By Linda Seigelman
The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center is one of the most beautiful and important music venues in the world. Its huge glass windows and majestic arches frame the far end of Lincoln Center Plaza while the stately lobby and its winding staircase welcome thousands of locals and tourists each week. The theater itself is breathtaking – red velvet seats, gilt balconies, a huge stage and marvelous acoustics – with world-class performances on a daily basis.
Attending an opera at the Met is easier and more enjoyable than ever. Ticket prices start at less than a Broadway show, and every seatback has a screen which can provide simultaneous language translation for those who wish to use it. This winter, the Met season offers a roster of top notch operas running the gamut from the light and amusing The Merry Widow which is sung in English to the tragic Madama Butterfly and La Bohème.There is something for everyone.
Founded in 1883 by a group of wealthy businessmen who wanted their own theater,the Metropolitan Opera was initially located at Broadway and 39th Street but moved to its current location in 1966 when it became part of the newly opened Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Many of the world’s most important artists and conductors have been engaged by the Metropolitan Opera. Famed tenor Enrico Caruso arrived in 1903, and by the time of his death 18 years later, he had sung more performances with the Met than with all the world’s other opera companies combined. Virtuoso conductor Arturo Toscanini made his debut here in 1908, and there were two seasons during which both Toscanini and Gustav Mahler, another renowned conducting master, were engaged by the Met.
Each season the Metropolitan Opera stages more than 200 opera performances with more than 800,000 people in attendance at the opera house itself. Millions more experience the Met through various alternative distribution initiatives including PBS TV stations, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, select movie theaters and online streaming.
During the opera season, backstage tours of the Metropolitan Opera House are offered on weekdays and Sundays. Information on tickets and prices for the backstage tours is available at 212-769-7028. In addition, tours of certain areas are available to the public free of charge on weekdays from 10am to 2pm. and on Sundays from 11am to 4pm. Visitors can ascend the grand staircase, gaze up at the huge crystal chandeliers and get a close look at the Chagall murals. French painter Marc Chagall had been commissioned to design the costumes and sets for one of the inaugural operas after the move to Lincoln Center. He was also persuaded to design the two spectacular murals that hang in the Metropolitan Opera lobby facing out of the arched windows overlooking the plaza. The murals – The Triumph of Music and The Sources of Music – continue to be one of the most iconic features of the opera house.
Consider an afternoon or evening at the opera. The Metropolitan Opera House is the perfect place for the experience.
WHERE TO EAT
Bar Boulud, 1900 Broadway (bet/ 63rd &64th) – high caliber classic French bistro fare,onion soup, duck, cassoulet, steak frites, burger and salads too, prix fixe menu is a terrific option
Bouchon Bakery, 10 Columbus Circle (at 60th) – take-out bakery or sit-down café with great views of Columbus Circle, excellent soups, sandwiches and more, the pastries are top notch
Boulud Sud, 20 West 64th Street (nr Broadway) – seasonal menu offers the best of the Mediterranean, chicken tagine, grilled octopus, iberico ham, hand-made pastas, braised lamb shank and more, desserts are a must, prix fixe menu is available
Café Luxembourg, 200 West 70th Street (bet/ Amsterdam & West End) – wonderful French bistro, an Upper West Side fixture that is still great and always busy, everything from omelets to beef bourguignon, great burger, love the fries
Lincoln Ristorante, 142 West 65th Street (bet/ Amsterdam & Broadway) – excellent food, beautiful setting, prix fixe pre-theater dinner, open menu afterwards, a bit pricey but high quality and what a location
Nougatine, 1 Central Park West (at 60th) – Jean Georges Vongerichten’s more casual French spot, great food, prix fixe lunch a deal, still going strong
P.J. Clarke’s, 44 West 63rd Street (at Lincoln Square) – a NYC institution, steaks, chops, seafood too, burger is a fan favorite as are the tater tots, tourists and locals alike keep the place crowded, good for coffee and dessert as well, can’t beat the location
Rosa Mexicana, 61 Columbus Avenue (at 62nd) – consistently good, stylish Mexican food from this long-time favorite, everything from guacamole and tacos to carnitas and seafood, love the sangria
The Grand Tier Restaurant, 30 Lincoln Center Plaza (at Lincoln Center) – elegant dining in Lincoln Center, pre-theater and dinner prix fixe menus are available, classic choices include pâté, crab cakes, veal tenderloin, caviar, baked Alaska for dessert is a treat.