How bad are the Met’s ticket sales? Even worse than they’re saying

How bad are the Met’s ticket sales? Even worse than they’re saying


norman lebrecht

December 27, 2022

Peter Gelb has admitted a $40m drop in earnings from ticket and cinema sales, equivalent to around 15 percent of the Met’s $312m budget.
He has drawn down $23m from the endowment to cover running costs and has board permission to call on $7m more.

But the underlying problem is worsening. Peter Gelb has admitted that seasonal paid attendance at the Met is down to an alltime low of 61 percent of capacity. Another season like that and they will be seeing red all over the balance sheets.

During Covid, loyal donors stumpd up $150m in emergency funds. They have stopped giving now. No-one seems to be asking why.

But the key element is poor attendance.

Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites opens on January 15. Word of mouth says it is selling below 20 percent.

Don’t trust word of mouth? Here’s the state of seats available this morning or the second night of Carmelites. The empty seats are in red.

Yes, it’s that bad. If you’re going to Carmelites, take a few friends for warmth.


  • Eyal Braun says:

    The interest in classical music- and opera in particular-is in decline nearly everywhere. When I was in the MET in March the attendance in the Rodelinda and Onegin performances was about 50 %. Don carlo 80%: I was in Paris in May 22 and there were also many vacant seats in most opera and concerts performances I attended (though not as bad as in NY). Only in Germany and Austria the situation is somewhat better. The attendance in concerts and opera in Israel (where I live) has also not recovered since the end of the Pandemic. The Pandemic only accelerated the inevitable- progressive decline in interest in “high arts”

    • Melissa says:

      add in high ticket prices, being lectured on “diversity” (go “woke” –go broke) by the inclusionary cult, post COVID anger regarding dictatorship style show me papers etc.., many folks are tuning out. Also, it’s largely irrelevant-the opera/classical music. A bunch of entitled spoiled rich kids playing music, most of whom have never had a real job a day in their life. How can they really play with an authentic deep ontologic feeling ?

      • Retired Clarinetist says:

        I have played in 5 different orchestras during my career. I come from a middle class family. My father owned a dry cleaners where I worked from junior high till I graduated from The Curtis Institute of Music. Most all of my orchestral collegues come from similar backrounds.

        Your comments reek of ignorance or just plain hatred. Me thinks that you probably did not attend these types of venues even when ticket prices were lower.

        • Richard says:

          I’m with you Retired Clarinetist. I have been an orchestral musician soloist all my life. What on earth is Melissa even doing here if she feels this way. And where did she get here beliefs. Clearly she is not a musician or she would know the incredible amount of work and study it takes to be a musician. I come from barely middle class parents. I am certainly not rich or entitled. And, to say being a musician is not a real job in today’s world is truly incredible as well. It is snobbish ignorant hatred. You have to be talented just to be a crummy musician, let alone a good one.

      • David says:

        I don’t think you know what you are talking about, evidenced also quite succinctly by the fact that ontologic is not even a word. If you despise music performed by the said spoiled rich kids, why are you even on a classical music gossip site? Seems like you have a lot of internal turmoil that you should address.

      • Sam says:

        Your comment is so angry at so many things, but it is so inarticulate that it isn’t possible to know what you are trying to say. The rich kids in the orchestra are spoiling everything? Is that what you mean? Why don’t you try sobering up and then try again?

      • Guest says:

        You can put your comments where the sun don’t never shine, lady!

      • SKD says:

        Your comment reveals you have no understanding at all of about the classical music microcosmos

      • RZ says:

        Melissa, what is wrong with you?

      • John Pickford says:

        Melissa: I don’t believe that you are are using (onto)logic to say classical music is for rich stick up kids. IT’S NOT. Offer a thoughtful analysis of what is causing audiences to stay away and provide a valid response or please, don’t post, for the rest of the year.

    • John says:

      In EU and Asian, arts etc. are seen in a much more integrated and respected light. It’s truly part of the community– a real community, not mock community with lip service.
      The US has a vitriol towards anything that is perceived as “intellectual”–and that include opera, orchestral music etc. This has been written about by numerous historians. Perhaps, as the US declines further, we shall view unfortunately, and fortunately more american arts organizations going into the red etc. The writing has been on wall for many decades, yet few will acknowledge the structural reasons for the decline.

    • soavemusica says:

      Could it possibly be that the conservative audience and donors have – finally – refused to finance the liberal agenda of the management and directors any further?

      I confess, I have.

      Have a last laugh, Met, get full-blown woke.

  • Siegfried in Seattle says:

    It’s a combination of ever higher prices, coupled with the traditional audiences getting older and dying off. It’s the same problem you have in the UK. Although your Arts Council maybe correct in wanting to reduce the opera grants, it did so in a very cack-handed way. How do you get younger people to the opera? Via performances in car parks and pubs according to ACE; we all laughed but maybe they are partly correct.

