Met slashes season, draws funds, amid disastrous sales

Met slashes season, draws funds, amid disastrous sales


norman lebrecht

December 27, 2022

The Metropolitan Opera has called in its town crier to announce a 10 percent cut in next season’s performances and an immediate $30m drawdown from its endowment.

The reason? Desperately poor tickets sales.

Verdi’s Don Carlo has just ended a run at 40 percent capacity.

Peter Gelb’s solution? More contemporary opera. ‘The only path forward is reinvention,’ says the sphinx of Lincoln Center.

Next season will open with Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, followed by Anthony Davis’s X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas and a staging of John Adams’s El Niño. The Met will also revive Fire Shut Up in My Bones and The Hours.

Meanwhile, donors are still withholding their gifts.

Read on here.

UPDATE: How bad are the Met’s finances?


  • La speranza says:

    Not funny, but every company under Peter Gelb goes belly up with his ideas and his daddy Arthur is now dead to bail him up financially again. Why to produce a new Fedora production, when the last one in 1996-97 played only 9 times (with Freni, Domingo/F.Armiliato, D.Croft/Stillwell) which usually is a bust for box office sales, despite being a great short verismo opera. Why not reviving the old one for a fraction of the price for a new one and using the money on better castings which under Michael Heaston (replacing retired Jonathann Friend are a box office problem – example so far 6 different Aida performances in which neither of the both scheduled sopranos were able to sing the notes written by Verdi including the high C in act 3? Why to put the second soprano trough 9 more performances without any success of singing the correct notes, or deputizing a cover tenor with who never sang the role before and who can hardly walk and cannot act? It is not easy to be a casting director in this economy and post Covid, but if you present every night singers who cannot vocally perform their roles as written than it is an issue which never plagued Friend’s reputation (I’ve never guessed 20-30 years ago that I would voluntarily defend Friend’s reign ), or maybe time to put a new Aida on who can sing it for the 9 remainging performances………

    • John says:

      The US is on life support. They got the war de jours, the propaganda nonsense (Thank Mundt-Smith), and now, the orchestras/arts don’t have enough customers to line the pockets of the elite? The head scratching, bottom lip biting will commence. 1. woke joke, 2. post COVID folks afraid of crowds, militant show me medicine your papers, 3. recession/inflations. 4, largely irrelevant to the US masses who are dealing with nonstop stress.

      • Mick the Knife says:

        You are ignorant about the arts in the US. No one’s pockets are getting lined, least of all the wealthy. The wealthy are subsidizing ticket prices for some orchestras so that the cost is just about the same as a movie and bucket of popcorn. For the top 15 orchestra near me, its actually cheaper!

        if you don’t go to concerts regularly, then you are the problem so save the chicken little comments about classical music.

    • John Kelly says:

      You’re dead right on all points. I heard one of the Aidas and you’re right. I am going to Fedora of course because it is a terrific opera with a good cast.

    • John Pickford says:

      “So, La speranza Che delude sempre!” The FEDORA production mentioned from ‘96/‘97 was I believe borrowed or shared between other opera houses. This production—good or bad— will be owned by the MET. Yes, the various AIDA sopranos was not obviously planned and it may have been difficult to get good covers at the last minute. Perhaps this spring’s run will be better. It is sad about DON CARLO but unfortunately the dark production is not very attractive and the public didn’t respond.

      Don’t blame Gelb for events beyond his control. Just bring Susan Graham (Cracker) back as the convict’s mother. Also the MET should dig into their archives and 1) sell more historical broadcasts on CD (let people indicate which one(s) eg. NORMA w/Sutherland, Horne, Bergonzi, Siepi, Bonynge(c) and 2) performances broadcast through PBS eg. AIDA w/Price in her farewell and DON GIOVANNI w/Morris, Sutherland, Varaday, Tourangeau. YES PETE, PEOPLE WOULD BUY THEM!!

      PS: Make certain the MET store doesn’t list sold out merchandise when having sales!! It’s frustrating!!

  • Malatesta says:

    Send them over the Doctor fellow who chairs ENO and his henchman Murphy. Will it help the Met? No but it will solve one big problem on our doorstep.

