The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center: Celebrating 50 Years

The Metropolitan Opera House, the “old Met” opened on October 22, 1883 and was designed by J. Cleveland Cady. Located at 1411 Broadway, the Opera House occupied the entire block between West 39th Street and West 40th Street. Nine years later on August 27, 1892, the theater was gutted by fire. In 1903, the interior of the opera house was extensively redesigned by the firm Carrère and Hastings.

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Carrère & Hastings. Metropolitan Opera, 39th & Broadway: interior, 1892.

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Carrère & Hastings. Metropolitan Opera, 39th & Broadway: interior, 1892.

It was quickly realized that the backstage facilities were deemed to be severely inadequate for such a large opera company. Over the years, plans were put forward to build a new home for the company. Designs for a new opera house were created by various architects including Joseph Urban and Benjamin Morris. Several sites were also proposed including Columbus Circle. Rockefeller Center (as it is now known) was considered but financial troubles, coupled with the stock market crash in October 1929, put an end to this scheme.

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Morris. Metropolitan Opera House at Rockefeller Center: bird’s eye view, Suggestion of Metropolitan Square Development in Harmony with Proposed Metropolitan Opera House, Scheme “B”, May 11, 1929.

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Morris. Metropolitan Opera House at Rockefeller Center: interior, 1929.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At long last, the Upper West Side gave the Met the opportunity to build a modern opera house with the most technically advanced stages in the world. Since 1966, Lincoln Center has been home to the Metropolitan Opera, designed by Wallace K. Harrison of the firm Harrison & Abramovitz. 50 years later, this building is still captivating students from around the world.

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Morris & O’Connor. Metropolitan Opera House at Columbus Circle, 1935.

Interested in studying the Met? Explore the vast holdings for Lincoln Center at the department of Drawings & Archives. Email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu to schedule an appointment. For access to related materials in the Joseph Urban collection, contact the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Butler.

Hugh Ferriss. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Center of the Center, 1958.

Hugh Ferriss. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Center of the Center, 1958.

–Nicole Richard

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