Cher Public

A little list

EDITOR’S NOTE: In response to repeated urging by La Cieca (left), Our Own Dawn Fatale (right) has devised a “to do” list for the benefit of Met management, assuming the company makes it out of this summer alive. The listicle follows the jump.

Turn the Met Around

  1. Dream Big. Ambitious programming will excite the audience and the company. Endless runs of Aida, Boheme, and Carmen will have everyone in the doldrums. (PS: “Ambitious” doesn’t have to mean “expensive.”)
  2. Experiment. The next few seasons have to include experiments in terms of venue, timing, pricing, and repertoire to see what brings in the new audience the Met needs and deserves. The new contracts have to allow for flexibility.
  3. Create More Content Unique to the Met: Shared productions are budget-friendly, but there need to be more great productions that can only be seen at the Met—particularly of operas that are closely associated with the company like the Wagner works. Do this, even if this means cutting back slightly on the numbers of new productions.
  4. Kill the Five-Year Plan. The Met hires more major artists for more performances than any other company on earth. That means the Met can take the lead in doing away with this unimaginative and wasteful method of programming. Plan as if your next season were your last unless it goes really, really well.
  5. Show Your Math. If you are going to take out a full page ad in the Times, then provide the math to…
  6. Show Your Forecast. Share your high-level plan. If the Met is beginning an endowment campaign, share your high-level plan. There will be unprecedented demands on donors over the next few seasons, so you have to be transparent and honest if you want them to keep opening their checkbooks.
  7. Ditch the Lepage Ring.  It was a dud, and no one wants to pay to see it again. The overtime costs in reviving it will be unprecedented. Better to get the Schenk Ring out of the deep freeze or, better, borrow someone else’s. In the meantime, start planning for the New New Ring so it can get on the boards early in the 2020s.
  8. Make the Trains Run on Time.  The Met has to fix its existing productions that have endless intermissions caused by scenic designs that don’t work in the house (Lucia is exhibit A.) They kill the dramatic momentum of the show and make going to the opera more of an ordeal than it should be. While you’re at it, address those “brief pauses” in works like Eugene Onegin that leave the audience bored and firing up their smartphones for the five minutes it apparently requires to move a few chairs around.
  9. Buy One HD/Get One Free: Give every HD subscriber one free pass to bring a guest to the screening of their choice during the season.
  10. Page Dr. Repertoire: Run your proposed new production teams and designs by the dramaturgs in waiting at parterre box. We’ll tell you what will work!

As excellent as Dawn’s suggestions are, La Cieca feels that a mere 10 feels a bit skimpy. So she challenges you, cher public, to come up with more serious, thoughtful ideas about what can be done to turn the Met around. Should we reach a nice round 100 “to dos,” La Cieca pledges she will personally send the conflated list directly to Peter Gelb himself.

  • manou

    Wait wait wait -- I see some suggestions that the Met should have recourse to attractive women in their advertising -- Nadja Michael and the phenomenal mammary glands of Denyce Graves. Elsewhere, I have seen complimentary comments on Jane Archibald’s Zerbinetta pointing out her lovely figure, and I have myself been guilty of noticing that Opolais has lovely long legs.

    How on earth does all this fit in with the opprobrium heaped upon those posters who have dared comment negatively on the physical attributes of say Tara Erraught to name but one? Or is this an acknowledgement that we are not blind?

    • CwbyLA

      There you go again!

    • armerjacquino

      Critics, rather than posters, surely?

      And what was under discussion was whether the descriptions of Erraught were needlessly cruel. People are generally less likely to be upset by a compliment.

      • Regina delle fate

        In other words singers/actors prefer good review to bad ones. Who knew?

  • skoc211

    The ticket prices are too damn high!

    I’m part of that sought after twentysomething audience and I can only afford to go to the Met a few times a season. Whenever I tell friends and co-workers that I’m going they are more than intrigued, but paying upwards of $40 a person to sit in the nose bleed section that is the Family Circle is a non-starter with someone who has never been to the opera before.

    How about some local college out-reach? Discounted nights?

    • johns33

      Some of the best promoters of opera are the subscribers themselves! There have been many times when I thought my nephew would appreciate going with us to one of our series operas, why not have a way for subscribers to “add a ticket or two” and bring someone at a discount. Why should I have to scour ticket dealers to find the discounts on all those seats? Its like a big secret. Why cant I just call the ticket office as a subscriber benefit?

    • I couldn’t agree more, tickets at the top of the house have become far too pricey, far too quickly -- the inflation on the cheap seats has been just plain daft.

      To its credit though, since you mention local colleges, the Met are very kind to students. Any night there are a reasonable number of unsold seats (which frankly is most nights the last few seasons) they’ll flog students best available for $27.50. I’ve gained some ludicrously good seats over the years. They also sell some in advance but the seats tend to be less good (though for $27.50 one can’t complain!)

      Once you cease to be a student however… well not so much.

      On the topic of discount nights: I find it surprising they don’t try lowering the pricing across the board for less mainstream and new works (I realize they do a bit but not nearly drastically enough). One of the reasons the Royal Opera sell out The Minotaur, Written on Skin, The Tempest, Anna Nicole etc. is that they reduce the top price to 65 pounds (roughly a West End musical and about a third of the regular top price). That of course costs them money (the ROH has a subsidy so more margin to play with) but it builds a buzz about the place that has been sorely lacking at the Met of late. It also avoids the not unreasonable ill will felt by subscribers who already paid top dollar when the inevitable discounting (see Two Boys…) occurs.

      Also what’s with the $25 standing tickets? No wonder the standing room is always empty. It costs 4 euro to stand in Vienna, and it’s a significantly better positioned standing area (albeit rather battery hen like).

      • Jamie01

        Once you cease to be a student, you can find those student discount tickets on craigslist. Also house tickets, etc., etc. Yes the face price for good seats is high, but it’s rarely necessary to pay anything like retail except for exceptionally popular casts.

        So although I like to bitch and moan as much as anyone, affordability isn’t a fair target.

        • I don’t really get this attitude that “affordability isn’t a fair target”. When you can’t sell all your tickets at current prices one of the things you have to look at is your pricing. It’s not a magic bullet, obviously tickets can’t all cost $5, but it has to be a factor. Dynamic pricing is going to play a role -- much as people dislike it, it’s extremely effective (BAM are starting to do this very well) but it doesn’t much help when you’re operating at 80% capacity… If reducing prices means cuts are required, wherever they fall (and that’s a very difficult question), then so be it. The status quo isn’t working, the small deficit is an illusion create purely by a tiny number of incredibly generous people who I imagine don’t love giving loads of money for no one to come watch. And it’s not even about the deficit, for the survival, renewal and enhancement of this art form we love: full houses and genuine buzz should be a goal in and of itself.

          And I’m more than well aware that there are many ways for the hardcore to pick up discounted seats. That does nothing to solve the broader question of how to increase attendance.

          • decotodd

            Ticket prices are definitely too high if we want to entice newcomers. I contemplated bringing a novice to a TOSCA recently but the price for an orchestra seat was too expensive a gamble. And I make a good living so if I am reluctant to bring a friend at those prices I am sure this is a wider phenomenon. Sure there are less expensive seats higher up but then one feels more removed from the drama onstage.

        • ianw2

          affordability isn’t a fair target.

          Disagree. My generation and the one coming up behind me are an incredibly visual generation- the idea that you can’t go to the opera for less than an IMAX if you’re prepared to sit behind a pillar or in the nosebleeds is just not going to wash.

          The unavoidable challenge is convincing me of one of a few options:

          a) The sound is so great, the visuals don’t matter (good luck with this one with a generation reared on video clips and image-heavy news and entertainment)
          b) The experience is worth the big bucks to be near the front (slightly easier in my opinion, but still tough and bloody unreliable from a financial planning standpoint for a company)
          c) Ticket prices are too damn high and are not sustainable- which means either opera has to be cheaper to mount or subsidy, whether public or private, has to increase.

          • Jamie01

            My point was that, although the Met’s list ticket prices are admittedly high, they’re kind of like the MSRP on a new television. Any reasonably savvy consumer knows that it’s not necessary to pay anywhere near that amount. Maybe my reliance on craigslist and similar sources for tickets makes me something of an outlier, but I expect that your generation and the one coming up behind are at least as resourceful as this old fogey at using the internet to save money.

      • Regina delle fate

        Haha @ battery hen like -- a brilliant description. I’m told it can be fiercely competitive, too, so not lots of good will among the standees. A bit like the front row brigade at the Proms, who are the epitome of “sharp-elbowed”.

  • pasavant

    Change the seating chart. I do not mind paying top $ as long as I know I will get a decent seat. Orchestra prime goes all the way back to Row X! Many similar examples. Poor seats should not cost the same price as good ones. I no longer subscribe out of fear of paying top $ for a seat in Siberia.

  • Opera Teen

    I’m working in a box office this summer, and I know how necessary these are when working with a computerized ticketing service, but the Met NEEDS to at least lower, if not eliminate, the processing/handling fee. For a student, there’s a big difference between $30 and $37 seats.

    • Chanterelle

      OT, can you explain the need to charge $7.50/ea for print-your-own tickets purchased over the internet? Exactly where are the labor and handling costs?? Shouldn’t it be part of IT overhead, which remains necessary when a patron comes in to the box office, takes up the window agent’s time, and pays no handling fee??

      • Opera Teen

        A processing fee is necessary for the use of the database/ticketing service(Though I’m not sure that the Met pays for its database service, Tessitura, because they developed it). From what I have culled, the processing fee is used to maintain the upkeep of technological services on top of postage. The assumption is that they will give you the tickets on the spot. That’s just my guess. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

        • armerjacquino

          The National Theatre in London uses Tessitura and doesn’t charge a processing fee.

          • Opera Teen

            But they use a computerized ticketing service that probably requires it. Tessitura is just a database.

            • armerjacquino

              Yes, I know what Tessitura is- I’m confused now. You said “A processing fee is necessary for the use of the database/ticketing service.”

              My point is that the NT uses the same database as the Met and doesn’t charge any kind of processing fee.

            • The money all goes into the same pot — the “processing fee” is just a name. My guess is that the NT receives a lot more gov’t funding and therefore doesn’t need to charge a processing fee.

            • armerjacquino

              Yes, that would be my suspicion too. What I challenge is the idea that a processing fee is somehow ‘necessary’.

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              If OT’s inkling that it’s to cover Tessitura is correct, it may well be something along the lines of having hived it off to a separate IP company which charges a royalty to licencees around the world, including the Met and the NT. The NT may have decided to absorb it themselves, whereas the Met and others choose to pass it on to the customer.

              I doubt they’d whack $7.50 on to each purchase without some sort of commercial rationale/justification for calling it a processing fee, I’d be pretty surprised if it was just a name to invent another income stream. At least, in these days of increasing transparency, that would be unlikely to wash if it were a regular business corporation (and I know it’s not).

