The Met is less than half-full for Pappano’s opener

The Met is less than half-full for Pappano’s opener


norman lebrecht

October 27, 2021

We are hearing from a number of people present that the Metropolitan Opera sold conspicuously fewer that half its seats for the opening night of Meistersinger, conducted by Antonio Pappano.

It was the opera’s first showing on the Met stage in seven years.

Michael Volle was Sachs and Lise Davidsen sang Eva.

UPDATE: Zachary Woolf opens his NY Times review ‘There were swaths of empty seats at the Metropolitan Opera on Tuesday evening…’



  • Wurm says:

    What else did he expect – “call me Tony” hardly has a profile in the US.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      People buy tickets for Meistersinger not the conductor. Not these days.

      • g. stein says:

        What was the racial breakdown of the audience?

        • Tiredofitall says:

          Don’t think there wasn’t their diversity person counting heads…and scratching hers.

          • San Juan Hill says:

            The met board will likely hire actors to fill seats for the sjw jazz piece. The racist nature of having “blacks only” as principals makes it disgusting. No true box office accounting will be available either…as usual.

            Biden and Harris stage their successes so it makes it ok no matter if you’re caught. The Harris commercial is child abuse.

            No matter. As we all know the best days of the met are long past. The whole of Lincoln Center must be razed and returned to affordable housing as it used to be.

            Their new Chief Diversity Officer needs to learn about the history of the land she occupies for her big paycheck. Her ignorance is embarrassing as a black, college educated female.

          • Sam says:

            You need to go back on your meds, seriously!!

          • Sharon says:

            The Trump vaccines everyone is being forced to get??

            Well, now that Biden has assumed Trump’s great achievement…get vaxxed then!!

    • Kay Warbrick says:

      What a snidey comment. Much more likely to be fear of the virus

  • RW2013 says:

    “So how did you like it?”
    “I’ll tell you when I’ve read the reviews”.

  • A.L. says:

    Meistersinger is a tough sell in the best of times. It is a long, plodding work demanding of attention and focus if one is to survive it. The overtly long 40-minute intermissions did not help. Pappano does not really know his way through Wagner. The Met orchestra seems out of sorts, undoubtedly bc out of practice for so long a stretch. Last, the principals, excepting the ever reliable Zeppenfeld, were neither there nor here. What could go wrong?

  • Eyal Braun says:

    I live in Israel and I really considered to make the journey to see this production at the MET – the cast is really ideal…. It is really surprising, even in these times, that there are so many unsold seats. Perhaps opera in America is on the verge of extinction if so few people attend this Meistersinger.

    • V. Lind says:

      I tend to agree that it is surprising. It may have some doldrums, but Meistersinger is a pretty easy listen and this is a great cast. And whether Pappano is well-known in the US or not, in days gone by the very fact that a music director from the ROH, who sticks so close to home that opportunities to see him outside London are rare, would have led to an inundated box office.

      The review above was not very good — if there are professional ones as bad, then this is doomed. But if they are good, it will be interesting to see if they have any effect.

      Maybe New Yorkers are really scared of Covid.

      • PaulD says:

        Or afraid to be on the streets of New York after midnight.

      • BigSir says:

        Well, it was pretty bad for them and the circumstances havn’t changed.

      • Elle aime says:

        I am not scared what so ever of Covid-19 ! Peter Gelb is at fault !! I am going out everywhere with a négatif PCR but I was refused access to the Met !! Being a patron for 47 years !!!

      • Brian says:

        Not “scared” of Covid but simply cautious about an airborne virus that has claimed the lives of 750,000 Americans. Halls across the U.S. are seeing lower attendance this season as the Delta variant still spreads like wildfire.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      In a recent interview with Dr. Jonathan Haidt he reported that the streets of New York have returned to being violent after dark as it was in the 1970s and the neither he nor his family feel safe being out after dark.

      Ah, progress and progressives!! What’s not to love?

      • Herr Doktor says:

        Sue, you are SO RIGHT to be staying at home and instead focusing on the unending wisdom of Dr. Jordan Peterson. It is too dangerous for you to step outside…ever. You really must stay at home all the timefor your own safety.

        And if I were you, I would not use the Internet either. You could acquire a virus or worse have your data stolen as ransomware.

        The best thing for you really is to unplug, stay at home, and be safe and focused on Dr. Jordan Peterson’s tapes, CDs,videos, and writings, and to nor worry about any of the rest of us. We all would be MUCH happier knowing that you are being SAFE.

        P.S. – I understand thatat Christmas that there is a deluxe set of the complete works of Dr. Jordan Peterson being sold as a wonderful gift item. You must be so looking forward to adding this to your Dr. Jordan Peterson collection. It’s really important that you intensify your study of this man.

