The Metropolitan Opera: Celebrating 50 Years at Lincoln Center

Half a century ago this month, the Metropolitan Opera House kicked off its inaugural season in its new Lincoln Center home with the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra. This opening night—September 16, 1966—marked an architectural and creative transformation, or, as the New York Times described it the next morning, “a crescendo of splendor.” Five decades and ten days later on September 26th of this year, an opera about another conflicted couple—Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde—will take over the Met’s stage in a striking new production starring Nina Stemme and Stuart Skelton in the title roles.

tristan und isolde met opera

Photo by Kristian Schuller/Metropolitan Opera

And this is only the beginning of what promises to be a historic fall-through-spring 50th anniversary celebration, culminating with an opulent gala on Sunday, May 7th, 2017. The event—a tribute to the Met’s past, present and future—boasts a long list of opera superstars, including Piotr Beczala, Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Plácido Domingo, Renée Fleming, Juan Diego Flórez, El na Garanca, Vittorio Grigolo, James Levine, Željko Lucic, James Morris, Anna Netrebko, René Pape, Rolando Villazón...and the list goes on. 

“We’re proud to be celebrating our five decades at Lincoln Center, including 40 years under the musical leadership of James Levine,” says Met General Manager Peter Gelb, citing another anniversary falling in 2016 while modestly ignoring his own ten-year GM milestone.     

Then, of course, there’s this season’s thrilling repertoire of productions: 225 performances of 26 operas, including six new stagings: Rossini’s Guillaume Tell; Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette; Dvorák’s Rusalka; Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, and, of course, Tristan und Isolde.

In addition, the highly anticipated premiere of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s acclaimed 2000 opera L’Amour de Loin begins its run on December 1st. Described as a “yearning medieval romance,” the opera is part of the Met’s repertoire through December 29th.

Notes Gelb, “Met audiences should be stimulated by our ever-expanding repertoire, which this season includes the new, with L’Amour de Loin, and the old with Guillaume Tell.” Interestingly, the latter—first performed in 1829—returns to the Met after an 80+ year absence, so this production marks its Lincoln Center debut (10/18 to 11/12).

Other operas beginning their runs during September and October include Don Giovanni (9/27), L’Italiana in Algeri (10/4), and La Boheme (9/28), aka one of “The ABC’s of Opera” (Aida, Boheme, and Carmen), all of which grace this season at the Met.

As for theatre lovers, turn your attention to Roméo et Juliette (12/31): its director is Tony winner Bartlett Sher, no stranger to operatic productions, and a major force who’s helmed such long-running Broadway musicals as Lincoln Center Theater’s The King and I, South Pacific, and The Light in the Piazza. Fledgling theatregoers will want to check out the Met’s annual presentation of the abridged/English version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (12/20 to 1/5) staged by Julie Taymor, the mastermind behind Broadway’s The Lion King.

“We’re always trying to find ways to satisfy confirmed opera lovers, as well as excite new ones,” Gelb told the Times.

With a superlative collection of masterworks, star power, and new stagings set for its 132nd season, you can bet the Metropolitan Opera will be breaking its own record for satisfying—and inspiring—fans throughout its Golden Anniversary at Lincoln Center. Brilliant.

lincoln center met opera

Follow the celebration of the Met’s 50th anniversary at Lincoln Center and share your own memories by posting to social media with the hashtag #Met50.

For information including synopses, performance dates, and tickets for any of the 26 operas scheduled for the Met’s 2016-17 season, visit

To purchase tickets you can also call 212-362-6000. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side between 62nd and 65th Streets and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.

About the Author

City Guide Theatre Editor Griffin Miller moved to New York to pursue an acting/writing career in the 1980s after graduating magna cum laude from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Since then, she has written for The New York Times, For the Bride, Hotels, and a number of other publications, mostly in the areas of travel and performance arts. She currently is the theatre editor for all NYMetroParents publications. An active member of The New York Travel Writers Association, she is also a playwright and award-winning collage artist. In addition, she sits on the board of The Lewis Carroll Society of North America. Griffin is married to Richard Sandomir, a reporter for The New York Times.

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