Peter Gelb’s Met hits all-time box-office low

Peter Gelb’s Met hits all-time box-office low


norman lebrecht

June 15, 2022

The Metropolitan Opera has disclosed that it sold just 61 percent of available tickets in the current season, having been shut for the previous 18 months by Covid precautions.

In the season before closure it sold a mere 75 percent.

But general manager Peter Gelb is putting a positive spin on things. ‘We consider it to be a triumph in that we started and we ended and we never missed a performance along the way,’ said Gelb.

In all, the Met staged 196 performances at 56 percent of revenue value.


  • A.L. says:

    Everything and everyone in opera these days is pronounced a triumph. The lower the standard and quality of singing, the lower the attendance, the lower and more vulgar the production values, the better. Any meager scrapings from the bottom of the barrel will do.

    • Rr22 says:

      Absolutely true!
      And like that opera is almost gone thanks to the new approaches in staging and very unprofessional singing level!

  • Nik says:

    The Met is too big.
    There was never any good reason why it needed double the number of seats of the leading European houses, except boundless hubris.

    • V.Lind says:

      I loathe houses that size.

      • Sisko24 says:

        I might agree with you but I find the acoustics there to be better than even Carnegie Hall or Geffen Hall. The MET captured lightning in a bottle with their acoustic engineers and we’re all the better off because of it.

        • Johnuws says:

          Agree. And if one hasn’t experienced the acoustics it is hard to believe. Back of grand tier, dress circle, the balcony, what a phenomenon those acoustics are!

    • Tamino says:

      Berlin has twice the number of opera seats (in 3 opera houses) every night compared to New York. A metropolitan area of less than 5 million people. NY metropolitan area is about 20 million people?

      At least when the Met was built, it was a reasonable projection into the future to expect the population to become more culturally sophisticated, not less. I wouldn‘t call it hubris. It was a hope, an utopia.

      • Chris says:

        Actually, the three Berlin houses have a combined seating capacity of only around 4,400, compared to around 3,800 at the Met. But yes, your point still stands, especially when one considers that there are about 30 other opera houses within a three-hour drive of Berlin.

  • Maria says:

    People have it on here for Peter Gelb as if he knew them like their next door neighbour from hell, but for the Met to have staged 196 performances at 56 percent of revenue value, that is an achievement in the midst of a pandemic that really hit New York, and then given the enormity of the house that we just don’t have in London or elsewhere. Credit where it is due.

  • Potpourri says:

    If Anna Netrebko had been in the five performances of Turandot he would have had five sold out shows. My daughter and I cancelled our plans to attend because we wanted to see Netrebko.

    • Hugo Preuß says:

      Then may I suggest a trip to Russia? Probably lovely this time of the year. Give or take a little neo-fascism and war of aggression, all under the stern leadership of Netrebko’s good ol’ buddy Putin.

      • Nicholas says:

        You can suggest a trip to Russia, but why? Netrebko is not performing in Russia, but she will be performing in Vienna and Israel. Why not suggest a trip to Austria or Israel where there is a better chance of seeing Netrebko than in Russia? Potpourri never referenced Putin or Russia in the desire of seeing her, a desire which is shared by many people, but you just had to insert your Russophobic sentiment. As for traveling to Russia there is a “give or take a little neo-fascistic” dictat called Travel Sanctions by the so called liberal democracies restricting anyone from wanting to take a trip to Russia. Freedom of travel is becoming more Verboten these days.

        • Hugo Preuß says:

          How dare you call me “Russophobic”, Sir! I am warphobic and dictatorphobic, and that includes Putin and his circle of syccophants, both on stage and in writing. And I pity the Russian people, at least those who are against their will under the yoke of this Stalin apprentice. There is a difference between hating a dictator and a whole people. Too bad you can’t be bothered with it.

    • JB says:

      The Zefirelli Turandot sells well without Netrebko. The show I saw with her replacement was full.

    • Tamino says:

      You wanted to SEE her. Alright. We get it.

    • John Kelly says:

      You weren’t missed and the Turandot performances were sold out (at least the two I went to). Incidentally I heard Netrebko sing Act 2 of Turandot a few years back when she did her “three acts from three Puccini operas” performance. She was good and generally impressive vocally, which is more than could be said of her husband, the Calaf. I do not think we will see her at the Met for a very long time, if ever, however. You might catch her at La Scala………….

      • Potpourri says:

        The Wiener Straatsoper has confirmed Anna Netrebko will sing “Aida” on January 14, 18, 21 and 24, 2023, with Jonas Kaufman, Elina Garanca and Luca Salsi. That is very tempting. Major stars rarely come to Los Angeles Opera.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Yes, but you would have had to check your soul at the door.

    • Tancredi says:

      It is certainly a disappointment if one books for one performer and someone else replaces the chosen one – happened a good deal because of Covid – but chasing the soprano or tenor like a pop star neglects the quality of the production.

