Here’s how empty the Met will look tonight

Here’s how empty the Met will look tonight


norman lebrecht

March 07, 2017

This is the image you will see when going online to purchase Met tickets for Idomeneo.

The red dots are the unsold seats.

At least two-thirds of the orchestra stalls, priced from $85 to $300, are vacant. For Friday night, which ought by rights to be full of weekenders.

Crisis, what crisis?



  • Nik says:

    The referenced performance is not tonight but on Friday.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    4 hrs of Idomeneo is probably a hard sell in most houses, particularly at $300 . Not my idea of a joyous weekend outing, particularly if you have seen it before, which given the age of the production most of the core audience will have

    Even despite the presence of Levine, not much Idomeneomania to be had I suspect amongst those around the Lincoln Centre looking for an escape from the currently all developing Weltschmerz.

  • John Kelly says:

    Traviata was full on Saturday. Then again it was Yoncheva and Fabiano. That production is having lots of outings this season. I wouldn’t miss it if you enjoy great singing.

  • Heath says:

    Norman, you’re completely obsessed with the MET. I saw Puritani two weeks ago, and it was sold out.

    • John Nader says:

      Yes ,why keep on “rubbishing” the Met and continually criticise its performances? It has some of the most spectacular productions, wonderful costumes, great casts and most of the operas are treated in a traditional intelligent manner, not by crazy,lunatic directors as one sees in Germany… Please be kind and enjoy what you see !!

      • Lorna Salzman says:

        You must have missed the German-designed and directed Traviata which we saw recently. Instead of two passionate tragic lovers you saw a bullfight between Violetta and Alfredo, as they lurched and lunged at each other and away from each other. The set is thrift shop shlock: white plastic sofa, chintzy floral fabrics that are supposed to suggest Violetta’s villa garden, a giant clock ticking down to Violetta’s death (clock representing death? Now there’s an original thought), and on top of that an old man (representing death, or if not, then the clockmaker). This was the most repulsive and offensive opera production that I have ever seen, offensive to both audience and the composer and librettist not to mention Dumas Junior. As a matter of preference I do not attend modern versions of traditional operas but I made an exception so I could introduce our granddaughter to Italian opera. I then had to explain to her just why I was so angry and upset, and I think she understood. Enough of these poor excuses for directors to show off their disdain and contempt for historical veracity and credibility. Time to respect the original work and what its composer intended to depict. I am still fuming. Next week is Idomineo for us and I hope our four hours don’t turn out the same way.

        • Jaybuyer says:

          Yes, I used to think it was ‘Idomineo’…..

        • Loretta says:

          Lorna, I’m sorry you so disliked this particular production, but just to show the other side, I was absolutely bowled over the first time I saw it and have been back to see it on three occasions. The thing about the arts is that we all have different likes and preferences. It’s only fair to try to appeal to all people’s tastes, not just those of a select group each time.

          • Lorna Salzman says:

            I don’t believe in catering to any “select group”. I do believe in being faithful to what the composer and librettist intended. Traviata was written in and for and about the elegant
            Parisian milieu of the 19th century. To distort this does a major disservice to it. Other operas lend themselves to different interpretations (certainly Wagner) depending on their theme, and being more abstract in terms of setting and history the change in the location and setting may not make much difference.

          • M2N2K says:

            Looks like you are talking about Willy Decker’s production that originated in Salzburg over a decade ago and was recreated in several of the world’s leading opera houses many times since then. It is a marvelous directorial achievement and when performed well musically, there is no better Traviata. This production does not “distort” Verdi’s great music at all, but rather illuminates its timelessness due to the universality of human emotions. It is good to know what the composer intended if such knowledge is at all possible, but when the musical result is of a superior quality as it certainly is in Traviata’s case, it is even better to discover and reveal new and deeper meanings of the music that the composer has created.

    • TV says:

      Off topic but: Puritani was soooo good!!!

      I was dragged to it with my friends and ended up jumping out of my seats.

      Ahhhh! :)))!!

      • Rosa Maria Pegueros says:

        Lorna Salzman–I’m with you all the way. La Traviata should have a certain elegance to it. The production they are presenting now is awful. It’s a pity because the performers are so wonderful. I’ve heard that they are retiring this production after this season.

