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On Sept. 25, 2006, hundreds gathered in New York’s Times Square to watch the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” on a jumbo screen. The Met, one of the world’s most famous opera companies, was showing its opening night gala live to the general public for free.

Every opening night since, the crowds in Times Square — and before a large screen in front of the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center in New York — witness a free event few would have imagined possible, especially since a ticket to the gala can cost well in excess of $1,000.

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