Cher Public

the color of tears


Just added to Google’s online archive of Life magazine photographs: over a hundred full-color images from the Old Met in the 1960s. Be prepared for a strong pang of nostalgia as you glimpse Richard Tucker, Leontyne Price, Birgit Nilsson, Franco Corelli, Anna Moffo, Zinka Milanov and many other greats of that regrettably bygone era. [Google Images]

  • pavel

    That picture reminds me of a story an old coworker once told me. She was at the final dress rehearsal for the new Fanciulla, and when Richard Tucker came out with a cowboy hat on, the audience roared with laughter. I seem to remember she said he didn’t wear the hat in later performances, but I may be wrong.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Spectacular photos. I hope someone will download all of them and turn them into a slideshow with appropriate music. Love the one of Elizabeth Taylor and Eddy Fisher in Sherry’s.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Don’t miss the great photo of Zinka MICANOVA [sic] at

  • kashania

    These are some truly grand photos. Thanks, La Cieca.

  • operaman50

    What a great collection of pictures!!! It’s great to see most of them in COLOR for the first time!!! THANK YOU!!!

  • Camille

    How Utterly AbFab.

    Whatever were they thinking of, putting Leontyne in that red schmatta? She looks so good in her blue gown.
    Anna Moffo looking absolutely gorgeous, as always.
    Birgit looking Fierce.
    Dorothy Kirsten’s marvelous bouffant, always a class act.
    Zinka’s beatific troll of a smile over the rose rosse!
    {Maybe some were borrowed for Leontyne’s hair?)
    Wonderful to see Liz looking young and beautiful.
    And I dunno, I think Richard Tucker is kinda cute with his Dick Johnson bandana.

    Ah yes, those were the days my friends, and they are now ended.

    Shout out to Mme. La Cieca for doing us this kindness.

  • Le_Chiffre

    Thank you for the reminders of past elegance. That’s what I wish I could see more of.

  • hndymn

    Unless I’m mistaken, these shots are from the farewell-to-the-old-house gala before the move from 39th St. to Lincoln Center. Surely it’s not Milanov’s farewell—unless she took her leave simultaneously? Was the Chenier finale part of the show? I always did think that Cecil Beaton Turandot was really fetching—very fairy tale.

  • richard

    hndymn, I just browsed through the first sheet of photos and no, there are not all from th elast night at the old Met. Price in the blue feathery thing is from closing night and Birgit in black with opera length
    gloves was also from the gala. Albanese in the red number may have been from the gala. But many of the others were not; Price and Tucker in the Fanciulla scenes were from several seasons earlier.

    Milanov’s official farewell was as Maddalena
    in a performance of Chenier a few nights before the official last night at the Met but she and Tucker did the Chenier duet as their contribution to the gala, making it a kind of encore from Milanov’s actual farewell. The audience was frantic with enthusiasm.

    I believe all the performers appeared in the gala in evening dress (except possibly for those that appeared in an Aida scene) so it’s a fair assumption that any of these
    photos of performers in costume were from earlier performances.

  • iltenoredigrazia

    Many are from the Old Met’s farewell performance but not all. Zinka and Tucker did the Andrea Chenier final duet at the gala but not in costume. Those pics are from Zinka’s final full performance of Maddalena. (Note that they are in costume. Also Merrill smiling out of character during the applause after La Mamma Morta.)

    The Fanciulla pics must also be from the dress rehearsal or first performances in 1961.

    The Turandot pics are also staged.

    I actually have the Life issue on that gala. I guess I should consider it a collector’s item now.

    Ah memories…

  • richard

    “I actually have the Life issue on that gala. I guess I should consider it a collector’s item now.”

    That Life issue, plus the spread they issued a few months later covering the opening of the new Met at Lincoln Center is what really got me started going to the opera. I was in high school and was just OVERWHELMED with the glamor of it all. It took me some months but my first opera performances were at NYCO in the Spring of 1967. I tried for the Met but couldn’t get tickets for anything during the first season at LC. I finally made it to the Met during the second Lincoln Center season in late 1967 seeing Hansel and Gretel (preceeded by the ballet La Ventana) and a week or so later, Mourning Becomes Elektra.
    What a combination of operas that was for a newbie…but what did I know!

  • iltenoredigrazia

    Richard, that was indeed an odd combination for a neophyte but, hey, it worked, didn’t it?

    I don’t think I kept the Life issue on the opening of the new Met but I do have the corresponding Opera News issue with all sorts of pictures.

  • hndymn

    I too was in High School at the time—but I didn’t really discover opera until a friend introduced me to it in college. I can’t tell you how many opportunities I had to by a copy of RCA’s commemorative 3-disc set for the old house—“Opening Nights at the Met.” It was a collection of singers in recordings of roles they sang on opening nights from 1883 to 1965. It included an actual piece of the gold curtain—and no matter how many times I saw it there in the cut-out bin, I never got around to buying it. Sigh…

  • mrmyster

    The nouvelle parterre! In so many ways quite nice, but still — too much blank white space.
    Tone it down; have mercy on our retinas!

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Make font size of the coments one size larger pleeeeez.
    I hate squinting and pressing command + to make it larger.

  • Alto

    “I always did think that Cecil Beaton Turandot was really fetching—very fairy tale.”

    And he famously insisted on real ermine for the costumes.

    “Thank you for the reminders of past elegance.”

    Which only makes the utilitarian folding chairs all the more glaring. They couldn’t spring for the little rented gilt dohickeys that grace every stupid benefit and private musicale?

  • WindyCityOperaman

    How wonderful it is to see Leontyne as Minnie. You know how she lost her voice during the run, and that they literally got Dorothy Kirsten out of bed to finish the performance for her. After the Met run, Lee had a major vocal breakdown and never sang Minnie again -- her performances are sort of “legend” in my mind -- the photos make it a fact. Caruso’s daughter gave Richard Tucker the jacket her dad wore when he created Dick Johnson.

    And forgive me for sentimental, but it’s also touching to see color pictures of so many operatic greats that are no longer with us and have become legend, much like the beatiful old house on Broadway. Those of you who were fortunate to attend a performance in the old house -- what was it like?