      • Potpourri says:

        In 1967 I saw Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn dance at the Hollywood Bowl. I sat in the $2 cheap seats because I was a poor college student.I was determined to “chase” Nureyev because I had been a fan since he defected in 1961.
        When my son was a college student in 1999 he made an overnight 200-mile round trip to Chicago to see a concert by Luciano Pavarotti.
        I guess we are a family of eccentric “music chasers.”

  • Anon says:

    I wonder how full each particular production was. Which were the most full and which were the least full?

  • William Osborne says:

    So much blind ambition went into the creation of Lincoln Center, which included giving the Met twice as many seats as it should have. It has 3500. Even half, 1750, would be a bit too large. Opera is not a stadium art form. I’m so happy I’ve been able to experience opera in the reasonably sized houses of Europe.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      It has 3800, not 3500. Plus standing room.

    • GCMP says:

      These arguments that the MET is too big beg the question, if so, why is it too big now when it was not too big from 1966-a few years ago? It seems to me that this question needs answers rather than blithely stating the house is too big.

      • William Osborne says:

        The house has always been too big. The most basic reason is that the huge space does not allow for the performer/audience connection that theater needs.

      • V.Lind says:

        It’s too big, period. All these mammoth houses are.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Well-stated. “Blithely” is the word. Many posters pull it out of their rear before thinking about what they type.

        As a veteran of hundreds of performances at the Met, the house is not too big when programmed with the right productions and singers.

      • Tamino says:

        There are two metrics to consider here.
        Acoustically the Met was always too big of a space.
        Economically it made sense as long as seats could be sold in sufficient quantities.

        When the Met was planned, economic projection beat musical-acoustical wisdom. Now the fruits on that tree are crumpled and sour.

        • Elizabeth Foster says:

          Another question is about the support from an aging population. Are youth in attendance? If they are not, the writing is on the wall.

          • Tiredofitall says:

            Equally important–at least in the US–does the younger generation have the same sense of philanthropy as the “aging” population? Given that contributed funds exceed box office revenue, it is an essential part of the equation.

          • NotToneDeaf says:

            Right, because it’s always been the 20 and 30-something population that has kept the Met going.

    • JB says:

      By the number of opera seats it provides for the NYC area, the Met is certainly not too big. Major European cities (London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin) have more than one opera venue, which is no longer true for NYC after the quasi-death of NYC Opera.
      From the point of view of acoustics, two smaller houses would certainly be preferable and also allow for a more diverse repertoire.
      However, the sheer size of the Met forces the management to offer something special with each show which you dont always have in Europe. I heard Lise Davidson in three different productions at the Met this season. Who does better ?

  • John Kelly says:

    It is a triumph. As a New Yorker desperate for live music after the worst of the pandemic where we lost 50,000 of our fellow NYers for the Met to put on a full season without missing a performance at their usual pretty high standard and after much acrimony over pay IS a triumph! There is a very interesting article in the NY Times about how many subs were involved all the time and I must say whoever manages Operations at the Met deserves a medal or an OBE……..!!!

  • Gus says:

    It’s not only opera getting low attendance, only 400 at recent Halle, and 600 at two local orchestral concerts in a 1800 seat hall. A John Williams night did better, 1000, supposedly.

    My wife went to see a film yesterday, she was the only one there.

    • Henry williams says:

      The joke is you go to an empty cinema and they
      Ask where would you like to sit.

      • V.Lind says:

        It’s years since I was at a cinema where there was a “they” to help — only at very busy ones where “they” direct you toward available seats.

  • Pagano says:

    Perhaps it might be well to note that the old Met at 39th and Broadway opened in 1883 was nearly as big with 3625 seats and 224 standing. The new Met has 3794 seats and 245 standing.

    • Don Ciccio says:

      And of course, there are a number of fairly large opera houses in Europe as well: Liceu (he’s from Barcelona), Bastille, even Palais Garnier. Plus Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.

  • Richard Cheese says:

    The obvious conclusion has to do with the international pandemic that is still raging. Many patrons aren’t about to risk their lives to go see the latest Tosca performance, especially as anti-maskers abound on public transit and in the public square. With the unvaccinated regaining some of their rights, it’s only going to be more dangerous to go to concerts. Me? I’ll be staying home and staying safe, thank you very much.

    • Anon says:

      Your comment makes no sense scientifically. How does an unvaccinated person affect you (as a vaccinated individual)? The point of the vaccine is to shield you from possible extreme effects of this virus, and/or death. You have the protection, they don’t. What’s the problem here? Also, this latest strain of the virus is so mild. The unvaccinated people that are getting it have the same symptoms as the fully vaccinated – I know at least 5 people who got it recently who are not vaccinated and it was basically common cold symptoms. I think we all need to calm down a little bit with some of the rhetoric. We are not where we were one year ago pandemic wise.

