1 at 66th St.-Lincoln Center
To say that The Met is the nation's most important opera company would be to state the obvious. Any diva worth her salt has sung here: Maria Callas, Leontyne Price, Joan Sutherland, Renata Tibaldi and, of course, the company's patron saint, Beverly Sills. That lofty level of talent extends offstage, too. Conductors such as James Levine and Andre Previn possess their own celebrity status, directors like Franco Zefferelli and Julie Taymor enhanced already stellar reputations with richly conceived interpretations and world-renowned painters such as Chagall and Hockney have turned set design into high art. (When it comes to production values, the more extravagant Met shows make the best of Broadway look shabby.) But even if you attend a repertory staging sans stars, an evening at this opera house is always an event. The curving staircase—which actually had to be poured into place before the Lincoln Center home was built in 1966—swirls elegantly upward in the crimson lobby; Viennese crystal chandeliers hang overhead in the dark paneled, 3,800-seat theater. (An additional 200 can stand at the rear of the space.) While the Met's emphasis has always been on the canon—the first performance was Gounod's Faust in 1883—the company has regularly premiered works as well. (Philip Glass's The Voyage debuted in 1992.) More remarkable for an institution so tied to tradition is the company's history of pioneering technological invention. Back in 1901, the first recordings of a live opera performance were done at the Met; in 1995, Met Titles reconceived the idea of supertitles by having the translations appear on the back of every seat in the house. Bravo!Extra
In 2005, the Metropolitan Opera Guild launched a website devoted to Marian Anderson, an African-American contralto who was an important voice in the Civil Rights movement as well as on the opera stage.
The Met Opera Guild offers backstage tours most weekdays at 3:30 p.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. from September through June. With a hardcore volunteer as their guide, visiting groups are provided anecdotal stories of the company’s past as well as a disorienting journey through a labyrinthine maze of rehearsal spaces, design shops and storage areas. Adults, $15; students, $8. Reservations are required, for more information, call 212-769-7020.