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11 reasons why the Metropolitan Opera is seriously underrated

Annalise Mantz
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Annalise Mantz

Opera gets a bad rap. Even the most serious culture vultures—people who read Tolstoy and visit obscure art galleries on the regular—somehow still see the opera house as a place for old fuddy-duddies. Believe it or not, it’s not as stuffy as it seems. The Metropolitan Opera—the crème de la crème of all venues—is glitzy, glamorous and totally accessible to the average viewer. Plus, you get the chance to hear some truly incredible music. Not convinced yet? Here’s 11 more reasons why you should buy tickets to the Metropolitan Opera.

1. It’s widely regarded as one of the best venues in the world
The Metropolitan Opera is the largest—and most important—classical music organization in North America. That’s nothing to sniff at. Almost all the greats (including Placido Domingo, Renée Fleming and Anna Netrebko) have performed at the Met. Since the program also attracts some of the world’s top directing and conducting talent, every production is pretty special.

2. It’s a 133-year-old institution
The building itself is fairly young—it just celebrated its fiftieth birthday in 2016—but the actual opera has been around for much longer. Believe it or not, when it was founded in 1883, it was a less stuffy alternative to the Academy of Music opera house, which the high society crowd claimed as their own. Lesser known patrons started going to the Met, and it quickly became the star of the scene.

3. You can check out the building’s stunning architecture up close
The glass and bronze facade you see from the outside is only part of the building’s charm. Inside the lobby, you’ll notice two 30-foot high murals by Marc Chagall, The Triumph of Music and The Sources of Music, covered in angels and mermaids playing musical instruments. Then there’s the dazzling Swarovski crystal chandeliers—a gift from the Austrian government to thank the U.S. for its help after World War II. Did we mention the ceiling is entirely covered in 23-karat gold leaf?

4. The orchestra and chorus are just as phenomenal as the performers
It’s worth reiterating: the caliber of musicians at the Met is nothing short of world class. Even if the soprano doesn’t quite do it for you, the orchestra surely will. To score a coveted seat, musicians must make it through an arduous series of blind auditions—like The Voice, but way more intense, since more than 200 people typically apply for each position.

5. Feast your eyes on the elaborate staging, set pieces and costumes  
The stage completely transforms for every performance. For Rusalka, it might look like a fairy-tale wood, then morph into the ancient Egyptian pyramids a few days later for a production of Aida. It’s all thanks to a talented team of set designers and lighting engineers, and the results can be completely breathtaking.

6. It’s a great excuse to get all dolled up
While there’s no formal dress code, opera-goers usually use the luxe surroundings as inspiration for their outfits. Ladies might go all out with a glitzy dress and heels, while gentlemen might throw on a sports jacket and maybe even a bow tie. If you need any more fashion advice, the Last Night at the Met street style blog should give you some ideas.

7. You don’t have to speak French, or Spanish, or Italian
Contrary to popular belief, you can follow along without knowing exactly what the performers are saying. Listen to the music, people! If you’re really struggling, though, the Met has a solution: Each seat has a small screen with a live translation of the performance, if you need it.

8. They’re not all five hours long
Sure, operas do tend to go on a little longer than most plays and musicals, but that typically includes an intermission or two. If you don’t want to be stuck in the theater forever, just pick a shorter opera. Der Fliegende Holländer lasts a little over 2 hours, and La Traviata clocks in at 2 hours and 30 minutes. That’s much shorter than any of the Lord of the Rings movies.

9. Even your most cultured friends probably haven’t been to opera
Opera just hasn’t caught on with most millennials in the same way that Broadway shows and indie bands have. Impress your circle with your newfound knowledge of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and who knows—maybe they’ll start going with you.

10. There’s something for everyone
The Met puts on 26 operas each season, ranging from tragic love stories to comedy. Hopeless romantics must go see the love story to end all love stories, Romeo et Juliette. If you’re into epic dramas like Fatal Attraction and Casablanca, check out Carmen. For something a little lighter, try a comedic opera, like Il Barbiere Di Siviglia—it even has a happy ending. Each season includes more than 200 performances, so you can definitely squeeze one of them into your busy schedule.

11. It’s more affordable than you think
Yes, orchestra seats can cost an arm and a leg, but you can score surprisingly cheap tickets if you book ahead of time. Seats in the upper balcony can go for as little as $33, and if you’re willing to give up the cushy chair, you can snag standing room tickets from the Met for just $25. Just be sure to book your tickets quickly before prices go up!

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