Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Fabric of Memory: Preserving Met Opera History Friday, March 04, 2016 - 10:58 AM By Fred Plotkin

The Metropolitan Opera archivist Robert Tuggle (Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera)
I am often asked who is the Belmont for whom the Belmont Room on the Metropolitan Opera’s Grand Tier is named. This is where donors at a certain level to the Opera Guild go for coffee and conversation before performances and during intermissions. A painting there by Simon Elvis of a warmly elegant lady depicts Eleanor Robson Belmont (1879-1979), who was the first woman on the board of directors of the Met and was crucial in creating the Metropolitan Opera Guild in 1935.
Mrs. Belmont always sat in box 4 in the Golden Horseshoe at the old Met. When the company was in its most parlous financial condition in the early 1930s, she raised $300,00 to create the guild. In 1940, it was she who had the idea to cut up the gold silk curtain at the old Met and have the pieces stitched to make handbags, bookmarks, eyeglass cases and other items whose sale raised $11,000.
Mrs. Belmont proudly declared that, with the establishment of the guild, “democratization of opera has begun!” In the spring of 1936 she hired Mary Ellis Peltz, whom she described as a “gifted walking encyclopedia of opera” to edit the newsletter that would become Opera News. Mrs. Peltz also created educational programs, a lecture series and backstage tours. She edited the magazine until 1957, at which point she initiated the Metropolitan Opera archives and was its director until her death in 1981. They were then headed by Robert Tuggle, who died on Jan. 24 at the age of 83. Read more...

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