Thursday, February 28, 2013

Remembrance of Things Past - A Night at the Opera

Two tickets for performance of "La Boheme" On February 9, 1944
at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City

Terra cotta frieze from the fa├žade of the old Metropolitan Opera House
mounted in fireplace

Since the second week in January I have been living with my father who will be 92 years old on May 25th. My father is many things: husband for almost 70 years, father of two daughters, native of Germany, US Air Corps veteran of WWII, retired professional engineer with credentials both in mechanical and civil engineering, and former member of the governing board of the community where he and my mother have lived in the house he designed since 1968.

But his curriculum vitae would include so much more. I have described him as a Renaissance man: builder of boats and ham radio equipment, lover of history ancient and modern, devotee of the arts especially classical music and opera, patriotic and interested citizen and supporter of the best interests of the country which welcomed him at the age of eight and provided him with the finest of educations at no cost at The City College of New York of CUNY.

My parents' home is filled with collections of material connected with each of my Dad's areas of professional or personal expertise as well as my mother's collections reflecting her interests in needlework, painting and gourmet cooking. Since Mom is living in an assisted living facility receiving care appropriate to her stage of dementia and Dad is receiving my care and the wonderful care of Hospice I am able, at every free moment, to begin the process of going through it all, weeding out, assigning destinations for a great deal and often rewarded by the discovery of a treasure.
One of our family stories is attached to the ticket stubs shown here. I found these stubs resting at the bottom of a small drawer in my mother's bedroom desk. On February 9, 1944 my father was on leave from the Army Air Corps before going to places like Meridian, Mississippi with his young wife. He thought to give my mother and her aunt a treat by taking them to the opera. He was to pick them up at their place of work, the fashion house of Nettie Rosenstine on 7th Avenue. Rosenstine was a famous designer for whom my mother worked as one of a number of sketchers in the design department while my aunt worked with a group of accomplished needlewomen who were sample makers, creators of the first sample of a new design. Upon his arrival at the assigned location my father found himself fairly run over by a bevy of scantily clad models. He said it was a surprise but not hard to take.
Arriving at the opera house Dad went to the box office to buy three tickets. He was told that tickets for that performance had been set aside by season ticket holders for the exclusive use of GIs. The tickets he received were for the center box in the Diamond Horseshoe (first row of boxes) held by the Astor family. My aunt, an opera lover who had sat in the balcony for many Met performances could not have been more delighted or impressed.
Years later, when the Met's old house was being demolished after the company's move to Lincoln Center, my father purchased the frieze which appears above.  The fireplace for their new home would be designed around it. Another treasured item in search of a new home.                                            


Joanne Bernardo said...

What a wonderful vignette! So beautifully told! I so enjoy your treasure stories!

Ophelie said...

How beautiful. Thank you for sharing this story!