    • Sara K. says:

      That’s the capitalistic model in the US empire. It’s all abt $ acquisition. Sad, an empty populace whose principal goal was $ acquisition. Maybe read Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilyich and learn how to live should be reqd reading.

      • Bone says:

        Enjoy your high art funding in whatever socialist paradise residence, dear Sara K. I prefer digital streaming services to live concert attendance so less taxes taken for supporting leftist-infested arts organizations is fine by me.

    • Melissa says:

      The USUK are similar in that way in that there is a hatred towards classical arts. The younger and older people are crack-addicts to cellular phones and have the attention span of a gnat. There needs to be some serious thought as to the foundation of the USUK societies, as to what they want and do not want in their communities. Because currently the trends are very real. Reality must prevail not wishful delusional toxic positivity. Thank you

      • John Pickford says:

        Melissa: Gnat true on all accounts. YouTube is a lot of fun with well remastered classic recordings. Film footage of historic singers (look for Sutherland in MET “Hoffman”—she’s phenomenal). Part of it could be ticket prices, singers that are ok, no studio recordings and the rise (not Stevens) of rap and rock crap plus the absence of music in public education and approachable popular music. When was the last time a Broadway musical had a melody??

  • Bloom says:

    ”Fedora” is opening on the 31st of December. And it is almost sold out.

  • I beg your pardon says:

    If he needs more sales, get Gergiev and Netrebko back.

    Guaranteed to generate bums on seats and more dough for him.

    • Carl says:

      It might attract the Russian oligarch crowd but it will turn off a substantial number of New Yorkers who are against Putin’s criminal invasion.

      The overriding issue here remains Covid-19 and the other viruses that are currently circulating (flu, RSV). Met patrons (especially the elderly) don’t want to be in a crowded indoor space at this point in the pandemic.

      • just saying says:

        Wrong. People will go to see them, regardless. We don’t have a problem seeing other Russian classical artists.

        • Anon says:

          Yes, it’s a strange phenomenon.
          As far as I’m aware, classical music fans happily listened to Oistrakh, Richter, von Karajan, and other artists from unfriendly regimes.

          • M2N2K says:

            That is an ignorant comparison: neither S. Richter (during his active concertizing years) nor especially D. Oistrakh (who died in 1974) ever had an opportunity to emigrate from behind the Iron Curtain and live in a country of their choice where they could freely express opposition to Russia’s actions – while Gergiev certainly does have that option but chooses to remain a faithful weapon of Putin’s propaganda.

          • Anon says:

            Milstein, Rostropovich, Horowitz, and many others left and never returned. Certainly Oistrakh and Richter could have done the same. But they did not and were not shamed by Western audiences for it.

          • M2N2K says:

            Ignorant again: Rostropovich was more exiled than “left” and it was in 1974 – the year D. Oistrakh died; Horowitz and Milstein left half of a century earlier in early 1920s when it was still possible but they were already adults and actively concertizing, but D. Oistrakh was still a young largely unknown teenager at that time.

          • J Huizinga says:

            You’ll be scissored for that.

          • Maria Lopez says:

            There is plenty of american propaganda too. We need to seperate those the talent from one’s political/historical preferences. Shakespeare was antisemite, as was Tchiakovsky–should we not read and hear the beauty? Or is the “news” propaganda having a certain spin to aid and abet a certain industry and empire?

          • J Huizinga says:

            You’ll be scissored for stating facts.

          • John says:

            The US empire is an unfriendly regime also. Let’s try to be fair and balanced please.

        • Scott says:

          I have an older friend who only goes to matinees because of the crime in NYC.

          • Passing Through says:

            Yes, I live in Chicago but I do the same thing. I enjoy culture but the city is crazy these days. At least NYC’s mayor is trying to deal with it. Chicago’s mayor is basically pro-criminal.

          • soavemusica says:

            Chicago and NYC will hardly ever elect other than liberal rulers, and the result is Reverse Midas. Just run.

          • soavemusica says:

            Matinees inside NYC are not safe, just less dangerous.

            Escape, while you can.

        • Tom Phillips says:

          Speak for yourself.

      • Melissa says:

        Maybe the US empire oligarch crowd can help bail out this US arts dilemma. The US certainly has billions for endless war/hegemony?

        • John Pickford says:

          Melissa: So the US should contribute to the MET. Who from the MET will appear in a green tee shirt before Congress and make an appeal?

      • Passing Through says:

        Can’t imagine street crime is helping matters. Older people also tend to shy away from danger.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Gergiev NEVER guaranteed ticket sales in New York.

    • John Pickford says:

      Can Putin also sing?

  • RW2013 says:

    The Met Carmelites is superb.
    Your own fault if you don’t go and see it.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Spot on. One of the true glories of the Met.

