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Some might lament the arrival of a 40th birthday, but not the Metropolitan Opera. On Tuesday night, the venerable institution threw itself a swank million-dollar bash celebrating four decades at its Lincoln Center home. And on hand to sing a happy birthday of sorts were its hot new stars: Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón. The charismatic duo brought patrons to their feet with a trio of greatest hits — acts from crowd favorites “La Bohème,” “Manon” and “L’Elisir d’Amore.”

“I’m a big fan,” proclaimed unexpected operaphile Julianna Margulies, who has seen Netrebko perform several times.

“It’s like watching two movie stars up there,” gushed Georgette Mosbacher.

At the dinner afterward, gala chair Mercedes Bass was joined by Jayne Wrightsman, Marie-Josée Kravis and Lynn Wyatt. Ever the consummate hostess, she apparently asked staff to switch a white urn for a gold one on the central floral arrangement just as the curtain went up.

While her guests dined on lamb chops and chocolate birthday cake, general manager Peter Gelb thanked the Annenberg Foundation for its recent $10 million gift and congratulated his cast. “You won’t be seeing any performances like that at the City Opera of the future,” he said. “Or the Paris Opera of the present, for that matter.”

Though his remarks might have been controversial, they weren’t cause for as much comment as Netrebko’s eye-popping silver lamé Lanvin dress. In true diva style, it created almost as much stir as her virtuosic performance.

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