        • Lorna Salzman says:

          The issue of imposing modern concepts on older period pieces is now a hot topic of discussion. Actually some operas would lend themselves to adaptations but these would then have to be judged on their merits. Patrice Chereau’s production of the Ring was set in Wagner’s own period and was brilliant. Other Wagner operas, dealing with universal as opposed to narrow themes, would also be appropriate. The key here is the word “universal”. In the case of Traviata, and I would say of just about every other 19th century opera save Wagner, there is no universality but rather a narrow focus which is on the venue, traditions and social interactions of a very particular period. Traviata is not like a Greek drama in depicting relationships. It is just a depiction of a social situation unique to that period in which family honor would have been taken seriously.
          We of course accept this and do not judge it by today’s standards. Some of the offensive intrusions in Traviata made me cover my eyes: the sight of fifty men in black suits was truly ugly and instead of representing elegant people in an elegant situation
          (even if gambling) it looked to me like a Mafioso bunch of robots. Perhaps the director
          wanted to suggest that Violetta, as a courtesan, was threatened by men. But in that time being a courtesan meant that she was protected, not threatened. Then later the plot is coarsened even further when we see Violetta and Alfredo in their night clothes and underwear, which violates the entire sense of the scene which is a elegant villa where people did not lounge around in their undergarments. Again, this was the director actually capitulating to a modern notion that people everywhere must be shown as they are in real life. This opera is NOT real life! It was based on a 19th century story. And all the other period Verdi is based on fictional times and people. There is absolutely nothing wrong with showing them that way! No one believes opera is REAL! Modern clothes and sets and decor are thus at odds with what is really happening in the opera.
          I was so offended by the gross and cheap sets and the fifty suited men and the cheap
          fabrics supposedly representing a garden that I nearly left the opera house. Throwing down thrift shop fabrics decorated with flowers to represent a garden has go to be the most tasteless thing ever on the Met stage. So yes, we have different tastes. But to pretend that Traviata can just be forced into a procrustean modern bed and still be
          convincing and entertaining is to truly be blind.

          • M2N2K says:

            All productions should “be judged on their merits”, including so-called traditional ones. The situation described in Dumas’ book and Piave’s libretto may be time-specific, but human components in it are universal and so is Verdi’s score. Nothing in this production contradicts the music and that is what’s most important in an opera. It is true that the libretto is based on a story, but the story itself is in fact based on real life and is known to be semi-autobiographical. So, there is “absolutely nothing wrong with showing them” as resembling real people, either. This does not make opera much closer to “real life” anyway, which is one of the reasons why it is far more important in a fine opera to stay true to the spirit of the music than to the words of the libretto.
            You disliked this production and no one says that you are obligated to love it, but all passionate and knowledgeable opera aficionados that I know actually adore this staging. It just so happened that many of my friends and I saw the HD transmission of it from the Met just very recently and, while the quality of the singing and acting was uneven, every single one of us enjoyed the directorial aspect of the production very much.

          • me! says:

            perhaps it works better in hd, where you do not have to keep looking at the horrid set – hd is not opera (it is not the voices, live, it is not the set as in theater, it is a reproduction), it is TV/film, and so the cuts, close ups, etc change the production and you can not judge it fairly. In person, it is a monotonous and simplistic set without any of the elegance and joy (to counterpoint the tragedy) in a more trad, say Zeferelli, prod.

          • M2N2K says:

            That may be true in certain cases, but I have seen this production live before (albeit with different singers) and HD version reproduced what I saw in the theater very well – my overall impression of the staging was the same. As for the voices – HD amplifies both positives and negatives, but one can always tell the quality of the tone because the sound reproduction is very good, at least in the movie theater where I usually see these transmissions. As for general point about best operas, I would take a “minimalistic” production that strips the stage from superfluous clatter and reduces the action to the essence of musical meaning over Franco Zeffirelli style of “realistic” hundreds of people and animals on stage – any day. And I am saying that as a big fan of his R & J movie. But opera is not a movie – not even when viewed in a movie theater.

