Open House at the Metropolitan Opera House

Open House at the Metropolitan Opera House

The Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center at night. (Jonathan Tichler/Metropolitan Opera House)

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 16, 1966, the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center opened with a spectacular white-tie gala. A Who’s Who of society (Rockefellers, Whitneys, Drexels) and politics (Lady Bird Johnson, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, the Bobby Kennedys) walked the red carpet, while onstage the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra,” directed and designed by Franco Zeffirelli, and with baritone Justino Diaz and soprano Leontyne Price singing the title roles, unfolded.

In celebration of the building’s half-century, the public areas are open to the general public for the first time ever, beginning Oct. 4, 2016, and continuing to the end of the 2016–2017 opera season on May 13, 2017. Hours are Monday thru Friday from 10 am to 2 pm.

Spaces previously accessible to ticket holders only can now be enjoyed free of charge, with visitors permitted to ascend the floating grand staircase for a bird’s-eye view of the lobby’s crystal “Sputnik” chandeliers. Visitors can also step out on the balcony overlooking Lincoln Center Plaza. An exhibition in the Founder’s Hall details the history of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center and its inaugural 1966–1967 season.

Another attraction for opera lovers is the opportunity to view live rehearsals on a large TV monitor as they take place on the Met stage.

In addition to self-guided tour materials, a tour guide is on hand to answer questions about the Metropolitan Opera, which was founded in 1880, and its building in Lincoln Center, which replaced the “Old Met” on Broadway between W. 39th and W. 40th sts. (demolished in 1967).

Of course, with the box office and gift shop also opening at 10 am, the temptation is to buy a ticket for that evening’s performance and purchase DVDs, CDs and exclusive Met memorabilia.

Highlights of the October 2016 calendar include a new production of “Guillaume Tell,” “Tristan und Isolde,” “Don Giovanni,” “La Bohème,” “L’Italiana in Algeri” and “Jenufa.”

Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, Columbus Ave., btw W. 63rd & W. 64th sts., www.metopera.org. Box office: 212.362.6000