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Metropolitan Opera House (39th Street)

Coordinates: 40°45′15″N 73°59′15″W / 40.75417°N 73.98750°W / 40.75417; -73.98750
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Metropolitan Opera House
Metropolitan Opera House in 1905, looking uptown
General information
Architectural styleRenaissance Revival architecture
LocationManhattan, New York City
Design and construction
Architect(s)J. Cleaveland Cady
Recital at the old Met by pianist Josef Hofmann, November 28, 1937

The Metropolitan Opera House, also known as the Old Metropolitan Opera House[1] and Old Met,[2] was an opera house located at 1411 Broadway in Manhattan, New York City. Opened in 1883 and demolished in 1967, it was the first home of the Metropolitan Opera.


The Metropolitan Opera Company was founded in 1883. The Metropolitan Opera House opened on October 22, 1883, with a performance of Faust. It was located at 1411 Broadway, occupying the whole block between West 39th Street and West 40th Street on the west side of the street in the Garment District of Midtown Manhattan. Nicknamed "The Yellow Brick Brewery" for its industrial looking exterior, the original Metropolitan Opera House was designed by J. Cleaveland Cady. Critical reception of the original Metropolitan Opera House was largely negative; one source called it "Disappointing . . . flat, forceless and ineffective".[3]

On August 27, 1892, the theater was gutted by fire. The 1892−93 season was canceled while the opera house was rebuilt along its original lines. The Vaudeville Club (which eventually became the Metropolitan Opera Club) was founded that season, hosting entertainment in the undamaged portions of the house.


In 1903, architects Carrère and Hastings extensively redesigned the interior of the opera house. The golden auditorium with its sunburst chandelier, and curved proscenium inscribed with the names of six composers (Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Gounod and Verdi), dated from this time. The first of the Met's signature gold damask stage curtains was installed in 1906, completing the look that the Old Metropolitan Opera House maintained until its closing.

Metropolitan Opera House program cover depicting the Proscenium arch in 1935

In 1940, ownership of the opera house shifted from the wealthy families who occupied the theater's boxes to the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association. At this time the last major change to the auditorium's interior was completed. The second tier of privately held boxes (the "grand tier") was converted into standard row seating. This enlarged the seating capacity and left only the first tier of boxes from the "golden horseshoe" of the opera house's origins as a showplace for New York society.

The Met had a seating capacity of 3,625 with 224 standing room places.


While the house was praised for its acoustics and interior, the backstage facilities of the theater were quickly deemed to be severely inadequate for a large opera company. Scenery and sets were a regular sight leaning against the building exterior on 39th Street where crews had to shift them between performances, often in inclement weather. Various plans were put forward over the years to build a new home for the company and designs for new opera houses were created by various architects including Joseph Urban. Proposed new locations included Columbus Circle and what is now Rockefeller Center, but none of these plans came to fruition. Only with the development of Lincoln Center on New York's Upper West Side did the Met finally have the opportunity to build an adequate, modern opera house.

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission considered designating the Old Met as a city landmark in 1966; if the building had been protected as a landmark, it would have been one of the first such designations in the city.[3] The Metropolitan Opera left its old house on April 16, 1966, with a sentimental gala farewell performance featuring nearly all of the company's current leading artists. Despite a plea from conductor Leopold Stokowski and others, the Met management opposed the preservation of its old house;[3] New York state senator John J. Marchi introduced legislation to preserve the opera house,[4] but he was unsuccessful.[5] The final performance at the opera house was given by the Bolshoi Ballet, which concluded a short run of appearances on May 8, 1966,[6] and the Met moved to the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center that September.[7] The theater was purchased by Jack D. Weiler[8] The Old Met was razed in 1967 and was replaced by a 40-story office tower, 1411 Broadway, designed by Irwin S. Chanin.[3]



  1. ^ "'Old' Metropolitan Opera House". The New York Preservation Archive Project. Archived from the original on January 29, 2023. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
  2. ^ Byrnes, Mark (October 22, 2014). "The 'Old Met' In Its Final Days". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on January 29, 2023. Retrieved January 29, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d Gray, Christopher (April 23, 1995). "Streetscapes/The Old Metropolitan Opera House; Why Mimi No Longer Dies at Broadway and 39th". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 25, 2023.
  4. ^ "A Bill to Save Met Offered in Albany". The New York Times. April 30, 1966. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 25, 2023.
  5. ^ "Senate in Albany Blocks Bill for Saving Old Met". The New York Times. January 24, 1967. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 25, 2023.
  6. ^ Barnes, Clive (May 9, 1966). "Ballet: Our Revels Now Are Ended at the Old Metropolitan; Bolshoi Gives House Its Last Performance Hurok Invites Dancers of the Past for Finale" (PDF). The New York Times. p. 48.
  7. ^ Ericson, Raymond (September 11, 1966). "The Old Metropolitan Sings Again". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 25, 2023.
  8. ^ "Millionaire Began as a Realty Clerk". The Pittsburgh Press. February 18, 1986. p. A4.


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40°45′15″N 73°59′15″W / 40.75417°N 73.98750°W / 40.75417; -73.98750