Cher Public

The sound of silence

This past week of contract negotiations at the Metropolitan Opera has been notable for the absence of any new PowerPoint presentations or fustian proclamations. One can only hope that this means that serious negotiations are, in fact, taking place. While we all sit huddled in Dante Park, telephoto lenses trained on the Grand Tier, eagerly awaiting news, we pass the time in speculation. Some thoughts after the jump.  

I don’t believe there will be a lockout. For the Met, the threat of a lockout is much more useful than a lockout itself. If there is a lockout, the union leadership will be less flexible in their demands as they will have to prove to their members that suffering through the lockout was worth it. The long-term impact on ticket sales, subscriptions, and donations will be disastrous and will likely swamp whatever savings the Met achieves through the contract that eventually gets negotiated.

Also, I doubt there is a smoking gun in the Met’s books. If the independent audit found something damning, the news would have leaked, despite vows of confidentiality. What, after all, could the audit find that could add up to anything approaching the $40-$50 million in annual labor savings that management is demanding? Special remunerations to big name singers? First class airfare and hotels for Peter Gelb’s trips to Europe?

Even if the audit shows that the Lepage Ring cost double what was disclosed, this has no impact on future budgets and doesn’t help realize future savings. If the Met vastly underreported the cost of every new production, that could be a finding in the unions favor. However, that practice would have been going on for decades as the cost per production has remained consistent for the past decade or more.

A much more interesting document to me than the independent audit would be the Metropolitan Opera Board’s long term financial plan alluded to in their “Open Letter to Opera Lovers”. I certainly applaud the board’s decade-late decision to increase the endowment and reduce the company’s dependency on annual donations.

However, their letter seems to imply that the primary source of new endowment funds will be the diversion of donations each year from funding general expenses to increasing the endowment. Won’t there a large scale campaign to boost the endowment? I would think donors would respond generously as they would be making a long-term investment in the Met’s future. Maybe the Koch brothers would kick in $100 million of their ill-gotten gains.

Similarly, it’s disheartening that the Met’s negotiating stance seems to be based that the box office will never recover from its current slump and compensation may never increase again. I could envision a contract structure where the union received additional annual bonus payments when box office revenue reaches agreed targets, particularly if Gelb’s contract were structured the same way.

Five-year contracts with major concessions that have no upside for the unions when finances improve seem to be a non-starter. If nothing else, a contract that promised the unions increased compensation when the Met’s finances improved might shut down their destructive rhetoric about there being nothing worth seeing at Gelb’s Met.

Barring some truly disastrous brinksmanship by Gelb in the negotiations, I don’t see a scenario in which these negotiations result in his ouster, notwithstanding the many “experts” who have expressed their view that this somehow a likely outcome. Should Gelb be removed by the Board, I’m genuinely curious as to who his detractors think should replace him.

There is no one running a major American opera company or other arts organization who would be a notable improvement over Gelb at the Met. Intendants at European houses would likely not be interested in a role that requires so much time spent fundraising. Would the Met be better off if the former head of Askonas Holt were to be running the company on an interim basis while we waited for David Gockley’s contract to expire in San Francisco? Or Alexander Pereira might not survive in Milan. Should he come to New York so he can once again copy and paste his productions and casts from his previous gigs into the Met’s schedule?

In the long term the demands of running the Met and keeping it solvent will require the company to evolve to a model where the General Manager manages the company and the Artistic Director is in charge of productions and casting. Imagine what the Met would be like if a new imaginative Artistic Director actually set the artistic direction for the company instead of filling in the blanks in plans largely set by the General Manager. I wonder what James Levine would think of that. Oh, that’s right, he hasn’t said a single word during these contract negotiations. Does anyone seriously think he will take a pay cut along with everyone else at the Met?

  • Feldmarschallin

    You better hope you don’t get Pereira. Peter Stein will become the house director.

