With 26 operas, seven new productions and 225 performances, the Met is launching a special season including a gala for which the word "exclusive" seems like an understatement.
At the groundbreaking ceremony in 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was himself present, shovel in hand, on Manhattan's West Side in an area badly needing urban renewal. Now that area is surrounded by residences costing in the millions.
Over 135 years of opera history
A performance of Samuel Barber's opera "Antony and Cleopatra" on September 16, 1966 marked the festive initiation of the stage of the Metropolitan Opera at the city's premiere arts venue, Lincoln Center.
Called the "Met" by New Yorkers and the music world, the opera company already had a rich history dating back to 1880. Even in the 19th century, Richard Wagner's opera cycle "The Ring of the Nibelung" was performed there.
With a yearly budget of around $300 million, the Metropolitan Opera is now one of the world's largest cultural institutions. Its managing director, Peter Gelb, was dubbed "the world's most powerful man in opera" by the Financial Times.
Accessible to all
Part of the Met's attraction lies in its high media recognition, a status long predating the company's move to Lincoln Center. Live radio broadcasts began in 1931, and not a few opera stars later attributed their passion for music and opera to the initial exposure on radio. Still ongoing, the Met's Saturday Matinee Broadcasts are the longest continuous radio series in American broadcast history. In transmissions via the European Broadcasting Union, their reach now extends far beyond the country.
Quick to respond to modern media trends, the Met initiated its "Live in HD" broadcasts that have brought performances to movie theaters around the world. Many other companies have followed suit, noting that the income they generate has helped compensate for declining ticket sales in recent years.
Downbeat to a stellar year
The anniversary year kicks off on September 26 with a performance of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" - one of 26 operas on the schedule, seven of them in new productions.
The most conspicuous season highlight is the anniversary gala on May 7 featuring Met stars Plácido Domingo, Renée Fleming and Anna Netrebko. Tickets in the least expensive category will go for just under $2000, while the complete package with cocktail reception and dinner costs $150,000.
The price rage of tickets to normal performances is considerably lower, from $25 to $480. And should that even stretch the budget, there are always the live transmissions on the radio.