    • Sixtus says:

      Even though the opening tableau is readily visible in online photos, in the house it is still stunning when the curtain opens. And I find the staging of the executions at the end far more wrenching than most of the more recent high-concept, metaphorical or Eurotrash productions I’ve seen on video.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Agreed. Less is more when the director understands the power of the work. This production of Carmelites remains a revelation every time I see it, which must be north of a dozen.

  • Singeril says:

    The current run of the holiday version of “The Magic Flute” is nearly sold-out—-and it’s an old production.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Attended by children and families on Christmas break. It is a special holiday presentation, not to be compared to the audiences for the regular rep.

      The same argument could be made for the premiere of a new work. People may attend…once. They never (name one, please) become a well-attended part of the repertory of the house.

    • Nick2 says:

      Carmelites is a much older production from the heyday when the acclaimed British opera director John Dexter was the Met’s Director of Productions in the 1970s. I never saw it but recall his superb Billy Budd when he made excellent use of the stage lifts to signify the different decks of the ship. It was the work’s premiere in the US.

      Unlike many of the Met’s directors during Peter Gelb’s reign he was a true man of both the classical theatre and contemporary drama having been Associate Directors of both Britain’s National Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre, the latter which championed new work. He had also directed operas at the Royal Opera House, Paris Opera and Hamburg Staatsoper during the great days when Rolf Liebermann was Intendant. In his fascinating autobiography Dexter talks of his “fury for perfection”. Would that more directors nowadays would pay attention to his works and “that fury”!

  • Brian says:

    The tickets are too expensive. This is and has been the on-going problem.

    • Maria Lopez says:

      Your right. Tried to go to community concert. it was like 40 dollars for a bunch of amateurs and that was the christmas concert. crazzy! who can afford this? Why is the us trying to kill the arts? wheres the government help for the arts? what are they doing?

  • Paul Wells says:

    This post seems to be premised on the belief that ticket sales normally stop three weeks before a performance. But people who sometimes attend concerts tell me that in fact tickets are often sold until the day of the performance. This may help explain why the Met’s performances of Aida tonight and Marriage of Figaro tomorrow are nearly sold out.

    The Met’s hall is too big. Unlike other Lincoln Center venues it hasn’t been recently renovated. It’s in a city where every performing arts organization, including on Broadway, is struggling to attract audiences. But cherry-picking useless anecdata doesn’t improve anyone’s understanding of anything.

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    Strange. Every opera/concert I have attended the past two years has been packed out. The first performance of Ernani in Antwerp on December 16th was fully booked as is the first performance of Onegin at La Monnaie which I will attend on January 29. A concert conducted by Antonio Pappano in Antwerp on December 3 was likewise full
    Perhaps the Met relied too much on the really big names to bring in the crowds. Nobody today really has the capacity to boost tickets sales like the triumvirate of Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo in their heydays. Domingo however still sells out concerts. As do female opera singers like DiDonato and Fleming.
    Of course opera really is a European art form that is part of the cultural life of the continent. This is not the same for the US.

    • Imbrod says:

      Apples and oranges. Smaller European houses like Antwerp and Brussels have fewer seats to fill than the Met, and ticket prices are much lower (thanks in part to subsidies not enjoyed by the Met). But what impresses me most is the companies’ commitment to cultivating its public. Free pre-performance lectures (in two languages at La Monnaie!) are invariably standing room only, and subscribers enjoy better prices and benefits than last minute buyers. Gelb needs to find a different sales model than the dynamic pricing of airline tickets.

      • Madeleine Richardson says:

        The late Gerard Mortier was the first to insist on ensemble work for the operas. He refused to hire big names because they would not commit to six weeks’ rehearsal as they were engaged elsewhere.

      • Max Raimi says:

        Many years ago, I read the autobiography of Theodore Thomas, founder and first Music Director of the Chicago Symphony. For its first ten years, the CSO played in the Auditorium Theatre, a gem of a venue with superb acoustics created by Louis Sullivan. One of the significant issues Thomas had with it was its size; it seats around 4,000! Thomas felt that as a result, the CSO would never sell out and nobody would ever feel the need to buy tickets in advance. He found it all but impossible to sell subscriptions there. Clearly, nobody at the Met read this book before planning their home at Lincoln Center.

        • Nick2 says:

          Why should they have read that book? Are you not aware that the present Met has almost exactly the same number of seats as the House it replaced? Plus the old House had 224 standing tickets in addition to Regular seating. Whose crystal ball in those days would have suggested audience levels would not be sustained over the years?

        • John Pickford says:

          The size of the MET was on purpose to generate revenue because otherwise all that remains besides ticket sales are donations. Our government does nothing. Could a sensible presidential candidate offer “MAKE (the) ARTS GREAT AGAIN (MAGA)” but look what the country got and can’t get rid of: Co-Trumpvid.

    • guest says:

      Well, Madeleine, De Vlaamse Opera has 1000 seats, La Monnaie – 1125 seats, MET – 3800 places.