          • Opera Teen

            The way it works where I work is that the database and the ticketing service are one in the same. That may not be the case in other places. The processing fee goes to pay for the database/ticketing service. Also, the Met changes a $2.50 facility fee, so the processing fee is probably $5 for whatever ticketing program they use.

            • Jamie01

              The facility fee is also irksome. Just give me a real price. Isn’t handling transactions and maintaining your physical plant part of the cost of doing business? They could get the base ticket price down to zero by adding in a performers’ compensation fee, and a costume alteration fee, and General Director’s chauffeur fee, etc.

            • Chanterelle

              The $2.50 fee applies to all tickets. The $7.50 fee is separate. So if you buy a $25 standing room ticket by phone or internet, your total cost is $35.

              I thought that a facility fee was normally charged on tickets to events put on by outside presenters who rent the theater. Not the case with the Met.

      • RosinaLeckermaul

        Exactly!!! It is The Met charges a $10 service charge for internet tickets. Why? Yes, Broadway theaters do it too — also why? Of course, the answer is “Because they can.” It is very off-putting. What are we paying for. Logically internet tickets should be cheaper. A machine is doing the work and we’re using our own paper and ink to print the tickets.

    • Regina delle fate

      A “handling fee” is essentially a compulsory tip. They probably use it to pay their ticketing staff.

  • fidelio101

    I wrote this for a writing class at the beginning of the Gelb administration but maybe I had some good ideas?

    Paul Johnston
    Orchestra, Seat K 111
    Metropolitan Opera
    New York, New York 10023

    Mr. Peter Gelb
    Metropolitan Opera
    Lincoln Center
    New York, New York, 10023

    Dear Mr. Gelb:

    From the first time I witnessed Floria Tosca plummet from the parapet of the Castle Saint’ Angelo, I was hooked. It was the spring of 1968 and my seat in the Family Circle afforded me a bird’s eye view of two arms reaching up to catch the diva prior to her leap. I was 13 years old, and overjoyed that La Tebaldi hadn’t really perished, could take a curtain call, and even lived to sing the role another day! What miracles the theatre bestows! Over the last thirty-nine years, I have sat in nearly every row, of every section of the house, so I plead with you to heed my suggestions before renovating New York’s temple of music.
    We should begin by removing the western façade of the house extending the auditorium towards the plaza fountain. This would provide greater spacing between the rows in the Orchestra enabling more legroom and facilitating passage over the paralyzed legs of those operaphiles whose pilgrimages to Bayreuth have not yet cured them. You might say, “Oh but the hall is already cavernous”, but, if the back of the house were occupied by narcoleptic, hearing impaired, octogenarians, it wouldn’t matter if Cecilia’s trill was inaudible and thus the rest of us could stretch our legs!
    Instead of carpeted aisles, there could be crimson conveyor belts capable of several speeds of locomotion. On gala occasions, the belts would transport New York society in slowest motion, so that the couture, family jewels, and the newly tightened/injected faces could be properly displayed and fervently inspected. At higher speeds, these belts would enable quicker exits and returns during intermissions, enabling a twenty percent increase in beverage sales.
    Orchestra seats would be sold according to torso height from short to long with head width and coiffure factored into the seating plan. All patrons needing to flee after any mad scene would be sold premium aisle seats closest to the exit doors. All women wearing Shalimar would be quarantined to the outermost periphery of the theatre adjacent to the ventilation ducts. All husbands attempting to lower their cholesterol with garlic therapy rather than Lipitor would also be relegated to this section.
    I think it is time to contact Steve Jobs for a solution to the already obsolete subtitles. It is rumored on the Internet that he is developing a new software program in conjunction with La Scala codenamed “Mac- Callas 10.1.” The LCD touch screen displays will be equipped with Bluetooth headsets that will stream the performance in one’s native tongue. Imagine hearing Puccini’s Madama Butterly in either Japanese or Swahili! The video panel will have a split screen so that during intermission one may watch highlights of that evening’s opera with alternate casts, allowing one to vote for their favorite artists a-la American Idol. Any excerpts missed during brief periods of slumber will be available for instant replay and if by chance your favorite soprano missed that high D, you will be able to interpolate the proper note from her newly released recording, downloadable from I Tunes. But the feature I look forward to most is called Mac-Ending. It will give the audience the capability of altering the conclusion of the performance. For example, at a performance of Turandot, if Calaf is in bad voice, during intermission, one may select choice “B” in which he incorrectly answers Turandot’s riddle relegating her victorious and sparing us from a excruciating interpretation of Nessun Dorma. Since Puccini never even completed the opera himself, we at least deserve artistic license! Or perhaps for a change you would prefer Tosca not to leap from the Castel Sant’ Angelo; merely choose option “C” by the second intermission, and she will walk away arm in arm with Scarpia’s young nephew, the hunky head of the firing squad. Currently it is in the beta testing stage. Don’t let the Italians get it first.

    The Parterre Boxes could be sold as condominium units on a seasonal basis. Each box would have its own sub-zero stainless steel mini-bar and private commode available in a choice of three designer finishes. Seating configurations would be adaptable for each performance. For Bel Canto, and lighter fare, up to twelve comfortable armchairs could be positioned. If Wagner’s Ring were on your series, the chairs would be replaced by four chaise lounges. These seats may be sublet without board approval.
    The seating in the Grand Tier could be reduced to one “Premium Platinum” row where ticket prices would be determined by the rise and fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
    AT&T has shown interest concerning the roof of the theatre. Their proposition involves the installation of cell phone signal boosters to be placed at strategic rooftop points in concurrence with its seven figure tax-deductible “donation” to the house. The Family Circle could then be enclosed with a soundproof transparent barrier. This section would be exclusively for cell phone users and would become the most coveted section of the theatre. In order to be considered for this section, one would have to purchase the Met edition of the Apple I-phone. At first glance the phone appears like the standard prototype already released by Apple, but upon further scrutiny, one discovers features that no “MET” or “MAC Maniac” in his or her right mind could ever live without.
    Every season upon arriving at the theatre, the phone would be synched by the house manager. This synch would upload the appropriate ring tones for the season. For example, during Butterfly, all phones will play the opening phrases of Un Bel Di, while a performance of Gotterdammerung will warrant Brunhilde’s battle cry, “Hoyotoho!” The visuals of the evening will be streamed in real time on the screen of the phone so that stage movement need not interrupt a conversation. Phone calls will now be encouraged rather than scowled at since a five-dollar service charge will be contributed to the Metropolitan endowment for every incoming and outgoing call. A dollar surcharge for every additional minute will be contributed to a retirement home for sopranos that sang Isolde too early in their careers. Overflowing coffers would make fundraising obsolete. Ticket prices could even be lowered, but lets not get delusional.
    I think the key to bringing the theatre into the Twenty-first Century, as the bastion of the art form is “flexibility”. By re-cabling the auditoriums magnificent chandelier, the Met could become the official house for the Twenty-fifth anniversary production of Phantom of the Opera in 2011. While casting is uncertain at this point in time, the names of Bocelli. Eaglan, and possibly Julie Andrews come to mind. The popularity of this production would surly necessitate an open ended run with revolving casts. A second venue would be scouted for standard repertory since the Met’s management feels this production could run longer than “Cats,” the first major revival undertaken at New York City Opera by Gerard Mortier. With a fortuitous stroke of divine inspiration, Mr. Mortier decided to transfer it’s setting from a contemporary garbage dump to Transylvania sometime in the 22nd century since due to a typographical error, he thought he was modernizing Die Fledermaus, or “Bats.”
    Mr. Gelb, I love your house! Heed my suggestions and your tenure will surely be one of operatic legend!

    Dalla vostra bocca agli orecchi del Dio,

  • toitoitoi

    Why is every college and university music department in the country not given access to FREE first runs of the Live In HD performances? And every student in those departments either required to go as part of their major, or at least offered extra credit for doing so? If it’s too expensive to do the proper Met road companies, maybe the Lindemann artists and Met contest winners could be required as part of their give-back to tour colleges and high schools and do programs. Some of the colleges have paid outreach, where you hire students from their vocal music dept. to come and do a cut-down, fourth-rate version of a children’s opera for kids; not really an inspiring introduction. Also doesn’t SF opera have a program of discounted tickets and cocktail parties for younger singles that targets the upwardly mobile? AKA future patrons? They’re wooing the tech sector that way. Is the Met making similar efforts toward the young guns of the financial sector here in NY?

  • Cicciabella

    Stage abridged opera for adults. A frequent question I get from well-read theatre-goers is: “How long is an opera performance? If it runs longer than 90 minutes to 2 hours it’s not for us.” So maybe there is a (new) opera audience for a 60-minute Don Giovanni or a 2-hour Ring. A short, lively introduction before the performance (with drinks) would enrich the experience. Include a cheap, limited-selection drink in the price of the ticket to limit crush bar traffic.

    • Jamie01

      They could start by drastically reducing the length and/or number of intermissions. For a two-intermission opera, that’s nearly an hour and a half added to the evening. Kind of tough on those of us who need to be up at 5 the next morning. While abridged operas wouldn’t be to my taste, it’s worth doing a little market research to see if there’s an audience for this. If yes, then why not?

    • DonCarloFanatic

      A lot of operas clock at 2 hours. The interminable intermissions weigh them down.

      If the Met went to simpler scenery changes, they could be shorter. A technology update is needed, as well as a very strict new paradigm about what kind of scenery designs will be tolerated. If it means having an engineer on retainer to crush stupid design ideas, it would be a bargain.

      But there’s the restroom issue. And the refreshments issue. And the cramped lobby issue. And the insistence that somehow, people ought to be able to eat a full meal at the restaurant in between acts. So, back to a long, tedious evening, enlivened by interminable lines.

      If the Met understood what a crap experience it makes every audience member suffer, and how off-putting that is for return business, maybe the funds to fix the issues would be found.

      The third act of La Boheme could be cut some. It’s not at all important to show those women entering Paris in the snow; in fact, it makes little sense since Boheme is explicitly a story about urbanites. Cut five minutes and you’re just at two hours. Shorten the scene with the landlord in Act I and you’re nicely under two hours. It’s hard for portly middle-aged men to sustain that scene, anyway, playing against another portly middle-aged man and pretending he’s an old guy and they’re hipsters. With a short intermission, the whole evening would be just two hours. But Boheme could be done without any intermission at all, too.

      Give a free lecture beforehand and open the bar before and after, and if people want to stretch out their evening, offer another free lecture or Q and A session after the bulk of the audience clears. That worked just fine in Seattle after the Ring.

      • They don’t need to cut anything, just put on operas that last two hours or less.

        • I love a good epic opera, like Götterdämmerung or Les troyens but sometimes, the greatest words in the English language are “100 minutes, no intermission”. :)

  • Have they ever considered blending the season with ballet? Getting ABT (or someone else) to perform in parallel and then extending the season by a couple of months?

