Rudolf Bing, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera from 1950 to 1972, was one of the most influential figures in the history of the company. He was a driving force behind the Met’s move to its new home at Lincoln Center, and the current Metropolitan Opera House is in many ways the work of Bing’s imagination. The work involved in relocating the Met even landed him on the cover of both Time and Newsweek in September 1966. For several years, Bing spent his summers traveling the globe to visit the most important, the most storied, and the most cutting-edge opera houses in the world, assembling along the way his list of the most desirable aspects of each—a wish list of features that, combined, would make the Met’s new house the crown jewel of New York’s music scene.
The New Met had to be modern but not garishly so (“I don’t want to put an old master in a chromium frame,” he said), its confines vast both in front of and behind the curtain, its technological capabilities extraordinary, its acoustics accommodating, and its architecture and ambiance engrossing (“A theatrical evening demands a theatrical experience … what is opera without atmosphere?”). Whether the company’s new home at Lincoln Center succeeded in achieving all these things is for each audience member to decide, but 50 years later, Bing’s vision is still clearly evident to everyone who walks through the Met’s doors.