    • Jajaja says:

      Well said. Let them bully, lie, harass and drink their way to death over there.

    • John Pickford says:

      From across the pond, thanks but no thanks. The US already has Prince Harry and want to send him back to you so that all the misfits, misinformed, maligned Royal Family can be together. Hank and wife have worn out their (un)welcome.

  • IP says:

    Opera has long been on life support, and Mr. Gelb’s solution sounds like euthanasia. Good that we have CDs. . . and memories.

  • HB says:

    Honestly, it’s hardly Gelb’s fault. Metropolitan Opera is unreasonably – 3800 seats – so is difficult to fill as such, patrons are old – and many of them stopped coming after the pandemic because they’re afraid of catching something. The warhorses like “Traviata” or other “Tosca” are still selling well – and also the new creations. It is those operas that require a discerning audience that have suffered the most – like Peter Grimes and now Carmelites.
    “Don Carlo”, which needs at least four great singers, had problems with the cast – the one they managed to take was far from ideal.

    • Bill says:

      But what does it matter if the theater is half full or not? It’s not like it costs them that much more money if they fill 1900 seats in a theater that can hold 3800 as opposed to a 1900 seat theater that was completely full every night.
      The extra cost of maintaining the larger theater is not nearly the biggest expense they incur.
      A few extra ushers and cleaning crew, HVAC is from a central plant in Lincoln center anyway. They would still have the same problem even with a smaller theater, maybe worse because they would not be able to expand the audience beyond the capacity of the smaller theater. The Met has very expensive labor costs compared to European companies, healthcare insurance expenses alone must be ruinous while European companies have no such burden. And the Met has considerably less government support.
      The Met needs the bigger theater and needs it full because they rely on ticket sales in ways most opera companies their size do not.

    • John Kelly says:

      The Hours was almost completely full when I went. There are still many people uncomfortable going to large indoor events. Very unfortunate but not entirely Gelbs fault, in spite of how much so many seem to want it to be….

  • A.L. says:

    Gelb and company are still in total denial. But maybe they are starting to wake up from their delirium. They need to attack the crisis from at least a couple of angles: 1. Slice in half, at the least, the size of the auditorium; 2. Freeze the standard rep for years on end until (hopefully) important voices worth the public’s while emerge, if we are lucky. Meanwhile, sure, mount new works fit for employing the anonymous and unrecognizable singers that plague our current era.

    • John says:

      Denial, delusions, and deceptions. They have reality 2 inches from their nose, and they STILL deny reality. How the bleep to these “leaders” get these positions?! Clueless and corporate lackeys. Is it a neponomics thing, or the ability to sweet stupid wealthy people for donations?

    • John UWS says:

      But think of this– it costs them very little relative to production costs and artist fees to run a 4000 seat house than to run a 2000 seat house — the costs are from what’s on stage and in the pit– so ppl who say downsize the theater— I am not sure how that helps, not to mention shutting the place down while a costly major reconfiguration takes place. And how will finance the construction?

  • J Barcelo says:

    They should have opened up their streaming services to individuals in their own homes and not force people to go the local multi-plex theaters. In NYC they need to really cut ticket prices. Modern opera will not help as they will learn. If you look at the Met’s history they had a huge line up of internationally famous singers and conductors. Those days are long gone sorry to say.

    • MacroV says:

      Showing the operas in theatres is much better than home-streaming; it creates a sense of event. They can always stream the shows later; I assume they do.

    • Gus says:

      I would much prefer to go to a cinema to see an opera than have it streamed to my home. We went to our local Cineworld last March to see the Met’s Don Carlos, but encountered a problem. The transmission filled the screen width-wise but not height-wise so everyone looked like obese dwarfs. Despite this obvious drawback, we were captivated by the production. This was grand opera on a grand scale and this surely is what the Met should be doing and should excel at. The forthcoming new operas would be best suited to a smaller theatre, as they will not attract a Met size audience.

      We were reimbursed our ticket price.

