Biography
One of the world's great opera houses, New York's Metropolitan Opera carries with it a set of traditions as well established as those of the famed European houses, nurtured by a strong training apparatus. Even with that sense of tradition, the Met has been in the forefront of bringing opera out of the opera house and onto the radio, into movie theaters, and onto Internet screens, in an ongoing effort to cultivate new audiences.

New York's wealthiest families, the Morgans, Roosevelts, and Vanderbilts, spearheaded a plan to create a world-class New York opera company in the early 1880s, and the first season was offered in 1883 and 1884, with Auguste Vianesi as music director. The new company was a hit from the start, quickly displacing the old Academy of Music opera company in the affections of New Yorkers. Anton Seidl, a protege of Wagner, became the music director and conductor in 1886 and inaugurated a long period of orientation toward German opera, maintained under conductors Walter Damrosch, Alfred Hertz, and Gustav Mahler, who conducted several operas during his time in the U.S. between 1908 and 1910. Italian opera began to find its way into the repertory with the ascent to the podium of Arturo Toscanini in 1908, although the Met Orchestra players were still mostly German. Toscanini strengthened the musicianship of the orchestra and attracted major European stars, a trend that has never abated. For some years, the orchestra would alternate between the Italian pole, under conductors such as the Fausto Cleva, and the German one, cultivated by Artur Bodzansky and later Erich Leinsdorf. The Met plunged into the world of new media with the inauguration of its weekly radio broadcasts in 1931; as of 2021, these were still on the air.

Met conductors after World War II included figures who went on to gain renown in the field of symphonic music as well; some of these were Fritz Reiner, Dmitri Mitropoulos, and most prominently, James Levine, who was almost the face of the orchestra from 1976 until he stepped down as music director in 2016. By the end of that season, the Met had presented 227 performances of 25 operas, often presenting new works. Recent conductors have included Fabio Luisi and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who became the music director in 2018. The company's artistic direction has also been shaped by its powerful general managers Joseph Volpe (1990-2006) and Peter Gelb (2006-). The latter oversaw growing multimedia presentations of Met productions on satellite radio, television, high-definition film in a national network of movie theaters, and the Internet through the online services, as well as the Met's own Met Opera on Demand streaming service.

In the 2021-2022 season, the Metropolitan Opera, for the first time, presented an opera by an African American composer, Terence Blanchard; Fire Shut Up in My Bones was conducted by Nézet-Séguin and featured baritone Will Liverman. ~ James Manheim, Rovi




 
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