  • jaxon says:

    News flash: ticket buying patterns have changed dramatically. It used to be that more than half the house would be sold through subscriptions months in advance. Now, MOST of your sales happen in the two or three days before a performance. This is aided and abetted by the ubiquity of graphics like the one in this post, where everyone can see how low-stakes and non-difficult their search for tickets usually is. It may well be the case that if you go to buy tickets on Friday at 6pm local time, 72 hours hence, the map will be dramatically different. Will we see a follow-up post?

  • Patrick John Gordon Shaw says:

    Now there’s a surprise! Well if the Americans will build a house that’s bigger than most, what can they expect!!

    • John says:

      Perhaps worth noting that the Metropolitan Opera House opened in 1965 and architectural plans were pretty much approved in the late 1950s. Maybe a different time?

  • RW2013 says:

    Looks like most nights at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

    • Jaybuyer says:

      Except next month! The final outing of the Götz Friedrich Ring has been sold out for over a year.

    • Frankie says:

      Berlin has THREE competing international opera houses in one modestly sized city. All projections suggest that they probably don’t need all three but it is hard to close one of them!

  • Paul Wells says:

    I just looked to see ticket sales for La Traviata, which is actually tonight, instead of “Lebrecht tonight.” About one-quarter of orchestra-level seats are unsold, for a Tuesday performance. I’m sure they’d prefer to sell those seats, just as I’d prefer to find headlines here that bore any relation to the stories underneath them, but who among us can have all he wants?

  • John Borstlap says:

    Sally, who claims to have one of her aunts living in NY, says she heard that the seating scheme is a mistake and that the red dots are the sold seats. The empty space in the middle front is supposed to be due, according to her aunt, to the fear of the lead soprano who has quite a volume.

  • V.Lind says:

    Are these the charts provided by the house itself or by the ticketing agency that represents them?

  • JRy says:

    Y’all can verify this yourself…..yes, the red seats are available for purchase on Friday.

  • John says:

    Well, opening night earned a rave review. Perhaps that will sell some tickets.

    “Here is the Met at its best. Mozart, too.” A. Tommasini

  • me! says:

    I saw it on the opening, and the performance (as the reviews state) was fabulous, lots of talent, and Levine is better now by far than several years ago — it was a great night at the opera, but it is a 4 hour (with breaks) opera, and it was Monday night — in a different world would it be sold out. Part of what is so great about the Met (aside from it’s 25+ different operas per season) is that they intentionally schedule (as an educational non profit should) operas that are not just $$ makers (tosca, la boheme, etc only). Hopefully the reviews will add to people seeing this show (and the HD adds people too).

    • Frankie says:

      It’s a huge problem all over the world. Unless you have blockbuster names on the cast list, and an opera with lots and lots of well known tunes, the corporate sponsors who fill the top price seats just won’t come.
      Heard in the Crush Bar at Covent Garden during the interval of a sold-out performance of ‘Meistersinger’ a few years ago: ‘Did he write any other operas?’

      • pooroperaman says:

        Well, did he?

      • me! says:

        It’s actually good news to have opera neophytes in an audience, and for s/he to show interest in possibly seeing other operas is fantastic — if s/he googles wagner and shows up to others, that may be a new fan and ambassador. New to opera folk can be young or old, and are always needed, wanted and welcomed at the opera!! They are the only true way to find true opera fans — exposure (and self-selection)

  • Nick says:

    If Idomeneo is not considered a good seller, why schedule it on a Friday night? If it is considered a good seller for a Friday night, then the marketing department has been doing a lousy job!

  • Christopher Czaja Sager says:

    delighted to live in Berlin where our three houses cost a fraction of Gathom’s ‘chutzpe’ rake-off prices..
    oops, caps, but I’m too lazy to retype….

  • David Boxwell says:

    There would be many fewer red dots if Jonas K. were there, singing Idomeneo, Idamante, AND Arbace.

    • Frankie says:

      If Jonas Kaufmann walked on stage, and then fell flat on his face, the place would be packed all the same and the audience would stand and clap and cheer. Although much more likely that he would cancel!

      • Jaybuyer says:

        All 6 of Jonas Kaufmann’s new Otello at Covent Garden sold out in minutes yesterday (to Friends). They might have kept a few back for General Booking in 2 weeks’ time.