    Since overtime seems to be one of the biggest labor issues, by reducing the number of opera performances a week you’d reduce the burden on the chorus and orchestra (assuming you have a second orchestra for ballet or at least significant doubling). The sets are generally much simpler lowering your stagehand requirements over the course of the week (the overnight changeovers being reduced). You’d keep opera (and ballet) in the public eye for more of the year rather than vanishing for near half of it. They can also work as lead generators for each other, ballet was my gateway drug to opera and I don’t know if that would have happened if ballet and opera weren’t being performed in the same building on adjacent nights (pure supposition I grant you).

    Combining forces seems to have a range of benefits and no real downside (though I can see plenty of difficulties in the implementation). This model works pretty well everywhere else in the world. Has anyone ever tried it in the US?

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      That’s how it worked for me in reverse, Robby -- I got into ballet from opera, aided and encouraged in the same way you were. Plus, you’d imagine there may be some synergies to be gained.

      What happens at the Met now though between May and September? Do they make a killing hiring the theatre out to other companies? If so, it may be unviable to extend the current season.

      • ABT use it from the end of the Met season till the beginning of July (they just finished last weekend). It will now be dark for the next few months, which I know they use for technical rehearsals for new productions and other rehearsals.

        All I would change is shuffle those ABT performances throughout the season rather than have them in a 8 performances a week block for 6 weeks. Though I recognize ABT do other things the rest of the year… this has to work for both parties!

        • Regina delle fate

          It seems to work for the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet, although there are always tensions. The RB think they are regarded as the poor relation at the ROH, and doubtless that would be the same for ABT. Is there no all-year-round ballet in New York? That seems astonishing for such a dance-mad city.

          • The NYCB have expanded their seasons to fill some of the NYCO void such that they’re getting pretty close to being in NYC all year round (and they must do at least as many performances a year in the city as the RB does in London just in concentrated bursts).

            The Koch Theatre is also gradually expanding the number of visiting companies such that it’s fast becoming a year round dance venue (in the Sadler’s Wells receiving house mold).

            But no, there isn’t a large scale classical ballet company that is in NYC continuously from September through July/August.

  • grimoaldo

    Put on L’Incoronazione di Poppea, Thésée,Les Indes galantes, Amadigi di Gaula, Hercules (there are lot of great singers in these kinds of operas now) and never let Popsy or Jeremy Sams near your stage again.

    • oedipe

      BTW, why are there so few comments about programming? It’s unimportant? It’s of little interest to people?

      • Yes, that must be it!

        • oedipe

          Oops, forget I mentioned it! I hope I haven’t interrupted the conversation.

      • Regina delle fate

        Grim’s post was about programming, Oedipe.

        • oedipe

          That’s why I indented my reply right under Grim’s post: in order to emphasize the fact that his was one of the very few posts of its kind.

          Another example was Opera Teen’s mention of Francesca da Rimini early on in the thread; in reply to which the poor kid was promptly told to drop it.

    • Regina delle fate

      Haha Grim! Excellent ideas.

      • Regina delle fate

        On the subject of Popsy -- the Met may soon be her last refuge in the West. All she has at Covent Garden next season is Alice Ford, she was fired -- oops quietly dropped -- from Munich’s Guillaume Tell and ended up substituting for her substitute (Haroutounian) at one performance, after which they brought some unknown in to sing from the side of the stage, so it can’t can’t have been dazzling. Maybe she’ll have to do a Tamar and head back home. Sad, as she was very promising. Her Rachel in the RO concert of La Juïve was quite something. But that was years ago now.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          What about her 2 forthcoming engagements in Berlin -- Faust and Onegin? Has she withdrawn/been replaced for those too?

          • turings

            She’s still down to do Faust at the Staatsoper in November/December and Onegin at the Deutsche Oper in May next year.

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              Yes, which is why I posed the question -- just wondering if Regina knows something we don’t, since he only acknowledges her ROH and Met engagements.

            • turings

              Ah right, thought you were just looking for someone to google that for you ;)

          • Regina delle fate

            Well she was replaced at fairly short notice as the Tannhäuser Elisabeth in Berlin, so there’s still time. Difference is she knows Faust and Onegin -- so maybe they’ll go ahead.

          • Regina delle fate

            I’m sure you’re far better informed than I am, Cocky. :)

  • John L

    I think for opera to be viable it has to combined with other art forms and billed as “culture”. The biggest obstacle is the demographics. The people who enjoy opera are in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. There are so few young people who go to the opera, are interested in learning more about opera, or are even open to listening to opera. I think combining opera with the New York City Ballet like Robby suggested, or maybe the New York Philharmonic, or famous instrumentalists like Joshua Bell should be looked into. Maybe even “nonclassical” forms of art such as modern dance. I just think nowadays people just don’t have the attention span to sit through an entire opera. Opera is competing with many more forms of entertainment now than in the 19th century or even most of the 20th century. I think the gala the Met had ~6 years ago featuring Renee Fleming in 3 different opera acts isn’t such a bad idea. As much as the opera purist in me doesn’t like to say this, I think showcasing a night were you have 3 acts from 3 different operas wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Maybe even shortening the pieces just like they do for the kid’s opera version (nails on the chalkboard). These days young people don’t want to sit through 3 or 4 hours of anything. And even though the opera connoisseur is tired of the yearly Bohemes, Traviatas, Toscas, Butterfly, Aidas, Carmen etc. These are the operas that will get the people in the house. I really can’t imagine someone completely new to opera will be taken by “Two Boys” or “Dr Atomic” or “Billy Budd” or “Salome” and be bit by the opera bug and then start exploring other forms. It would definitely be the minority. What about a night of first act of Boheme, followed by an act of Swan Lake, followed by Beethoven’s 9th symphony? As much as I’m guilty of apologising for opera which luvtennis rightly advocates against, I just think alot of people are scared by the operatic voice. Maybe someone who has more of an inclination to learn more about ballet, can also be swayed into considering opera as entertainment through the former. Alot of people seem to have much more of an initial inclination for classical music than opera. Why not get those people in by listening to Brahms piano concerto 1 and then throwing in an act of opera on the side. I’m not entirely familiar with what the Lyric Opera of Chicago is doing by offering a yearly musical, but it seems like they are getting people through the door (one of the biggest hurdles) and as a result (or hoping as planned) getting an audience more interested in “mainstream” entertainment to be open to coming to see an opera. I remember listening to a Renee Fleming interview in which she said she grew up in a time (not that long ago) when having a piano in the house was sign of a status symbol. Opera and classical arts were so popular in the past because it was society’s thinking that to scale the social ladder they have to be interested in the high arts. Somehow today’s young yuppies have to buy into this form of thinking in order for opera being as viable as it is today in 10, 20, 30 plus years. In order to do that, I think the way opera is presented has to change (at least on the occasional basis) given then shortening attention span of today’s and future generations.

    • Indiana Loiterer III

      Some nice ideas for exposure, but are you sure that “these days young people don’t want to sit through 3 or 4 hours of anything”? Some of the most successful latter-day action blockbusters (the Dark Knight movies, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Transformers franchise) are over two and a half hours long, without intermissions. Granted, movie theaters are more informal than opera houses, and a lot more stuff gets blown up to keep the audience awake, but that’s still a long time for entertainment.

      • Regina delle fate

        Hehe -- a few explosions in Parsifal and people would be flocking to the Met then?

        • mps502

          Glyndebourne tried that with last year’s Ariadne. It didn’t really go down well with the critics…

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      The Ring at last years proms was full of young people, so I’m not sure it’s length that’s the big issue. I went to Maria Stuarda on Tuesday of this week and again, although there were plenty in the 50+ bracket there, there were also very many people younger than that -- in fact at one stage in the bar I looked around and felt quite old, and I’m 34. Perhaps things are different in New York, but here in London the audience doesn’t seem swayed to the upper age range at all.

      • MontyNostry

        I was at Benvenuto Cellini at ENO a few weeks ago and was surprised how **old** the audience was for a show that had become a popular hit. Still, Terry Gilliam probably appeals to people who were young in the 70s because of the Python connection.

  • grimoaldo

    “I just think nowadays people just don’t have the attention span to sit through an entire opera.”

    I don’t think that’s true. Opera has always been a minority interest, it is never going to appeal to people young or old who only want to see action movies with explosions and special effects all the way through.
    What is true is that people are not going to sit through stuff they find deadly dull out of a sort of civic duty or because that is just what the “right” people do anymore. The Met’s problem is that for the last few seasons it hasn’t really been putting on good shows, a lot of them have been dire with “singers” who cannot sing their music properly.
    “Carmen” at Santa Fe has three single seats available for Saturday.
    http://www.santafeopera.org/tickets/reserve.aspx?performanceNumber=6297

    • messa di voce

      Dire is a mid- week performance of an opera that’s being done three times during the season in a forty year old production with no rehearsal. Yet that sells out in Vienna. So the direness factor is not the main problem.

      • grimoaldo

        Do they really put on as dire performances as the Met’s Fledermaus or the last run of Trovatores in Vienna? I would be surprised. Anyway, people in Vienna probably have more of an ingrained habit of going to opera than Americans. I feel that declining box office at the Met is a tribute to the public’s taste, to be honest.

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

          Wiener Staatsoper last performed “Il trovatore” in 2001, with Guleghina, Nucci, and Diadkova. And you’re comparing this (“dire”) cast to the Met’s “Fledermaus?”

          • Clita del Toro

            Any opera with Ghoulagina is “dire.” ;)

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              Thanks ever so much for reminding me to never again post any factual information -- and god knows, nothing that could remotely be construed as an opinion! -- on Parterre Box. Have fun making up infantile nicknames for those whose careers don’t live up to your lofty expectations.

            • luvtennis

              All I can say , Marianne, is that eggs don’t come “gooder” than Clita. A truth teller with a sense of fun and a keen understanding of the absurdity that we call “life.”

              I got your back, Clita! :-)

          • Regina delle fate

            Awwww Geschätzte Jungfer -- your postings are greatly appreciated by all and sundry. Don’t let a couple of bissige remarks about singers unloved by certain Parterrians put you off. Your choices are intriguing and your opinions are yours, but we love to hear and read them. Hochactungsvoll -- Regina :)

            • Clita del Toro

              Lighten up Marianne!

          • John L

            Geez I think I’m the only person who liked the Met’s Fledermaus (Shane actually took a liking, his “favorite” opera!). Do I have bad taste? Yes I’m worried for Susanah Phillips career as a soprano and Paulo Szot seemed unable to sing in piano, but overall I was a sucker for the music and the other singers.

            • Uncle Kvetch

              Geez I think I’m the only person who liked the Met’s Fledermaus

              I wouldn’t say “liked,” but I enjoyed it in spite of its flaws. There were enough bright spots — the wonderful music itself, as well as Jane Archibald, Danny Burstein, and of course, Mickey Fabs — that I was able to have a good time.