      • Madeleine Richardson says:

        Yes and it needs big names to fill a venue like that. However if you go to festivals like Orange with thousands of seats (more than the Met) at the old Roman amphitheatre, mainly Europeans will still fill those seats. I have seen this time and again. Same in Verona.

        • guest says:

          Yes, but that’s different, these are special events. Orange, I don’t know, but in Verona it’s basically tourists and they don’t care what they watch, they came to see a show in a picturesque place.
          MET is repertory opera house, they have to sell tickets for 6 – 7 performances a week.
          If you’re getting at the fact that opera is more popular in Europe then it certainly is, no one is saying it isn’t. But we are talking about the problems of the MET, which has to struggle for American audiences.

          • Sara K. says:

            Good luck with American audiences. LOL. Maybe if was abt silly cat videos, war, $ fixations, how to get rich in 1 day, mansion spotting, porno, or which celeb has a good tushy -they would go running to the Met. since it’s in america, gelb and co need to thk like americans.

      • CJ says:

        Yes, guest, la Monnaie has less seats than the MET, but Brussels has less inhabitants than New York (approximately 1.200.000 against 8.400.000)!

  • Sara K. says:

    Not surprising. You reap what you sow

  • Fiona says:

    I used to attend lots of opera and classical music concerts pre pandemic, both at home and abroad, but I no longer do so because I do not want to catch Covid. I know from speaking to my friends I am not alone.
    Most venues act like Covid is over – they do not mention any measures such as air filtration or monitoring of CO2 levels and there is no requirement to wear masks.

    • just saying says:

      I guess you don’t do anything indoors like go out to eat, go grocery shopping, take the subway, ride an elevator, go to work, etc etc etc. At this point you are no more likely to catch covid at the Met than anywhere else in public.

      • Fiona says:

        No I don’t eat out indoors, or use public transport or go to work. Grocery shopping is click & collect. I love activities outdoors with friends instead. Not everyone is lucky enough to have these choices, but a lot of the retired people who go to concerts do, and are staying away for now.
        In Scotland where I live, use of the elderly free bus passes is still 30% below pandemic levels.

    • Scott says:

      Carnegie and Geffen have been packed when I have been there. Low attendance is a Met thing in NYC.

      • John Pickford says:

        Hmmmm, Scott, no, I don’t think it’s a “MET thing”. It’s the need to fill the majority of the seats when not enough people attend multiple performances of the same thing. The events you mention are singular and attract a higher number.

  • Chicagorat says:

    How do these NY difficulties compare to the doomsday scenario which unfolded in Chicago?

    In the Second City, the Italian Stallion and Alexander the Great have recklessly and shamelessly presided over an apocalyptic 40% loss of audience since the 2017/18 season, based on the data they published.

    The CSO sold only 210,227 tickets in 2021/22, against the 347,502 tickets sold in the 2017/18 season. Yet Muti is not concerned with the organization’s disastrous loss of attendance; he is laser focused on post rehearsals “special activities”; he has been concerned with condemning me-too; opposing and arguably even defying Covid public health policies; deriding the use of the word “Asian” to indicate people of certain racial groups (according to him, they should be labeled “Oriental” instead); and fighting the all-important fight to preserve the N word in Verdi’s operas. Meanwhile, he has endorsed the orchestra’s hiring of family members, and the outrageous demise of Mr. Cooper, arguably one of the best living horn players.

    The Chicago Classical Review has published its list of the top 10 best classical music performances of 2022: not one of Muti’s performances made the cut.

    How many tickets did the Met sell in 2017/18? How many in 2021/22? Let the numbers do the talking, to help us make a distinction between commercial difficulties and complete failure of leadership and governance controls.

    • Alan says:

      For God’s sake give it a rest. Your Muti hatred borders on mental illness at this stage

    • RD says:

      A US CEO would not be allowed to make such statements with impunity. By the same standard, this gentleman should not be the Music Director of a major US institution.

    • John says:

      I am oriental and we use that term universally. In the US empire, maybe the PC police can be obsessed with all the wrong things. Let’s on music and how to make it better Sir/Madame.

      • anonymous says:

        Agreed. The problem is the music does not sound that good, either. hence the people are not listening to the orchestra anymore.

    • Max Raimi says:

      When I saw the article, I was going to comment “It’s all Muti’s fault!”, as I did after a similar article about attendance at the Concertgebouw. But His Ratness beat me to it–and he/she is apparently doing so unironically. Sorry, but when your primary source is “Chicago Classical Review”, I can honestly say that I know of no musician in Chicago who is going to take you remotely seriously.

      • Charlotte says:

        Chicago musicians represent a tiny portion of the CCR readership. The bulk is audience and followers of classical music.

        Tone done your snobbery and sense of self-importance, please. You are lucky to have generous donors to pay for your salary, or you would not be able to make a living unless you start worrying about your audiences more.

      • Old Man in the Midwest says:

        Muti is a relic. He lives in La La Land and thinks he can sit on his ZELL THRONE and tell us what we should want and know.

