Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Sir Donald McIntyre (1934)
Elizabeth Connell (1946)
John Reed (1887-1920)
Doris Lessing (1919-2013)
From the Writer's Almanac:
It was on this day in 1883 that the Metropolitan Opera House opened with a performance of Faust.
The opera was based on Goethe's German poem, and it was composed in
French, but it was sung in Italian. The New Yorkers who designed the
opera house wanted it to have an Italian feel, so they had it built with
a palazzo on Broadway, and Italian was the language of choice.
was already an opera house in New York, the Academy of Music, near
Union Square. It was one of the main gathering places of the city's high
society, who watched each other from the opera boxes as eagerly as they
watched the opera itself. But there were only 18 opera boxes at the
Academy of Music, and in the 1870s a whole generation of industrial
millionaires were emerging in New York. These nouveau riche were not so
welcome at the Academy of Music, or in any of the social circles of old
money. But they wanted a place to display themselves, so they decided to
build their own opera house. Seventy people got together and pooled
$1.7 million to buy land and build a concert hall. They put in three
levels with 36 box seats in each, more than enough for everyone.
In The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton wrote:
"On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.
there was already talk of the erection, in remote metropolitan
distances 'above the Forties,' of a new Opera House which should compete
in costliness and splendor with those of the great European capitals,
the world of fashion was still content to reassemble every winter in the
shabby red and gold boxes of the sociable old Academy. Conservatives
cherished it for being small and inconvenient, and thus keeping out the
'new people' whom New York was beginning to dread and yet be drawn to;
and the sentimental clung to it for its historic associations, and the
musical for its excellent acoustics, always so problematic a quality in
halls built for the hearing of music."