The New York Metropolitan Opera's History in 10 Graphs

So, the Metropolitan Opera is currently in the news due to the ado over the staging of The Death of Klinghoffer (hooray, opera is socially relevant!). In browsing the Met’s site, I discovered that they keep an amazing public-facing database with details of every performance dating back to the 19th century (why can’t every orchestra do this?). In keeping with the spirit of events, I decided to do some analysis of the last century of opera at the Met (around 24,000 performances).

Check the bottom for information about the data, how I compiled it, and possible errors. 

Klinghoffer, as it turns out, is barely “contemporary.” It was composed in 1991; imagine if “Everything I Do I Do It For You” was considered a current pop song. Anyway, let’s look at the Met’s history of performing operas that have been composed within 25 years. Their record was much different, with regular stagings of operas by Puccini and Wolf-Ferrari in the early 20th century.

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Maybe that’s not fair to the Met. How about performances of pieces written within 50 years? The collapse is quite striking here; most pieces the Met used to be perform were considered “contemporary” in this way.

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Ok, let’s cut to the chase. How many composers were just straight-up dead when the piece was performed?

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The Met’s Composer Gala, 1983:

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If we look at the median year of composition, we can see that it has barely budged in the last century. You’re more or less going to see an opera written around 1870 if you randomly drop by the Met.

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What if we consider this another way: we can graph the distance between a given year and its median year of opera composition. That should give us a measure of “conservativeness:” the relation between a current time and the operatic repertoire the Met is performing.

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Let’s look at the nationalities of composers performed at the Met. Most striking here is the way German opera increases in popularity right up to late-1910s and the late 1930s, when the trend suddenly reverses course. I’m guessing that had to do with certain international events.

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The trend above is vividly demonstrated in the collapse of performances of Richard Wagner starting in the late 1910s and 1930s.

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The general list of operas most performed at the Met are somewhat expected: an assortment of Verdi, Puccini, and Wagner.

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"But wait!" you say. "Why aren’t American composers included above? The Met is an American opera company!" Well, frankly, American composers are more or less a rounding error at the Met. The best showing was a run of "Porgy and Bess" in the mid 1980s. To their credit, it does seem to be improving a bit.

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Lastly, how about a graph of female composers performed at the Met? Thanks to Garrett Schumann for first bringing this to my attention.

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Update 10/28/2014: To clarify, the MET has produced one opera by a female composer: Dame Ethel Smythe’s Der Wald,performed twice in 1903. 

About the data: data was acquired from the Met Opera Database, in a timeframe from 1905 to present. One “performance” is a night of an identifiable opera performance. Opera performances data was scraped from the HTML and matched up to scraped composer/opera data from Wikipedia. The process of scraping/matching may have introduced some error.

The licensing of the Met Opera Database is not clear; if they allow, I will gladly post the dataset of ~24000 performances in its entirety on GitHub for any corrections.

 -via Suby Red


Viral Myths and Misinformation in Culture

Did you know that bulls cannot see the color red, and matadors attract them simply by motion? Or, that Napoleon was in fact taller than average for his time? How about that the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from space, filing a missing person's report with the police does not require a 24hr absence or that historical Vikings never wore horned helmets?  How  that shaving thickens hair?  

Each of these misconceptions are assumed widely, and have spread through popular culture and the media. Yet the team at  Information is Beautiful  debunked these prevalent myths, with the sources and origins scrupulously researched (below).  Whether spreading in virality as a result of folklore (I'm guessing gum and mucous myths), popular perpetuation as a narrative trope or device (think undercover cops or killer pennies) or reinforcing the mythology surrounding a figurehead or celebrity (in the case of Einstein or Napoleon), people and cultures actively accept and spread information that is simply and empirically not true. 

Why do we choose to believe these falsehoods then?  Perhaps an oral tradition is difficult to eradicate, or the simplest solution, albeit untrue, is easier to perpetuate than complexity. Or is media and literature inherently deceptive, relying on misleading tropes to create a believable framework?  We are certainly willing to craft mythologies around our heros, perhaps moreso post-mortem. All of this makes me wonder how deluded we actually choose to be. tigho viral myths debunked

from Knowledge is Beautiful

How Far is Your Manhattan Apartment is From the Subway?