        Total disaster. Every concert I have attended that he has conducted has been boring, snobbish, and unwelcoming.

        Please dump him before it’s too late. And before your next contract negotiation.

        I can only assume that with 50% in the Hall, you and your Spoiled Brats will have to bend. Bend over in fact.

    • John Pickford says:

      What Verdi opera uses the “N” word? Aida and her father are Ethiopian, not “Nethiopian”. What work specifically?

  • TNVol says:

    Modernized garbage productions, with minimal sets and costumes. Woke new works I couldn’t care less about. All surrounded by filthy, crime-filled streets. I used to attend 8-10 operas per year, but haven’t been to a single event in the last two years. It was a very significant portion of my budget.

    Like an Episopal Church bishop, Gelb will happily wipe out the endowment funds built up by generations of the faithful presenting an unorthodox, unwanted, and deeply unsatisfying message to increasingly empty seats.

    • John Pickford says:

      So it’s only in the last two years when COVID hit that you stopped going. That doesn’t make sense. Also, leave the Episcopal church out of this; their attendance is falling and except for music by Sir Arthur Sullivan, the music isn’t very good!

  • Celia Thaxter says:

    Gelb has never understood opera or music for that matter. He does know how to dig into deep pockets. Are they now resisting him? A 4000 seat opera house is anyidiluvian. It does not suit his proposed chamber operas.

  • MacroV says:

    A real shame about Carmelites; it’s an extraordinary opera and John Dexter’s production is a classic, probably the only production they’ll never replace (it will probably outlast even the Zefirellis).

  • Mock Mahler says:

    Those online availability seating charts are notoriously unreliable, because blocks of seats are held for sale by various commercial ticketing services, and for who knows what else. I have tried to get an explanation from venue ticket agents for why the actual audience at the performance, and their distribution, differs so markedly from the availablility charts.

    As a vivid example, in summer 2022, in what was announced as an early sale for subscribers, I was unable to get any but high-up seats for three upcoming events at Carnegie Hall. But just days before the performances, a number of box seats were suddenly showing as available.

    And haven’t we all had the experience of seeing srows of empty seats at a ‘sold out’ performance?

  • La speranza says:

    The MET needs grand productions to wow audiences with great casts. Many of current singers would never been considered as a hire 20-25 years ago; many are declared stars without a performing record to back up such claims (they last top 5-7 seasons, sometimes even less). In this economy and post Covid problems do not retire your box office cash makers ( Zeffirelli’s Boheme, Turandot, Frisell’s Aida, Dexter’s Carmelites); do not replace them by stupid productions like Mayers Las Vegas Rigoletto, Zimmermann’s Lucia, or the Ikea look like Tosca. Do not produce a new Fedora for millions when you have one which played a single season with 9 performances in 1996-7; which is similar to the new one and such no reason for the huge expense just to create a New Year Gala event. Castings are more tricky, times when you could replace Zajick as Amneris with Toczyska,Cossotto, Baglioni, Bumbry etc are long over in every voice category and hire covers/understudies only if you intend to put them on. Slash season to box office hits only until you get a bit of money back from tickets sales and cut down your HD transimissions (yes, they popularize opera and make them available for people who cannot travel to NYC, but as a double sword they effect your possible ticket sales, because many people will stay home to watch them later on TV or will go to a movie theaters instead of going to the actual theater). Hire major music and management who have experience in the field and not friends of friends with zero experience as long as they have friends who make donations. Stop megalomanic projects and splurge if your budget allows it. Only experienced professionals can get you out of this situation and I agree that producing more “modern” opera is a slow enduced suicide/or euthanasia; but the man running it does not know the difference between Verdi and Monteverdi and never attended any classical music education, or professional music management (similarly like Trump, he just comes from money and tries to talk about something his has almost a zero clue) and after a decade under his reign and unpredictable economy,plus post Covid and current web current hack, the problems are exploding. Good luck to the MET I love as institution and hopes survives this rocky times (right now it looks like Titanic colliding with an iceberg and the people in charge just moving into the upper decks/ or into lifeboats)…..

    • John Pickford says:

      Tu sai “La speranza” di nulla. Some new productions are better than others and Mayer’s RIGOLETTO was an interesting concept (at least he’s not in charge of casting as with Beanie Feldstein in his FUNNY GIRL!)

      But your reference to mezzo’s ( and Bumbry like Verrett sang many soprano roles successfully) raises the issue: What is the MET supposed to do if there aren’t singers on the way up to replace those who sang? How do you cast the operas. Is the MET supposed to cast the “Beanie Feldsteins” of the opera world. New Yorkers who hear great singers are the luckiest people in the world.

  • Max Raimi says:

    We need to evangelize for our art with a lot more energy and creativity than is typical in the big time arts management world. A little off topic, but I recently played the Chicago Symphony Christmas shows. We have a large and enthusiastic audience of people there who largely eschew the subscription fare. These are people who can afford our prices, and seem to have no cultural barriers to coming to the hall, but they are like churchgoers who only show up for Christmas Mass and maybe Easter. I have written countless letters to management over the years suggesting that we use these concerts as an opportunity to advocate for our “real” performances.