      • Couperin says:

        Its true Sue, you should stay away from this city. After dark it suddenly becomes a lawless post-apocalyptic hell hole. I don’t leave my apartment in Jackson Heights without a Glock, bullet proof vest, mace, pepper spray, brass knuckles, switch blade and a riot shield! Its terribly frightening out there especially in the West Village. Dodging gentrifying hipsters and NYU students to find the best late night Italian food or maybe even food from some far away land like Japan (they actually eat fish without cooking it!).. yeah, that Dr. is right. Hell on Earth! You really shouldn’t come here. Ever.

    • Elle aime says:

      I wished peter gelb would be a little bit more comprehensive for letting people coming with a NÉGATIF PCR … He just listen to some politicians who have wool in their brain !!
      Alas to my sadness

    • Eva M. says:

      So few = about 2000, which is about the seats La Scala holds and 300 more than the Vienna State Opera! Add to that travel restrictions and the ongoing rise of Covid cases…

  • Alan says:

    I think this cast would have led to ‘House Full’ signs in many European houses.

    • Nik says:

      Yes and the capacity of those European houses is half that of the Met, so the size of the audience would have been similar.

  • Cynical Bystander says:

    Based on another blog which shall remain nameless those that stayed away got the better deal. Heretical to say it but having seen and heard all his ROH Wagner output Pappano brings little to the party compared to others who are equally less than ideal in his true fach. An odd choice by both him and the MET in my opinion and hardly likely to be repeated if even Lise Davidsen can’t attract a fuller house.

  • Herr Doktor says:

    I would have GLADLY gone to see this, but we’re staying home because of Covid for the time being. And I suspect the issue is nothing more than that, because Michael Volle is a GREAT Sachs and the cast is great.

    • Elle aime says:

      When the flu period was at his high !!sick people stayed home
      Nobody stop those who were not sick to attend a performance at the Met !!
      Peter Gelb is at fault not letting patrons with Négatif PCR to attend this fabulous performance !!!

    • CheckMate says:

      In the grand tradition of Third Reich Leftists “do you have your papers?”

  • Münchner says:

    It is also a fact that Opera is above all a European form of art. And that to fully appreciate it, you do need to be European. That is what I believe. Europe is the elite in terms of opera making /performance and in terms of opera audience.

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    Gee, let’s run to the box office to pay an insane amount of money to see an Otto Schenk production nearly 30-years-old, with a third act which lasts two hours.

    Any major Wagner fan has already experienced Volle’s Sachs at innumerable houses in Europe, not to mention at Bayreuth every year since 2017 (except of course, the missing 2020 festival).

    • Justsaying says:

      Wow, 30 years old? And how old is the opera? (Oh wait – the background music doesn’t need to be trendy)

    • Tiredofitall says:

      The production holds up, as long as the cast is up to the task. Blast Otto Schenck all you want, but he was a man of the theater who understood an audience, the needs of the singers, and the necessity to create a production with legs for a repertory house.

      The problem with the Met is the price of tickets. Yadda, yadda, yadda about tickets beginning at $35 or whatever, the back–the back– of the orchestra is nearly $200. REALLY? Of course, these seats were empty last night.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    “We are hearing from a number of people.”

    That explains all those annoying people who kept standing up, turning around, and counting with their fingers. . . .

    Seriously, isn’t it ironic that you’re counting patrons at an opera which makes devastating fun of “marking”?

  • John Kelly says:

    I am going next week. The Met was completely full for Turandot the other day. Pappano is not why you would go and see this opera. The cast is.
    It hasn’t been done at the Met for a good while. The Wagner audience is different than the “regular audience” it has always seemed to me. More British people than usual and more serious in some ways (in spite of the odd horn hat)….maybe attendance will improve. The cast is excellent. This so called comedy I have always found a bit of a trial but Act 3 makes it worthwhile. Hopefully more people will come. I am triple vaxed and wear an ugly as hell N95 mask. Not much fun but I’d rather 6 hours of discomfort than miss live music….

    • Elle aime says:

      Dear John
      I fully agree to wear a mask and watch in a discomfort condition.
      I was refused access despite my négatif PCR
      I am furious With those who make rules n orders

    • Melvin Lubin says:

      How many including yourself will attend the greatly anticipated Fire Shot Up Under My Bones instead of the standard, offensive ‘White Repertoire’??

    • Daniel Madigan says:

      Why not i I puritani,somethinh beautifil and much shorter than Wagner.

      Something sincere anď more natural.⁰

  • Piano Lover says:

    The concert would have had more audience if he had programmed a Mozart concerto by any pianist(such as star-Lang-lang!)

