Poignant return for Met Opera after 18-month pandemic pause

This photo provided by The Metropolitan Opera shows a rehearsal for Verdi Requiem on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021 at The Metropolitan Opera in New York. Before a masked crowd of 3,600, music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin led a performance of the Verdi Requiem in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Met had not performance in its house since March 11, 2020, the longest gap since the company started in 1883. (Richard Termine/The Metropolitan Opera via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) - Even before the first note, there were a pair of standing ovations - one when the chorus filed in and another when concertmaster Benjamin Bowman walked on to tune up the orchestra.

About 90 minutes later, when conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin relaxed his arms, the 3,600 people filling the seats of the Metropolitan Opera House responded with 8 1/2 minutes of thunderous applause, bringing wide smiles and hints of tears to the 200-plus performers on stage.

For the first time in 550 days, an audience was inside the auditorium at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night, attending a poignant performance of the Verdi Requiem. The night was in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks but in fact marked much more.