Gelb’s Ring was box-office poison: the stats

Gelb’s Ring was box-office poison: the stats


norman lebrecht

July 02, 2014

The Wall Street Journal has been analysing the Met’s box-office take on recent productions. The widely-scorned and technically faulty Wagner Ring cycle, staged by Robert LePage, bombed on its return run, achieving just 48 percent of sales potential for Siegfried and 58% across the entire cycle, according to the WSJ.

‘We were up against Ring cycles all over the world that season,’ bleated the Met, a feeble excuse.

Full story and more stats here. UPDATE comparison here.

Wagners Das Rheingold Metropolitan Opera 2010


  • Halldor says:


    The audience on the TV relay that I saw applauded the scenery during Die Walkure. I actually felt embarrassed to be watching. The least sophisticated, most conservative opera audience in the world? And bold, resourceful smaller companies are seriously supposed to view the Met as some sort of gold standard?

  • Hasbeen says:

    Why is Slipped Disc indulging in a form of shadenfreude over Peter Gelb’s difficulties. Of course not all Mr Gelb’s choices have been successful and there are legitimate questions about his administration but I think the tone of pleasure at his difficulties and the assumption that the union’s stance is unassailable in unfair and unseemly.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I completely agree. We are seeing a barrage of negative comments on Peter Gelb day after day. I don’t understand why.

  • Nick says:

    “. . . in the 2012-13 season, the four-part cycle earned an average of 58% of its box-office potential. Met officials attributed the weak sales to an increase in competition: The Met’s “Ring” cycle was up against “Ring” productions all over the world that season, in celebration of the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth.”

    It absolutely beggars belief that any member of the Met staff would dare use the “up against productions all over the world” excuse! Did they not realise that years before they scheduled their cycle in that particular year? Did they not beef up their marketing and introduce flexible pricing to draw in some of the hundreds of thousands (if not more) of regular Ring groupies who fly regularly to see any number of Ring productions? It seems that every time Mr. Gelb and his colleagues open their mouths, their feet are just inches away!

  • Paul D says:

    There could be something to the issue of Ring “saturation”. The Met ran the cycle multiple times in two consecutive years. Audiences that saw the production in year one could not be expected to return in such short a time. Bringing the production back next season is just too soon, based on what happened with the second round.

    At least the Met can bring the production back, to wring some money out of it. I don’t think we’ll see L.A. Opera’s Ring Meets Marvel Comics on LSD again any time soon. That production and the accompanying festival, cost the company $31 million with a deficit of nearly $6 million.

  • David Boxwell says:

    PBS here in the States broadcast the Lepage Ring Cycle on the telly, so that could have siphoned off potential punters. (There’s such a thing as a production being _too_ available . . .)

  • Christy says:

    It seemed from the moment the Lepage Ring was announced, critics worldwide did their best to poison the atmosphere for it. I loved it as did everyone I know. But we don’t count, and when New Yorkers read constant negativity, they don’t give it a try. Critics killed the Lepage Ring. No doubt in my mind, and that’s a shame, because it didn’t deserve the scorn it got. It’s a symptom of what’s so very wrong in opera – anything different – outside of acceptable differences – is scorned.

    This is the only profession that seems to delight in its problems and repeat them constantly to make sure everyone knows about them – thus amplifying them.

  • Terry Lowry says:

    I think a lot of us feel that way about Gelb after the way he treated John Adams.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    @ Paul D: “I don’t think we’ll see L.A. Opera’s Ring Meets Marvel Comics on LSD again any time soon”. Paul, have you seen the LA RING in 2010? I hope so, because otherwise I understand your statement to be a pronouncement of a prejudice of gigantic dimensions. If, however, you did attend one of LA’s three RING cycles, then, of course, you are free to express your opinion. As I express mine: it was a thoroughly intelligent and engaging production. Engaging because intellect, imagination, and affect where challenged and nourished at every single moment throughout the entire cycle. Did the production, or as you call it, “Ring Meets Marvel Comics”, demand some getting used to? Yes, no question. But I can testify for myself: once it “clicked”, I found myself immersed in the tale as deep as I have not had the experience before or after, and I have attended quite a few RINGs. In the end, of course, there remains the Latin wisdom: “de gustibus non disputandum est” – so, let’s not discuss about our different tastes. I only say that I am proud to this day to be a donor and supporter of this production, and that I very much regret it will likely not get a chance to be seen and heard again soon. But I do not say never, I still have the hope that this most intelligent work of Achim Freyer and the LA Opera team, with James Conlon and Placido Domingo at the helm will be revived one day.

  • Nick says:

    Re the comments by Paul D and David Boxwell, I agree basically with your points. Notwithstanding, you can – and should – severely criticize the management because the results of over-exposure should have been assessed prior to the repertoire schedules being set in ink and the PBS broadcast contract signed. That is absolutely basic in opera scheduling. In this case, clearly they were not. In that event, you have to get your PR and marketing departments working overtime to counter the effects. The fact is that audiences for Ring productions are not local. It is perhaps the one work that is truly international and can attract many ticket buyers from many countries. I wonder how much work did the Met put in to develop attractive international travel packages with agencies, for example.

    As for bringing back The Ring in future seasons to wring more cash out of it, the costs of reviving a Ring cycle are immense. And I suspect that unlike its first run of performances, Mr. Gelb will not have a donor to absorb them since the original donor’s name will still be attached to it. The Met is highly unlikely to recoup any of its earlier losses from future exposure.

    Re Christy’s comment, I have attended quite a few productions I have enjoyed yet the majority of critics disliked. If an opera company elects to invite critics to performances, it opens itself up to public expressions of their views. I do not believe there is an informal cabal of critics who get together to decide whether a production will be praised or panned. When virtually every critic pans a production, there is usually good reason.

  • Robert Garbolinski says:

    It is quite simple the previous ring gave us what Wagner wanted and the effects were stunning and it was so beautiful to look at. I went to New York too se this having saved for a long time. It was always full. There you are – give the audiences what they want not modern rubbish by poncy (and by that I mean arty) designers who think that something like a green bed halfway up a wall will do for something!