Sunday, April 25, 2021

Remembering the city's biggest opera fan, and what will become of her memorabilia?

Longtime East Village resident Lois Kirschenbaum died earlier month. She was 88. 

The Times covered her passing (see tweet above), and followed up with another story on who they called "the queen of the Metropolitan Opera’s stage door since the 1950s."

Corey Kilgannon has a feature on her extensive collection of autographed photos of opera stars as well as singed programs — a number that exceeds 200,000. And they are all sitting in boxes in her spare bedroom now.
Kirschenbaum was a switchboard operator from Flatbush, Brooklyn, who became perhaps New York's biggest and longest-standing opera buff — and an obsessive autograph collector. For over half a century, she spent about 300 nights a year at the Met and other musical and dance performances. Legally blind since birth, she would usually sit in the uppermost balcony and follow the action with a pair of large binoculars, always hustling back after the curtain call — programs and headshots in hand — to gather signatures.
Her will, drafted in 1992, directed her collection to be left to the "Lincoln Center Research Library," which, as the Times notes, is likely a reference to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
Its executive director, Jennifer Schantz, said the library was "delighted and honored," adding, "We look forward to reviewing the collection and learning more."
Since the library does not accept all such donations, however, Kirschenbaum’s friends still fear the material might wind up discarded.


Anonymous said...

What a great story on a real interesting person from the East Village. I hope they find a place for her autograph collection.

Brian said...

I doubt the collection will be discarded, but what do I know for sure? If the library does not accept the donation, then the estate can figure out what to do with it. They can find another place that want such a collection or it can be sold to the highest bidder. I am sure that the NYTimes article reached far and wide and interested parties are calling the administrator of the estate. There still is a market out there for autographs. Sometimes such collections should be donated before you pass away. Burdening an estate with such a huge collection is a lot of work.