  • Paul Johnson says:

    This is a trend. I have a ticket for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Cardiff tomorrow night. Kirill Gerstein playing both Ravel piano concertos. The majority of stalls seats are unsold.

    • Gus says:

      May see you there, we have two tickets, our last concert was only fairly respectable as the BBC was broadcasting it so they gave tickets to college students.
      For the last month the WMC has been playing to sold out audiences, not opera but The Book of Mormon. This is a younger audience, but I am afraid that opera will struggle as my son who lives in New York says that the oldies are very reluctant to go to any indoor gathering.

    • V. Lind says:

      That is shocking — another beautiful combo of orchestra, music and soloist. Wish I could be there.

  • David Leibowitz says:

    Saw the dress rehearsal last week and it was stunning all around. Amazing cast, orchestra sounds great, and Pappano was excellent. Going back for one of the regular performances.

  • Couperin says:

    I’ll give the dirt from several orchestra members.. they were whining and bitching because Tony kept them for an extra hour after a six hour dress rehearsal, and HE was complaining about too many substitutions in the orchestra. I thought, well maybe the orchestra needed it. Lise was incredible, Volle was incredible. Tenor was on the weak side and was tired by the middle of the third act but that’s a really demanding role. Production, anyone know it? Very traditional and stuck to Wagner’s instructions, if you’re into that. I prefer an old school staging like this for Meistersinger, but that’s just me. The orchestra was OK, like usual, but I’ve never blindly worshipped the current Met Orchestra. Bunch of spoiled brats and I guess tons of subs for opening night. And the timpanist was out of tune a lot. I’ll take Tony over Yannick ANY.. DAY.. OF.. THE.. WEEK!

    • PS says:

      I used to enjoy supporting the Met and especially the orchestra, but I absolutely will not support Charles Blow or Malcolm X, so I’m done.

    • Elizabeth Owen says:

      I pity any conductor who has to deal with an orchestra which believes it is the best and anyone can jump in and sub. How on earth is he able to produce music with a bunch of arrogant musicians who may or may not be bothered to turn up?

      • Tar Heel says:

        Honey, find out the facts before you spew more ignorant nonsense. There may be many reasons for the extra musicians. The regular members are not necessarily expected to play on opening night, they may simply be scheduled for some alternate nights instead. Why do people always have to attack instrumentalists as a knee jerk reaction? You think you could do the job? So why don’t you win an audition? Hmmm? Ever tried that?

        As for the supposed arrogance of this orchestra, it has been the critics, not the musicians, who state constantly how great the Met Orchestra is! You have absolutely NO CLUE how it feels to criticize oneself relentlessly over a lifetime! That’s what it takes to be a fine musician! Get a life!!

    • Richard says:

      “Tenor”? There are *two* principal tenor roles in Meistersinger!

  • Yes Addison says:

    This is about as well as I thought it would do. It’s a favorite opera of mine, but as A.L. says, it isn’t the easiest sell, at least not here. Long before pandemic times, there were many empty seats at the Met’s 2014 performances of this production — a production that is approaching 30 years old, is on its sixth revival, and was actually scheduled for replacement by now. Long story as to why that fell through.

    The 2021 cast is better on the whole than the 2014 one. Maybe word of mouth will help it, if people like what they hear.

    • Marshall says:

      So great there isn’t a new production. God help us thinking of what a new one will be like.

      Eva and Sachs do it on plexiglass after the quintet?

    • V. Lind says:

      Was it really seven years ago? I still remember clearing my decks that Saturday morning so I could be ready for the rare noon start of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, which I used to listen to religiously.

    • Elle aime says:

      Would you speak for my cause
      I am a PCR négatif but
      Peter Gelb would not let me “in”

      Am sick of being segregated

    • Rupert Kinsella says:


      We need to remember opera ticket sales were not great pre-pandemic.

  • Monsoon says:

    So a few things:

    Many institutions are struggling to fill their houses. It’s not just the Met — it’s all performing organizations, Hollywood, and even religious institutions.

    The Met has long had a challenges with selling weekday tickets, which is why they dropped Monday-night performances and started Sunday afternoon; I’m not surprised that they can’t sell a 6-hour opera on a week night, that needs to start at 6pm and ends at midnight. (The Met seems to realize this — Meistersinger has a number of weekday performance.)

    Bottom line: if the new James Bond movie struggles at the box office, I’d cut the Met some slack.

  • David says:

    I was there. Orchestra did well, barring some wrong entrances in the prelude to act III and out of tune wind playing in third act. Overall I thought they sounded OK in spite of long hiatus.