    • Dixie says:

      Not just internationally famous singers and conductors but rather COMPETENT singers and conductors, regardless of their nationality or other parameters. There are just TOO MANY “products” of public relations “gracing” opera stages and orchestra pits throughout the world who are not capable of performing the operas for which they are supposed to perform!

    • John Pickford says:

      What?? No mo’ Netrebko!?!?

  • MMcGrath says:

    The Met should raze its cavernous Lincoln Center home, and rebuild as a 1600-seat auditorium that it can fill. During the building phase, play the NYState Theater (or whatever it’s called today) with its top tier permanently shut.

    • Melissa says:

      Make them into condos. That way the new yaawkers can short term lease them and make a killing to clueless tourists and trustfunders.

      • Old Man in the Midwest says:

        Actually you may be on the right track in a way.

        What if they created luxury boxes (similar to sports) so that the rich NYC business folk could entertain guests with food drink and conversation while the opera was going on?

        Those who wanted to hear the opera could sit in front and those who want to socialize and eat and drink could do so in an enclosed area (complete with closed circuit TV of the show) while using the opportunity to conduct business.

        These boxes would be bought by corporations to entertain important guests and visitors from other countries.

        And by NYC standards, they may be cheap when compared to boxes at Madison Square Garden or the Meadowlands.

    • John UWS says:

      Use the NYS theater? Ummm Ok.
      it costs them very little relative to production costs and artist fees to run a 4000 seat house than to run a 2000 seat house — the costs are from what’s on stage and in the pit– so ppl who say downsize the theater— I am not sure how that helps, not to mention shutting the place down while a costly major reconfiguration takes place. And how will finance the construction?

    • John Kelly says:

      Not very realistic and not necessary. The acoustics are great. The problem is talent “management” and budget “management”. Example….why haven’t we seen Asmik Grigorian or Freddie deTomasso? Just pulled those two out a hat full of excellent singers being raved about in Europe for some time. No, we prefer “local talent” some of which is great, some not so great. The Met audience insists on great as it should. This is New York for heavens sake!

  • Paul Sekhri says:

    These are tough times all round, both for for-profit companies as well as for “non-profit organizations. The Met, under Peter Gelb’s continued stewardship, will emerge from this a stronger, and more resilient organisation. Let’s keep going to the opera people!

  • mem says:

    “The Met will also revive … The Hours”

    Good luck with that after the NYT’s pan of the opera and its frank but nonetheless brutal assessment of one of the stars for whom this opera was written, Renée Fleming.

    Of course anything is better than 40% capacity Don Carlo.

    • ryan says:

      they should have made less of a musical ear sore and something more akin to a broadway musical for renee. it would have been nice to see and even hear her again on the met stage, though past her prime.

  • Mine is bigger than yours says:

    Dear frequent commenter that often writes: the Met is too big,

    You’re a moron. The whole point of the Met was to build a GRAND theater the likes the world has never seen. They did just that. Have you sat in the family circle and listened? They’re the best acoustic seats in the house. It’s truly astonishing. But who cares what an audience member may think, what about the singers. Have you ever heard any performer complain about the Met acoustics?
    I’m so sick of hearing ‘it’s too big it’s too big’. Every girlfriend I’ve had, my wife and now you. Enough.

    Look, I get it. Of course the met would sell out every night if it had 1900 seats but that’s not the point. The point it to present opera (all types from Verdi to Blanchard) in an unprecedented, mind blowing, once in a lifetime experience, ONLY IN NYC kind of way. It’s what we do here in the States.

  • Melissa says:

    What happened to all that corona disease free money from PPP program? They likely get millions? Is that gonzo too? Maybe they need a forensic audit to examine what’s going on there?

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Not certain if the Met Opera received any PPP loan money. The Met Opera Guild (a separate 501(c)3) received a loan of $337,000 in 2020.

  • Bill says:

    How is it fathomable that Gelb hasn’t been fired? The Met board must be intentionally trying to destroy the company.

