There's more to the Metropolitan Opera House than

There's more to the Metropolitan Opera House than meets the eye. (Credit: Getty Images / Slaven Vlasic)

culture

Secrets of the Metropolitan Opera House

30 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023
At the focal point of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on the Upper West Side sits the majestic Metropolitan Opera House, where some of the world's most prestigious singers, dancers and actors have graced the stage. A cultural institution steeped in history, the original opera house was opened in 1883, but was deemed inadequate for such large-scale performances. Lincoln Center presented the opportunity for a new home, and some of the art scene's most iconic moments have happened there since its first show in 1966. We take you beyond the glitz and glamor, for a peek at the real Met.
(Information provided by Brent Ness and Sam Neuman of The Metropolitan Opera House)
The expansive auditorium ceiling is entirely covered in

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

The gold quota

The expansive auditorium ceiling is entirely covered in 23 karat gold leaf-- applied one 2 1/2 inch square at a time. Because of the unusually large quantity this project required, the Met was restricted to a weekly gold quota while building it in order to avoid a drain in gold supplies to other Manhattan businesses.

Contrary to popular belief, there is not a

Credit: operaclub.org

Members only

Contrary to popular belief, there is not a dress code at the Met... unless you're a member of the Metropolitan Opera Club. The club, around since the 19th century, is invitation-only, and new members must be proposed and seconded by other members. All members abide by a strict standard of dress, men in white tie and tails or tuxedos ("penguins," as they're often called), and women in evening gowns. A private elevator next to the box office opens directly into the club's exclusive dining room on the Dress Circle level of the opera house.

On the grand tier level of the lobby

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

Chagall's happy accident

On the grand tier level of the lobby are two large murals by famed painter Marc Chagall, “The Triumph of Music” on the south wall and “The Sources of Music” on the north wall. They were mistakenly switched and installed opposite of the way Chagall intended them to be, but the artist eventually decided that the accident was a happy one, as the trumpet players in each painting are now facing inward, serenading the Met's audience instead of the outside world.

Opera stars are not afraid to eat on

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

Bon Appetit

Opera stars are not afraid to eat on stage, and the Met uses real food in its productions. Most of it is prepared in a kitchen located backstage equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, toaster and hot plate, and stocked with singers' requests for a wine stand-in, ranging from iced tea and apple juice to flat soda and watered-down lemon-lime Gatorade.

To one side of the Met is a

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

The horse door

To one side of the Met is a special door for the animals who need to enter or leave the building. It is referred to as the horse door, but donkeys, dogs and other four-legged stars use it as well, depending on the production. The door strategically connects the parking garage to the stage by just a very short hallway to avoid accidents-- as much as possible, anyway.

Scenery, props and electrical equipment are stored in

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

Disappearing into the night

Scenery, props and electrical equipment are stored in approximately 1,300 shipping containers that are carried on trucks to New Jersey, where they are stacked three high in a holding area. Most of the sets, which are built to be able to fold up, are deconstructed and moved by stagehands in the dead of night to avoid conflicting with performances. There are usually four to seven operas at the Met at any given time, about 80 containers worth of material. One of the largest productions appearing this season is La Bohème, which features a cast of hundreds.

A restaurant on the sixth floor with sweeping

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

The forbidden floor

A restaurant on the sixth floor with sweeping views of Lincoln Center, called Top of the Met, closed decades ago and has since been converted into office space. It is not accessible to the public, though two of the elevators in the front lobby still offer it as a stop. (A ticket to an opera, ballet, symphony or a play at any of the Lincoln Center campus theaters will get you into the Grand Tier Restaurant, a few levels below.)

During opera performances, a prompter sits in a

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

In case of emergency

During opera performances, a prompter sits in a small box in the orchestra pit, where they’re visible to the singers but can’t be seen or heard by the audience. They help singers with music cues or, occasionally, provide the lyrics if their minds go blank and they can’t remember a line. Some think this feature should be discontinued, but most singers strongly disagree, for obvious reasons.

Suspended from the auditorium ceiling, 80 feet above

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

Watching from above

Suspended from the auditorium ceiling, 80 feet above the stage, are domes, small rooms where enormous spotlights are used by the lighting department to focus on the singers below. For select operas, singers perform from these domes as well, to more accurately replicate voices booming down from heaven.

The striking Swarovski crystal chandeliers in the lobby

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

The chandeliers' message

The striking Swarovski crystal chandeliers in the lobby have become an iconic piece of the Metropolitan Opera House. What many don't know is that the chandeliers were a gift from the Austrian government to thank America for its aid in the years following World War II. The design came about during the International Space Race, and was inspired by the Big Bang. The clusters are often referred to as "sputniks."

Operas have their fair share of drama, and

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

On guard

Operas have their fair share of drama, and the Met is prepared for any type of on-stage battle. Backstage is its own armory, a room filled from floor to ceiling with swords and guns of every kind.

When the opera house opened in 1966, four

Credit: Nina Ruggiero

The forgotten paintings

When the opera house opened in 1966, four watercolor murals from designs by Raoul Dufy, originally conceived as backdrops for Gilbert Miller’s 1950 Broadway production of "Ring Round the Moon," were installed in the “Top of the Met” restaurant. They were moved to underground rehearsal rooms when the restaurant closed, and they now sit behind closed doors, partially covered in flame-retardant foam.

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