      • Tzctslip says:

        We don’t know where we are because long Covid.
        In the UK it is affecting around 3% of the population, mostly working age people, majoritarily women (which perhaps explains why it isn’t taken seriously yet).
        In Spain one still has to wear masks in public transport, hospitals and old age homes, in Germany one can see TV shows with audiences and everybody is wearing a mask.

    • PaulD says:

      The greatest threat you’ll face from going to the Met is from the deranged people roaming the streets and subways of Manhattan.

    • henry williams says:

      i go to master classes in the music schools. you only have a
      few people in the audience and
      they seem to all wear a mask.
      and this is in the day which is better than taking a tram at night.

  • Chicagorat says:

    Still a stellar performance compared to lower tier venues, such as Chicago. The Met pulled 196 performances at 56% of revenue value. Muti-Alexander-Chicago pulled together 3 (yes, you read correctly, 3 as one-two-three) opera performances in concert form of Un Ballo this month, the first opera dates at SC since 2019, and the tickets are half unsold. You can check for yourself on their website.

    A few years ago, we would’ve urged folks to stay away from Chicago. But these days, they don’t need our recommendation. They only need to know that the ‘King of Verdi’ still reigns to book a trip to Pittsburgh, the closest place where good music can still be found.

    • GCMP says:

      Since these concerts haven’t happened yet, hopefully more tickets will sell! Of course, you do have a valid point that audiences have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

    • CSOPHAN says:

      Do you think you are talking people out of hearing the Chicago Symphony perform? I want to hear them more and more because I know you are so against them. I’d love to see you in front of a CSO musician on one of your diatribes. You’d be peeing yourself. So moronic.

  • Sam McElroy says:

    I tried to get a ticket for Akhnaten on Friday at the Met, but it was completely sold out. The entire revival sold out. I know one of the cast, and even she couldn’t get me in. That’s rare. Indeed, I hear it is the first time in the Met’s history an entire revival run has sold out. It is also a clear indication about what people want out of opera these days, and ought to be encouraging. Opera is not in decline. It just needs truly great singing and compelling productions to lure people from their homes at great cost and “inconvenience”. The Met streaming app and broadcasts may also be proving a bit too successful. Here, the local 500-seat cinema sells out every Met broadcast, and many say they prefer it to the real thing. So, maybe there’s more to this story than doom.

  • John Gingrich says:

    Lots of thoughts triggered by earlier comments, but one I think worth sharing is that 50 years ago when Hurok was bringing in the Royal Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, National Ballet of Canada with Nureyev, we were selling out those weeks in May and June. Is the house too big compared to the amazing theatres in Europe. I think so, but there are times and events when “too big” sells out.

  • Stephan von Cron says:

    For those who know anything about great singing, the problem of Peter Gelb has much to do with artists he has predestined stars, such as Anna Netrebko, who in the annals of operatic history will be not more than a footnote for the inherent mediocrity of their initially promising, but ultimately disappointing legacy.

  • tet says:

    1) Ticket sales dropped during the peak of the omicrom variant to a low of 44% during the second half of January, which DOES constitute a success considering just 30 blocks further down on Broadway, ALL other theatres were CLOSED during the same period and thus saw ticket sales of ZERO percent!

    That is, the Met kept going when James Bond himself couldn’t and had to cancel a few performances of his Macbeth on Broadway.

    2) So the Met sold only 56% of ticket capacity, that doesn’t tell us if the Met was in the red or in the black for the season, or by how much. If they came close to breaking even on 56% ticket capacity, that’d be pretty damn impressive and good management.

    3) Yes, it’d be interesting to know which operas were profitable and which ones were not, in particular the diversity operas. But you’d still be comparing apples and oranges because Omicron kept audiences away, down to 44%, even if the opera otherwise could’ve been profitable.

  • MacroV says:

    Give Gelb a break. I used to like to hate on him as much as anyone, but he’s not responsible for COVID. And when I go to the Baltimore SO or NSO (both terrific orchestras with excellent programming these days), the house is often half-full, if that. So it’s not just the MET.

    And he deserves a good deal of credit for three new operas this year: Fire Shut up in My Bones; Eurydice; and Hamlet. Maybe not all gems (I thought they were all terrific) but after all the criticism of the MET failing to do new work, this was an encouraging response. Plus Akhnaten, which as others said, sold out its entire run.

  • Judy says:

    “Peter Gelb’s MET” – haha and NO. The people’s MET of which he and the entire org are responsible for upholding its integrity and mission. Also, the entire industry saw a deep decline in ticket sales in the transitional year while still really in a pandemic. Opera companies, especially.

