Exclusive: The Met ends its season half-empty

Exclusive: The Met ends its season half-empty


norman lebrecht

June 06, 2023

This was the Metropolitan Opera on June 3, five minutes before the start of The Flying Dutchman (according to the person who shared the photo).

There are six more nights of empty seats before opera is given a rest for the summer.



  • Carl says:

    And that’s one of Wagner’s shorter operas – 145 minutes, according to the website.

    There are reports that NYC may be entering another Covid wave with high levels shown in wastewater samples recently. That could depress turnout even further. I know I will think twice about entering a packed auditorium right now.

    • Prof says:

      You don’t have to worry about a packed auditorium at the MET right now.

      • Batlló says:

        Total collapse — and for once NL’s headline understates it.

        Fire the Board. Oh wait, the Board *is* the Met.

      • Tamino says:

        You can’t dumb down a whole nation for decades by deinvesting their public primary education, and then expect to have educated and culturally interested audiences in quantity.
        Read Neil Postman: The End of Education

        • Tom Phillips says:

          Exactly conservatism of the Reagan/Thatcher type (not to mention the explicit fascism of today’s Trumpian right) is by definition at war with great culture and the education of the citizenry.

          • Barry Poupard says:

            Are you really blaming Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump for an almost empty house at the Met in 2023? Why notthe tooth fairyand Donald Duck?

          • John Massaro says:

            That’s the dumbest comment I’ve seen so far.

          • Troy D says:

            You have no clue. And it’s just German Opera – in June!

        • John Massaro says:


        • Sara K. says:

          Why america Failed by Morris Berman may assist with a detailed history of the severe decline.

    • Giustizia says:

      Yeah, you might get the sniffles.

    • James Mertins says:

      You do know that the WHO have stated that the pandemic is over.

      • Carl says:

        Ah, the Covid denialists resurface once again. Don’t come complaining here when you’re on your back, struggling with Long Covid symptoms. #MaskUp

    • Mylioe says:

      I think it’s a bathroom problem. Why are they doing it in one continuous act? it was written in three. It’s hard to go 145 minutes (for some of us) without a pee break. That’s the reason I won’t go see it.

  • ayin says:

    The box office has spoken loud and clear, new diversity operas consistently pack the house, the Austro-Germanic core no longer does.

    I’d be interested in knowing sales figures for Stutzmann’s Zauberflote and Don Giovanni. If they fared only fairly, it’s time to retire Mozart and Wagner.

    New York is not Salzburg, you can’t put up that stuff year after year and expect New Yorkers to show up.

    By the way, on a related note, Jaap van Zweden was supposed to make his Met debut with this run of Der Fiegende Hollander, what happened to the Dutchman? how come he flew away? I think he would’ve made a more compelling Wagner and probably better ticket sales than the young Guggeis, who the NYT review said was “confident”, hardly the highest praise.

    • Anon says:

      I attended both Mozarts on weeknights and it was really full. I don’t know that all of them were packed, but the two I attended definitely were.

      • Aaron says:

        My experience is the same as yours. I think it is more a Wagner issue than a Met issue!

        • JWG says:

          Composers go in and out of fashion. With all this woke stuff it doesn’t surprise me that Wagner’s out.

        • Tom Phillips says:

          Each of the three Lohengrin’s I attended this season were quite full (as were the Parsifal’s, Tristan’s and Ring cycles of previous seasons).

    • KD says:

      Why nor retire Shakespeare, as well? Who can understand half the words during a spoken performance?

    • phf655 says:

      For generations, the Met performed that ‘stuff’ at a high level and the house was sold out. No, this isn’t Salzburg. The Dutchman production, premiered just before the lockdown, is terrible, and the director was rewarded with the assignment of Lohengrin this season, which was probably even worse. Perhaps the problem lies with poor productions, and a lack of star singers, the latter not being entirely the fault of the Met. The musical establishment just doesn’t seem to be turning out the likes of Price, Nilsson, Pavarotti, the young Domingo and the like. And how many people will return to see one of these ‘diversity operas’ more than once, or develop support and loyalty to the institution as a result of seeing one?

      • Save the MET says:

        Correct, stagings with projections is not the shock and awe the MET patrons expect for their money and diversity operas are for a limited non opera loving audience who go to the primi and then the next 2 performances and then it dies never to return. Meanwhile as an example, Gelb turned down the iconic composer John Corigliano’s “Lord of Cries” which involves the Stoker “Dracula” story and said the MET audience wouldn’t be interested in vampires. Hollywood keeps churning out vampire tales, so there is a vampire audience much wider than diversity opera audience. Time for a change at the top.

