When the Metropolitan Opera performed in Detroit

From 1959 to 1985, the Met performed a week’s worth of operas in late May at Masonic Temple.
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Courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

1965

Anyone who wants to see the Metropolitan Opera perform live these days has to go to Lincoln Center in New York City. However, there was a time when the Met, like a cultural missionary, set out on tour and brought opera — and its most glittering stars — to several cities, including Minneapolis, Atlanta, Cleveland, Memphis, and Detroit. From 1959 to 1985, the Met performed a week’s worth of operas in late May at Masonic Temple.

 

Opening night was Monday, and two performances a (matinee and an evening show) concluded the run on Saturday. Opera lovers got to hear such celebrated singers as Franco Corelli, Leontyne Price, Joan Sutherland, Jon Vickers, Richard Tucker, Anna Moffo, Plácido Domingo, Nicolai Gedda, and Birgit Nilsson. The week was a glamorous affair, with Detroiters dressing to the nines and admiring socialites and local celebrities as they were dropped off in limos and ascended the Masonic’s steps, which were covered in red carpet. That’s what’s happening in this shot, as a mink-draped woman and her escort, bedecked in top hat and tails, climb the steps while onlookers peer. On this particular evening, Monday, May 24, 1965, opera week was getting started with a performance of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Last Savage, starring Roberta Peters and Teresa Stratas. The prohibitive cost of a traveling opera troupe eventually spelled the end of the Met tour, and on May 25, 1985, after a performance of Rigoletto, with Aldo Protti, Judith Blegen, and Detroit’s own Ara Berberian, Detroiters bade a sad farewell to the Met in Detroit.

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