    • Nick2 says:

      What a strange comment from Judy! Of course it is Peter Gelb’s Met and has been since he was appointed many years ago. His tenure has been on balance a disaster. He had no experience running any large organisation, let alone one of the world’s major opera houses, and should never have been let near the place.

      He is the figurehead of the Met and the buck has always stopped with him and his “new “approach to productions, which have frequently been much less good that the ones they replaced. And let’s recall he claimed this approach was to draw in a large new audience to the Met! Can we forget the Lepage Ring cycle and all that vast and mostly wasted expense? Remember his ultimata to Unions about the need for massive cuts or the Met would be bust by now, and then the climb down when the pay cuts were near infinitessimal? Part of that “deal” was the Board would increase fund raising and get the Endowment way up again. Wonder if that happened?

      The Met used to be a house greatly admired around the world. No longer.

  • M McGrath says:

    It used to be “The Metropolitan Opera.” Then it became “The Met” and now “Peter Gelb’s Met.” Sad.

    The house is too big. If you want to save the opera, gather sponsors to build an 1800-seat auditorium. It is WAY overdue. Even offering Broadway-like performance styles, a bastardized form of opera, if you ask me, which alienated a lot of opera-goers, you couldn’t get a full house. Post-COVID people have figured out that they don’t really need to “consume” as much ‘culture’ as prior to COVID; and that a DVD beats sitting in the Family Circle. Time to goose the board and kick off fund-raising.

    Time for leadership, New Yorkers, and Gelb is not the guy.

  • Kazymir Petrović says:

    Go woke, go broke. There were times when it was all about the music and not about nonsensical idiocy.

  • Zaza says:

    I have seen all of the operas at the met this year (January to today). The room was mostly full, and some performances such as Turandot, Don Carlo and Aknathen were sold out many times (Aknathen especially). The opera is not at all dead, Gelb is not at all a bad businessman, and the opera house is not at all big!
    Next season, for those of you who don’t know, the Met has 12 new operas. Go and contribute, but a tucked (even a cheap one!) , Respect this form of art and stop assumiy from the comfort of your couches that people are doing a bad job or that opera is dead. I have been there, i have seen all, the comments are ridiculous.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Good news in a way. Tear the Met down and build a more ‘human’ sized opera house that actually sounds good, and doesn’t tax the singers to death. Enough of these Vegas style mega-shows.

  • Floyd Lee says:

    The new, Crazy productions at The MET SUCK !!! That’s what is keeping people away. Gelb must Retire immediately.

    • Karl says:

      They might stink but they are socially conscious of the oppression that the white man has been inflicting of the rest of the humans race. Don’t you care about equity?

  • David M Eaton says:

    I lived and worked in New York for 38 years. A big issue now for concert-goers who take public transportation is crime. Traveling from lower Manhattan or Brooklyn at night can be quite dicey these days, especially for older folks…a sad reality.

  • Helen wynn says:

    There are several reasons the Met is failing. Two that stand out. One: New York City is a Hell hole of crime. As an out of towner, why would I want to risk being beaten in broad daylight by some scum who was let out of jail because of cashless bail. Two: the Met has tried to go hip. Many of the productions are modern director-lead revisions of the composers’ original intent and many of us don’t like most of them. No, the Met is not too big. I love the auditorium and have spent many a wonderful weekend there; I fly in on a Friday from Honolulu, seeing 3 operas and leave on early Sunday for the return trip. Not now with the crime and poor productions.

  • Conover says:

    We visited New York 3-4 times a year, never missed a single new production. In recent years, there is no desire to visit our beloved and once a city of high culture! New York has turned into a city of the homeless and criminals. And all the performances, exhibitions have turned into propaganda!

  • Ron Ryan says:

    From the looks of things, when I saw low ticket prices and discounted tickets still available “day of performances” with a half sold house most of the season I cringed. This house cannot survive on that kind of revenue. Instead of making excuses I hope they will seriously question their mistakes; LONG history of questionable casting (I’m being nice), a poorly designed season (modern works or vapid modernization of classics don’t fill seats and fill less the coffers) – The MET needs FUNDS … please THINK harder about how those are obtained – you STILL need major donations, do not drive them away. To his credit he got rid of one deterrent, but he still retains a tin-ear.. Gelb should be making NO artistic decisions – you’d think he was sir Bing’s son. It cannot continue, SAVE the MET (* I do realize the city has been it’s own deterrent, acknowledging it’s effect upon arts institutions). They employ still some wonderful and exciting singers, they simply need more regularity on the bill, not occasionally … and they need to support those with the VOICE to retain and attract an audiences.

  • Potpourri says:

    Akhenaten in available on the Met Opera on Demand app.It is the performance from November 23, 2019.:I saw it in Los Angeles a few years ago. It was the strangest opera I had ever seen, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I’ve watched it again and again on the app.

  • Figaro says:

    No wonder. The Met sucks now because it is too politically correct and NYC is one big crime wave.