Two Locals Watch 176 Met Operas in a Row, Write Book Reports on Them, Then Celebrate With Burgers and Onion Rings


Marion and Carolyn.

People in the neighborhood have spent the pandemic engaging in all sorts of hobbies. Some, who we all secretly hate, have crunched their way to six-pack abs or learned a language.

Others have re-dedicated themselves to things that bring them joy. Marion Chalat and Carolyn Starry, two longtime opera-lovers, have taken advantage of a special perk from the Metropolitan Opera, which has been streaming live operas online since early in the pandemic. In six months, the two buddies watched 176 operas in a row.

On Wednesday, the celebrated their feat with burgers at Bareburger on 97th Street & Columbus Avenue. That’s them above. On Thursday, they watched number 177.

Carolyn explained their ritual in more detail:

“Marion and I miss going to the Metropolitan Opera. I have two subscriptions for Saturday matinees for the 2019-2020 season for a total of 17. Marion shares a subscription with another friend on Tuesdays. We became friends while volunteering at the New-York Historical Society.

Before public programs began, we would discuss the latest opera we saw at the Met and give each other our thoughts on the performance. When the COVID-19 pandemic closed all performing arts, the Metropolitan Opera started offering nightly live-streaming of past operas on March 16.

We both started watching nightly. It would start at 7:30pm and you would have an opportunity to view until the next day by 6:30pm. After viewing each opera, we have submitted what we call “Book Reports” to each other commenting on all aspects of the opera. We both have teaching degrees — mine in Music Education and Marion in Biology — so writing and reading book reports is a natural. They are in no way something to publish — just for our own enjoyment — we very often disagree which makes watching the same opera interesting and fun.

So September 16 marked the 27th week of watching nightly operas and Wednesday, September 16 was our 176th opera marking our 6 month anniversary! We celebrated with 3 other friends at a restaurant on the upper west side, Bareburger located at 97th and Columbus. We sat outside, of course, and the food was outstanding! As the theaters remain closed, we continue to watch our nightly operas. Tonight is #177. Rossini’s La Cenerentola from the archives of 2009! See you at the opera!!!”

As they say at the opera, Bravissimo!

ABSURDITY, ART | 44 comments | permalink
    1. ZoomZ says:

      Kudos.
      The onion rings look delicious.
      Will go to eat some myself there.

    2. merry bruns says:

      You two are delightful!
      As a former Upper West Sider (now in DC, and watching opera nightly), I wish I could join you for a burger!
      I’ll pay.
      (See you on Met streaming on Facebook!)

    3. Peddie J says:

      Absolutely wonderful. Friendship, culture, spirited debate, onion rings. Everything that makes life great. Thanks for sharing! Feeling inspired now…

    4. Melodie Baker says:

      Hello from San Diego!!!
      My friend and I have been watching the Met Operas nightly, too,from week 5.
      It’s been grand (haha)!
      We have our “opera talks” regularly.
      It’s a thrill and an education.
      Enjoying “La Cenerentola” today!

      • Carolyn says:

        A few words about Rossini’s “La Cenerentola.”
        I didn’t care for this production — no glass slipper, no pumpkin turned carriage, no fairy godmother but I did enjoy the voices of Elina Garanca and Lawrence Brownlee. Week 6, same production but enjoyed the voices of Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Florez much more. Its all subjective, after all!!! Week 15 was Massenet’s “Cendrillon” My favorite production starring Kathleen Kim, Joyce DiDonato & Alice Coote from 2018.

    5. Sarah says:

      This is the kind of thing that makes city life great. Enjoy yourselves, ladies!

    6. Leslie says:

      BRAVI!!!!
      Does my heart good to read this!

      At the moment listening to the Educational offering this week, of the 2018 L’Elisir.

    7. Dorothy DiOrio says:

      I’ve watched most of them too. Bravo for the two of you!

    8. Carl Kissin says:

      I am now writing Bareburger the Opera. I know I’ll have an audience of at least two (Marion and Carolyn).

      • Carolyn says:

        Indeed! In fact, looking at their menu, it could potentially be a children’s musical presented on the Disney Channel. The beef, chicken and produce are organic; they have plant-based burgers — some of the names are melodic –quarter notes, triplets. The ensemble, for the overture, would be in body suits… then the layering begins, etc. The ending shows a person in a bear suit sitting at a table with knife and fork in hand waiting for the finished Bareburger to be presented for consumption:Curtain. The End. Carolyn!

    9. Doug Chucknow says:

      What a great story. The Metropolitan Opera’s streaming
      The nightly operas has been a very enjoyable evening for many. 176 Operas in 6 months is quite impressive
      I congratulate you both on your passion and dedication.

    10. Dana Reimer says:

      Metopera.org is one of the very few benefits of the pandemic. My husband and I began watching in the second week and been enjoying at least five operas each week since We’re both looking forward to hearing and watching tonight’s “La Cenerentola.” And I’ve begun listening to the Metropolitan Opera rebroadcasts on WQXR on Saturday afternoons, too. A new passion has been discovered.

    11. tim says:

      la bella vita

    12. Old Stones says:

      This article was shared to the Met Opera Live in HD Fans Facebook group (18K+ members), and the general response was “Little do they know.” Adding to the Met offerings performances from across the US and in Europe, opera lovers with decent internet connections have had plenty to watch (and those burgers do look great).