  • operaassport

    Great analysis. However, the Koch Bros might be more willing to donate if not continually derided. Perhaps George Soros might be induced to contribute $100 million of his ill gotten gains that avoids US taxes? Or Bill Gates? Or Warren Buffett? Or Mark Zuckerburg? Or David Geffen?

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      The ‘good Koch brother’ (Frederick R. Koch) has been on the MET board for ages. Looking forward to the announcements due to be issued later today.

    • Henry Holland

      Or Bill Gates?

      He’s not interested in donating to the arts, he mostly donates to humanitarian causes.

      Or Mark Zuckerburg?

      Anyone that expects .com/Silicon Valley/Internet people to be donors is dreaming. There’s no upside for them: they don’t care about looking “classy”, for lack of a better term and they sure don’t need to buy their way in to the upper class.

      Or David Geffen?

      He’s more interested in keeping beach-goers away from his Malibu beachfront mansion than funding a new production of an opera.

      • turings

        Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, likes opera. He often mentions going to San Francisco Opera in interviews and sometimes tweets about it. So there is hope for ‘Internet people’, in that they aren’t all the same.

        Anyway it’s generally a good thing if ‘classiness’ isn’t a big motivation for supporting or going to opera – it’s just a pity that arts funding in America is so dependent on the individual tastes of a few rich people.

  • operaassport

    When will AGMA member fire Alan Gordon and replace him with someone more reasonable and less repulsive?

    • heldensoub

      During Mr. Gordon’s tenure, AGMA has gone from bankruptcy to solid financial stability, without raising initiation fees or members dues. Contracts are consistently stronger, better enforced and higher paying. It seems highly unlikely that the members will fire him because you find his methods to be less than acceptable in what passes for polite society. If fewer business decisions were made on the basis of who is a charming dinner companion rather than who can get the job done, many of our arts institutions would be in better shape.

      • operaassport

        Polite society? His methods wouldn’t be acceptable in a dog pound.

    • OpinionatedNeophyte

      If only we could do the same with whomever is behind the operaassport machine…

      • operaassport

        Spoken like a true intellectual heavyweight with a 48 IQ.

  • redbear

    There is the asumption hewre that the board was kidding with the lockout. What prompts that idea? Cockeyed optimism? I believe the board has determined that the present model is not working. That would be obvious and is a general conclusion of most of the professionals who are looking on. The house is too big, the audience declines are not likely to change, donations are down and expenses are up. And the structure of the national economy is changing: Americans have lost one-third of their average salary in the past decade and there is no sign of this leveling off. 32% of Americans are under a debt collection activity, etc., etc. The audiences of European origins and influences are a smaller and smaller part of the population. Opera smells like an antique activity to most young people and no, you will not see those tech billionaires in Row G of the orchestra ever. Innovation and downsizing is the key. This is the new reality.
    My prediction. The pattern of the Minnesota Orchestra will be followed: a 16 month strike-lockout, a final acceptance of a wage reduction not too far from what is on the table now, and the damage to the organization and the ugliness of all that gets the boss fired. It is certain that there will be downsizing.

    • ML

      Opera smelled like an antique activity to most young people 40 years ago, and on what do you base the idea that “audience declines are not likely to change”?

      • ianw2

        There is not one piece of data to suggest that we’re at the cusp of a boom in opera audiences. The trend has been downward for some time in most English speaking countries. Tastes and demographics change, and that’s before you chuck in the general state of finances.

        Also, Minnesota pops up in every thread but I don’t really think the two situations are comparable. The Met management doesn’t have the terrible optics of spending tens of millions of dollars on hall renovations whilst trying to slash players’ conditions.

        • steveac10

          In Minnesota, there was also a strong subtext that prominent members of the board had no interest in the orchestra’s cultural value. The goal seemed to make the orchestra into a tenant for their newfangled downtown event center. There was also the incidental convenience of not having to pay the orchestra, or for alternate venues, while the lobby was being redone.

