The Man Behind the Broadcasts

Classic Arts Features   The Man Behind the Broadcasts
Robert Toll's company sponsorship of the Met's Saturday radio broadcasts brings opera to millions each week. Matt Dobkin tunes in.

What first attracted you to the Met?

I've always loved music. I sang in the synagogue as a backup cantor. If the cantor felt like taking a break, he would say, "You!" I think I was 35 when I first went to the Met. My honey said, "Let's go to the opera." I said, "Opera? That's not for me." Well, we went, and I was just thrilled. It was fabulous.

Once you got hooked on opera, when did you become a patron?

Early on, within the first couple of years. I felt guilty about it from time to time, because there are cancer causes and heart causes. But what is life without art? And then a couple of buddies of mine — Sandy Fisher, who's on the board, and Steve Novick, who's a big opera fan — came to me and said, "Texaco is no longer sponsoring the Met broadcasts. You've got to consider stepping in — it's a great opportunity." I couldn't think of a greater honor for Toll Brothers than to become the corporate sponsor of the Saturday broadcasts. I can't think of an institution I could ally the home-building company with that has a better reputation than the Met.

And now the Saturday broadcasts are transmitted over the Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network. Why are these broadcasts so important?

Because they give opera to all these people who can't make it to the Met. Either they can't afford it or they're not in town or they mistakenly believe that they have to wear a tux instead of blue jeans. It gives this opportunity to the whole world. To not have the Saturday broadcasts would be a tremendous loss. It would be the same as taking all the Impressionists out of all the museums.

What kind of reaction have you gotten to the sponsorship?

We've received thousands of letters, from all over the country and from overseas, to thank us. We've only done it now for one year — I still call it the Texaco Saturdays! When I start saying the Toll Brothers Saturday Broadcasts, we'll probably have arrived.

What is it about the Met that makes this partnership such an honor?

The Met is America's opera. You think opera, you think the Met. And what Peter Gelb is doing now is right on target. We went to Madama Butterfly this year on opening night, and it's rare when you turn to somebody and say, "I have never had an experience like that." That's a rare moment, which all of the people in that house had that night. And the broadcasts outside on the plaza and in Times Square — that will be remembered by all those people forever.

For a full schedule of Saturday broadcasts, which run from December 9 through May 5, visit

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