A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 17, 2008
Sputniks (Metropolitan Opera House chandeliers)

The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center has “starburst” chandeliers than many have called “Sputniks,” after the Russian satellite. The chandeliers were a gift from the Austrian Government and were installed in May 1966. There are 11 chandeliers in the lobby and 21 in the auditorium. Crystal in the chandeliers are held by metal rods, making the chandeliers appear to be crystal “constellations.”


Wikipedia: Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera Association of New York City, founded in April 1880, is a major presenter of all types of opera including Grand Opera. The Metropolitan is America’s largest classical music organization, and annually presents some 240 opera performances, either as new productions (sometimes productions borrowed from or shared with) other major opera houses in America and abroad. The home of the company, the Metropolitan Opera House is one of the premier opera stages in the world, considered by some as one of the best and is among the biggest in the world. The Met, as it is commonly called, is one of the twelve resident organizations at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
(...)
The Met at Lincoln Center
The present Metropolitan Opera House, with approximately 3,800 seats, is located at Lincoln Center at Lincoln Square in the Upper West Side and was designed by architect Wallace K. Harrison. Although west-east roads do not run through Lincoln Center itself, the Metropolitan Opera House is parallel to the block from West 63rd Street to West 64th Street. The rear of the House meets Amsterdam Avenue and the entrance to the Opera House is at Lincoln Center Plaza which begins at Columbus Avenue. The building is clad in white travertine and the east facade is graced with five similar arches. On display in the lobby are two murals created for the space by Marc Chagall. The gold proscenium is 54’ wide and 54’ high. The main curtain is custom-woven gold damask and is the largest tab curtain in the world.

The new building opened on September 16, 1966, with the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra. The Metropolitan Opera performs grand opera in rotating repertory, each week presenting seven performances of 4 to 5 different productions. The highly mechanized stage and support space facilitates this presentation. There are 7 full stage elevators, (60’ wide, with double decks) and three slipstages, the upstage one containing a 60’ diameter revolve (turntable). There are 103 motorized battens (linesets) for overhead lifting and there are two 100’ tall fully-enveloping cycloramas.

Wikipedia: Sputnick 1
Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite to be put into outer space. Launched into geocentric orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957, it was the first of a series of satellites collectively known as the Sputnik program.

The satellite helped to identify the density of high atmospheric layers through measurement of its orbital change and provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere. Because the satellite’s body was filled with pressurized nitrogen, Sputnik 1 also provided the first opportunity for meteoroid detection, as a loss of internal pressure due to meteoroid penetration of the outer surface would have been evident in the temperature data sent back to Earth. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1‘s success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space Race within the Cold War. 

23 July 1963, New York (NY) Times, pg. 21:
AUSTRIA TO LIGHT
MET’S NEW HOME
Opera House Receiving Set
of $160,000 Chandeliers

The Austrian Government will make a donation to the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts: It will be a set of crystal chandeliers.

What form the chandeliers will take, or where they will be used, will be decided next week when Dr. Hans Rath of J. and L. Lobmeyr comes here from Austria to confer with Wallace Harrison, the building’s architect. The plans call for chandeliers in the grand foyer and chandeliers in the auditorium that can be raised and lowered with the curtain.

29 May 1966, New York (NY) Times, pg. D11 photo caption:
The new Metropolitan Opera House’s crystal chandelier, 18 feet wide, seen as it is lowered into the auditorium for inspection.
The 21 crystal chandeliers, donated by the Austrian government, suffuses the auditorium

New York (NY) Times
ART/ARCHITECTURE; Lincoln Center’s Next Big Production: Itself
By HERBERT MUSCHAMP
Published: January 21, 2001
(...)
Only an ironist could appreciate that Monumental Temporary was exactly what Lincoln Center wanted to be. If you had put the site on a couch and asked it to tell you its dreams, it would have said: ‘’All my life I have secretly longed to be Monumental Temporary.

‘’I want glass facades and travertine walls. No diamonds, please. Give me rhinestones. Arches that look paper thin. An opera house with Sputnik chandeliers that rise heavenward at curtain time. A massive grand staircase that goes nowhere. Just a place to pose on yards of red carpet. The biggest bad Chagalls in this poor diva’s world.

‘’And an orchestra hall with movable kite-shaped acoustical panels. We’ll call them clouds and put little lights in them. Frame the stage with spindly gold room dividers. And if we don’t like it, we can tear it down and start all over again!’’

Done!

New York (NY) Times
Metropolitan Opera ‘Sputniks,’ Bright Lights of the Lobby, Come Down for Repair
By JAMES BARRON
Published: July 18, 2008
It was the kind of story handed down from generation to generation. Johannes Rath remembers hearing it told, over and over, when he was growing up in an apartment above the family’s workshop in Vienna in the 1980s.

The story was that the first ovation in the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center erupted when the chandeliers rose toward the ceiling on opening night, Sept. 16, 1966.

The story began with Mr. Rath’s grandfather, Hans Harald Rath, who had been one of the 3,800 people in the first-night audience. He had designed and installed all of the chandeliers in the Met’s new home — the 11 in the lobby and the 21 in the auditorium itself.

Now Johannes Rath, 31, has become the managing partner of the family’s crystal and chandelier-manufacturing company, J.&L. Lobmeyr, and he spent several recent days dismantling the chandeliers in the lobby. They left the Met on Wednesday packed into 15 crates headed for Kennedy Airport, where they would be loaded onto three planes.

Over the next 10 weeks, in the Lobmeyr workshop in Vienna, Mr. Rath will oversee the refurbishing and refinishing of the wood-and-metal spheres — called “sputniks” ever since the Met opened — that hold them together, as well as the metal rods known as rays that reach out at all angles from the sputniks.

And the 49,000 pieces of crystal that ride on the rods? They will all be replaced with brand-new crystal from Swarovski, another tradition-laden Austrian company.

It is the first time since the Met moved to Lincoln Center that the chandeliers have been given more than a cleaning, and the pressure is on. The plan is to install the refinished skeletons with the new crystal in time for the Met’s 125th-anniversary season, which begins on Sept. 22.

“It’s a relatively easy piece to do,” Mr. Rath said on Monday. “We have already processed the 49,000 crystal beads for the 1,000 sputniks.”

When they were brand new, the chandeliers looked like crystal constellations with sparkly moons and satellites spraying out in all directions. The chandeliers were an up-to-the-minute reminder that if the old Met, on the west side of Broadway between 39th and 40th Streets, had been a symbol of the Gilded Age, the new Met wanted to be a symbol of the space age.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • (0) Comments • Thursday, July 17, 2008 • Permalink