    The low male voices were great. Michael Volle is a fantastic Sachs. I like Klaus Florian Vogt, but he had a tough night. It sounded like he had a cold. The high notes were a struggle. And I know Lise Davidsen is very hyped, but her voice does nothing for me. So loud and harsh, without beauty.

    Pappano is a lot better than Yannick, and technically he seemed to make for tight ensemble. Musically, his gestures were overly large and distracting and seemed somewhat pointless.

    To me the Otto Schenk production feels dated, but who knows what monstrosity will replace it. I’m sure we will miss it one day.

    The house seemed full to me, but I couldn’t see all the way up. The orchestra level was pretty packed, and most stayed until the end and listened attentively. Overall, a positive experience and good but not great performance.

    • Marshall says:

      “To me the Otto Schenk production feels dated, but who knows what monstrosity will replace it. I’m sure we will miss it one day. ”

      Well said-when I see traditional productions in recent years, I realize, I will probably never see the opera produced that way again. I could imagine a golden age of realism with today’s projections, lasers, computers, etc.

      Yes, I don’t get the Yannick thing-he seems competent but at this point, no more

    • Monsoon says:

      The Schenk production was supposed to have been replaced by now — I believe the new one was a coproduction with several European houses. I assume the pandemic disrupted that.

      • Yes Addison says:

        Not the pandemic in this case. That was announced about a few years ago as no longer being in the cards (the production was to arrive at the Met in 2019-20). As I recall, the director and the designer had a disagreement and stopped working together, and their existing sets couldn’t be transferred “as is” to the Met because of the different dimensions. With the team not able or willing to collaborate on a modified version, the whole thing got called off. Shame. I thought it was a wonderful show at Salzburg.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Let’s face it, this is a very long opera which is terribly boring in places and who wants to sit for 6 hours in the theatre when one has to get up for work in the morning?

  • Ernest says:

    Given the average age of the Met audience, they might have been advised by their doctors not to venture out unless absolutely necessary

  • Bigfoot says:

    I’m not sure what’s newsworthy here. After going without live performances for 17 months, I have now been to six concerts in three different venues since mid August. Not one was more than half full. Recall that we are still in a pandemic. Things went from 60 to zero immediately , but it will be slower to get back to 60.

  • MacroV says:

    I’d love to see this, but I probably can’t get up from DC and COVID is still a deterrent. I wouldn’t infer anything about the state of either the MET or Pappano about the empty seats.

  • lily says:

    There’s also the practical consideration that in 2021, few people below retirement age are able to get to a 6-hour performance on a Tuesday night by 6PM. It also hurts that there was no particular fanfare about this revival of a very dated, never particularly great Otto Schenk production that I’m sure most people assumed would never make it to stage, given the pandemic difficulties (from visa difficulties for the principal cast to being able to safely present an opera requiring over 250 people on the stage or in the pit at all times.

  • Evan Tucker says:

    Pappano’s Wagner’s an acquired taste, but Met audiences have no opinion on it. Seven hours in an auditorium in the middle of COVID is extremely unwise. Opera houses should be dusting off ever one-acter they can find right now.

  • Gam says:

    Will this come out on dvd?

  • anon says:

    You should see the number of empty seats at the Boston SO minority-composers concerts this week, especially Thursday and Sunday. It looks like Woke won’t pack them in.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    It’s the same works, over and over and over. Practically all of New York must have seen at least one of these already. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

  • adam says:

    Fire Shut In My Bones drew a fair amount of condemnation here, but I went to a matinee that appeared to be almost entirely full and checking availability for alternate dates showed similar results. I don’t think the problem with ticket sales for this production is the pandemic.

  • Peter says:

    Pappano was booed 24 years ago when he conducted Eugene Onegin at his Met debut… to be booed at the Met was and is still quite unheard of… what is he doing back there?

  • Tom Hase says:

    Who on earth schedules a Meistersinger performance on a Tuesday night? There is a reason that Wagner, in his own festival, asks for performances to start in the afternoon and to have sufficiently long breaks. Who would rush from their job into the opera house to spend 6 hours there after a full day of work? Bizarre… I do not remember any Meistersinger performance anywhere in Europe which was not during the weekend (or at least on Friday night).

  • mary says:

    I heard that Fire Shut Up in My Bones has a showstopping dance number at a black frat house.

    Maybe that’s what the Met should put up every night to get butts in seats.

  • Paul Sekhri says:

    What’s your point?

  • Carrurose says:

    I am going to the matinee performance on Saturday. I have been a Met subscriber for many years but did not renew this year because of Covid. I have been to more than one performance at the Met where people were constantly coughing and hacking. I am vaccinated and will wear a mask. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments.

  • Lloyd Kay says:

    Very sad hope it fills up soon