Community Events

The Undesirable in Box 14: Jews and Opera in Gilded Age New York with Samantha Cooper

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The recent television series The Gilded Age depicts the birth of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House as a class war between the city’s established “old money” clan and its newly wealthy arrivals. In this talk, historical musicologist Samantha Cooper will draw on archival, oral history, and press findings to reveal the real-life dynamics that characterized Jewish involvement with the opera in that era.

Her presentation will retell the well-known story of the Met’s first sixty years with a new emphasis on the essential roles that Jewish men played behind the scenes as patrons and laborers. Even as the Met employed Jews and hosted Jewish community events, Jews at the opera house also faced a fraught and often antisemitic environment in which they were the institution’s main “undesirable persons.”

This event is cosponsored by the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.

Samantha Cooper is a historical musicologist specializing in American Jewish cultural history. As the Ariel and Joshua Weiner Family Fellow at Penn’s Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies this year, Samantha is completing her first monograph, American Jews and the Making of the New York Opera Industry. Previously, she held a Harry Starr Postdoctoral Fellowship in Judaica at Harvard University’s Center for Jewish Studies. She is also the producer and host of “The Sounding Jewish Podcast” and the associate executive director of the Jewish Music Forum, a project of the American Society for Jewish Music.


Arts and Culture
History and Preservation