      • redbear

        What’s your plan? Audience decline is a constant topic in US performing arts groups with some predicting symphony orchestra’s won’t exist in 20 years. The occasional success story is almost always linked to a fresh approach and downsizing. This is not an opinion but common coin in the opera world. For the Met, its limited experiment with adventurous rep and productions have caused traditionalists to stop coming without attracting the younger audience it hoped. Average age at the Paris Opera was just announced as 47. You don’t have to check IDs at the Met to know the are not close to that. Is anyone thinking about a fresh approach, a shorter season? Even if they get the concessions they want from the unions it will only buy some time, ten, maybe 20 years.

        • steveac10

          The problem is that they can’t get a shorter season without the performing unions agreeing to cut their base pay. They’re already being paid for the old tour weeks, which used to extend into June.

          To one of your other points, I think one of the major roadblocks to making opera more relevant to the cultural life in this country are those traditionalists that are being “driven away”. Sometimes I want to channel Bianca del Rio when they throw up there arms about the Met stage no longer being Sybil Harrington’s private dollhouse and shout at them: Selena is Dead!

          • ML

            @ red, steve, ian:

            — the cost side has to be separated from the revenue

            — the seats have to be filled, or else the product is not delivered, which means waste

            — the production of a season means the sale and purchase of a subscription, not single events

            — subs have to be priced so people can afford to make attendance part of their routines

            — the price curve has to reflect the peculiarities of the venue

            • ianw2

              Subs are an increasingly outdated model. The idea of planning a social calendar 6-12 months in advance is becoming a very quaint idea. What is the attraction in committing to a suite of performances so far in advance, particularly when anyone who has been paying attention knows that performances rarely sell out anyway?

            • ML

              The product is a season, Ian. Not only should it be delivered, i.e. no wasted seats, but it should be delivered as a season. The “attraction in committing to a suite of performances” is that you get to hear them. Weak marketers need not apply.

            • Chanterelle

              In reply to ianw2:

              I’ve noticed this in NYC, in particular the Lincoln Center series. Much of the good stuff gets announced after the regular early subscription period has past. Clearly, though, the concerts have been planned; it just seems that a shorter purchase horizon appeals to more people.

              That said, I’ve noticed that smaller European houses have very strong subscription bases. Incentives include significant discounts including on single seats, etc. The advantage to the house is an engaged return audience. This enables artistic directors to take more risks. The subscriber is given a price advantage such that he can afford to take a chance on one or two shows he’s not sure he’ll like.

            • ianw2

              How does the idea of committing to a whole season fit with any kind of demographic or marketing trend in 2014?

              Cable TV is the only entertainment medium left where in order to see the things you want to see you have to pay for everything. The arts companies work off both models, but consumers are less and less interested in both committing to a whole season, and to dates so far in advance.

              As consumers we are more and more insistent about choice and flexibility- both of which can only be addressed so far in a traditional subscriptions model.

              Try convincing anyone on the southern side of 40- i.e your future audience- that they should plan next year’s entertainment now, and that they should pay for the entire season, even the ones they’re less interested in, for the privilege of advance planning.

            • ML

              You’re not listening.

            • Chanterelle

              Also, some European houses provide very attractive subscription pricing for younger people, under 30, say, and deals for students, not just the Met’s $25 seats for whatever hasn’t sold. Make the best stuff available to budding audiences, not just the leftovers. Get ’em while they’re young!

            • Henry Holland

              Cable TV is the only entertainment medium left where in order to see the things you want to see you have to pay for everything

              If weren’t for live sporting events, I’d have no need for cable TV from the awful Time Warner Cable as I watch the TV shows I’m interested in online. Their model is going to go away at some point in favor of ala carte pricing i.e. paying only for the channels you watch.

              That said, I’ve noticed that smaller European houses have very strong subscription bases

              I go to the website of every opera company in Europe (thank you Operabase!) looking to see if they’re doing anything worth traveling close to 6000 miles for. Those “smaller European houses” often package operas in their subscriptions with plays, orchestral concerts, musicals and touring shows starring old pop stars.