              I realize that’s already enough to mark me as an irredeemable philistine for all eternity, but there we are.

            • John L

              I agree, Jane Archibald is a double threat, great singer and actor (can she dance?). Maybe like a young Natalie Dessay. I’ll have to see what she has done and what she will be doing. Agree on Michael Fabiano and Danny Burstein. The Eisenstein was pretty good too.

            • Krunoslav

              What did you like especially about Jane Archibald’s to my ears very ordinary Adele, acted better than Philips’ amateurish Rosalinde and Broadway’s Betsy Wolfe’s *ghastly* Ida but with no individuality,

              My previous Lincoln Center Adeles: Ruth Welting, Barbara Bonney, Barbara Kilduff, Lyubov Petrova and Marlis Petersen. All of them were more memorable and better vocally that Archibald, who granted is a decent and fluent singer-- just not to my ear, after hearing her in two major Handel role, particularly individual. I just don’t see what an admirer would focus on.

            • Uncle Kvetch

              What did you like especially about Jane Archibald

              She stood out for me in turns of acting — she had genuine comic chops, of the kind that were sorely lacking elsewhere in the cast, and seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself. And given how book-heavy this production was, that really mattered.

              Susanna Phillips, in sharp contrast, was strikingly weak in that respect…stiff, awkward, no feel for the dialogue whatsoever.

              And I think that was a big problem with that Fledermaus overall — even if you have singers who can do “comedy” as it’s typically defined in opera, that doesn’t mean they can pull off the very contemporary, snarky, sitcom-esque repartee of DCB’s book. I greatly enjoyed Phillips’ Musetta and Fiordiligi later in the season, so I’m not going to write her off as a bad actor — she was just unsuitable for this particular production.

              Paulo Szot…just plain mystified me. There were complaints about Anthony Roth Costanzo’s Prince Orlofsky being an over-the-top gay stereotype, but I thought Paulo out-minced and -sashayed him by a country mile. What was that?

          • messa di voce

            I think Grim was referring to the last Trovatore run at the Met.

          • Clita del Toro

            Marianne, You will be happy to know that I have gone left your lovely “blog” permanently. Enjoy La Guleghina!
            I just can’t wait to hear her great Lady Macbeth, Abigaille, Adriana, Aida or Tosca (ear plugs please). No, she does not and has never has met my “high standards.”
            If she meets yours, goody for you.

    • dr.malatempra

      And, Santa Fe opera has just added an extra performance due to heavy ticket demand. Incidentally, it is a very entertaining evening, mostly engaging and very well sung.

    • dr.malatempra

      And, Santa Fe Opera has just added an extra performance due to heavy ticket demand, Incidentally, it is a worthy and entertaining evening. Engaging and for the most part, very well sung.

      • John L

        Interesting, I wonder what is Sante Fe’s secret. Or what is in the water in New Mexico.

  • John L

    I came back from Vienna recently, took a tour at the Staatsoper (of course saw an opera too), where the tour guide said Emperor Franz Joseph would often attend though he didn’t like opera. Of course I don’t want the Met to be filled with people who don’t want to be there or have minimal interest. But then it’s not bad having some people be there because it’s the “cool thing to do” or the “cultured thing to do”. I’m convinced that all the gay men who attended opera in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s (at least those around today I’ve talked to) did it because it was the “cultured thing to do”. I just think opera needs some influx of new blood to keep it going decades or centuries from now. I’m not sure putting a good show would sway a newbie or someone peripherally interested into coming to the opera. Casting of say, Deborah Voigt as Brunnhilde is much more important to an established opera fan than to a newbie.

    • “Casting of say, Deborah Voigt as Brunnhilde is much more important to an established opera fan than to a newbie.” Yes, young people I know who are drawn to the opera have never heard of Voigt or any other singer. They come for names like Haneke, Warlikowski, Sellars and Viola, Bob Wilson. In other words, for the productions. And in my experience they tend to prefer 20th C scores.

      • luvtennis

        Interesting. The only folks I know who know and follow those directors are academics or individuals living in the narrow stretch of earth between Boston and New York.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Well I can say that at a Warlikowski evening there are many people who come for the production who usually are not at the opera that often. At his recent Cabaret event this was very evident but the last mid January run of Onegin was completely sold out and the cast was average. Thank God Bachler has him several more operas in the future including Die Gezeichneten. There is something else planned but haven’t any info on that opera yet.

    • tatiana

      While I think I know what you mean, there IS the problem of the newbie coming to see a production featuring a past-it “star” or a singer who is simply miscast. Then the newbie starts his/her experience with the handicap of thinking that THAT’S what it’s supposed to sound like! A more experienced operagoer will know to attend on another night with another singer--or just to stay home.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        I don’t think a newbies particularly notice if somebody is miscast or a bit past-it, unless things are extreme.

        • turings

          I don’t think you have to know anything to recognize when someone is a star though. I brought a friend to see Don Carlo at the Staatsoper, and she was immediately hugely impressed by Rene Pape, even though she’d never heard of him. Another friend had the same reaction to Alagna in Les Troyens the moment he walked on stage.

          • tatiana

            I’ll give a narrow, personal example of what I mean--the first time I saw “Makropulos Case,” it was with Jessye Norman at the Met. My reaction was kind of “meh,” and I was disappointed because I’d heard about what a great opera it was--had heard but not seen the Corsaro City Opera production with Maralin Niska.
            The second time I saw it, Catherine Malfitano was Emilia. It was a COMPLETELY different opera and I was utterly swept away. I’m not slamming Ms. Norman, but this role was just not for her. I think a relative newbie to opera, seeing my first performance, might just not given the piece a second chance. That’s the kind of thing I mean.

            • tatiana

              Sorry — I meant “had heard OF but not seen” Corsaro/City Opera/Niska.

            • John L

              I guess opera lovers all have different reasons or seminal events of why they like opera. For me it started with the written music. Rather than the intended story, interpretation of the story, acting and portrayal, staging, costumery, etc. Over the years I’ve developed an appreciation for the quality of a performance, technique, and maybe a little bit of a better understanding for vocal interpretation. Overall improvements on all fronts (I guess this is why it’s so much more difficult operating an opera company than say a symphony) would increase the likelihood of attracting new fans. But as you can see there are alot of things being proposed on this thread.

              Btw Tatiana does your last name start with a G?

            • I’m not slamming Ms. Norman, but this role was just not for her.

              But the director went to so much trouble and care to make sure there was always a handy place for Ms. Norman to plonk herself down and not have to stand for more than five minutes at a time! He even contrived to stage the final scene of the opera so the leading lady wouldn’t be cumbered with having to actually, you know, die, because Ms. Norman didn’t feel comfortable enacting that incidental detail of the libretto. Surely that ought to count for something!

            • Clita del Toro

              Well, when I saw a concert version of Cherubini’s Medea at Carnegie Hall with Eileen Farrell, I did not especially like the opera (my first time hearing it). I then heard a Callas recording of the same opera and loved it.
              Actually, this means nothing at all.

              Turings: I have written this before: In the 90’s, I brought a friend to see Jenufa with Leonie as Kostelnicka. My friend had never been to an opera, and I don’t think she has seen one since. But she was totally overwhelmed by Leonie’s performance. I don’t know what the point of this is either?????

            • tatiana

              Hi, John L:

              No; doesn’t begin with G.

            • John L

              OK I knew of a Tatiana when I was in NYC who likes opera. A shot in the dark!

            • Krunoslav

              I contrived to get my Czech I professor to take our class to a JENUFA at San Francisco Opera. Two of my friends grumbled that they *hated* opera (one had been dragged to one at some point years before, one had never been) but they were RIVETED by Leonie Rysanek’s performance-- and actually really enjoyed the whole experience. They tried some other operas later on their own- student rush tickets are a wonderful audience-building tool.

              I took a college friend to his first two operas 30 years ago: PETER GRIMES with Vickers and ALCINA with Carol Vaness. Not conventional choices but he liked both scores very much, and could see why the stars were Stars.

              But my usual tack with first timers is a decently cast BOHEME or ELISIR, unless they have particular sophistication in theater or the source material-- or proficiency in another language — that would argue/allow for something else.

            • John L: was her last name Gremina?

        • kennedet

          Do we know if these newbies return after their first experience seeing live opera? I think this is something all opera institutions should explore.

          Also, I am becoming relegated to the fact that opera demands some kind of pre -musical experience related to the classics before these newbies become regular opera goers. It sounds old-fashioned but I’m afraid it has to be from parents, relatives or the school system. I know there are exceptions (aren’t there always about everything) but nothing beats a healthy dose of educating youngsters to the classics on a regular basis before they attend to insure future audiences. Good luck with that.

          • Clita del Toro

            Kennedet, right! If the “newbie”has previously had no background or interest in opera or classical music, the chances of their retuning to opera more than occasionally are small, imo.
            I also think that playing a musical instrument as a kid is a big help--like a piano or violin, not an electric guitar! ;)

            • kennedet

              Preach.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      ALL the gay men? Sorry, dear, but many of us who went to the Met and NYCO regularly back then were there because we loved opera.

  • Or, some of them, Baroque.

  • jackoh

    I have a question that I would like to have an answer to before even beginning to make sense of this issue. It seems that the solutions suggested here for the Met’s problems fall into two camps. One is to grow the audience, put more “butts in the seats.” The other is to cut costs in one way or another. And, of course some involve a combination of each. My question is: if the Met held everything equal and did not cut costs by asking for union concessions or cut corners on productions, and they held ticket prices at their current level without having to offer discounts, and they were able to fill the house to capacity for each performance, would the Met be able to turn a (even modest) profit without having to also rely on substantial donations from patrons? Another way of asking this question is: if you were able to put butts in all (or most) of the seats all of the time would that be enough to sustain the enterprise without anything else?

    • No, not even close. Even with full houses the Met would need more than 50% of its income from sources other than ticket sales. This isn’t specific to the Met, for better or worse opera is almost always budgeted at a loss.

      • jackoh

        So, correct me if I am wrong here, if your statement is accurate, the Met is selling its product at less than it costs to produce it.

        • Far less. As is the Royal Opera, Vienna State Opera, La Scala and any other major opera company you could name. You could also add the New York Phil, American Ballet Theatre, Roundabout Theatre, BAM and most other not-for-profit arts organizations in the US and around the world (there are of course exceptions to this but not many and usually only in specific cases like Roundabout using ‘Cabaret’ to offset losing on everything else).

        • oedipe

          Opera is not a regular business; it doesn’t and cannot have a regular business model.

          • Yes, but isn’t it amusing to see people come up with magic bullet solutions that the overpaid thugs running opera companies are too stupid to think of? :)

            (This is not meant to be a snide comment towards jakoh, just a lot of things I’ve read here since the whole “let’s fix the Met” discussion began several months back).

      • Charles Barber

        Robby is absolutely correct. At City Opera Vancouver, a professional chamber opera company, we just commissioned and produced the premiere of Margaret Atwood’s first opera, PAULINE. With music by Tobin Stokes, its budget was $300,000.