    Why not have a virtuoso star turn by one of our principals (maybe “Winter” from “The Four Seasons”), and point out that the orchestra is full of outstanding musicians like this, who are quite easy to appreciate even when they aren’t playing holiday show music? Have some young attractive kids who play in our training orchestra, the Civic, handing out brochures in the lobby. Maybe offer a discount to a subscription concert to everybody who attends “Merry Merry Chicago”, as it is called. Mainly, make a point of specifically telling these audiences, “Hey–we’re here every week! You enjoyed hearing us tonight, and we are sure you will enjoy hearing us play music that isn’t about the Yuletide season as well.” I wish somebody would tell me why this is such a bad idea; I have never had any of my emails answered.

    But instead we make an all-out “outreach” initiative to communities who for economic and cultural reasons have never shown any interest in what we do, and have steadfastly resisted all attempts to entice them to our concerts for the better part of a half-century.

    I once posed this question to Henry Fogel, our former President: “Suppose that you are an operative in the Democratic Party, and clear evidence indicates that you are bleeding support in what were traditionally strong Democratic states, like Massachusetts and Hawaii? Do you react to this with an all-out effort to win elections in Mississippi?” (I’m still waiting for an answer) That describes our “outreach” efforts in a nutshell.

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      The fact that you refer to some performances as “real” (vs, I guess “unreal”) speaks volumes about your look-down-your-nose attitude towards those losers who actually enjoy lighter fare. How dare they?

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      While you write well, you miss several important issues and I can understand why Management won’t argue with you.

      You seem set in your ideas as being valid. They aren’t. You miss the point by thinking that you have the answers.

      > Cross over conversion in terms of Pops or Xmas over to subscription concerts has NEVER worked historically. Best to segregate the audiences into separate one time events or concerts. The money spent on marketing your so called “effort” will be wasted.

      > Students don’t sign up for CIVIC to hand out brochures for the CSO. Another stupid idea. They want to play great music and win auditions. And some of them play better than the guys in the CSO. You know that as fact. If you re-auditioned the entire CSO, how many would get their jobs back?

      > Outreach concerts get $$$$ to pay for your salary. Helen Zell and her friends don’t care really about you and your spoiled brat bunch. They want to go to the Gala and hear from the podium that they are helping underserved communities and then get the photo op with Muti. The ZELL Music Director (not just a music director but the ZELL Music Director). Mahler 9 is not on their radar and most likely never was. They may not even know who Mahler is. The days of Louis Sudler and his crew are gone.

      > The CSO no longer has name brand musicians in principal positions. No more Herseth. No more Clevenger. No more Still. No one is going to come because you trot out one of your principal players with zero name recognition. That will not sell any tickets and I doubt even regular audience goers even know who all these new players are. Not much star power in the CSO these days.

      > If you want an audience, stick with the basics. Stop programming all this WOKE stuff by second or third rate composers. What ever happened to an overture, a concerto and a symphony after intermission? And no long concerts. Keep them to 2 hours or less. And sell liquor at intermission.

      > Finally, your argument doesn’t even mention the impact of COVID and how it has changed audience behaviour. Older folks (the target demographic) are not coming back to the concert hall. And younger people would rather see Taylor Swift or Kim Kardashian than come to an uplifting Classical concert. The dumbing down of our society so to speak.

      So no. Your ideas aren’t really worth much from a business point of view.

      • Max Raimi says:

        “> Cross over conversion in terms of Pops or Xmas over to subscription concerts has NEVER worked historically.”
        Well, duh. Maybe we have not found a targeted way to make it work yet. My suggestion has not been tried.

        “> Students don’t sign up for CIVIC to hand out brochures for the CSO.”
        Gee, I didn’t know that. Thanks for this brilliant insight. Obviously, we would pay them.

        “> Outreach concerts get $$$$ to pay for your salary. Helen Zell and her friends don’t care really about you and your spoiled brat bunch. They want to go to the Gala and hear from the podium that they are helping underserved communities and then get the photo op with Muti. The ZELL Music Director (not just a music director but the ZELL Music Director). Mahler 9 is not on their radar and most likely never was. They may not even know who Mahler is. The days of Louis Sudler and his crew are gone.”
        Somewhat true. Unfortunately, it has absolutely nothing to do with the thrust of my post.

        “> The CSO no longer has name brand musicians in principal positions. No more Herseth. No more Clevenger. No more Still. No one is going to come because you trot out one of your principal players with zero name recognition.”
        I doubt that the sort of people who come to the Christmas show would have known Clevenger or Still were. Like most of the depressing old people who post here, you find the present far inferior to the past. I’m not going to argue for the merits of (say) Will Welter; he is doing it quite well without me week after week. Even if you find our current musicians to be unworthy of their predecessors, I think a star turn by them would make a wonderful impression on our “Merry Merry Chicago” audiences.