              That’s a different model than how it is done here in the United States, where opera companies are almost always standalone companies. The Los Angeles Opera doesn’t haven’t anything to do with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (which has been producing their own staged opera performances at Disney Hall for years), the Ahmanson Theater (touring musicals and plays) or The Mark Taper Forum (current and classic plays in a small theater) other than that they share a plaza on Bunker Hill.

              In all the years that he conducted the LAP, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted exactly one production at the LAO, the Peter Sellars Malibu beach house Pelleas. There’s simply no crossover here, and I don’t think it’s common elsewhere either.

            • ianw2

              HH you raise an interesting point about how you travel in Europe. The travel planning aspect may be part of the reason why the ‘festival model’ of a season (Santa Fe obviously, but also the way Fort Worth changed its season) has been a bit more resilient when compared to the more traditional season-length subscription.

              I’ve done it myself- “oh, I’m going for Y but since I’ll be there anyway, I’ll see X and Z as well”.

            • ML

              You are right, Henry, although for the record it should be noted that the LA Phil played for LA Opera’s Tristan in 1987, Wozzeck in 88, and other performances, and that the LA Chamber Orch played for numerous LA Opera performances from 86 thru at least 1989. Also the Houston SO used to be the pit orch for Houston Grand Opera. Point being that collaboration with loss of branding is possible Stateside.

            • ML


            • ianw2

              I’m avoiding comparing US/European models because European houses are typically more insulated through government subsidy (though at ever-decreasing levels, true). When subsidy is more or less fixed year to the year, the imperative to maintain a steady known quantity of subscribers is lessened.

            • ML

              Ian, those two issues have nothing to do with each other.

            • ML

              … I mean that the origin of the subsidy has nothing to do with how a season gets sold.

            • ianw2

              No, I’m pretty sure I’m reading you clearly. I’ve proposed that subscriptions are approaching their expiry, and your response largely seems to be ‘stronger marketing’ that runs counter to everything we know about how we’re consuming in 2014.

              The “attraction in committing to a suite of performances” is that you get to hear them. Weak marketers need not apply.

              We know- thanks to comprehensive data- that opera audiences are in decline. We can hear almost any opera (except the new ones, and it’s not as if they’re flooding the mainstages of the subscription companies anyway) we care to at a flick of a button for a fraction of the price (if any) at any time we want.

              I’m yet to see a convincing argument for the traditional subscription model in 2014 for the next generation of audiences who find it alien; and you’re yet to attempt to present one.

            • ianw2

              Ian, those two issues have nothing to do with each other. I mean that the origin of the subsidy has nothing to do with how a season gets sold.

              How on earth does one disconnect subsidy from how a season gets sold?

              If you don’t have that fixed subsidy, such as in the US, you need to be much more aggressive in ticketing (whether through subscription or not) and/or philanthropy. Then there’s the ‘middle way’ of Australia and the UK where there is fixed subsidy tied to ticketing/philanthropy.

              And that’s all before the various political issues around subsidy and whether a government would really let a subsidized company fold due to a change in level of funding. If you have that political and financial security, maintaining a high level of subscription security is lessened. I don’t see how this is controversial.

            • ML

              I should not have started this because I don’t have time to properly discuss it. But I see you’re perplexed, so I’ll do what I can with this last post on the subject.

              Committing has always run “counter to everything we know about how we’re consuming.” Nobody ever wanted to commit when keeping flexibility was an option.

              Subscribing, or buying season tickets, has not approached “expiry” because it is the flip side, the buyer side, of presenting a season. As long as there are seasons, etc.

              In not unprecedented examples in the performing arts in the U.S., people have had to *wait* for the chance to buy a subscription. An attainable grail.

              Peter Gelb sells each show, just like he sold each record title. He has not invested the energy to grasp subscription principles and throw the Met’s marketing resources wholly behind them — and in this sense I agree with those who say he was unqualified — so that the job of marketing is done by *end May* of the previous season. Maybe he will learn.

