Episode 4

13. Metropolitan Opera House

Old Metropolitan Opera House
Interior of the Metropolitan Opera House, 1895 Image from the Library of Congress

Episode 4 starts with a grand tour of the Metropolitan Opera House led by Mrs. Russell. The grand theater is still under construction but what’s been built so far is quite impressive to the patrons in attendance. As they step out onto the stage, the house lights come on over the audience, and a sea of gilded boxes is illuminated. On The Gilded Age Podcast, location manager Lauri Pitkus and VFX supervisor Douglas Purver explained how they achieved this reveal.

The very first shot in the hallway of the theater was filmed at The Palace Theatre in Albany. The stage the actors are standing on is a set while the house they look out to is a green screen image of the house of the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Pitkus explained that though there are many grand theaters in New York, there are few that are built like the original Metropolitan Opera. As opposed to movie theaters that have mezzanines, opera theaters have a horseshoe shape. The closest thing to this in New York City from around the same time, Pitkus noted, is Carnegie Hall. Rather than bring the cast to Philadelphia, the special effects team made a detailed 3D scan of the theater and shot B-roll which they then used to create what was seen in the show.