How the Met uses its muscle at the movies

How the Met uses its muscle at the movies


norman lebrecht

June 24, 2011

Disturbing tales are reaching me from cinema owners and distributors who want to stream live opera.

Trouble is, some already have a deal with the Metropolitan Opera, and the Met’s lawyers don’t like competition. Not one little bit.

There are two types of restrictive contract clause they try to impose on movie houses that take the Met feed. One is to stop them showing opera from any other source. The second, if the first is rejected, requires them to reject any opera already seen from the Met that is offered in another production. I know of one very large opera company that has been shut out of the cinema circuit for the moment by these clauses.

What this means is less choice for audiences, less revenue for cinema owners, and a rising tide of resentment towards the Met for acting like a schoolyard bully. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that we’re all in this together for the greater good of art.  The Met uses muscle to protect its global brand.

Happily, there are alternatives to the movie circuit. Glyndebourne is streaming Die Meistersinger this weekend onto a newspaper website and into a museum cinema. It has also acquired a loyal following in south of England cinemas, which prefer local rye bread to New York bagel. I hear further signs of anti-Met backlash in other areas. Peter Gelb would do well to soften his contracts and try to act nice.

See also: The Met giveth, the Met taketh away.


  • Laurence Glavin says:

    I attend the Met in HD performances AND the offerings of Opera Boston and Boston Lyric Opera. EVERY Met in HD telecast includes the admonition to audience members that they support their local opera companies because nothing can take the place of live opera in an unamplified performance! Um, the Schubert Theater, home to the Boston Lyric Opera, has deficient acoustics and performances there use “limited” amplification so they say. Opera Boston has done 20th/21st Century pieces whose composers recommend using amplification. In any event, it appears that part of the Met in HD’s mission is to encourage those in attendance to do exactly as I have done, and going to “competing” satellite-delivered out-of-town performances defeats that purpose.