        • ayin says:

          Zombies, Hollywood keeps churning out zombie tales, so the zombie audience is much wider than vampire audience.

          The Met needs to put on more zombie operas.

          Oh wait, a zombie in an opera, that’d be the Commendatore in Don Giovanni.

          Mozart again ahead of his times.

        • Giustizia says:

          The reviews from Santa Fe for Corigliano’s vampire opus were not favorable or encouraging so Gelb might have been right about that one.

      • Rivka Rachum says:

        I agree 100%. I walked out of a performance of Boris Godunov pre-pandemic, one of my favorite operas. It was terrible. Retiring Mozart et.al., is not the answer. Modernizing every opera into the 20th century, modern minimalist sets, and conductors who insult the orchestra are also keeping people away. They have lowered ticket prices to levels they SHOULD be all the time, but that’s not bringing people in, either. Why go when I can watch On-Demand performances of quality on my smartphone, for practically nothing, at home? True, I miss the thrill of being in the house, getting dressed up (somewhat), watching the chandeliers go up– admittedly there is nothing like live theater– but to pay huge prices for garbage is not my idea of a good time! (Has anyone noticed that there are almost no Live From Lincoln Center programs in PBS anymore??)

        • Debi Unger says:

          So sad. I remember waiting on a long line at Carnegie Hall to hear Artur Rubinstein. Buying tickets for Mozart operas required a lot of planning. Times have changed, alas, and the wonderful audiences of the past have aged out as I’m afraid I have to some extent, as well.

        • Mary Anna Replogle says:

          I was lucky enough to hear Dolora Zajick’s last Amneris 2020 post pandemic. It was packed.

        • Elisabeth says:

          Well said!

        • Dennis Speed says:

          Thank you for stating the obvious. An organization called the. Foundation for the Revival of Classical Culture, with which I worked pre-pandemic, successfully brought audiences of thousands of children to Carnegie Hall, who had never before been there, and in many cases has never heard Mozart or Beethoven. Not only did they thoroughly enjoy it; they often asked why they had never heard any of this music before. They felt in no way oppressed by it, and were often excited at the very idea of being in the presence of a full orchestra, watching people sing without a microphone and yet vocally fill a massive hall, and seeing great instrumentalists play with that kind of intensity and enthusiasm that you can only see in person. But you have to have a social commitment to excellence, and deep education in particular, and that’s what we have to restore.

      • NotToneDeaf says:

        There are plenty of wonderful singers out there. But if the general media isn’t interested in them, how do you propose they become “stars”? When was the last time you saw an opera singer on a chat show, or in a movie, or featured in an ad campaign? Those were all ways in days gone by that opera singers achieved star status. This is not the Met’s fault or the fault of “the system.” Interest in the art form is consistently decreasing and it will eventually become as extinct as vaudeville and silent movies. I’m an opera lover so I take no pleasure in saying this – but the constant finger pointing is tiresome and absurd. Peter Gelb isn’t single-handedly killing opera. Grow up.

        • Baroness Millhaven says:

          This is a really interesting discussion point. Thirty years ago if you asked someone in the street to name two current opera stars they probably could. Opera is sadly seen as elitist by many broadcasters and the continuing erosion of arts broadcasting – and I’m thinking particularly of the UK at present – is contributing to that perception. Therefore, the general public, as opposed to those interested in the arts, are not getting any access which might prove an introduction to a lifelong love.

          • Madeleine Richardson says:

            Broadcasters used to screen classic plays as well from the likes of Ibsen and Webster. I can remember a series of Shakespeare’s most famous plays being broadcast by the BBC. Ballet seems to have disappeared as well.

      • Giustizia says:

        It will be interesting to see how those operas fare when they’re revived and the novelty wears off.
        The Dutchman might have done better with Lise Davidsen.

      • QB says:

        The Dutchman staging is bad but it was his first. But Lohengrin and Parsifal were very well recieved. They were absolutely fantastic. I have no idea where you got the idea that the audience hated them.

      • Bill says:

        Exactly, and the “diversity operas” aren’t really operas, let’s be honest. They are plays…

        Also, the fragile egos of young American singers cannot take the type of constructive criticism that is necessary in order to reach the upper echelon as many European and Russian singers continue to do. I hate the term “woke-ism” but it is truly ruining the craft. Not everyone can be a star and you need both the talent and look to get there. I don’t want to see Salome played by a fat slob…

    • Tiredofitall says:

      He may have done well with the score, but in New York City Jaap van Zweden never caught fire with audiences. The bad word of mouth for the Dutchman production doomed this run.

