1986 to 2004, then music director until 2016. Yannick Nézet-SéguinNézet-Séguin, Yannick,
1975–, Canadian conductor and pianist. After studying piano at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec, Montreal, and choral conducting at the Westminster Choir College, Princeton, N.J.
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 became music director in 2018. Today's Metropolitan Opera produces an average of 23 different operas in six languages each season, and in addition to producing works from the traditional operatic repertoire it has been a pioneer in premiering works by such contemporary composers as Philip GlassGlass, Philip,
1937–, American composer, b. Baltimore. Considered one of the most innovative of contemporary composers, he was a significant figure in the development of minimalism in music. Glass attended the Univ. of Chicago, Juilliard (M.A.
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, John CoriglianoCorigliano, John Paul
, 1938–, American composer, b. New York City. The son of New York Philharmonic first violinist and concertmaster John Corigliano, he attended Columbia (B.A., 1959) and the Manhattan School of Music and studied with Paul Creston.
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, William Hoffman, and John Harbison. Its orchestra is considered one of the finest in the world.


See D. Hamilton, ed., The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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Proceeds from the Liverpool Metropolitan Opera Company concert will go to the church's Landmark Tower Appeal.

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