Every summer, New York City erupts into multicolored joy to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, which, of course, culminates in the ever-popular Pride Parade. This year’s parade held particular significance, as it commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, and at the same time, coincided with New York’s hosting of the World Pride celebrations, resulting in record numbers attending the event. The Metropolitan Opera was both honored and thrilled to participate, for the first time, in the Pride Parade this year, and we pulled out all the stops! Over 100 Met employees, all full-throated supporters of gay pride, donned gold-gilded t-shirts (with some in splashy costume pieces auctioned off during the Met’s t-shirt decorating event) and marched and danced with fierce energy & exultation as Met favorites Anthony Roth Costanzo and Stephanie Blythe belted out pop songs from our gold and silver parade float (and yes, they were as amazing as crossover artists they are opera artists!).
Christopher Browner, an associate editor at the Met, took up the truly herculean task of organizing the Met’s presence in the parade this year. After marching with Dignity, a queer Catholic group, in the 2018 Pride parade, he was inspired to get the Met involved, at least with a public show of support on social media. He wasn’t even considering the idea of the Met actually marching. However, according to Browner, “Marsha Drummond, the head of the Met Education Department, and Will Berger, one of our radio producers and commentators, really deserve the credit for having the idea for the Met to march. Once they suggested it to me, I ran with it and set about petitioning the powers that be to allow us to march.”
Everyone, including general manager Peter Gelb, was excited about the prospects of the Met’s participation in such an important event, and after getting the green light and wholehearted support from numerous departments, Browner took the lead and deftly balanced coordination with the Met administration, design team, and the production, graphic design, and marketing departments in order to bring us all, safely and effectively, to the parade on June 30th. “We had the best people, so it was executed brilliantly.”
(Enjoy a few snapshots of our exciting day at the Pride Parade! Photos are either taken by Met photographer Jonathan Tichler or by individual marchers.)
Over 100 Met Opera employees marched together in the parade, including many members of the Met’s full-time and extra chorus, who took time out from their summer vacation to represent the Met. John Trybus, a full-time chorus member who identifies as gay, was excited to attend, and participate in, his first pride parade. “It was a fantastic experience,” he said. “As a gay man I appreciated the Met representing in the community.” Countless other Met employees who were happy to support their LGBTQ+ colleagues spoke of how important the Met’s involvement in the Pride parade was for them. Mezzo-soprano Liz Brooks Wentworth was proud to march with her friends and colleagues as an advocate for equal rights for all. “I’m so thankful to have been part of such an historic day. It was filled with inclusion, happiness, and love.”
Met chorister Brandon Mayberry was particularly moved by the Met’s inaugural involvement in the parade this year. Brandon feels this came “at a pivotal and historic time, with Sunday matinees being offered in order to sell more tickets and with our first openly gay music director, Yannick Nezet-Seguin.” To Brandon, it’s one of the many ways the Met can make itself more inclusive and approachable to new audiences. “It’s very exciting and bold, and that is exactly what is needed to keep up with and attract younger audiences, which is necessary for the future of opera at the Met and beyond!”
The Met Opera group waited patiently for three and a half hours past the Met’s assigned launch time, which was unsurprising considering the statistics: according to Wikipedia, 150,000 participants marched in the parade, with over 4 million watching and cheering them on.
Browner hung back a few steps and watched everyone start to march. “Seeing all of that joy and enthusiasm and love, I just watched it all for a few moments with tears in my eyes. And then to be a part of the March for Stonewall 50—it was one of the most life-affirming, joyous, loving experiences of my life.”
Lianne Coble-Dispensa joined the Metropolitan Opera as a member of the extra chorus in 2010, and went full time in 2015. She is the Editor-in-Chief for the Met Artists Newsletter, and is a member of the Met Chorus Artists executive board. When she's not singing opera or furiously copy editing this month's newsletter, she enjoys spending the lion's share of her free time cooking various delights in the kitchen, reading non-fiction, Crossfitting, and running moderately impressive distances. She is married to fellow chorister (and ultramarathoner/Crossfitter) Scott Dispensa, and they live in Teaneck, NJ with two ostentatiously named cats (Maximilien de Robespierre and Charles Hubert Hastings Parry), and one derpy puppy named Finnegan McCloud.