Athenaeum of Philadelphia

The Undesirable in Box 14: Jews and Opera in Gilded Age New York

The recent television series The Gilded Age depicts the birth of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House as a class war between the city’s established “old money” clan and its newly wealthy arrivals. In this talk, historical musicologist Samantha Cooper will draw on archival, oral history, and press findings to reveal the real-life dynamics that characterized Jewish involvement with the opera in that era.

Her presentation will retell the well-known story of the Met’s first sixty years with a new emphasis on the essential roles that Jewish men played behind the scenes as patrons and laborers. Even as the Met employed Jews and hosted Jewish community events, Jews at the opera house also faced a fraught and often antisemitic environment in which they were the institution’s main “undesirable persons.”