              I don’t see a generational decline in America for classical music and opera. I see panic because CEOs opted in the 1990s to bilk ordinary people with aggressive pricing in a blind attempt to apply “business models” to the subsidized arts. Such people need to step aside.

              There is no substitute for the live in-theater, in-the-hall experience — for its presence, sharing, honesty, immediacy, risk — so you don’t need to worry about the “flick of the button” crowd. Fish where the fish are.

              You “disconnect subsidy” by remembering that costs and earned revenues never balance at a non-profit. Sure, the pressure to fund the gap will rise and fall over time, but a subsidy is needed regardless of where it comes from — the Roman church, the nobility, a promoting society, an institution, the government or Exxon.

            • ianw2

              But I see you’re perplexed, so I’ll do what I can with this last post on the subject

              I don’t mind being disagreed with, if you’d like to point to your data about the seemingly endless potential of the subscription model in opera consumption. But I won’t be talked down to.

              In not unprecedented examples in the performing arts in the U.S., people have had to *wait* for the chance to buy a subscription. An attainable grail.

              Which companies, exactly, currently maintain a waiting list for subscriptions?

              I don’t see a generational decline in America for classical music and opera

              Great! Do let Opera America and American League of Orchestras and the NEA know when you get the chance.

              I do tend to think the death of classical music is exaggerated, and that the threats are more to presentation & production models more than the artform itself, but that’s neither here nor there.

              He has not invested the energy to grasp subscription principles and throw the Met’s marketing resources wholly behind them — and in this sense I agree with those who say he was unqualified — so that the job of marketing is done by *end May* of the previous season

              Which companies, in your opinion, finish their marketing by end of May?

              And how exactly should any company be throwing all their weight behind subscriptions? I also love this idea that competent General Managers don’t sell show by show too, by the way.

              There is no substitute for the live in-theater, in-the-hall experience — for its presence, sharing, honesty, immediacy, risk — so you don’t need to worry about the “flick of the button” crowd. Fish where the fish are

              The fish are running out. Turns out people- many people- can go without the in-house experience. Who would’ve thought people would line up to see opera with the smell of popcorn in a multiplex next to the latest Transformers movie?

              And if the experience in the house is so vastly superior- which I agree with- aren’t those ‘flick of the button’ crowd you are so dismissive of the natural base for expanding the pool of fish? Dismissing the different ways people interact with what you’re trying to sell them skates remarkably close to the old canard that nobody should really go to the opera until they’ve brushed up on Kobbe’s first (god, it wasn’t that long ago that surtitles were the moneychanger in the temple).

              You “disconnect subsidy” by remembering that costs and earned revenues never balance at a non-profit

              How, exactly, is this disconnecting subsidy? It’s glorious magic accounting to think there is no relationship between costs, earned revenue and subsidy gap.

              It’s been tremendous I agree, but do you have anything more than “Gelb doesn’t know how to sell subscriptions”?

            • ML

              I was talking straight across at you. I am frequently “perplexed” myself about all sorts of things!

            • oedipe

              Just one comment about the subscription model: it can only work in an environment of perceived desirability AND scarcity; it cannot work if people think there will be plenty of available seats closer to the date(s) of performance. This doesn’t mean that everything in a season needs to be desirable. It is enough to have one event that many people don’t want to miss and that is included in many subscription formulas.

            • ianw2

              Oedipe, do you know the general health of subscriptions in France?

              I would imagine that the ballet does quite well as single tickets are so hard to come by, and it also has the Garnier tourist walk-up factor to boost it (a perk shared with my own local and the Sydney Opera House). Does the opera share the good fortune, or does it suffer from the barn of the less glamourous building?

              I’ve tried looking at some of the national orchestras outside Paris, but that information seems to be kept under lock and key, or at least hidden behind bureaucratic French far beyond my capabilities. I know that the Artistic Director of the Strasbourg doesn’t even see the numbers, as they go straight to the government.