    • Paul says:

      I attended last Friday’s performance of Don Giovanni. The house was packed with a very enthusiastic public.

    • Giustizia says:

      Perhaps Norman can look into this but I have heard that the attendance figures for the new ‘woke’ operas are being rather exaggerated with comped or fire sale prices on many tickets.

    • Sarah says:

      I went to Don Giovanni on June 2nd and thinking I’d be able to get a employee discount ticket. Nope. It was really full and I had to buy a full price ticket. It was as packed as I’ve seen the Met in a while.

    • Nancy says:

      Your comment suggests how little you know about opera and life in general. And by the way, Diversity is when you pick the best possible person for the job irrespective of their color, race or creed. Diversity is NOT picking someone BECAUSE they are a certain race, color or orientation. That is actually discrimination.

      I also suggest you stick to Broadway.

    • CB says:


    • Beth Russell says:

      “It’s time to retire Mozart and Wagner.” Arrogant much?

    • Giuseppe says:

      F*ck off “Woker” You are completely clueless. Maybe virtue signalers like yourself would rather see garbage written by sub-mediocrities up on the stage, but you don’t speak for the majority. (Not even based on BOX OFFICE) BTW: The agenda pushing YANNICK needs to be dumped ASAP.
      Interesting that composers like Mahler have packed house, is all over the country this year, while “diversity composers” have not even come close.

      • Lisa Guc says:

        Typical, vulgar, low-class troll. What does “woke” even mean in your tiny little brain? So sophomoric.

      • Lisa Miller says:

        Gee, so classy with your Neanderthal language. Lol

      • Paula Edwards says:

        Mahler was a “diversity composer” whose music was banned by the Nazis as degenerate because Mahler was a Jew. His music was rescued from neglect by Stokowski, Bernstein, Copeland, and others. There was a time when he “didn’t come close” to filling venues, but the quality of his music overcame prejudice. So will the music of other “diversity composers” transcend detractors.

    • Alla says:

      Really? To retire Mozart? And May be Verdi? Than you can close the Met…

    • Anti-woke says:

      You are a delusional fool. “Champion” was such a disaster at the box office, they were virtually giving away the tickets. If anything is hurting the Met, it’s the horrible casting and its preachy, virtue-signaling, race-bating, leftist-pandering, “woke” programming.

  • Sammy says:

    It wasn’t this empty during the show. And there was a very enthusiastic standing ovation.
    Like other masterpieces this season(Falstaff, Peter Grimes) there was a lower turnout than Champion and the other well advertised shows.
    The fact that the season is going one extra month than in the past is not necessarily helping in ticket sales. And it’s an unpleasant punishment to ABT.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      “well advertised shows”–unprecedented–is the key. The cost of the television advertising must have been staggering, and I wonder, to what return. Plus, there was a lot of obvious papering going on for Champion et al.

      Summer dance at Lincoln Center, centered around ABT and, in the past, by visiting international companies, was a treasured tradition in the city. It is a shame that we are now robbed by more than a month of our country’s premiere ballet company.

      • Harlan says:

        Um, no.
        The premier ballet company is NYCB.

      • Giustizia says:

        One of the first things Gelb did when he took over the Met was dismiss and destroy the once vaunted ballet component of the company. So dance is not part of his agenda, once considered vital to the Met as a premiere opera company.

        • Tom Phillips says:

          Actually that happened in May 2013 – just under 7 years into his tenure, certainly NOT “one of the first things” Gelb did.

    • Otto Schmorgle says:

      I know tastes differ but Peter Grimes is the worst opera I have ever seen. Even top notch singing and acting couldn’t save the production from the tuneless ,never resolving music. TORTURE.

  • Joel Stein says:

    I attended the Magic Flute in the afternoon and was going to the NY Phil at night to hear the Julia Wolff premiere. While at the Met, I asked if I could buy one of the many empty Orchestra tickets on the end of a row and sneak in-at around 945 for the last 70 minutes-I was told I’d have to buy a Parterre ticket for either $362 or $462. Seemed crazy to me….

  • Alex Fletcher says:

    There was no Dutchman performance last night. When is this photo from? I was at Saturday’s performance and the orchestra was very full.

  • mark(London) says:

    hilarious..over priced 21st interpretations no one wants to see .

