Containerizing the Opera

From student dorms to pop-up shops, the potential uses for the world's ubiquitous shipping containers seemingly has few bounds. A New Jersey parking lot and 1,300 containers play the part of the New York Metropolitan Opera's warehouse.

With space at a premium near the Met, the opera company has chosen to store its sets, costumes, and other supplies for its rotating operas in movable containers. It trucks in the supplies it needs for each performance, while the rest remain in Newark. 

"The Met keeps the makings of about 100 different productions here: sets broken down into pieces marked with instructions for speedy assembly at Lincoln Center," reports James Barron. "The containers for an opera are trucked to Lincoln Center just before it goes into rehearsal, and the sets remain at the Met until after the season’s last performance of that opera. The Met has some backstage storage space; [the Met's master carpenter] Mr. Diaz said that he usually has the sets for four to seven operas on hand at any given time — about 80 containers’ worth.

The Met, which struggled financially during the recession, will not say how much it pays for storage or transport. But the Met’s repertory means that there are times when a marathon of trucks is coming and going, as the stage crew knocks down one set and takes in the next one. 'It is a 24/7 operation when they are in season,' said Larry Pucciarello, who coordinates the logistics for Daybreak Express. 'They’re on the phone: ''Where’s this truck? Where's that truck?''"

Full Story: For the Met, Opera History Lives in a Newark Parking Lot


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