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The Metropolitan Opera House Society feuds marred New York's Gilded Age, and opera was a theater for battle. Old-money families coldly refused opera boxes at the venerable Academy of Music to the likes of the Vanderbilts and the Goulds. Led by Alva Vanderbilt, the city's new millionaires built their own opera house at 39th Street.

The Metropolitan Opera House opened in 1883. The building's yellow-brick facade along Broadway was not particularly ornate, owing in part to the rent-producing apartments added to the structure. The cavernous red-and-gold interior, however, offered more boxes than New York had millionaires-three tiers of 36 boxes. The top tier went unoccupied and was removed after a year. The enviable lower ring became known as the "diamond horseshoe." At last, the Academy of Music had been eclipsed. It showed its last opera in 1885.



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