If there is one thing I learned while living on the Upper East Side many years ago, it’s that York Avenue is quite a hike from the subway (at least as far as hikes from subways in Manhattan go). That fact can sometimes help keep housing prices down, at least until the 2nd Avenue Line comes in.

All that hiking got me wondering: What residential building in Manhattan is farthest from a subway station entrance?  Is it in the Upper East Side? The Lower East Side?  The West Side?

Well, in the spirit of my earlier Starbucks-Distance analysis, I turned to Open Data to answer that question once and for all. To do so, I merged two data sets, the MTA Subway Station Entrance data set and PLUTO, which gives information on all lots in NYC. I then calculated the distance from the center of each lot to the nearest station.The map of lots colored by distance from subway entrances looks like this (with green being close and red being far): 

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And there on the map lies the farthest residential building from a subway entrance in Manhattan according to my analysis:10 Gracie Square, located at the end of 84th street at the FDR Drive.  It is 0.7 miles from the subway station as the crow flies, or 0.8 miles using the grid.  My favorite part about the finding is that the Penthouse, which I guess is literally the farthest place you can live from the subway due to the longer ride down in the elevator, is currently on the market for $18.9 million, down from $23 million last year.   That’s right, you can pay $18.9 million dollars to have literally the longest walk to the subway in all of Manhattan!  But fear not power walkers, there is also a two bedroom listed with a the same walk but a slightly shorter elevator ride… for $3.75 million.  

Update:
I’ve added a Google Doc for you to look up your own residential address and see how you compare to the rest of Manhattan.

From IQuant

Patchwork NYC: Neighborhood Collages of the Five Boroughs

NYC is a patchwork of ethnicities, neighborhoods, micro-economies and cultures.  Artist Jennifer Hill plays off this "quilt" metaphor, utilizing collage to represent the different districts of each of New York's five boroughs (except Staten Island), including the date in which the borough was incorporated.  You can purchase these posters here.


Neighborhoods included: Marble Hill, Inwood, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights, Manhattanville, Harlem, Morningside Heights, East Harlem, Wards Island, Upper West Side, Central Park, Upper East Side, Yorkville, Roosevelt Island, Clinton / Hell's Kitchen, Times Square, Midtown, Garment District, Murray Hill, Kips Bay, Chelsea, Gramercy, Stuyvesant Town, East Village, Greenwich Village, West Village, Alphabet City, SoHo, NoLita, Lower east Side, Little Italy, Tribeca, Chinatown, Financial District, Battery Park City, Ellis Island,

Neighborhoods included: Greenpoint, Williamsburgh, Bushwick, Navy Yard, Vinegar Hill, Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Cypress Hills, Crown Heights, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Park, Lefferts Garden, Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Prospect Park South, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Greenwood Cemetary, Greenwood Heights, Sunsent Park, Borough Park, Midwood, Marine Park, Flatlands, Bergen Beach, Mill Basin, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Fort Hamilton, Bensonhurst, Marine Park, Sheepshead bay, Gravesend, Bath Beach, Fort Hamilton, Gerritsen Beach, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Sea GateQueens Map

The Queens Map Print includes the city's neighborhoods filled with a JHill pattern. The year Queens, New York was settled and its coordinates are included.

The Bronx Map

The Bronx Map Print includes the city's neighborhoods filled with a JHill pattern. The year The Bronx, New York was settled and its coordinates are included.

City vs. Suburban Walking

Since I moved to New York City about six years ago, I've always felt I've walked more than I did in a small town Indiana college.  Even growing up in the rural Pennsylvania, where I tread daily on a half mile walk to and from the school bus each morning, doesn't compare with my daily perambulation in the city. 

And here is why:  The sheer volume of businesses and services available in a city within walking distance dwarves the accessibility of the suburbs. The urban consumer is much more likely to walk to work or the grocery store, because it's so much closer to home.  Suburban commuters are inclined to drive, because they need a vehicle to get most places they want to go.

I think anyone in an urban area understands this implicitly, but the team at the Sightline Institute has illustrated this by actually graphing the area in which a commuter can cover in a mile's walk. A mile simply takes a person further in the city, based on the geometry of urban planning, whereas a suburban stroll leaves you navigating neighborhood cul de sacs and side roads. 

Both the density and proximity of desirable destinations make a city a more effective place to walk, and urban residents simply walk... more.