This Month in Met History

November 01st, 2017

100 Years Ago: The Debut of Joseph Urban,
Designer of the Most Productions in Met History

On November 17, 1917, the Met opened a new production of Gounod’s Faust in a new production designed by Joseph Urban (see Act III design above). Thus began the Met career of the most prolific set designer in the company’s history: Over the next 15 years, Urban would go on to design a staggering total of 50 new productions. A prolific artist with a wide variety of interests, Urban also created sets for Hollywood films, designed furniture, and worked as an architect on department stores, hotels, and theaters. He was particularly associated with the Art Deco movement in America. In 1926, Otto Kahn, President of the Metropolitan Opera Company, commissioned him to design a new opera house at a site on West 57th Street that was never realized (see Urban's design below). Today, few of his buildings in New York remain except for the base of the Hearst Building on West 57th Street and the New School on West 12th Street.