        Without support from donors, foundations, government, and corporations, every seat would have cost $808.63.

        With their support, we priced our tickets at $65, $45, and $22 — and broke even. We sold out all five nights, turning away 30 or 40 people every night.

        Even chamber opera is a terribly expensive business.

    • Another way of asking this question is: if you were able to put butts in all (or most) of the seats all of the time would that be enough to sustain the enterprise without anything else?

      I think that’s been true of opera throughout history in all but exceptional cases. There was a parterre discussion some time back very specifically focused on which opera houses were entirely funded by ticket sales -- but I can’t find it now. I remember (hopefully correctly) that the upshot was: “maybe three or four in the late 19th/early 20th century”.

      Starting from the so-called Venetian “public opera”of the 1630s, local grandees supplemented ticket revenue through various official and unofficial channels. The role of the impresario was established as a method of protecting the opera-sponsoring grandees from their own lavishness: the impresario would have a financial incentive to keep costs down, but in the end the grandees would make sure that the books balanced out and the impresario was paid for his efforts. I don’t have the time to look this up now, but I remember that the key texts were John Rosselli’s “The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi” and the volume edited by Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli called “Opera Production and Its Resources”. This last volume, if I recall correctly, had an essay describing (in part), various attempts to create “purely public” opera seasons.

  • steveac10

    One thing that has not come up, and the more I think about it the bigger an issue it is. Gelb aside, the Met desperately needs new blood on the artistic side. Levine has been more or less in charge of the house musically for the better part of a half century. Over that time the he has accomplished amazing things, but a fresh perspective is needed. It looked for a time that Luisi might be that fresh blood, but he ultimately proved to be a placeholder (and a less exciting one than he promised to be) until Levine retook the reins. Compounding this is an artistic administration staff that has essentially remained in power for nearly as long (Friend joined the staff when I was still in college -- and I’m getting up there). The Met needs a charismatic musical leader along the lines of Dudamel or Nezet-Seguin who can generate some buzz and enthusiasm and a new artistic administration that doesn’t operate like Ingen were still in charge. Gelb is obviously unwilling or unable to make any of those moves. All of his innovations have been in marketing and media. To me that’s a bigger problem than choosing the wrong director for a new production.

    • Lohenfal

      Steve, it seems to me that the issue of Levine’s replacement would rest with the Met Board, not with Gelb. The Board still appears to have confidence in his abilities, and is willing to have him conduct 6 operas next season. Levine’s showing this past season was adequate but hardly brilliant, yet there doesn’t seem to be any great desire on their part for someone new and hopefully charismatic, as you say. In all probability, Levine’s tenure will end when he himself decides it’s time to call it quits, not before.

    • Angelo Saccosta

      AMEN, Steveac10.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      It’s not just the management. The regular Met audience adores Levine. He can do no wrong for them. The fact that he doesn’t care that the orchestra drowns out his singers (in some cases it’s a good thing) or that this season’s performances have been blah doesn’t diminish the cheers he receives. I agree that it’s time for a new music director, but it would be a bad idea to make it a peripatetic conductor who won’t give the job the time it demands. In his early years, Levine devoted the better part of the season to the Met. Would Dudamel or Nezet-Seguin, who already has two orchestras, do that? Perhaps the new MD should be, as Levine was when he started, someone without a big name.

  • La Valkyrietta

    Some of Dawn Fatale’s suggestions are wonderful, particularly #7. Perhaps Gelb should take a year’s sabbatical, and leave Dawn in charge.

    Up to now, it seems 100 suggestions will be hard to gather in this thread. Let me add one. Eliminate the restaurant in the Grand Tier. That would leave more space for the audience to move around during intermission and, as a lagniappe, perhaps eventually cause the shortening of the intermissions. Also, with another counter for sandwiches, sweets, and drinks in part of the space the restaurant occupies, the lines for those items in the other places all over the house will be not as long. I have nothing against people seating for dinner, but dining during intermission in the house seems to be too distracting and rushed to really be enjoyable for the diners and for the rest of the audience, and there are plenty of restaurants in the area so that people could plan to dine before or after the opera.

    Another suggestion. Bring back Camarena. Camarena, C a m a r e n a, Camarena! (As in Oklahoma!) :)

    • Indiana Loiterer III

      Or as in “Hallelujah!” (Couldn’t resist.)

    • leonora3

      “Ditch the Lepage Ring. It was a dud, and no one wants to pay to see it again… Better to get the Schenk Ring out of the deep freeze or, better, borrow someone else’s…start planning for the New New Ring” so it can get on the boards early in the 2020s.

      When Dawn suggests to borrow Ring, which one do you mean? Are you sure, people will be pleased with productions from other houses? I mean they were only worse and not suitable for such a big house as Met is. We saw complete Munich’s Ring, and Das Rheingold in Berlin conducted by Barenboim (this production was in La Scala as well, as I know)and I still find Met productions better than others. I saw just Gotterdamerung at Met, but the others with all my family in HD live brodcasting and loved them (so much we bought DVDs). I would be happy to see older Schenk’s productions, but I think it would be similar as it was with his Rusalka last season: a little dusted.
      Well, I am writing this e-mail from Central Europe and it is closer to the theatres to countries nearby, than you have it from States : Vienna, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Milan. Every year we go to a few of them, anyway most of all I enjoy productions at Met. I am coming once or twice a year, usually the performances
      with Trebsy (almost all productions since her Lucia, about six-seven years ago right after her maternity leave, to Eugene Onegin) and always 4-5 performances that are around them.
      Last week of last season (without Trebsy) with bel canto pieces (Cenerentola, Puritani),Cosy, Butterfly ending with the Met concert at Carnegy Hall was simply brilliant! I loved each performance, and honestly I think that these Met performances were better than in other houses I had seen before (cast, setting,..) Perhaps, I am a bit conservative but please, do not let enter the eurotrash into your house -- they definitely will not fill up the house, just opposite it will reduce the audience .

      • La Valkyrietta

        leonora3,

        I like the Met too for the most part, and I too hate trashy productions (I don’t use the word eurotrash because the first part of it is unfair to Europe, that gave us Verdi and Wagner). As to the latest Met Ring, you can search Parterre Box for discussions of it. You will find long endless threads on the subject. Some people liked it, as you did, and I respect that, but the consensus is, as a Cuban lady in Spanish Harlem would say, “nacariles del oriente”, a definite no, no, no for the majority. Lucky you who were at a live Rheingold with Barenboim. I would see a concert Ring with him and a nice cast rather than suffer the “machine” production again. And this time I think I don’t have to say I know I am in the minority because I know that in fact I am in the majority :). Cheers and best wishes for the next opera you attend.

      • Cicciabella

        I really like the Valencia Ring by La Fura dels Baus, although it might be too contemporary for some tastes. Maybe the Met could borrow it, and cast Jennifer Wilson as Bruni just like in the original. Pierre Audi’s Amsterdam Ring was classically abstract enough to please most people, but it was never designed to be shared and it has now been shredded.

        • Buster

          The Audi Ring has not been shredded yet. I believe opera houses all over the world have until the end of 2015 to express interest in putting it on. Sets will be kept at least until then. Audi has said that he would love to stage it elswehere, in an old industrial building, or in similar surroundings. Could work very well.

        • Feldmarschallin

          The problem with the Valencia Ring is that there is no Personenregie to speak of. Much better was the Copenhagen Ring which was rivetting. Interesting that someone thinks the LaPage Ring is better than the Krigenburg. Oh well to each his own.

  • Indiana Loiterer III

    And even though the opera connoisseur is tired of the yearly Bohemes, Traviatas, Toscas, Butterfly, Aidas, Carmen etc. These are the operas that will get the people in the house. I really can’t imagine someone completely new to opera will be taken by “Two Boys” or “Dr Atomic” or “Billy Budd” or “Salome” and be bit by the opera bug and then start exploring other forms.

    I’m not so sure about that; you’d be surprised at what first operas got some of us opera connoisseurs going. What I suspect from what I hear is that a beginner can be drawn in by a good committed performance of almost anything s/he might find reasonably sympathetic, whether Aida orSalome or Billy Budd or (this is from my sitcom-loving boyfriend) Il matrimonio segreto. The secret is to find something that beginner can connect to, and it varies from beginner to beginner. What matters is that the performance be committed. The problem with all those Aidas, etc.--and Aida is a particular problem in this regard, because appealing as it is, nowadays it’s so hard to cast properly--is that the performances are too often routine or worse, the sort that only an opera connoisseur could enjoy because s/he knew enough to listen through the filth to the sublimity within. Beginners, on the other hand, deserve the best.

    • Clita del Toro

      BTW, Indiana, Aida was not routine when Lationia sang the role. Where the f is she? I guess Mr. Yellow didn’t think much of her?? Will she sing 1/2 performance next season?
      Beginners don’t deserve any more than any other opera lover. In the fifties I, as a beginner saw many crappy (filth) performances and I was not turned off (no names!). I loved it!

      • Indiana Loiterer III

        You will be glad to hear that Latonia Moore is scheduled for four Aidas next season between Dec. 26 & Jan. 10, opposite Violeta Urmana’s Amneris and with (oh well) Marcello Giordani’s Radames.

        • OpinionatedNeophyte

          She’s an amazing Cio-Cio San I find this insulting at this point.

          • la vociaccia

            They aren’t doing butterfly next year.

            • la vociaccia

              Personally, the role I’d love to hear her in the most is Mimi. I know people get hung up on “people dying of consumption are skinny,” which I find peculiar. I can suspend my disbelief and tell myself that she has cystic fibrosis or pneumonia or something, I don’t see why it just HAS to be tuberculosis in order to be faithful to the emotional arc

          • messa di voce

            We’re only allowed to have her sing that one performance of Aida at the Met?

    • rapt

      I don’t have anythng intelligent to add to the discussion of the Met’s big problems, but I want to heartily endorse this particular observation of Indiana Loiterer’s. It took me, personally, a very long time to come to appreciate La Boheme--La Traviata and Aida sooner, but still well down the line after being ensnared by Four Saints in Three Acts, among other oddities (if it had only been recorded sooner, I’d have instantly loved your opera too, I.L.!).

      • Batty Masetto

        Chiming in to second Indiana and Rapt, purely anecdotally -- the first complete opera I owned on disk was “Tristan und Isolde” and I listened to it obsessively. It took me a good deal longer to make sense of either “Madama Butterfly” or “Rigoletto.” But I liked “Wozzeck” the first time I heard it.