              (Speaking of Paris and ballet, I was very disappointed in the Millepied Daphnis, but there was almost a brawl in my row, which was amazing).

            • oedipe

              Ian, more about subscriptions later. I have to run.

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              ianw2, you give the impression that the ballet takes place at the Palais Garnier and the opera takes place at the Bastille, but this isn’t the case -- the opera is split between the 2 buildings every season (as you’d expect, it tends to be the baroque works and some Mozart/Rossini that they do at the Palais Garnier, although I’ve also seen Il Prigioniero there too).

            • ianw2

              But the Garnier is still predominantly ballet as the Bastille is opera, right? I know that the two cross town occasionally- I’ve seen ballet in both.

              At any rate, whoever is in that night benefits from the tourist walk-up trade in a way the Bastille probably doesn’t. Does the Met get much of the tourist walk-up trade or is that largely siphoned off to Broadway in NY?

            • Uncle Kvetch

              I don’t see a generational decline in America for classical music and opera. I see panic because CEOs opted in the 1990s to bilk ordinary people with aggressive pricing in a blind attempt to apply “business models” to the subsidized arts.

              Thank you. Forty-five dollars for the very last row of the Family Circle on a Tuesday evening…it boggles the mind.

            • oedipe


              Paris Opera ballet performances do tend to sell out, not only because they are popular with tourists, but also because ticket prices are very low compared to what one has to pay to see an opera, be it at Garnier or at Bastille.

              As for subscription models, a few approaches seem to work rather well:

              -Deep discounts as a function of the number of performances included in the subscription: this applies to concert seasons (where discounts can reach 20-25%) and also to the Opera Comique and the TCE (who offer important discounts based on the number of performances purchased).

              -Special subscription prices for students and youth. Just about every cultural institution has these.

              -The Paris Opera offers some discounts for its set subscription packages, but no discounts for the free choice subscriptions. As I said in a previous post, if one offering is in high demand and it is included in several subscription formulas, people will buy subscriptions just to make sure they get tickets for that hot offering. For next season, for instance, the Paris Opera subscription formulas are pretty much sold out (in ALL categories), because people wanted to make sure they get tickets for Le Cid at Garnier (which has turned out to be a very hot ticket indeed).

              Of course, subscription models work best when there is some buzz and excitement about a season, when people feel a certain urgency about buying tickets. But then, without these things, sooner or later nothing will work…

            • ianw2

              Thanks. Paris Opera Ballet also has the reputation as the best in the world, which doesn’t hurt either. But I’m surprised that it’s considered a less expensive ticket than the opera, in my limited experience it’s been the exact reverse (although this is probably because the ballets have been in the smaller Garnier and the operas in the larger Bastille).

            • oedipe

              Well, not really. Ticket prices for ballet next season are all in the same range, whether at Garnier or Bastille, and are about half the price of opera tickets, whether at Garnier or Bastille (the only expensive ballet night is the New Year’s Eve performance).

            • oedipe, I’m a fan of the Paris Opera Ballet and their style and thus follow the happenings of the POB. My understanding of another reason things sell out quickly at the POB was the programming of Brigitte Lefevre tended to be … eclectic. So a programming of the “classics” tended to sell out quickly. So if, say, a group of Swan Lakes was all of a sudden programmed, they sold out like hotcakes because many balletomanes didn’t know when they’d be able to see, say, Agnes Letetsu do another Swan Lake. Also many of the dancers have huge followings, and so an Aurelie Dupont Giselle is going to sell out quickly too.

              I don’t know whether Millepied is going to follow Lefevre’s model.

        • operaobserver

          They said that Opera was a dying art form and only for old people in the 80’s and the audience at the Met certainly looked that way to me as a young adult. Now I’m one of them and it still looks pretty grey. Maybe its just the medium age to afford theses prices at the major houses is 47. I wonder what the medium is in smaller venues around the country.

          • ianw2

            Opera audiences (and classical music) have typically skewed older because there is a time & money requirement that is easier to meet. The concern now however is that the next ‘batch’ of people with time & money isn’t coming, which appears backed by data trends.

