“Straphangers and Salvos”


 “Straphangers and Salvos” Among the most exciting opportunities for opera lovers with a bit of stamina  was standing room at the Old Met, where you could be sure to get into the evening’s performance if you got in line early enough.  When finally admitted after several hours of wait, the standees ran to their favorite spot (no numbered individual rails then!) and, by performance time, were tightly packed and strapped into the area you chose and were shoulder to shoulder with other standees.   But by this time you had made friends … or perhaps enemies… after waiting in line for hours and battling over which diva was the best Tosca or Violetta or whatever. During the intermission you could wander through the house, but when the next act began people always took the same spot they had had before, and the straps went up again until the act ended. Those were the days when there might be several different Toscas or Mimis or Violettas in the same season,  and the fans went to every one of them,  to cheer or to sneer, depending upon who was singing.    (During the 1961-62 season , for example,  the role of Tosca was sung at the Met by – in chronological order-  Dorothy Kirsten, Mary Curtis-Verna, Margherita Roberti,  Birgit Nilsson, Zinka Milanov, Licia Albanese and Leontyne Price!)    Flowers were often smuggled in and hurled at a favorite soprano from the side;  the side was a great place to stand, anyway, since you could often look into the wings and see anxious spouses wringing their hands or excited stage mangers hissing instructions. At opera’s end standees along with customers in seats roared their approval for their particular favorites.  The standees often kept up the shouting long after the general public had filed out, and the stage crew obliged by raising, lowering, raising, lowering and raising the curtain for just one more bow to the bravas and bravos.   Finally you had to  bid goodbye to your new friends.   We floated home on the wings of songs just heard,  and started saving the few dollars necessary for another day and evening in line at the wonderful Old Met.   Andy KarzasAug.15,2006

~ by aprilemillo on June 25, 2007.