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July 29, 2008

 Austria’s tradition-laden crystal manufacturers Lobmayr and Swarowski are refurbishing the Met’s crystal sputniks for its 125th anniversary.

  On July 16th, the Met Opera’s famous crystal chandeliers left their majestic New York home for the first time since their installment in 1966. Designed and installed by Harald Rath more than 40 years ago, the 11 crystal chandeliers lighting up Met Opera’s lobby were now dismantled and packed up for shipment to Vienna by grandson Johannes Rath, 31, today’s managing partner of the Austrian crystal and chandelier-manufacturing company J.&L. Lobmayr.

As was reported by the New York Times this week, the “sputniks”, as the sphere-like wood-and-metal constructions are called, will spend 10 weeks of refurbishing and refinishing in the Lobmayr workshop in Vienna. The 49,000 pieces of crystal mounted on the sputniks’ metal rods will be replaced with brand-new crystal from Swarowski, who is donating the crystal and also pays Lobmayr for the restoration work. The refinished sputniks are to be brought back to the Met for its 125th anniversary season, starting on September 22nd

This is the first time the chandeliers have been given more than their annual cleaning. This year, the remaining 21 chandeliers of the Met’s auditorium are going to be cleaned as they always are in the summer. Next year, Mr. Rath will have a closer look at them, deciding whether they, too, need some refurbishing in the near future.