        • phoenix

          Off topic here, but I have to because I won’t remember the situation again.
          -- Has anyone ever been so bowled over with a particular singer at their 1st attendance ever to a specific opera that they discover in later years they are not able to enjoy another performance of that same opera again? I’m not talking about a favorite interpretation, such as “I preferred Stratas as Mélisande but Pilou was great also” or “Crespin was the greatest Didon I ever saw but there were many other memorable ones I cherish”.
          -- What I am getting at is this: the 1st time I saw Wozzeck, Anja Silja sang Marie & Levine conducted (it was a broadcast). I was in downstairs standing room and Silja’s voice was so loud (with a tendency to slightly sharp, like many Scandanivian, Baltic & Russian singers) I could actually feel her high notes hit the wall behind me and bounce back again. I have tried & tried on numerous occasions to appreciate Wozzeck again, but to no avail. It just never worked on me again after that first performance. But when I play a recording of that broadcast with Silja, everything sounds just right: exciting and wonderful. This has only happened to me once and I hope it never happens again.
          -- Has this ever happened to anyone else?

          • Clita del Toro

            Well, my experiences were somewhat like yours, Phoenix.
            Gobbi’s Falstaff, though not my very first, which was in 1964, was the definitive one for me on recording (HvK) and in person. I wore out the LP, but never enjoyed the opera as much since I saw Gobbi at the Met in the 60’s.
            Same goes for Rysanek and London in Dutchman (my least favorite Wagner opera).

            Della Casa’s Arabella had a similar effect on me, although my first was with Steber.

        • I had a similar experience. I was in college when the first CDs came out. My first, still-treasured purchase was the Boulez Lulu. I wallowed in the score. Still do. It took me longer to find my way towards the bel canto rep.

    • steveac10

      I grew up in Minneapolis, and in the 70’s the local opera company was practically an experimental theatre company. While I saw my share of standard rep in the barn the Met tour performed in for a week a year -- it was Susa, Argento et.al. that grabbed me. We didn’t have stars -- a local soprano named Barbara Brandt was the diva in everything from experimental works to Traviata. It was commitment by her and the other members of the company that hooked me -- not nights with the Met in a barn.

      • Feldmarschallin

        Is Barbara Brandt any relative of Marianne Brandt?

    • I agree. A young person interested in the arts is more likely to take an interest in Wozzeck directed by Marthaler than a romantic tear-jerker in period costume.

      • FomalHaut

        I am a young twenty-something and the opera that ‘turned me’ was La Traviata, Parisian dresses and all. I think it’s a matter of taste.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        I think that’s rubbish, I’m afraid. It all comes down to personal taste on a person by person basis. There is no reason at all why young people as a group are less likely to be moved by a traditional production of one of the C19th classics.

        • turings

          For what it’s worth, the last few times I’ve brought new people (all thirty-somethings interested in the arts) to the opera, they were put off by the non-linear storytelling and by the ugliness of the productions. Two of them came away saying they liked the music, but they felt they would have to do a lot of work beforehand, if they went to another one.

          The idea that opera is difficult and expensive, when you have limited money and energy, isn’t really a winner.

          • Indiana Loiterer III

            they were put off by the non-linear storytelling

            You mean that the action keeps stopping so we can hear how the characters feel about it in arias and ensembles? That would be a pretty big obstacle to enjoying opera. I wonder if they feel the same way about musicals?

            • turings

              Nope, more that it was an added barrier to them that the particular productions we went to see had large gaps between the stage action and the libretto, which they were reading along with, because they weren’t familiar with the operas.

              But by all means assume my friends are dumb ;)

      • oedipe

        A small “case study”, for what it’s worth: a couple of days ago I went to La Bohème at Bastille because I wanted to see Anita Hartig as Mimi (I didn’t get to see her in the role at the Met). She was excellent, BTW.

        The house was not full (these are end of season performances, with a third cast of Bohème -Agresta and Gheorghiu were the first two Mimis- and they are competing with the World Cup). As usual at Bastille, there were many young people in the audience.

        When I left the theater, there were two very young men -probably in their early 20s- walking next to me on the street. They seemed very excited about the performance and were congratulating themselves for their decision to come see it. It sounded like it was a last minute choice between the opera and something else, which they mentioned but I didn’t catch. (Young people can walk in at the last minute at the ONP and get deep discount tickets to performances that are not sold out.) They were eager to share their experiences, because they asked me if I was coming from the opera house and how I liked the performance. So I tried to find out a little bit more about their impressions. It was their first Bohème and their first time at Bastille (though they may have seen some opera on TV or elsewhere before) and they loved the whole thing. They liked the voices (Mimi in particular) and they enjoyed very much the fact that the singers were relatively young, acted well AND looked the parts! I told them that they should come more often and they asked me what they should see next season, preferably something well-known and “accessible”. I suggested La Traviata with the second cast (Venera Gimadieva and Ismael Jordi).

        The old Dr. Miller production of Bohème, transposed to pre-WW2 Paris, is nothing revolutionary, but it can be effective and even fun with artists that function well as a team, which was the case with the current cast. The sets actually look like Paris, rather than like Disney World à la Zeffirelli. The singing was variable, from excellent (Hartig, Tézier) to good (Tsallagova, Di Pierro), to acceptable (Massimo Giordano). But everyone acted well and as a result the whole was larger than the sum of the parts.

        I think that newbies, especially young ones, expect to see the complete package in a live opera: decent singing, yes, but also artists that can act and who look their parts convincingly enough. And they also want to see convincing stagings in which the team work produces a whole that’s larger than the sum of the parts.

        • oedipe did you go to Nicholas LeRiche’s farewell? I saw the livestream and was upset to hear that Sylvie Guillem’s duet with LeRiche was performed but apparently not livestreamed. I also wonder why his wife Clairemarie Osta didn’t perform anything with him, since I saw them give a beautiful performance of Giselle when the POB toured the US.

          • oedipe

            No, I didn’t go (too many things to do), but it seems it was THE place to be: the whole government was there, including the Prime Minister, the Culture Minister, the Justice Minister, former Culture Minister Jack Lang, plus many actors and celebrities such as Pierre Bergé, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Gad Elmalech. And of course, Paris Opera GMs Nicolas Joel and Stéphane Lissner…The performance was greeted with 30min. of applause, apparently.

            Le Riche is retiring only from the ONP. He has a lot of other projects, some of them together with his wife: a show called Itinérances (with choreography by Russel Maliphant and Angelin Preljocaj), which will go on tour in France in July; another show on November 4 at the TCE. He will also dance in the new opera Solaris by Dai Fujikura, which will premiere in March 2015 at the TCE.

            As for the duo with Guillem, she apparently didn’t want it streamed (although the people who were watching the HD in movie theaters got to see it).

            • Well I thought it was very odd of Guillem to come out during curtain calls in sneakers and workout leggings when this seems to have been an ultra-dressy, VIP kind of gala. I know she’s Sylvie Guillem and she marches to the beat of her own drum but still.

              Otherwise I thought LeRiche looked amazing and Le Jeune Homme de Mort with Eleanora Abbagnato was great. I thought I saw a few etoiles dancing in the background during Bolero but couldn’t be sure.

              Thought Claude Bessy looked great.

    • Uncle Kvetch

      The problem with all those Aidas, etc.--and Aida is a particular problem in this regard, because appealing as it is, nowadays it’s so hard to cast properly--is that the performances are too often routine or worse, the sort that only an opera connoisseur could enjoy because s/he knew enough to listen through the filth to the sublimity within.

      I disagree. Unless a newcomer is going in with a very extensive musical background, they’re not going to have the critical ear and knowledge to identify the kinds of flaws in a performance that would be evident to the long-time fan.

      When The Hubby and I first started getting into opera, part of the thrill was simply the sense of awe that there are people who are capable of doing what opera singers do, at all. At that stage, even what you might refer to as a “routine” performance seemed like a superhuman feat. It’s only with repeated exposure that one starts to pinpoint what makes some singers stand out (for better or worse) from the rest, and develop personal tastes.

      And then there’s everything else for the newbie to be dazzled by, beyond the quality of the singing: the grandiose scale of most productions of Aida, the poignancy of the drama, and the beauty of the score. Unless there’s something truly atrocious going on, a newcomer isn’t going to get turned off to opera as a genre because this or that singer wasn’t up to snuff. They may not get turned on, either, but that just means that opera isn’t their thing and probably never will be.

      • Clita del Toro

        Kvetch, you are so right about Aida, which to this day remains one of my favorite Verdi operas. I at once loved the spectacle, the choruses, the dancing and the music/singing. I bought the piano score and played many parts of it including the Dance of the Priestesses and sang all parts to the dismay of my parents. I even saw the movie with Sophia Loren.
        My first two Aidas were Tebaldi (fab in 1955) and Milanov (not so fab) but I enjoyed her just the same! Stella (1956?) and Tucci, Vishnevskaya, etc., were excellent Aidas, but then came Leontyne--WOW!

        • luvtennis

          So now all is clear, Amneris! :-)

          • Clita del Toro

            Hi Luv, Radamès qui venga! xoxox

  • Marcello

    The Vienna State Opera fills the house with tourists (especially Japanese) even for a Rigoletto or Elisir with third rate casts. Just because the tourists have been taught that a visit to the State Opera is a must for any Vienna visitor. The are usually overdressed and photograph each other on the grand staircase.
    The New York equivalent to this is a Broadway Musical, even if it is in its umpteenth year and not the Met.

    • messa di voce

      Good point.

      What I disagree with is the idea that the Met’s troubles are due to a level of “direness” in the current product that was never seen in the past, or that is never seen in other houses around the world.

    • John L

      I wonder what percentage of tickets at the Vienna State Opera is sold to tourists. Especially international tourists. At the Met people all over the country come to visit, but probably not international. But I guess that’s why the Vienna State Opera always has 98% tickets sold. Because in addition to the local people, people go to Vienna to see opera. Also to me it looks like the Met has at least 3 times the seating capacity and many more seats to fill.

      • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

        Capacity of Wiener Staatsoper:
        1,709 seats
        567 standing room places
        8 places for those in wheelchairs and their assistants
        TOTAL: 2,284

        Capacity of the Met:
        3,800 seats
        175 standing room places (for sale)
        78 standing room places (for company use)
        24 score desks
        TOTAL: 4,077

        Audience capacity at Wiener Staatsoper for the season which ended on 30 June for opera performances was 99.6%, and 99% overall (ballet rarely sells out because of partial view seats).

        • John L

          There you go, we need people with actual facts! And you have the facts!

  • Leontynes Weave

    The comments on this website never cease to make me sigh and giggle.

    How ridiculous to accommodate overweight singers when 98% of the population is smaller than the handful of truly large women who have sung Ariadne, right?

    Ummmmm . . .

    Shouldn’t the question be what are the average sizes and body shapes of the women who can actually sing the part? After all, there are lots of people who can run, but if they can’t run while playing a Beethoven Violin Concerto it hardly seems logical to say that it’s ridiculous to accommodate Itzhak Perlman since he cannot. If you have a problem with the vocal requirements of the opera weeding out the svelte figures you’d prefer to see on the operatic stage, you’d do well to take up your grievances with the composers instead of ranting incoherently about all the fatties coming to ruin opera because they busy themselves with the simple task of singing the hardest vocal music ever written gloriously.

