Tuggle’s March 25 lecture will share letters, anecdotes and cartoons tracing the history of the Metropolitan Opera, especially from its critics.

Madison, NJ – Visitors to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City know of its elegant lobby, Marc Chagall murals and state-of-the-art acoustics.

But they might not know what goes on behind the scenes of the largest classical music organization in North America. Enter Robert Tuggle, the Director of Archives of the Metropolitan Opera, who is an expert on the history of the Met since its founding in the 1880’s.

Tuggle will be the guest speaker at this year’s Merrill Maguire Skaggs Lecture on March 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall at the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts at Drew University.

An impressive music historian who is a frequent contributor to The Opera Quarterly, Tuggle also has a wry sense of humor and plans to share some of the lesser-known history of the Met. His talk, titled “An Irreverent Look at the Metropolitan Opera” will include some unflattering opera reviews from renowned critics, cartoons that appeared in past magazines, and some fun facts about the history of the hallowed institution.

“It’s very interesting and very vivid,” he said of the Met’s history, reminding that the Metropolitan Opera opened its doors before the radio was invented. “For the most part, if you wanted to hear music, you had to come to the theater to hear it.” Those frequent visitors made the Met popular in its early years and the inspiration for many letters, articles and reviews, he said.

This is the third annual Merrill Skaggs Lecture, named after a beloved Drew professor and dean who passed away in 2008. The series brings to Drew visiting scholars and lecturers with expertise in the literature and ideas that Professor Skaggs taught and loved throughout her life, including American Studies and American Literature.

“This occasion celebrates Merrill’s great love of opera. This occasion celebrates our great love for Merrill,” said Bob Ready, Dean of the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies.

Guests to the Merrill Skaggs lecture are invited to park for free on campus. Doors to the lecture open at 7 p.m. There is no cost to attend the lecture and dessert reception which will follow, thanks to generous funding for this annual event provided by donors to the Merrill Maguire Skaggs Lecture Series. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to Jane Himmelrich at specialevents@drew.edu or 973-408-3733.

Merrill Maguire Skaggs spent 46 years at Drew University as a professor, scholar and administrator. In addition to being awarded the Will Herberg Distinguished Professor Award in 1984 and the Baldwin Professor of Humanities, she also served as the Dean of the Graduate School. The lecture series bearing her name was endowed in 2011 by Merrill’s friends, colleagues, students and family members to host distinguished visiting scholars and lecturers with expertise in the literature and ideas she taught and loved throughout her life including American Studies and American Literature.

Robert Tuggle, Director of Archives of the Metropolitan Opera, hails from Virginia and studied music at Princeton, where his thesis focused on the early operas of Verdi. After serving in the Army, he worked in the Education Department of the Metropolitan Opera Guild where he became Director of Education. Since 1981, he has been Director of Archives of the Metropolitan Opera. Mr. Tuggle’s book, “The Golden Age of Opera,” is a study of opera photography combined with contemporary accounts of performers. The Metropolitan Opera Database, created by Tuggle and his associates, has just been given the Classical Website Award for 2014 by the International Classical Music Awards.