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A Broken Stage for Opening Night

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What do you do when a giant turntable designed to move an army on stage for opening night doesn’t work?

Great Performances: The Opera House, the new documentary by multiple Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Susan Froemke (Grey GardensLalee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton) surveys a remarkable period of the Metropolitan Opera’s rich history and a time of great change for New York City. Premieres Friday, May 25 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) and will be available to stream the following day on pbs.org/gperf and PBS apps.

TRANSCRIPT

Rudolph Bing was very concerned giving up a house that with all its deformities and so what he knew how to make work.

Well would they wait just a minute please... And now with this new house work why do we plan nine new operas in the first season, we were crazy.

I don't think I or any of us quite visualized the hell it would be.

It's a beautiful house and I'm delighted to have it but it is not nearly ready... technically.

The centerpiece of the new Met stage is a turn table around which Zeffirelli has designed his production on it he intends to change scenes rotate huge crops and wheel armies into view already drawn up for battle.

So I was standing in the auditorium and he puts an army on the stage and they don't March cuz the turntable breaks. I said, 'My God what's this about.'

It won't start, it won't work.

You can get it going and get on it you see it works. There's no possible way of putting a cable under this.

So I go up at the end and somebody gets to look underneath the steel bent. I said how the world could that happen so I run up to my office and I see what it says I call up the engineer he said Herman we made a mistake I said what do you mean I said to them I told you clearly what I needed I needed a turntable that could handle an automobile or an elephant standing on one foot. When we signed it, we went over all this.

I'm just appalled this is the first instance and the long life of the new Met.

Did you have 200 people on a turntable that won't move.

Throw it in the Hudson River! Take it and throw it! We can't use it is no use for anybody!

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