Can the Met ever recover that sold-out feeling?

Can the Met ever recover that sold-out feeling?


norman lebrecht

August 01, 2016

The Munich opera festival has announced the sum of its ticket sales: 99.92 percent.

The Tirol Festival at Erl has just turned in results: 99.19 percent.

Sold out, to all intents and purposes.

To anyone who has attended a sold-out event, the excitement exists before the curtain rises. That gives a huge lift to the performers and allows the administrators to plan with confidence for the future. The atmospheric benefit is felt all around the country.

It has been a very long while since the Metropolitan Opera had a full house. An air of defeat has settled on the house. Maybe the solution is to close off 2,000 seats and pretend that it’s full.

The absence of that full feeling diminishes everything that is presented on stage.

met seats



  • Ben says:

    “Lulu” in December 2015 was sold out, as I recall….

    • John Kelly says:

      This is a continuation of Mr L’s tedious anti-Gelb pitch. The Met is never full, boo hoo, Gelb’s a hopeless manager and let’s get rid of him etc etc. Well, the Met is sometimes full, I go about 20 times a season, and it is sometimes half full. It has almost 4000 seats. However, it used to be fuller than it is and I believe that Mr. Gelb bears some responsibility. Some of the new productions are good, some of dubious merit (a wretched Tosca for example). I believe one major problem is the insistence on performing 6 nights a week (and a matinee on Saturday as well) and the seeming necessity to perform any new production again during the season after it’s premiere, often with the same or similar casting (e.g. Manon Lescaut – last season – sans Kaufmann and this season, again sans Kaufmann). What I do believe is remarkable and reproduced nowhere else in the world is the variety of simultaneous productions at the house – often as many as 6 different operas in a week (I am sure there will be those who will insist on correcting me about this, it could be more at some times). Running a theater to put on two or three different operas is no picnic, what the Met pulls off is astonishing. And the orchestra is simply magnificent, night after night.

      • Florestanman says:

        ROH may not present 6 opera performances a week but they do present at least 6 performances a week of both Ballet and Opera on the Main stage, which is exactly the same feat as the Met. Vienna Staats Oper and Deutsche Oper also do match the Met’s performance numbers. The biggest problem with the Met is also the problem that killed NYCO; their venues at Lincoln Centre. Both theatres are just too large for the dwindling audiences. All the major companies in North America are having the same problem. A toxic combination of airport hanger sized auditoriums and dwindling audiences, the diversity in the performers and the repertoire is non existent and the avant-garde interpretations of classic rep turns most people off. Why not build up more 20th/21st century repertoire instead of ruining Verdi and Wagner? That’s the point Gelb is missing. I agree Lulu was fantastic but I wouldn’t say the same of Traviata, Rigoletto, Un Ballo in Maschera, Parsifal, Lohengrin (which is from Gelbs predecessor), La Sonnambula or Tosca. They are all standard rep which should just be well told and well sung, and should have the house at +80% capacity. Traviata performances should be paying for new commissions. But sadly the only successful updating so far during Gelb’s tenure was Falstaff, and that was an import. Gelb thinks that the audience want sexy young singers singing in sexy young costumes, when what the Met audience want is Downton Abbey but with Tour de Force talent.

  • Milka says:

    Perhaps a deeper understanding of the different cultures would be in order
    rather than pointless trying to be clever observations . Munich is not NY,
    European pretension to “high” culture is not the same as American pretension to
    so called high culture .At one time the Met was an important cultural institution and
    most european singers left their calling cards not only for the money but the international
    prestige ,it was almost mandatory that at some time one had to sing at the Met . Now it is not so .That there are more people in Munich than in NY who like opera might be true …so what does that prove …..nothing .
    It is but human vanity and a form of pecker matching that these huge opera houses are built to show the rest of the world that one has” arrived “as a cultural entity.
    The trick is to fill the seats , and if in the US if there is only so much interest in opera
    then so be it …the Met is perhaps too large for what ever audience it can attract
    over and over again .Munich is not the same worldly city that is NY with its host of
    diversions all crying out for attention $$$$ along with the Met .

  • Novagerio says:

    Uh, who compares the Met with a summer festival event?….

  • Nick says:

    Milka makes the point – “At one time the Met was an important cultural institution and
    most european singers left their calling cards . . . it was almost mandatory that at some time one had to sing at the Met.”

    But she might have balanced that one way traffic with the fact that far more American opera singers hacked it to Europe to make their careers in European houses.. In Germany alone I heard excellent American singers in productions in Karlsruhe, Hanover, Essen and Wiesbaden and not only in Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Dresden and Cologne. Few ever appeared at the Met!

    • Milka says:

      How true ! many Americans have made fine careers in Europe. The myth
      still perpetuated to various degrees in the US is that to be an opera star one must be foreign …from the lady in Farmington Maine to the present it is a very difficult
      road to travel … you either changed your name to sound Italian or you left for europe
      a few were lucky and didn’t have to do either and no matter how good, they always
      were to some not as good as some second rate Italian yowler . The myth persists.
      The best example of how this nonsense persists …. Ewa Podles … a true “star” if there ever was one, who in her prime and perhaps even now could sing her rivals into
      the dust bin is not the household name she should be .Can one imagine how different
      it would have been for her if she were either Italian or German ……the Italians by now
      would have named a pasta after her …the Germans would have given her honorary
      titles … but alas not being either she must make do with her talent .It is interesting
      to note that her admirers are referred to as a cult rather than a more discerning
      audience to the art of singing . There are subtle changes and good for that .

  • Brian Hughes says:

    National Theatre Munich = 2100 seats, month-long festival
    Festspielhaus Erl = around 900, three-week festival

    Comparing apples to oranges, anyone?

    • Virginia Longo says:

      I believe that Mr. Gelb knows exactly what he is doing. There has been many rumors that the Met needs to shut down for a couple of years to revamp the building and backstage area to keep up with the times. In fact they have a 60 million dollar + budget to do just that. I believe that the ultimate goal is to bankrupt the current business model rip up the current contracts close the doors for a few years and start over with a clean slate. This will allow the Met to move ahead with the planned renovations without having to pay the backstage employees during this process. The truth of the matter is that the Orchestra and Chorus have two years left under the current contracts and the Stagehands have three. It has been stated by several Met employees that the Met has been trying to reinterpret the current contracts with all of the unions. A day does not go by without some new argument of how the current contracts are worded and should be paid. In fact the Met hired a lawyer for several thousand dollars a day to do just that. The new normal is to argue the wording of the contracts and pay wages the way they interpret them not the way they are written and have been paid since the begining of inception. The next step involves filing a grievence and calling a meeting between the Met and the concerned Unions and of course the Met’s high priced lawyer. This process can take up to three consecutive meetings with no solution causing tension between employees and management. I strongly believe that in two years when the Orchestra and Chorus’s contracts are up there will be a repeat of the labor dispute of two years ago and a lockout will happen. This will allow the Met to move forward with the planned renovations without having to pay the current backstage employees.