    There are quite a few nice ideas on this thread. The education and outreach sounds crucial. It will be a slow burn, but I really feel that the MET could send coaches and singers into bad schools regularly to work with and teach students. Sending opera into schools (while a noble cause) isn’t going to make much of a difference if people are not better acclimated with the musical language conventions of the art form.

    And I would add to the bits about cultivating more homegrown singers that the MET should lead the way in making the industry more open to singers with a variety of training and backgrounds. When the only people who get auditions are people who went to a handful of schools, what’s essentially being created is an insular community wherein the whole up-and-coming artist circuit is a revolving door from the conservatory circuit and everyone within it sounds pretty much the same. In 2012 there was a great baritone who won the METs. His name is Anthony Clark Evans and he dropped out of music school to work on cars. It is a major voice that he more or less cultivated on his own. Whether or not he will emerge as the next great Verdi baritone remains to be seen (he’s currently a young artist at the Ryan Center in Chicago), but I really believe there are lots of singers like him who don’t ever even get a chance because they don’t have the right qualifications on paper. The fact is that very few institutions produce great singers, because the training is so individualized and dependent upon the voice and receptiveness of a given student. I know it’s a huge pain in the ass to just have open auditions, but there has to be more openness to people who didn’t got to Yale, AVA or Juilliard. Even if something sounds interesting on a Youtube video that someone posted of themselves singing with piano, there has to be more done to find the best singers out there as opposed to simply reinforcing the current hierarchy wherein “young artists” are merely people who shrewdly played the academic game. In recent years, there has been a slew of relatively attractive, musically accurate yet uninspiring young singers on the MET stage. And since those are the ones that get hired, those are the ones the schools and training programs will continue to pump out. The MET could begin to buck this tread and actually take bigger chances on singers for a potentially bigger payoff.

    • phoenix

      Just from the experience I’ve had over the years with singers I’ve known and admired, you are correct. Most of them got their credentials from one of the handful of schools you mention above (most of the ones I knew went on scholarship). But many of them (even the most talented) did not complete their performing careers to their prime -- and too soon returned to academic employment -- for good reason: steady job, pension, security. For example, Clamma Dale was one of my favorite singers. I met her a few days after she sang a Nedda at NYCO and she told me she was quitting to go into teaching. She left the stage far too early, but she landed a secure job.
      -- Weaves, yes, the idea you have requires a great deal of funding. It is doubtful that any self-serving opera company would indulge in such a large-scale project, but they all could kick in something. Maybe private sponsorship, along the lines of media funded open auditions (either seasonal tournament-type events or better yet, an ongoing broadcast contest program with winning participants returning to sing more rep, new ensemble work and of course to compete with new candidates. I personally feel the agents themselves should kick in their support for any such project, both as judges and sponsors.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      You’re absolutely right about this, and I think it applies particularly to bigger voices and those in Fachs that take longer to develop -- many a fledgling dramatic soprano sounds pretty unimpressive at age 20 when she auditions for a conservatoire, and doesn’t get in due to competition from slews of lyrics and coloraturas who sound like they’ll be good to go and reflect well on the conservatoire in 1 -- 4 years time. I think that’s why there seems to be a bit of a dearth of great dramatic sopranos at the moment -- the casting process is a bit lazy and favours those who have CVs displaying traditional paths, and you need a straight forward voice that has been sorted out very young in order to get on that traditional path in most cases.

    • Shouldn’t the question be what are the average sizes and body shapes of the women who can actually sing the part?

      All right, you tell me. Here’s a list of sopranos currently singing Ariadna:

      Camilla Nylund
      Linda Watson
      Marjorie Owens
      Sara Jakubiak
      Christine Goerke
      Soile Isokoski
      Melanie Diener
      Adrianne Pieczonka
      Lori Guilbeau
      Gun-Brit Barkmin
      Karita Mattila
      Eva-Maria Westbroek
      Christiane Libor
      Christiane Iven
      Jennifer Check
      Krassimira Stoyanova
      Meagan Miller
      Emily Magee

      The “average” size here may tend to the full-figured, but not a one of them is nearly as heavy as Voigt was at the time she was protested (and fully paid off) for the Ariadne at the ROH. In other words, Voigt was an outlier.

      Famous Ariadnes of history include

      Maria Jeritza,
      Lotte Lehmann
      Germaine Lubin
      Maria Nemeth
      Vera Schwarz
      Lucie Weidt
      Maria Cebotari
      Lisa Della Casa
      Anny Konetzni
      Hilde Zadek
      Christa Ludwig
      Gundula Janowitz
      HIldegard Behrens
      Anna Tomowa-Sintow
      Leonie Rysanek
      Johanna Meier
      Jessye Norman
      Deborah Voigt
      Christine Brewer
      Violeta Urmana
      Nina Stemme

      Again, the really enormous women are the exception rather than the rule. The “tradition” of very obese sopranos performing Ariadne essentially dates back to Jessye Norman, who sang the part very well for about four or five seasons, and then cheated her way through it for another five after that.

      • The “tradition” of very obese sopranos performing Ariadne essentially dates back to Jessye Norman.

        Very true. And the whole situation was underlined by the fact that Jessye had taken a few years off from staged opera. One of the reasons that has often been cited is that she felt uncomfortable on stage because of her size. And Ariadne, being a fairly static role, was chosen as the ideal vehicle for her comeback to the stage (and of course, the tessitura suited her perfectly). She scored a major triumph, it became her signature role, and thus the whole notion of Ariadne as the perfect vehicle for obese sopranos was born.

        Voigt, though she had a much different voice than Jessye, shared a lot of roles with her — Sieglinde, Cassandre, Elisabeth, and of course, Ariadne. And her ascendance as a major singer dovetailed with the end of Jessye’s prime. So she became the Ariadne of choice (at the Met, the two of them owned the role for 20 years) and the idea of an obese Ariadne continued.

      • Clita del Toro

        You left out Anne Schwanewilms.

      • Cicciabella

        Dalayman also has Ariadne in her repertoire. As talented as all these current Ariadnes are, and putting body shape aside for a moment, it’s hard to imagine that any of them can sing Ariadne’s music as radiantly as Voigt could in her prime.

        • I have the Sinopoli Ariadne with Voigt/Heppner/Dessay/von Otter and I must admit that as well as she sings the music, I find Voigt’s Ariadne lacking in personality. To me, the real vocal stars of that recording are Heppner, who sails through that thankless role gloriously and Dessay, who was captured at her very best and sings with great brilliance.

          • Cicciabella

            Love that recording. Heppner’s Bacchus is the best I’ve ever heard. Simply stunning.

            • Heppner was a great Strauss tenor. He could sing roles like Bacchus and Der Kaiser (though I’ve only heard of the latter from others) with ease, musicality and brilliant tone.

            • MontyNostry

              Synchronicity here -- I just happened to listen to some of that Sinopoli Ariadne on YouTube last night -- I didn’t listen to the entire final duet (it was late), but Heppner did sound superb. Voigt was very sumptuous, if a bit bland, while I found Dessay lacking sparkle -- all very pretty and sensitive, but not enough edge to the sound or the personality, and the final big top note in her aria was nearly as flat as Gruberova’s. Some of Sinopoli’s tempi were a bit weird, but I’ve never heard so much instrumental detail in the piece. Very beautifully recorded.

            • DellaCasaFan

              Ciccia and Kashania, another fan of Heppner’s Strauss over here. I recently listened again to his CD of Strauss’ arias for tenor, a rarity given Strauss’ fondness for female voices. It’s also on Spotify. Definitely worth a listen.

            • DellaCasaFan: Heppner has a Strauss album?? I must look it up. Thanks!

              Monty: I don’t recall the flatness on Dessay’s high note but I’ll have to give it another listen. I do agree, however, that her tone lacks the bite that an ideal Zerbinetta would have. Still, I did find it sparkling myself.

              No argument about Voigt’s vocal quality in that one.

          • DellaCasaFan

            Kashania, it’s out of print but I see a few copies on Amazon. “Ben Heppner Sings Richard Strauss” He sings several selections exactly as you describe it, “with ease, musicality and brilliant tone” (no Bacchus though). The remaining tracks are orchestral, very nicely played by Toronto SO under Andrew Davis.

      • DellaCasaFan

        Great lists. Another wonderful historical Ariadne, Maria Reining. Her live Vienna performance for Strauss’ 80th birthday, present in the audience, was fortunately recorded for posterity. Young Seefried can also be heard as a splendid Composer.

        • Krunoslav

          Like minds!

          Also is that cast: “Melanie Frutschnigg”, the once and future Mela Bugarinovic, a real contralto.

      • Krunoslav

        “Where is Betty Fretwell in this list???”

        Also, Lucine sang Ariadne for Little Opera Society, at the Met and at Glyndebourne!

        Serious absence, one of he greatest ever IMO: Maria Reining.

        • armerjacquino

          I have Amara’s Glyndebourne Ariadne, with a seriously off Streich and with Lorengar rather luxury casting as Echo. Amara is wonderfully musical and secure, even if it isn’t really in the last analysis her part.

          • Krunoslav

            Some — indeed most--of the Met’s Echos moved on to do leading roles, though no Lorengars among them. Only one of them, Jeanette Scovotti, also did Zerbinetta there- opposite Lucine, in fact, w/Konya and Mildred Miller in 1964:

            13 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Clements, Joy]
            5 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Deshorties, Alexandra]
            5 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Heaston, Nicole]
            6 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Martin, Marvis]
            3 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Moon, Sandra]
            5 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Morley, Erin]
            15 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Norden, Betsy]
            2 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Robinson, Gail]
            8 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Scovotti, Jeanette]
            1 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Skok, Heidi]
            17 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Uecker, Korliss]
            8 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Upshaw, Dawn]
            3 Ariadne auf Naxos: Echo [Xu, Lei]

            • In the Norman/Battle/King/Troyanos Ariadne, not only is Upshaw Echo but Bonney is Najade.

      • Leontynes Weave

        I’m not really sure what you’re arguing. Ariadnes have to be able to sing the part to a certain level and it is a difficult role to cast. If one of the best Ariadnes in the world (as Voigt was at the time) cannot do the staging or fit a costume it should be altered to accommodate the artist in the production. The fact that she was an outlier disproves your own ranting about this great tradition of overweight singers essaying the part destroying the theatrical elements of the opera.

        You’ve created this ridiculous straw man regarding the arbitrary defense of singers because they are large. If they are large and can sing the part well and it’s extremely difficult to cast, that can and should win out over the “looking the part” (itself a ridiculous canard in opera) in this art form. But for some reason the suspension of disbelief among many opera queens seems to extend to white women in kimonos and black-faced Otellos, but not overweight Goddesses or pudgy teenage boys.