            Curiously, classical ballet doesn’t seem to be under the same pressure, despite also having a ‘time & money’ element- my casual guess is that ballet still enjoys a cultural position that opera/classical music do not.

            • ML

              “Opera audiences (and classical music) have typically skewed older because there is a time & money requirement that is easier to meet.”


            • turings

              Ballet is still something that kids take classes in and read books about – Angelina Ballerina, anyone? You often see little girls and their parents attending performances – plus there’s no language barrier, and the tickets are generally cheaper, which helps.

            • ianw2

              Yep, ballet is lucky enough to still have that cred. So many girls seem to have a ballet phase as inevitably as so many boys have a dinosaur phase.

              I’m sure someone’s crunched the numbers somewhere, but I’d be interested to know how many girl ballerinas become reliable ballet audiences in adulthood, because it could be an interesting parallel to the ‘better music education will solve all our audience development woes!’ line of thinking. It would also be interesting to compare ballet vs music lessons in terms of future participation.

            • turings

              My five-year-old self was a huge fan of both ballet and dinosaurs :)

              I did spend a while on the NEA website looking for something on the music vs ballet lessons question, without much luck.

              Lessons in singing or playing a musical instrument of some sort is the most common form of arts education reported in the most recent study in 2012 (36% of Americans,

              Level of educational attainment is a strong predictor of participation in the arts, and a 1996 study found that arts education in particular increases the likelihood of participation (

              Interestingly, a report 2011 suggested that the overall aging in the arts audience is mostly explained by the aging of the general population rather than anything more significant, though it admits that isn’t much comfort to an arts administrator faced with declining numbers

            • Henry Holland

              Lessons in singing or playing a musical instrument of some sort is the most common form of arts education reported in the most recent study in 2012

              It’s not important to me if it’s even taking lessons. The education system now, at least here in California, is *totally* geared towards cranking out test-scoring zombies, as high test scores = funding. Thanks Prop 13!

              I graduated high school in 1978 and in my 4th -- 6th grade classes, we spent at least an hour a week listening to all kinds of music, beating on percussion instruments, doing the old “OK, group A, start singing Michael Row The Boat Ashore, group B, count 4 beats after they start and then you start, group C” kind of thing, clapping in rhythm etc.

              I was obsessed by music since the age of 7, so this was perfect for me, but it was also a way to do something that wasn’t rote, something that wasn’t just memorizing the names of people that died a 1000 years ago. See also: painting watercolors, learning simple dances etc.

        • oedipe

          P.S. A concrete example: the Paris Opera has practically run out of subscription availabilities for next season in the formulas that included Le Cid.

  • Chirper

    I tend to agree with Dawn. There’s far too much at stake for the Met as an institution to gamble on a protracted lockout. Those HD telecasts and radio broadcasts, as well as knowing the ticket sale losses engendered by a long work stoppage are just too much to deal with.

    No disrespect intended, but in terms of international reputation and prestige, the Minnesota Orchestra doesn’t hold a tiny birthday candle to the Met. I think both labor and management at the Met learned a great deal from that debacle.

    Those incentives which Dawn proposes may just be the right sweetener to make a deal happen. Let’s hope so.

  • Constantine A. Papas

    I repeat what I’ve said before: opera is an “orphan” art, and will never survive on box revenues alone, even with all tickets sold. Since government subsidies don’t exists, the filthy rich private sector’s involvement is the only solution. For the Blumbergs, Koches, and Gateses (the present day Carnegies and Mellons), 100 million dollars is lunch money forgotten in a dresser drawer. The trick? How to convince them to come aboard.

    • ML

      What is this term, “orphan art”?

    • Henry Holland

      Sorry for the repetition from above, but Gates, Zuckerburg and other .com/Internet types don’t care about opera or “the arts” in general, see no upside in donating and thus, won’t.

