Arts & CultureAstor PlaceHistory

Once Upon a Time: Opera at Astor Place

The Astor Place Opera House opened on November 22, 1847 in a grand building able to seat approximately 1,800 patrons. The interior of the building was extremely ornate, however, its most unique feature may have been that every seat had an uninterrupted view of the stage. The opera was a high-class affair intended for the wealthy with tickets in 1948 costing $1.00 (about $25.00 today).

On May 10, 1849 a riot erupted at the opera house as the simmering wealth disparity issues between patrons was sparked by the opera's choice of an English actor over an American actor to play the part of Macbeth. As the wealthy patrons cheered the English actor William Macready the less affluent attendees disrupted the performance to show their support for Edwin Forrest, the reigning American tragedian who had been overlooked for the part. The Seventh Regiment was called in to subdue the ensuing riot and at the end of the day 25 were dead and 120 hurt.

The opera house was nicknamed "Dis-Astor Place Opera House," however, it continued to provide exquisite opera. Then on June 8, 1852 William Niblo, the proprietor of rival Niblo's Garden, was able to rent the space under an assumed name for what the New York Times called, "[a] grand troupe of trained monkeys, dogs and goats."

With its aristocratic veneer tarnished, the opera house was converted to the Mercantile Library two years later.

 

Source
- Daytonian in Manhattan

Once Upon a Time: Opera at Astor Place

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