Friday, November 23, 2012

At The Met, Part 4, The Closing Gala



1966
On April 16 1966, all of society turned out to wish their beloved Met goodbye. Socialites, debutantes, celebrities, millionaires and anyone who loved the Met showed up to attend it for one last time. Soon after that night, The Metropolitan Opera House would be demolished and replaced with an office building that would produce triple the income for The Metropolitan Opera House Company. The night was said to be The Met's finest.


The Met's Auditorium Was Filled To The Brink, The Last Audience Having Paid $200 A Ticket ($2000 Today) To Hear 57 Of The Company's Stars. 

The attendees donned their finest that night. It was said that the estimated value of the jewelry worn that night was said to be worth around $650 million. The Diamond Horseshoe was alive that night, with familiar faces having showed up in their boxes or previous boxes, along with many of the Met's Old Stalwarts. Miss Edith Wetmore of Newport (who at age 70 had sold her box at The Met 17 years ago) showed up to say goodbye, sharing her old box with it's present owner. Mrs August Belmont and Giovanni Martinelli also showed up, along with Mrs John Nicholas Brown. 

Giovanni Martinelli And Mrs August Belmont Together At The Sherry's At The Met, Along With Rise Stevens (middle).

"I am taking nothing with me but years of wonderful memories from the old house"  said Mrs August Belmont

General David Sarnoff, Enjoying A Puff At Sherry's, Recalled Standing In The Gallery To Hear Caruso Sing.

Lotte Lehmann Wore Her Medals, Including The French Legion Of Honor. Her Debut Was In 1931, In Walkure. 

"It was difficult" she said "To control myself when Jon Vickers sang Winterstrume from Walkiure. The moment he stopped was where I had come in as Sieglinde." 

In Sherry's, At The Pre-Gala Dinner, Former Heavyweight Champion Gene Tunney Table-Hopped With Other Attendees.

Rudolf Bing Beckons For Parade Of Ex-Stars To Begin. 

"This is goodbye to bricks and mortar only" he said "building is replaceable; friends are not."

Marjorie Lawrence Is Wheeled To Her Position On Stage, Where She Will Sing From A Couch, Since She Was Paralyzed In 1943.

Lily Pons Bows Graciously Onstage, Though Annoyed She Was Not Asked To Sing. 

"The Voice Is Still Here!!" she said.

Elizabeth Rethberg Walks Out An Ovation. Though She Retired In 1942, Her Husband, George, Sang At The Gala.

Anselmo Colzani And James McCracken Join In A Duet. 

Cesare Siepi An Aria From Don Carlo. 

Singer Licia Albanese Performed Her Last "Madame Butterfly" At The Met, Which She Had Done 136 Times There. When It Came For Her Curtain Call, She Bowed Down And Kissed The Stage Goodbye.

Leontyne Price Beamed At Her Ovation.

Although Offstage She Broke Down In Sobs. 

"I am sorry" she wept "The new house will be wonderful, but it will never be the same." 

After Her Brilliant Performance "Immolation", Brigit Nilsson Blows Farewell Kisses To The Audience.

 Mrs Vincent Astor, Brooke, Greets Friends In The Diamond Horseshoe During Intermission. Her Box Had Been Used By Vincent's Previous Wives And Was Originally The Box Of Caroline Astor.

"I am sad" she said "But how often does an evening like this happen?" 

Mr and Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney At Sherry's During Intermission. Mrs Whitney's Tiara Was Once Owned By Anastasia Empress Elizabeth.

Giovanni Martinelli Looks Out From His Private Box At The Stage Where He Sang Tenor Roles For 32 Years. 

For 56 Years, Since She Was 16, Marguerite Belleri Has Been A Member Of The Met's Chorus Group. 

"Memories rush at me from all sides tonight" she said. 

At The End, The Audience Rose To Join Those Onstage -- Stars, Carpenters, Wardrobe Ladies-- In Auld Lang Syne. 

Mrs Louis Bruguiere (middle right box, far right) Joins Other Patrons In Linking Hands Like The Stars Onstage. Ever Since She Was The Young Miss Daisy Post Back In 1890, Mrs Bruguiere Had Attended The Met, She Had Flown Up From Newport Just For The Gala. 

The Stars, Choking Up As They Sing, Linked Hands In Their Final Performance, Knowing This Is Their Last Moment At The Met.

Transport Tycoon O. Roy Clark In Sherry's With Mrs Harvey M. Spencer, Wife of A New York City Lawyer.

"The Gala was long" she said "But not long enough."


Photos Courtesy of LIFE Magazine, April 29 1966. 

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