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From the House of the Gelb

Our Own JJ interviews the Met’s general manager Peter Gelb in today’s New York Post.

59 comments

  • Gualtier M says:

    Artistic success and box office success are two different things. The “Sonnambula” sold well because it was a new production of a famous but underproduced opera with two big stars: Dessay and Florez. I suspect that a revival with lesser names would play to an empty auditorium. I went to a later performance to check out Barry Banks as Elvino -- the audience was cold and unenthusiastic. The “Tosca” was pretty much sold out this past October. Does that make it a success?

    Another yardstick of a successful production is how well it plays in revival without the original cast. “Damnation” has been doing poorly at the box office. The Taymor “Flute” (lest ye forget a Volpe baby first to last) did well for several years but then declined recently after all the Taymor groupies had seen it already.

    I suspect that a revival of the Bondy production of “Tosca” with the current level of casting in dramatic Italian operas would not start a stampede to the box office. If Maria Callas came back from the dead yes. If Netrebko or Fleming took on Floria. Otherwise, the Zeffirelli could be thrown up there with mediocre casting (as it nearly invariably was) and people would come. Like in “Cats” on Broadway people came to see the sets, not the stars. Very eighties.

    • La Cieca says:

      Otherwise, the Zeffirelli could be thrown up there with mediocre casting (as it nearly invariably was) and people would come.

      “Would” is not the same as “will.” I remember that toward the end of the Volpe era, it was pointed out to him that over the previous decade, the median age of the audience had increased by ten years. He shrugged and said, “Oh, well, 70 is the new 60.” The problem with this thinking, of course, is that eventually dead is the audience.

      My impression is that the “go to the Met once in your lifetime while visiting beautiful New York City” was failing pretty badly by the early 2000s. I certainly don’t remember any of the Tosca performances (except on those occasions when Pavarotti would totter out) as being a “stampede to the box office.”

      I have to say, too, Gualtier, that I would be wary of deriving any sort of box office truisms (whether at the Met or any other performing venue) from the past couple of seasons. We’re having the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, which is surely impacting ticket sales more powerfully than stage decor.

  • louannd says:

    That first production with Scotto and Pavarotti was a magical moment for the entire school of vocal students at the The University of New Mexico in 1977.

    Since then, public broadcasts have not increased much, with the exception of the HD Met, which, as you can imagine, is doing very very well out here, probably (just a theory) because of the baby-boomer exodus to the West and their childhood memories of East coast culture, and not because younger people are attracted to the opera.

    I feel like I know the European opera houses better (except for the Met) because many of the broadcasts make it to television, and eventually Youtube. Yet, here in Arizona, at our little Arizona Opera company, I heard some astounding performances, the likes of
    which will not be known to the world due to lack of public exposure and money to support such exposure.

    Does that exposure bring young people to opera in Europe? Someone might be able to enlighten me on that topic, or is it the predominance of Regie theater in Europe that brings younger people, or, both? I just feel a bit sad for these young American singers who could benefit from having their voices heard all over the world, and, for the world not being able to hear them. Will we ever see a Santa Fe performance on Youtube?

  • Ruxton says:

    Constantine is dead right- Until Mr Gelb started the Met broadcasts no other company had regular broadcasts in movie theatres throughout the world at the rate they are currently doing. Sure singular or gala performances in isolation have been done before but not programmes of six or more recent/current performances. La Scala is clearly copying the Met- so too is the Royal Ballet & Opera. Credit where credit is due- this last year has been a veritable feast of performances and it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Mr Gelb. I don’t care what any silly ol queen says, this is one silly ol queen who’s got a lot to thank Mr Gelb for…and does!