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    Good grief it looks like a morgue up there. Far worse than I expected. How will the Met finance the next season? All the opera and concert venues I have attended in the past two years in Europe have been packed out.
    Sonya Yoncheva must be having a laugh. I certainly would in her place. As for Nathalie Stutzmann, one can only guess.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    I bet a run of “Hamilton” would pack the house; how ’bout “Cats”? Just because audiences don’t want YOUR music doesn’t mean they don’t want music. Maybe it’s you.

  • A.L. says:

    Let’s just say ‘Phantom of the Opera’ it ain’t.

  • Jeanne Bosse says:

    This is incorrect. “Don Giovanni” was the opera performed on Friday, June 2nd and the house was very close to capacity.

  • Clem says:

    I’m going to Nozze in Opera Flanders tonight – only a few seats left. Rusalka in Amsterdam on Thursday: a few seats left. Zauberflöte in Cologne on Thursday: sold out. Nos in Brussels starting 20 June: nearly sold out. Roméo et Juliette starting 17 June in Paris: nearly sold out. And that’s just my backyard. Conclusion: heavily subsidized opera works.

    • David D. says:

      Let me join you! Sounds like a thrill 🙂

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      How many of those venues have 3,800 seats?

    • Madeleine Richardson says:

      Don’t forget the stunning Bastarda two-nighter.

    • Giustizia says:

      Those theaters are vastly smaller seating capacity than the Met’s 3850 seats. Your sold out in Cologne is 1300 seats. Or about 34% of the Met. Of course, Cologne and environs has fewer population than New York. The point is there are simply no real comparables.

      • Madeleine Richardson says:

        It also depends on the number of performances. And Europeans are not afraid to travel to other countries to hear something special particularly during festival time. I remember having to book a year in advance at the Vienna State for a June performance of Otello.

    • mark(London) says:

      European governments throwing money at arts and then wealthy punters who go .

  • Thornhill says:

    Fact check: False.

    Norman says: “There are six more nights of empty seats before opera is given a rest for the summer.”

    Looking at the available seats for the upcoming performances:

    Die Zauberflöte June 6: Nearly sold out.
    Der Fliegende Holländer June 7: Looks about 65 to 70 percent sold.
    Die Zauberflöte June 8: About 70 percent sold.
    La Bohème June 9: Nearly sold out..
    Der Fliegende Holländer June 10: 80 percent sold.
    Die Zauberflöte June 10: 85 percent sold.

    I await your correction.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      When we checked this morning the number of tickets available for each show was in the high hundreds.

      • ayin says:

        You see, your readership heeded your call to arms and rushed out to buy up the tickets, you’d make an excellent head of sales for the Met

      • Thornhill says:

        Fact check: The Met opera house seats 3,850. Even if there were 800 unsold seats, 80 percent of the house still would have been sold.

        But let’s drill down on this further:

        Morning in the UK is nighttime in New York City; so you’re saying that at 3am there was a massive surge in sales for tonight’s performance of Die Zauberflöte?

        Oh come on, Norman. Just admit you made a mistake. Either correct this article or take it down. It’s demonstrably false — the Met is ending the season with packed houses and what look to be several sellout nights.

        And obviously whoever sent you that photo wasn’t truthful about when it was taken. If the the house was really that empty so close to curtain call, there would have been plenty of chatter in the local media. You were duped.

      • Singeril says:

        In a nearly 4,000 seat house.

      • Kyle says:

        Who is this “we” instead of “I”? As someone pointed out, impossible that hundreds of tickets were bought at 3am NY time. Better to admit the mistake than insult readers like that.

        As an aside: I love how the comments are filled with cries about “diversity operas vs. Wagner/Mozart” based on what’s clearly an inaccurate article. Goes to show the confirmation bias.

    • John says:

      Lol…I did the same thing checking the met website and see the sold seats. Lots more will fill in. Still waiting for someone to spill the tea on why NL has it out for the Met.

  • Just sayin says:

    Why the dislike of the Met so much? Why does it inspire such negative coverage on here?

    By the way, is the above statement by NL a retraction? If a show at the Met still has 800 seats available, that means nearly 80 percent of the seats are sold. Right?

    Awaiting following headline – Exclusive: most Met shows selling quite well.

    Cherry picking is not just a river in England.

  • Sam McElroy says:

    Saw Lohengrin this season. Packed house, a demographic pick n’ mix from Gen Z gender benders with fluorescent hair and piercing in places I didn’t know you could put holes, to wannabe counts in Edwardian cloaks. Fabulous for people-watching during the long intermissions. Oh, and world class singing. Best Lohengrin – Piotr Beczala – I ever heard. But, like this post, only an anecdote, and anecdotes do not tell the broader story. What matters is the spreadsheet at the end of the season. Maybe that should be the focus of a SD report.

