The Opera at 50: postcard from Lincoln Center

The 2016-2017 season is the 50th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. Between September and May, the Metropolitan will offer 225 performances of 26 operas in 33 weeks – 2 completely different operas per week – and change from one to the other every other day. Six hundred thousand people will watch live and some 3.2 million watch a broadcast. And that’s not counting those listening to the radio. The opera employs 1,600 full time artists and artisans, from divas to musicians to stagehands – some 4,000 if you count freelancers. No fewer than 15 unions are represented. The opera is a machine that lets you travel in time and space. Your guide is the 32 chandeliers and their thousands of Swarovski crystals, magical glittering orbs from the future.

I went on a backstage tour, and it was an epiphany – how incredibly skilled are those behind the scenes, and how clever the craftspeople! A dress has to live 25 years, adapt to many body types, survive repairs (every costume has backup fabric). And no Velcro! The colours of the dresses harmonize with the lighting. The sets of every production must also endure a quarter century of use and re-use. 25 years! No wonder skills are often passed down from one generation to the next.

I was astounded that so many hands created so harmonious, so sublime a result – and grateful that we could visit so many worlds in the Metropolitan’s beautiful, 50-year-old red velvet spaceship. Happy birthday!

story © Dianna Carr         image © Francis Tremblay