        “> If you want an audience, stick with the basics. Stop programming all this WOKE stuff by second or third rate composers.”
        I guess any piece by a woman or person of color is by definition third rate. I actually think Jesse Montgomery is one of the best composers-in-residence we have had in my nearly 40 years here, but no doubt you disagree. OK. I just went through our whole 2022-23 schedule. In 35 weeks of concerts, a grand total of six have works by non white or female composers. So this is clearly nonsense. Like the rest of your post.
        “> Finally, your argument doesn’t even mention the impact of COVID and how it has changed audience behaviour. Older folks (the target demographic) are not coming back to the concert hall. And younger people would rather see Taylor Swift or Kim Kardashian than come to an uplifting Classical concert. The dumbing down of our society so to speak.”
        All the more reason to go after the audience at our Christmas show, who are clearly not being scared away from the hall. Thanks for making my point for me.

        • Old Man in the Midwest says:

          Do you have any idea how stupid you sound?

          > Your suggestions are stupid. Why put good money into a bad idea? A bad decision.

          > “we will pay them” Who is we? The CSO musicians will pay the CIVIC kids to hand out brochures? And if management has to pay, that will have to come out of your pot.

          > The thrust of your post needs Vaseline. Perhaps they should sponsor a concert.

          > I heard Welter play the Mozart with MOB. It was boring but technically accurate. He needs at least ten years to mature into the position. Not a star yet. But over time maybe (if there is still a 52 week CSO).

          > Ms Montgomery is perhaps the best CSO Resident Composer (and she’s a violist like you). But the program has been going on for a decade or more. You like baseball so what is that batting average? .100%? The CSO needs to step up their game if this nonsense continues.

          > More Xmas shows? If they make money. How about Valentines Day (Tchaik Romeo and Juliet etc), how about Memorial Day (John Williams stuff Lincoln).

          > And Ravinia continues to marginalize the CSO in order to make money.

          Every counterpoint you have made makes no sense.

          You and your colleagues need to practice, stay healthy, and smile when the photos are taken on tour.

          Leave the business side to the business people.

          If you want to make a small fortune in the orchestra industry, start with a large one.

          • steve says:

            Uh…Welter played mozart with CSO/Jane Glover, not with Music of the Baroque…get your facts straight.

      • John Pickford says:

        “. . . a Pinter play, a piece of Mahler, I’ll drink to that. And one for Mahler!”

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      Also do not discount the effect that crime in downtown Chicago has had a lasting effect on the economic vitality of the City.

      When there are shootings in Millenial Park, car jackings on the Mag Mile, and random acts of violence that people fear, they will not come back to the City.

      Also, young people are working remotely and no longer are dependent on coming to the downtown for employment. No one is talking about this seismic shift in urban economies.

      The way of the future may have to rely on streaming, theater HD concerts, and the orchestras going to venues outside of their normal home base.

      I doubt that the CSO will be up for that but it may have to happen to pay the bills.

      • Max Raimi says:

        Yes. But we had big crowds of people for the Christmas show. People apparently not deterred by COVID and crime, and able to still find their way downtown. And we made no effort to entice them to subscription concerts. I regard that as a missed opportunity.

        • Old Man in the Midwest says:

          You miss so many points it’s no wonder that Henry never took you seriously.

          Not much to argue here.

          “Never argue with a fool. Passerbys won’t know the difference” MARK TWAIN

      • MacroV says:

        Crime in Chicago in general is not worse than before and it’s far better than it was during the glory years you claim. Chicago gets a lot of attention on crime because it’s a big city, but in fact it’s a lot safer on a per-capita basis than most of the nearby big cities (nearly all in red states with weak gun laws, BTW).

      • steve says:

        It’s “Millennium Park” not “Millenial”…I’m guessing you don’t even live in Chicago (and yet you feel supremely qualified to comment on the city…). For those of us who actually live here in the city, the so-called “crime” you talk about hasn’t posed any significant disruption to my life or my concert-going activity.

    • Charlotte says:

      Wow. Your posture sounds very snobbish and elitist. If you really believe in the value of what you are doing, why would the hard work required to make inroads intimidate you? You seem to inherently believe that “high music” is only for the chosen people, for the lucky few.

      I do suspect that your view represents the average classical musician, and it is the reason this industry is more and more irrelevant to the broader society.

      • Max Raimi says:

        And I do suspect that you completely misread what I wrote and then shoehorned it into a cherished narrative about elitist classical musicians that has nothing to do with what I was saying.
        I would love to play our music for everyone. Indeed, I have played hundreds of chamber concerts in the Chicago Public Schools over the years, a significant percentage of them in distressed neighborhoods of color, and by and large had wonderful experiences doing it . But after forty years of trying, it is pretty clear that our efforts to get the residents of these parts of the city to attend our concerts are not working. It is a shame, because I personally believe that anybody with an open heart and an open mind will love a great performance of our repertoire. But we need to stop the bleeding in our attendance, and we are not going to do it with infusions of concertgoers from the Englewood and Austin neighborhoods of Chicago. So we have to find more likely candidates.

