When the Opera Was on the Sidewalk

Dear Diary:

The opening of the Metropolitan Opera always reminds me of when I used to pass by the stage door in back of the old Met on Seventh Avenue every morning on my walk from Pennsylvania Station to my office in Times Square. The sidewalk would be cluttered with flats, props and pieces of scenery. Workers would be busy taking out the previous night’s set and moving things in for that evening’s performance.

One morning we were delayed to allow a large sarcophagus to be removed from a parked van. Six burly workers carefully lifted the heavy sarcophagus, placed it carefully on their shoulders, three on each side, and marched with slow, measured steps across the sidewalk and up the ramp through the stage door.

Two more men, flanking the entrance, respectfully doffed their caps and lowered their heads as the cortege passed into the building. As they replaced their hats, one of them announced so that we all could hear, “I didn’t even know she was sick!”

It later occurred to me that this routine had probably been going on for years every time “Aida” was on the bill. And now that the Lincoln Center Met stores its scenery in house, we have seen the end of Egyptian processionals on Seventh Avenue.

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