      • steveac10

        It’s so true. These guys were raised on the Beatles, Prince and U2, not Tebaldi and Callas. You’re more likely to see them in a private cabana at Coachella than a parterre box at the Met. The change has happened on Broadway as well. Most of the hit shows now are jukebox musicals that provide a splashy visual experience for the music of the audience’s youth. One thing that has to happen is for the wall to break down between the Met and classic American musicals and operettas, even if it means miking a few shows -- because even pre 1970 musical theatre is increasingly becoming a museum piece and the Met is the ultimate lyric theatre museum. If the Met wants to survive, they have to redefine what their repertoire is. Most other American companies did that decades ago. Sondheim, Gershwin, Kern and Rodgers are regularly offered in almost all other American houses. Why not give over the spring to well cast and produced classic Broadway and operetta (perhaps mixed with some offenbach and G&S)?

        • ML

          Steve, you don’t solve the problem by changing the product.

          • ianw2

            Which is why, each night, I so enjoy the latest radio play. And those vaudeville revues!

            Tastes change and products must evolve with them if they still want an audience (particularly if they don’t have the luxury of downsizing to a niche from 4,000 seats/night). Opera has enjoyed a very good run, partly because it spent much of its life evolving and adapting, all the way back from leaving the palace theatres.

            Look at how quickly jazz went from the hottest new music, through to mainstream pop and now to old white dudes in clubs talking about tradition.

            • ML

              More people heard, saw and enjoyed Monteverdi’s Orfeo in 2014 than in 1607, perhaps even in Australia.

            • ianw2

              Undoubtedly, but I’m not quite sure what that’s supposed to indicate. If you have some data showing growth in opera audiences, by all means share it.

          • steveac10

            It works for the provincial houses (and some of the major ones) in Europe -- and seems to have worked for Chicago the last couple of seasons. The Met is nearly the only major house in the world that hasn’t loosened the boundaries of the repertoire over the last couple of decades. The could use a new cash cow like an opulent King and I or Sweeney Todd with a real orchestra and luxury casting. It’s worth a try.

  • liza

    Haha love the movie mock up! Redbear, I think the reason one might question the board’s intent is Mr. Gelb’s comment that he needed the threat of lockout as leverage in the negotiations. The odd thing to me is the zero sum game the MET is playing. By threatening the lockout without offering anything they back themselves and the union into a corner. Starting out with an extreme play is usually reserved for situations where there are concrete numbers on the table. “In three months we will be out of funds”. I think that is why the union wants an independent analysis. I’m sure cuts have to be made but I’m not at all convinced the board is doing itself any PR favors with the way they are proceeding. I think DF’s analysis is on target. I also liked JJ’s suggestion during the radio broadcast that as per DF, some of the problems were rookie mistakes w/scheduling. I still say lengthening the season and staggering productions would be better for out of town fans and would limit overtime overruns. What concerns me is a change in rules that would result in grueling vocal work. And I would think a policy change that would offer chorus members some option to sing roles would have them eating out of Mr. Gelb’s hand. But oddly enough neither Mr. Gelb nor Mr. Kennedy have called me for my advice.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Lots of police today in front of Lincoln Center and people in the Met visible on grand tier balcony. Maybe just a tour for visitors, but i thought they might be waiting for a press conference.

    • ML

      You might be right, QPF.

  • redbear

    “5 signs Americans are flat-out broke”
    If you think this has nothing to do with the Met and the unions, you live on another planet.

  • redbear

    Same newspaper:
    “Hunger in America: 1 in 7 rely on food banks”

  • Constantine A. Papas


    “Orphan” art is paraphrasing “orphan” drug; a medication that is extremely expensive and benefits very few, who cannot afford it. Pharmaceutical companies will not produce it, for there is no profit to be made. Out of humanitarian reasons, government, foundations, drug companies and distributors chip in to pay for the production of the drug which necessary to keep certain patients alive.

    • ML

      Thx, CAP. As Manou says, you learn something new every day on Parterre.