        • kennedet

          I’m also a bit confused. Will a fat or should a fat singer be turned down because they are over weight? Will the judges turn down a fat singer with a glorius voice with the potential of a Pavarotti? Are we saying there is no excuse to be over weeigt in today’s world where everything has gone visual? This discussion regarding weight continues to appear and re-appear. It has certainly has made its statement in the acting world. God forbid if a woman is bigger than a size 10-12!

        • armerjacquino

          If one of the best Ariadnes in the world (as Voigt was at the time) cannot do the staging or fit a costume it should be altered to accommodate the artist in the production.

          Not to sound like a cracked record here, but what Voigt was unable to do was lie down. If she can’t do that, that leaves three options. 1: stand up 2: sit down 3: walk from one place to another. Do you really want productions to be designed around those abilities and no others? Because in that case there is really no reason not to do a concert performance. That’s not snark or rhetoric, it’s genuine- if all you want is to be in the same room as someone who sings while either standing or sitting, then there really isn’t much point in sets, costumes or staging.

          • Batty Masetto

            Let’s not exaggerate, AJ. There’s a lot of expressive body language that doesn’t depend on lying down. Besides singing beautifully, Voigt was emotionally engaging and even effectively funny in the San Francisco Ariadne some years ago. (There was an especially droll standoff with Zerbinetta over her pillow.) Stately, yes, but big girls are still able to show feeling without falling to their knees.

            • armerjacquino

              Batty, I don’t think I was exaggerating. I’ve seen the Loy ARIADNE twice. It is not in any way a physically demanding production. If Voigt wasn’t up to it, she had no business being on stage at all, something she, by the way, seems to have recognised. She’s been in it since.

              I’m a moderate in this argument. I don’t have any particular views on weight and credibility. But when people are saying that directors should build productions around people incapable of basic physical movement we’ve gone through the looking glass.

            • Batty Masetto

              “If she can’t do that, that leaves three options. 1: stand up 2: sit down 3: walk from one place to another.”

              I do think that’s an exaggeration, unless you allow for the endless variety of possibilities that are still available in those positions. Still a long way from a concert performance.

              No opinion on the Loy production, I haven’t seen it. But there have been great singers who couldn’t or wouldn’t necessarily be willing to sing in every position asked of them.

              (Though of course this is one of my very favorite YT clips:)

            • armerjacquino

              there have been great singers who couldn’t or wouldn’t necessarily be willing to sing in every position asked of them.

              So don’t agree to be in a revival of a production unless you know you’re physically capable of the blocking, no?

            • manou

              Batty -- at the end of this amazing Cavallerria clip, one of YouTube’s suggestions is Peppa Pig. Unless this is a deliberate dig to Simionato, maybe it is a sign that my grandchildren should visit less often.

            • manou

              oops -- Cavalleria.

            • Batty Masetto

              Depends on far too many variables, AJ. Are there many sopranos who’d be willing to go through with the ferocious “table ballet” that injured even dance-trained Barbara Hannigan in the Munich “Soldaten”? Or should people have refused to hire Tebaldi for a revival because she had a game leg that would have kept her from doing certain moves?

              But look, there’s no point arguing for the sake of arguing. Pax vobiscum.

            • Batty Masetto

              Manou, I have an uneasy feeling the first episode here may have been catered by the Rumpus Room:

            • oedipe

              I am embarrassed to confess my total ignorance of Peppa Pig. But I just HAVE to ask the question: it the designer of the Peppa Pig characters a follower of Picasso?

            • manou

              It seems that there is a serious lacuna in your erudition, œdipe. The Peppa Pig designers are indeed about to emulate Picasso -- at least as far as the wealth they are accumulating is concerned.

          • In Chinese opera, characters often sleep sitting in a chair, not lying down. I’m sure others have seen it done in Western operatic productions. Watching commenters here maintain that lying-down sleeping onstage is an absolute necessity strikes me as faintly comical.

            • manou

              Encore une histoire à dormir debout.

            • armerjacquino

              Who said it was a necessity? The point is that it’s not too much to ask.

            • If it’s a problem, you re-do a bit of the blocking. It doesn’t seem to me that’s too much to ask.

              At all events, it seem preferable to wasting tens of thousands of dollars to buy Voigt out of her contract completely.

          • Cicciabella

            AJ, I don’t think anyone would disagree that a singer with a great voice who can act credibly and is physically flexible is preferable to a physically limited singer with “just” a great voice. However, many singers with important voices should be in staged productions, whatever their physical or psychological barriers, and productions should be changed for them. I can’t imagine Caballe lying down anywhere, but if she were on the opera stage today I would want to see and hear her, as would many. And can you imagine Harteros ever wearing that Rococo lingerie confection Opolais did in Manon Lescaut? Not that it wouldn’t suit her, but she’d never wear such a thing. But if she ever wants to appear in the production, the ROH should redesign the costume for her, and they’d do opera a disservice if they didn’t.

            • armerjacquino

              See, there’s no point discussing this because we flat out disagree. The costume for Manon is essential to Geronte’s world as depicted in this production. The production exists: anyone who agrees to appear in it now knows what they’re signing up to. Similarly, someone like Meade probably won’t sing Violetta at the Met while the Decker production is in place. I say again, if you’re that indifferent to the art of costume design, one of the collaborative arts that makes up the macaronic art form that is staged opera, you might as well go to a concert where the singers can wear whatever the hell they want without silly things like ideas getting in the way.

            • Cicciabella

              Yes, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I happen to think that staging and costumes are very important, but should be adapted for different singers because voice trumps everything. You think that it doesn’t. It’s just two different approaches to staged opera: both have their pros and cons, and it depends on which cons one is prepared to live with.

            • armerjacquino

              You know where ‘voice trumps everything’?

              Concerts ;-)

            • Feldmarschallin

              No Harteros wouldn’t wear that but she was originally scheduled for that Manon Lescaut but then decided not to add that role to her rep. I see no reason for her to sing a revival of ML if she turned down the first run. But using another example I doubt were she ever interesting in singing Salome that she would sing in the current Friedkin production where Salome pulls down the top part of her dress and you see her breats. Denoke did the NP and Michael one of the later revivals. I think Harteros’ husband will be the only one seeing her in a garter belt. I don’t agree with her views on this but she has to do what she feels comfortable with. Denoke has no problems with stage nudity and also was nude in the Bieto Wozzeck.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          What is so hard about casting Ariadne? The above lists include Isokoski and Stemme, while it has been done by Della Casa and Gwyneth Jones, even a fair few mezzos -- it seems to be within the grasp of a huge range of voices from those at the lightest end of full lyric up to the heaviest Brunnhildes and Elektras.

    • armerjacquino

      If you have a problem with the vocal requirements of the opera weeding out the svelte figures you’d prefer to see on the operatic stage, you’d do well to take up your grievances with the composers instead of ranting incoherently about all the fatties coming to ruin opera

      If this is, as you say, about the ARIADNE discussion, it’s an extraordinary and disingenuous misrepresentation of a conversation which in this case was about WHETHER OR NOT SOMEONE CAN LIE DOWN WHILE SLEEPING.

    • luvtennis

      Leontyne:

      I think you have hit on a key issue. Many of the greatest singers of the last 60 years (I limit myself to that time period as being most relevant) received significant training or support from non-academic sources.

      Sure, Lee went to Julliard, but she also benefited from her close artistic/personal relationships with Sam Barber and Herbie. Joan had Ricky. Maria had Visconti and Serafin. And so forth. I don’t sense that there is as much opportunity for these types of essentially informal collaborations to occur nowadays. And how many great singers never leave the career starting gate because they don’t receive this sort of support and mentoring FROM ACTUAL PERFORMING OR CREATIVE ARTISTS AS OPPOSED TO OTHER ACADEMICS.

      I think the potential impact on the quality of operatic performance of this phenomenon is significant.

      And when you consider just how small the pool of great or important singers is at any point in time, the marginal impact is huge!

      • steveac10

        Really until the 70’s the primary route was not conservatories. Read any Bio of a great diva and they all had a pedagogue who took them under their wing at an early age. People like Sills had nearly daily lessons with Liebling throughout her teens -- at little or no cost. Now the best a young singer can hope for (and afford) is an hour a week. Even as a voice major in college if I wanted a second lesson with my teacher I had to schlep across town on the bus and hand over $35 (which in 1979 was a lot of money for an undergrad). There were no lessons in the summer or over breaks. When I talk to people about what private lessons cost today, you’d have to be a trust fund baby to get the training a Sills or a Callas received early on.

      • mjmacmtenor

        American singers who studied in academic institutions (as opposed to the more privately schooled singers such as Sills, Peters. and others of their generations) have not alway been limited to the big-name schools of Julliard, AVA, etc. I attended Cal State Fullerton in the early 80s, and my classmates included Rod Gilfry and Deborah Voigt. Several faculty there also remembered when Jeanine Altmeyer had been a student there. Up the road at Cal Poly Pomona, Carol Vaness got her BA (as a mezzo) and then went to graduate school at Cal State Northridge. Now, certainly these singers did not get all their training as an undergrad or academic. Altmeyer studied with Lehmann at Santa Barbara. Gilfry went to graduate school at USC and then student with Martial Singher. Vaness was in the inaugural year of SFO’s Merola program where she was “discovered” by Sills and Rudel. Voigt did not do grad school but was a finalist in the Met auditions while still at CSUF (85) and then later did the Merola program.
        Different paths for different folks.

  • I would say that opera audiences in most places are made up by a majority of 50-yr-old-plus combined with a significant group of under 35-yr-olds. A lot of opera companies have done a good job of drawing young people to the opera. In our increasingly visual and eclectic age, opera has a certain appeal to a certain portion of the younger demographic. However, these young people are usually attending at a significant discount. This is seen (rightly) as a good investment in the future.

    Once these young people have children (and coincidentally, no longer qualify for the discount), they tend to attend the performing arts less frequently. I’ve spoken to many people who were only able to make the commitment to an opera or symphony subscription after their kids were old enough to be left at home without a baby-sitter (or had gone off to university).

    This is a practical component of audience demographics that’s not often discussed. People come to the performing arts later in life because that’s when they have time and money to attend. Their lives are no longer occupied with children and they have more free time (and disposable income) to spend at the ballet or opera. These same people may have attended an occasional performance earlier in their lives but could not commit to regular attendance.

    As for musical tastes, It’s true that different people respond to different rep and types of productions. While it’s true that younger audiences are less likely to bothered by the dissonance in some 20th and 21st century operas, it’s amazing how many young people respond to “pretty” music when it comes to classical/opera even if the popular music they listen to on a regular basis is the furthest from “pretty”.

    My sister is a few years younger than I (she’s 37) and I introduced her to opera through videos and clips. She’s no opera lover but likes to go occasionally. She consistently responds well to the top ten operas in traditional-looking productions. Though she speaks German and has lived in Germany before, both times she saw a Wagner opera (in contemporary productions), she was bored to death. However, she loves a traditional looking Tosca or Turandot.