      • Carolyn says:

        I’m not on Facebook but I know it is another venue for watching and sharing so much of the arts whether theater, ballet or opera. AllArts.org is another website I have used. Also, living on the upper westside, before restaurants opened for outdoor dining, my “go to” food source was (and still is) Zabar’s. I can always have a 3-course dinner with my husband, Doug, every night. All that is needed is a microwave!!! Then, come 7:30pm, Doug watches ballet and I tune in to the nightly streaming of another opera. During this pandemic, watching the high art of ballet and/or opera for us helps with “the new normal.” I long for the first Saturday matinee I can, once again, be “in the big house” at Lincoln Center and for a few hours, let fantasy take flight! Carolyn

    13. I have a friend and we do exactly the same thing. Toi, toi, toi

    14. Freddy Torres says:

      Wonderful! So much love for opera!

    15. Elaine says:

      Articles like this give people hope and offer great stories about how others are making it through the pandemic

      • Carolyn says:

        and, thank you Elaine for almost never inadvertently calling during my two soap operas — one the “spoken” word “Days of Our Lives” and one the “singing” word “nightly streaming of the Metropolitan Opera!!!
        Aunt Carolyn aka AC/NYC

    16. Karen Starry says:

      I began watching the operas with my Aunt Carolyn back in March. I was in Orlando and she was in NYC. We also sent pictures and comments back & forth. I watched 40 operas but Carolyn and Marion push on. They are so devoted to the arts.

    17. Hinda Pozner says:

      What a great story! It’s so good to see people being together and enjoying life! Keep it up! Marion, I know someone who would have been very proud of you…

    18. jane patrono says:

      That is unbelievable. I am a long time friend of Carolyn and live in the country where we can get out! What they do sitting at home and watch opera’s is amazing.

      • Carolyn says:

        Thank you, Jane… my friend since first grade when we were students of Miss Bigham at the Biglerville Elementary School!

    19. Frances Milberg says:

      How wonderful

    20. Sharon Phelps says:

      Greetings from Canada on your Operatic Record. I am a friend of Mary Lou Francis. We don’t seem to have Bareburgers up here over the border !

      • Carolyn says:

        In 1986 I was working for Estee Lauder as a spokesperson and training executive traveling 40 weeks a year. I had finished an event near Detroit and my friend, Mary Lou, who was visiting her family in Sarnia, drove across the bridge connecting the US & Canada so I could spend time visiting with her a few days before heading back to New York. One of the places we stopped for a coffee and donut was Tim Hortons! No bareburgers but delicious sweets!

    21. Jim, of Lindsay, Ontario says:

      Two proper old gals from New York
      Would always steer clear of a quork*
      But they attended the Met
      So many times I forget
      Then ate Bareburgers without any fork!

      *See the Urban Dictionary

    22. Tania says:

      Lovely! what a great idea to share reports on the opera productions! I have also been watching, but not very regularly! I have enjoyed watching most of the operas! I am from Rio, Brazil. It’s great to have this opportunity. I did have a chance to attend some operas at the Met, but now, cannot even set foot in the US , because of the virus! it’s a great treat to have the operas at home!

    23. Jan Thompson says:

      Bravissima, Carolyn! This is Jan and Jim from AZ, cheering you on to #200. We have friends who have watched 150 MET operas but you’re ahead in the race. Keep up the good record and enjoy!

      • Carolyn says:

        So nice to hear from you! Apartment living doesn’t give many options but it’s great to watch all the arts on my computer but 7:30pm is reserved for Met Opera live-streaming! Also, having Riverside Park nearby is a perfect place for an early morning walk!

    24. EDWARD ALBERT says:

      I love your passion, ladies ʕ•́؈•̀ʔ
      Let’s hope live performances can safely resume before long.

    25. Margaret Duffy says:

      Nice to see this article about Marion’s feat! And to see Marion herself. Congratulations ladies, I love both our New York cultural Mets, but can’t match this devotion.
      Great going!

      • Marion Chalat says:

        Great to hear from you. I’ve gotten back to the Met Museum, can’t wait to get back to the Met Opera House.
        In the meantime enjoying the Met nightly “streams”.
        All Puccini this week, what could be more wonderful.Hope you are well and all recovered.
        Stay safe, Mation

    26. Ehud Kaplan says:

      My daughter, who lives in Zurich, and I, living in Prague, have been doing the very same thing all along.

      • Carolyn says:

        That is fabulous! Marion and I are only 8 blocks apart! You win the “farthest distance! How lucky we all are to set Met productions every night!

    27. Mary Lou Francis says:

      BRAVA Carolyn, friend of 46 years and Marion my NY Historical Society friend. The Met Opera is a milestone and COVID19 has reminded me of all the challenges over the years when you would always say “stay the course”.
      Thanks you Carolyn for all the memories,
      Mary Lou

      • Carolyn says:

        To celebrate our 50th Anniversary of Friendship, I can’t think of a more appropriate restaurant than the “Grand Tier” at the Metropolitan Opera House followed by a spectacular opera!

    28. Glad to see you all enjoying yourselves and the food looks over the top. Keep up the positive attitudes and enjoy!!
      Viva La Opera!!!

      • Carolyn says:

        As long as we have the Met live streaming opera”s starting at 7:30pm every night, our spirits will remain undaunted! Just finished watching Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West” — opera number 182. Now I have to write my “Book Report” to Marion!
        In music terminology, Fine!

    29. Michael H says:

      Thank you for sharing this inspiring story of everyday intellect. Where did you acquire such an education, or are you a performer yourself? Mazel tov!

      • Carolyn says:

        It is impossible to answer your question with the 100 word limit but I’ll highlight my career path. Majored in Music Education at Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, MD. Music instructor three years. Supplemented my income performing with Baltimore Opera Chorus, Soloist of Oratorio Society, performed on Cruise Ships in the summer months. Ten years for the Estee Lauder Company as a Training Executive & Promotion Specialist. Ten years for the Waterford Wedgwood Company as Director of Training & Special Events. Adjunct Professor at FIT for five years. Published two books. Attend 40-50 Broadway shows a year; visit 25 museums/galleries.