Is a label boss the right person to run an opera house?

Bogdan Roscic, who was announced this morning as the next director of the Vienna State Opera, is the second successive head of the Sony Classical label to run an international house.

His predecessor, Peter Gelb, has been general manager of the Metropolitan Opera since 2006.

Neither Gelb nor Roscic had prior experience of running an opera house.

Gelb’s plan for the Met has been movie-driven. He launched Live from the Met in cinemas across the world and imported Hollywood-style directors to liven up his new productions.

The consequence has been a catastrophic fall in ticket sales, from near-capacity to below 70 percent.

The medicine may have worked, but the patient is dying. Over time, Gelb realised just how much he had bitten off.

What Roscic plans for the Vienna Opera remains to be revealed. But he was chosen, as Gelb was, for his reputed success at Sony Classical – actually, a steep sales decline – and he will be keen to put his mus-biz genius to work on a stately institution that is achieving its best results for years.

Stand by for the Met Story, mark 2.

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  • In answer to Mr. Lebrecht’s title question, an unequivocal no.

    Mr. Shakespeare was so very prescient. “What’s past is prologue.” Witness the Met.

  • Whoever runs the Met has to find something like $300m a year to keep it running. Whatever tickets could cost and however full the house could be doesn’t reach the number, so it comes down to the ability to bring in other money.

    • It’s extraordinary they still find the money every year. Gelb has been there now 10 years, so for him resilience must be a quality. There will be challenges in the next few years – he’ll need everything he’s had and then some. Most managers I’m sure are happier with their smaller budgets – and it’s a guess as to whether they’d be able to close that gap year after year.

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