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January 9: Integrating the Metropolitan Opera

January 9, 2016

3422679079_aef78f2476Rudolph Bing, who ran the Metropolitan Opera for twenty-two years (1950-72) as general manager and integrated its roster of singers by bringing Leontyne Price onstage in 1953 and Marian Anderson in 1955, was born in Vienna on this date in 1902. Bing moved with his Russian ballerina wife from Germany to Great Britain in 1934 and became a British citizen in 1946 (he was knighted in 1971). He helped to found both the Glyndebourne Festival Opera and, in Scotland, the Edinburgh Festival before moving to New York in 1949. Bing (shown in the photo with Maria Callas, whom he hired and fired) was an autocrat and a powerhouse who built the Met into the most prominent opera house of the world and revolutionized the attention to staging and stagecraft in opera. He also provoked two labor strikes by members of the company in 1961 and 1969. Bing commissioned the large murals by Marc Chagall that are visible from Lincoln Center Plaza. He wrote two memoirs, 5,000 Nights at the Opera and A Knight at the Opera, and lived to be 95.

“Don’t be misled. Behind [my] cold, austere, severe exterior, there beats a heart of stone.” —Rudolph Bing