  • sonicsinfonia says:

    With an opening programme like that, he’ going to be empty AND broke…

  • sabrinensis says:

    So much of that, no one wants to hear. It’s great that they’re doing Catan but the rest can be charitably described as niche. The Met needs grand projects worthy of the resources they have to lavish on quality operatic material. I bet they would have an enthusiastic audience were they to mount something like Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten. There certainly is no shortage of interesting material. It just has to be chosen with the real (and at this point, atavistic) ethos of The Metropolitan Opera in mind.

  • Me says:

    Bring in Mariah Carey, you ll sell all the tickets in 10 sec
    Not funny. In fact very very sad.
    But may be someone will think about bringing classic music to schools; this will give some children the chance to find out they like this kind of music.

    • Rhaika says:

      The 501c3 agency I work full time for, opened up a charter school in the Bronx several years ago; and I volunteered to start up a music exposure class for interested kids after school/weekends. At the time, I had open weekends and was already tutoring music theory exam prep for the British royal academy virtually. What did my agency say? Thanks we’ll get back to you. They know I’m classically trained and the kids this school is geared to serve are in the heart of the poorest borough. One would think they’d jump at the opportunity for FREE music exposure, appreciation, or even classes, with possibility of invited friends of mine who already work in the industry here and in the UK, would be grabbed with both hands. Unfortunately, my own agency doesn’t understand the value of music literacy or at least cultural growth.

  • Reality Sux says:

    There’s a major war in Europe, an impending recession in the US, and a pandemic ended nary a few months ago (or didn’t). This might be a sign that the Met is about to collapse, or a sign that it’s struggling similarly to many other industries at this point – not to mention Broadway and other US orchestras. Wait and see, and remember that psychology plays a major role, as it does in economics.

    One thing is for sure, bringing back Zefirelli productions, or lamenting that Netrebko or Levine are gone won’t solve much. There were many mediocre artists at the Met then too, Freni and Pavarotti weren’t there every night.

    This isn’t the 1980s. Today’s educated urban sophisticate listens to Radiohead or Steely Dan and not opéra, and this change is a sign of the times. There are more appealing entertainment options to consider then watching histrionics on stage with text in a language most cannot understand. Everything should be on the table – doing opéra in English and cutting many works down to 2.5 hours with one intermission, selling Marijuana gummies, more inviting lobby, as well as food and libations etc. Whatever the case, cutting the auditorium down is the stupidest idea in the world. You expect the Met to fundraise a few hundred million for renovation when it can’t sell tickets? And how will it premise its campaign, ‘we’re cutting down on the number of seats by 40 percent because this is growth and an exciting development for our non-profit’? Consider what type of message this sends. And what will the Met budget look if you have 2000 seats to fill maximum with maybe 100 dollars profit per seat being an ideal scenario? That would maybe bring maximum ticket sales per year to 50 million per year.

  • Araragi says:

    Maybe they shouldn’t have banned all the singers who put tuchuses in seats. Wokeness has a cost.

  • SDP13 says:

    Gelb has done a fabulous job in tearing down the Met. “More new operas” is NOT the solution! People who attend opera want the magic of lavish productions with real scenery and the glorious music of grand opera – mixed in with an occasional contemporary but ACCESSIBLE piece.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    No, no, no, no, no, etc. – nobody cares. Nobody wants an entire season of ‘contemporary’ operas. There are TONS of perfectly fine, tonal operas that almost NEVER get performed these days. Look in that direction instead.

  • william says:

    with that sorry list of next season’s duds, I wouldn’t even go to any of those performances even with comped tickets and my choice of seating.

  • Jeffrey C Olson says:

    Doing more new and modern opera is definitely NOT the answer! How about performances of the old warhorses, but with great
    singers? Trouble is, where are they? It’s the MET but tickets are too expensive when you are going to get second and third string singers. Most new operas are subsidized by Boheme and Traviata. People stay away by the thousands until a new work can prove itself. Few ever do. Is Gelp specifically trying to ruin the Met for some secret reason? That almost happened in San Diego. The GM decided to close the doors and run off with whatever money was left. They regrouped and started over. And have been doing strange things, like ready made Flemenco operas , works that aren’t even opera, thus alienating all those who dipped deep in their pockets to save the company. Where/who is the Met board? They need to make changes, and 1st and most urgent is to let Gelb go. Im sure he means we’ll, but is actions during his tenure prove him to be the most incompetent GM the Met has ever had. Too bad Schyler Chapin is gone. He was many things, but he was competent. Action is required NOW, if its not already too late. Doesn’t look like it will ever achieve its former glory. Now we just need to keep the place from closing. HELP!