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      Also to make a point, please tell us:

      > which of your colleagues you think can tip the box office receipts? Curious. I hear no super star in this day and age. The young principals need to mature. Right now they hit all the notes and need to gain their tenure. But not much music making to my ear.

      > If your ideas are sound, why don’t you try forming a small chamber orchestra and creating a business instead of talking about it?

      > Muti is a relic. He needs to be dumped and sent back to Italy. No need for him here in the New World based on your comments.

      > The CSO has no reality of what the New Normal will be but it will hit at Contract Negotiation time. Make sure your credit cards are paid off.

    • John Pickford says:

      The outreach to Mississippi by the Democrats would be to build the party in the state because there is already adequate support in Hawaii and Massachusetts.

  • Peter says:

    This is what happens if you offer all of your filmed performances for free every day of the pandemic, some even twice… why would someone bother to pay 200-400 USD for a ticket (plus travel costs plus dinner/drinks) to see something in-house and with such poor casts (at least some of the filmed productions had all-star casts, which is a rarity since some time at the Met because Gelb has an obsession for only very few singers…)

  • Next says:

    Deadly museum opera doesn’t pull new crowds for a reason. Gelb’s utter lack of danger and dare have been drowning that house for years. Broadway directors are not opera directors. Get rid of him already. Another dinosaur past his prime.

  • BigSir says:

    The MET should start putting on some musicals. It’s $300 – 600 to see the Music Man and there are very few tickets available!

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      And many of the musicals are better than this WOKE stuff that’s put on stage.


    • Tiredofitall says:

      Brilliant. You do realize the difference between grand opera and musical theater, no?

      Kind of like the stripper who calls herself a ballerina because she works with her legs. (There is an alternate version of that joke.)

      • Old Man in the Midwest says:

        And what’s wrong with strippers?

        • John Pickford says:

          Nothing but the leading role in GYPSY is Rose, like Brunhilde. And unfortunately, while she wanted to, it’s too late for Merman to sing at the MET. Patti LuPone, well maybe . . .

    • Don Ciccio says:

      Yes, because of the presence of two stars: Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. But other Broadway shows are not doing as well.

      A few month ago I went to see David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” – admittedly, a play, not a musical. Despite the presence of Laurence Fishburne and Sam Rockwell (who was out of this world), there were empty seats, and not few.

    • John Pickford says:

      “Trouble, trouble, the idle brain is the devil’s playground. Remember my friends I only pass this way once.” The MET is not going to be able to run the musical every night. We’re that possible Sutherland and Pavarotti would have done LA FILLE DE REGIMENT (but they did take it on the road which was the MET Tour in ‘72!)

    • J Huizinga says:

      Half the season devoted to musicals may be a somewhat unpalatable working solution — if it works (doubtful). But an élite, intimate Taylor Swift concert for 3800 ($500 main floor, $150 family circle) may be more profitable.

  • Geoff Radnor says:

    Next month I am going to hear Hilary Hahn play. She is giving two concerts, on the 18 & 19 January. The hall seats just over 2,000. looking at the ticket chart, there are only 86 tickets left . 54 of them in the balcony. Dvorak and Beethoven are still attracting the crowds that opera has lost.

  • justsaying says:

    Hate to sound conservative here, but – having attended about 20 Met performances since the Covid closure – they just aren’t very good. Orchestra is in fine shape, though the conducting has been mostly dull. Chorus impressive too. But nearly all the soloists sound at best like what would have been an acceptable “weak link” in a Met cast 30 or 40 years ago. They’re not god-awful, but an opera can’t soar on five weak links.

    There are “progressive” thinkers who want opera to be all about the stage direction and about signalling positions on current cultural/political debates (“point of view” is the common euphemism). But it has yet to be demonstrated that any of this produces what major theaters need to survive: committed devotees who fall in love with the art form and want to attend as often as they can. That is what kept the Met thriving and important for a century. If they think some other strategy will keep it alive for another….good luck, but the signs aren’t promising.

    • NorCalMichael says:

      I agree with this assessment. I’ve attended quite a few performances at the Met since 2015 and only rarely heard truly first-rate singing. Often I’ve heard perfectly good singers, but not exciting or memorable ones, even in lead roles.

      This is only one part of the Met’s woes, I realize. But music lovers will put up with a lot of inconveniences to hear a world-class cast and the singers are in fact out there. Why, for example, it took the Met until 2022 to debut Michael Spyres, who lives in Missouri and has been a major star in Europe for a decade, baffles me.

    • John Pickford says:

      If not weak links how about sausage links?