Weegee, “Intermission,” November 25, 1941 (1060.1993)

I made this at the opening of the Met Opera Season. . . I wanted to get something different than the usual Society celebrities. . . noting a lot of men in military uniforms mingling with the high hats. . . during intermission I saw this row of hats in one of the cloak rooms. . . So I photographed it. . .

4/5 Speed Graphic
Zeiss Tessar
Agfa Super Plenacrome Press
Wabbash Press 40
1/200 exp.

PM, November 25, 1941, p. 22

This season the opera opening was not all high hat; there was a showing of gold braid and a generous turnout of plain khaki. The fancy peaked cap above is a captain’s, the other just a lieutenant’s. (Photo by Weegee)

Opera patronesses seldom check their tiaras with the management. Here, at their table in the Opera Bar (only theater bar permitted in N.Y.) are, left to right, Mrs. George Washington Kavanaugh, Lady Decies, Mrs. Leonora H. Warner.

The cops keep a watchful eye on the standees. Last night a Mr. Burke (above) boned up on his libretto while waiting to buy a standee ticket.

The onlookers flanking the main entrance put on the dog in their own fashion. Lena Penola’s pooch is named Buddy. (Photos by Ray Platnick, PM Staff.)

No Handstands at the Met Opening
By Henry Simon
Opening night at the Metropolitan is largely (as you can see from the pictures on this page) a story of what goes on in front of the footlights and way beyond that. More people come later than usual, more leave early, more stick around the bar during the performance; and, for some reason or other, the applause inside the auditorium is less clamorous than it is on other nights.
All of which has nothing whatsoever to do with the merits of the performance. Last night’s Nozze de Figaro was almost exactly the same mounting the Met has given this dream of operas for the last two years – which is to say that it is one of the very best shows in the large repertoire, and one that has been a real hit with both the box office and the reviewers…
PM, November 25, 1941, p. 22

For the second consecutive year men’s hats were the focus of Weegee’s coverage of the opening night festivities at the Metropolitan Opera on November 24, 1941. Although it was only two weeks before the United States entered into the War (after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941) perhaps military headgear hanging in the cloak room foreshadowed America’s imminent declaration of war. Patriotism was in the air and in the hall. “Society” joined the standing-room-only audience members in standing when Ettore Panizza conducted the orchestra in a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” before the opera began and the entire audience of 4,000 stood. As in 1940 the conductor of the opera was Ettore Panizza. Apparently it was the first time that both a Mozart opera and a comedy were performed at the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night. (The Met opened in 1883.) Balduína “Bidú” de Oliveira Sayão (born in Brazil, 1902–1999) was Susanna and Ezio Pinza (born in Italy, 1892-1957) was Figaro. Intriguingly Weegee’s typed note on the back of the photo states: “I wanted to get something different than the usual Society celebrities.” This was true in 1940 and 41. Wanting “to get something different” might define his approach to photographing at the opera, might summarize his approach to photography, and life.

Will Weegee return to the Metropolitan Opera for the the opening night festivities in 1942? If so, will he photograph hats? Stay tuned…

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