The Metropolitan Opera had been founded in 1883 by a group of wealthy New York City businessmen who wanted to run their own theater. From its inception it attracted top talent, but frequent changes in management and America’s rapidly shifting artistic appetites made for a tumultuous life as a for-profit enterprise. By 1966, when the opera signed on as a constituent of the brand-new Rockefeller-propelled Lincoln Center arts center, it had already been transformed by philanthropic intervention into a national artistic and educational force.
The opera had experimented with radio broadcasts in the 1920s, but the Great Depression made funding difficult to come by. Then in 1940 Texaco stepped in to sponsor nationwide Saturday radio broadcasts of opera performances. For 63 landmark years these concerts were anxiously anticipated in communities across America. They continue to this day with different corporate donors. The Met eventually expanded into television, satellite radio, HD television, movie-theater broadcasts, and Internet streaming. But it was the Texaco radio partnership that kicked it all off and turned the Met into a national icon.
- Metropolitan Opera, metopera.org/About/The-Met/