"Opera House": Edifice Complex

The Metropolitan "Opera House" in progress
(photo: Fathom Events)

Opera House, a two-hour historical treatment of the home for the past fifty years for the Metropolitan Opera in New York by award-winning documentary filmmaker Susan Froemke, is not just about the building but also the people involved in its creation. As you may see from the photo of the mortar and metal that form the foreboding framework at the area to become known as Lincoln Center, it was quite an undertaking. Utilizing archival footage and current interviews, as well as still photos from the 50's and 60's, the film takes an objective view of the building and its barriers, along the way portraying the roles of opera impressario assoluto Rudolph Bing, city planner Robert Moses and architect Wallace Harrison.

Where once the Sharks and Jets pirouetted to the music of Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics of Steven Sondheim in the film version of West Side Story, would emerge a huge new complex. Moving from its downtown building erected in 1883, the construction of the Lincoln Center complex had its challenges, which Froemke wisely highlights with personal stories of the people involved, from high profile names such as Leontyne Price (who opened the new house for the Met in 1966 with Franco Zefferelli's production of Samuel Barber's Antony and Cleopatra), to the head of the supernumeraries and other tech workers. It makes for a fascinating story of its own, with even some blemishes intact (though the eminent domain issues displacing poor tenement residents is pretty much glossed over). All in all, it's a thoroughly researched and coordinated tale of a building that we all thought we knew so well.
There will be an encore HD presentation next Weds. January 17th at a theater near you.

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