Looking Back at the Metropolitan Opera


Weegee, [Metropolitan Opera House distortion], ca. 1966 (12937.1993)

July 16 is the start of the Metropolitan Opera’s Summer Recital Series. Founded in 1883, the Opera is now in its 129th season.

In the 1940s, Weegee photographed the Metropolitan Opera, resulting in one of his most famous images, The CriticHis photos illustrate how much the Met has changed–and stayed the same–over the past seventy years.


Weegee, Metropolitan Opera House Rehearsel, 1944 (126.1982)

Members of the Metropolitan Opera’s male chorus rehearse their parts for the opening night of Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, in which they appear as Knights.


Weegee, [Costume designer at Metropolitan Opera, New York], ca. 1944 (7339.1993)

It was not only the singers who wore gowns. The opera’s attendees dressed opulently, many of the women draped in jewels and fur coats. People came to the opera to see and be seen.


Weegee, Mrs. Cornelius V Whitney, ca. 1944 (7369.1993)

Eleanor Searle, the third wife of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, was an opera singer herself.  The Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, now in its twenty-fifth year, was named in her honor.

Of course, the opera was not without humor:


Weegee, I Don’t Know If He’s Admiring Her Shoulder or Going to Take a Bite, Sherry Salon at Met, Met Opera, ca. 1943 (7366.1993)

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