  • Serge says:

    To “save” a opera house with modern opera is like saving a failing brasserie with synthetic meat. How desperate can you be. Welcome to the woke world.

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    Is it safe to travel to the Met on the New York Metro? Probably not. May be a factor.

  • justsaying says:

    The Met, hand in glove with the NY Times, has found a formula that works as far as it goes: new operas that are so talked-up they become “must-see.” And this used to be the norm for opera in its heyday.

    But, and it’s a big but: all those new operas that dominated seasons 100, 120, 140 years ago were *trying to become staples.* They aspired to be the next Traviata or Walküre or Carmen or Tosca. Most of ’em didn’t and weren’t — but a healthy few always did and were.

    If Gelb’s strategy produces a few works that score like THAT, history will vindicate him. But do we think they’re even trying, or even hoping, for such a result?

  • Enough BS! says:

    JUST A FEW SUGGESTIONS from a wise old man.

    1.) Bring back Anna Netrebko, enough woke bs
    2.) Bring back Vittorio Grigolo, enough woke bs
    3.) Bring back Placido Domingo, enough woke bs
    4.) Cast only the best singers available in the world, NO EXCEPTIONS! LOOK and ye shall FIND; enough with the utterly contemptuous and inexcusable second rate casting.

    We must say BASTA to tired, poorly trained local favorites and special interest singers failing in leading roles like Aida, Turandot, and Elektra pathetically missing top notes every night at the “top” house in the world, when Europe is flooded with exceptional, well trained talent to wow audiences every night. This mediocrity is a plain insult to us all! We are sick of the politics and incompetence; it has NO place in filtering away great art!

    The Met needs to clean house of these incompetent second rate green American administrators and casting directors with utterly laughable, rinky-dink credentials and bring in bona fide master musicians with the ear, courage, and experience to call the shots!

    Pardon the expression; MAKE OPERA ABOUT SINGING AGAIN!

    • MacroV says:

      Yes, let’s go back to the old days when every night Kleiber was conducting Caruso and Melba in La Boheme, and all will be fine.

    • Dixie says:

      1.)-3.) are the antithesis to 4.)!!! And I quote: Cast only the best singers available in the world, NO EXCEPTIONS! LOOK and ye shall FIND; enough with the utterly contemptuous and inexcusable second rate casting. 1.) should be Stoyanova. 2.) should be Beczala. 3.) is bs at its best! One might as well hire Tom Brady, the Placido Domingo of the NFL, who cares if he can sing/conduct/whatever or not!!! It is time for opera directors to be knowledgeable about … OPERA … without lending their ears to money-hungry agents who simply want to “sell” their clients at the best price going. In addition, LET OPERA BE CONDUCTED BY COMPETENT CONDUCTORS WHO DEMAND AND GET RESULTS FROM THE ORCHESTRAS!!! Every success and every failure, be it in opera or in concert, ORIGINALTES FROM THE CONDUCTOR!

      • John Pickford says:

        Placido Domingo is NOT the Tom Brady of the MET. Marta is no Gisele that’s for certain!

        • Dixie says:

          Oh yes he is! Neither one of them knows when “it is time to say good-by”! No, Marta is no Gisele, but I would wager that she (Marta) wished she were!

    • Potpourri says:

      Dear Enough BS, finally someone is brave enough to say the forbidden name: Anna Netrebko. She sold out every performance this year in Europe and Argentina. She condemned the war in Ukraine and was cancelled in Russia. Even Russians living in the US are careful who they talk to.

    • John Pickford says:

      Yeah, hollow, worn out BARITONE Placido Domingo. Bring him back when he starts singing basso roles?? No way!

  • David says:

    Tonight’s Rigoletto is basically sold-out.