    • Montblanc says:

      The Met does indeed offer some of the best people-watching in the city!

    • Mike Phillips says:

      None of these many criticisms applies to the Australian Opera, which always puts on a great show to full houses ( admittedly in much smaller venues than the Met). Come to Sydney or Melbourne and enjoy Opera at its finest.

  • Araragi says:

    I am skeptical this was in fact 5 minutes before curtain or this was the full turn out. When shows are poorly sold, the Met typically distributes comp tickets to employees to fill up the auditorium.

  • Mister New York says:

    Mozart, Verdi, Wagner. packed the house when the Met truly had star singers like Corelli, Price, Sutherland, Caballe, Nilsson etc. Today we have adequate singers but not many I’d call magnificent. Also the new productions at the Met have been horrible and vulgar for the most part,
    and insults to composers intentions. I know you can’t live in the past glories, but the opera at the Met has become stale.The so called new operas are one time only experiences. Once you’ve seen it once, why go back. Not true with the classics when you have great voices.

    • Madeleine Richardson says:

      That’s very true. You don’t get the big names that can really pull in audiences. At one time you needed to book at least a year in advance for the top singers.

  • Dave says:

    The Met is 3800 seats, so empty seats in the “high hundreds” is still a 75% house. I’d also point out, that even on a 50% night the Met has more people in it that most of the European houses which are much smaller.

    Go to Instagram, do a location search for Metropolitan Opera, look at the photos from the last Flying Dutchman. It’s obvious the photo on this website was NOT taken from 5 minutes before the show, unless there was a stampede at the moment the curtain went up. At least two photos show a basically filled front orchestra.

    • AndyHat says:

      The weather this weekend in NYC was glorious, so I would expect there was indeed a last minute stampede in from the plaza and Grand Tier’s outdoor balcony.

  • Richard says:

    No one wants to see Wagner. That’s how it’s going to be now.

    • Tamino says:

      Tickets to Bayreuth are completely sold out this summer. As every summer. Oversold (waiting lists) several times.

      • Antwerp Smerle says:

        I just checked the Bayreuth website. Currently there is good availability for the Ring (which is not surprising given that production’s lack of merit) and some availability for Tcherniakov’s gripping Holländer.

        The other operas are currently sold out but returns pop up quite often, so it’s worth checking regularly if you want to see the new AR Parsifal or the superb Kratzer Tannhäuser.

    • Madeleine Richardson says:

      It depends on the production. I would bet my theatre season ticket that La Monnaie’s two Wagner offerings next season will fly out the door. Especially as one will be staged by award-winning Romeo Castellucci.

  • Leigh says:

    Did I accidentally tune in to Fox News? No? Perhaps the writer used some new form of math to derive the statistics for this article.

  • Karden says:

    Just sayin: “By the way, is the above statement by NL a retraction? If a show at the Met still has 800 seats available, that means nearly 80 percent of the seats are sold. Right?

    Cherry picking is not just a river in England.”


    LOL. Hey, I’ve heard of another waterway, the one called Denial.

    Moreover, isn’t the auditorium of the Met larger than almost any other one in the world?

    • Thornhill says:

      The Vienna State Opera is 1,709 seated, 567 standing.
      La Scala holds 2,030.
      Opéra Bastille seats 2,700.

      The Met is 70 percent full at 2,700.

      Even when the Met is at 60 percent of its capacity, that’s still 85 percent the of the seats at the Opéra Bastille and 115 percent of La Scala.

      As local press have written many, many times, the Met auditorium is an albatross for the company.

      • Antwerp Smerle says:

        “ the Met auditorium is an albatross for the company”

        The same could be said about the London Coliseum: it’s too big for ENO.

        It’s also true that both companies have suffered from poor management in recent years.

        New York opera goers should at least be thankful that (as I am reliably informed) they will now not have to endure Richard Jones’s desultory Ring, which was originally billed as an ENO-Met coproduction.

        UK fans may also have to wait quite a while for the second half of that cycle, but they do have the exciting prospect of a new Kosky Ring at Covent Garden. They can also enjoy complete cycles in 2024 at Longborough (peerlessly conducted by Anthony Negus) and in Caroline Staunton’s superb production for Regents Opera in the magnificent Freemason’s Hall in London. Tickets for the latter are currently on sale for GBP 45 for all four evenings. Yes, that’s GBP 11.25 (USD 13.50) for each opera: so günstig wie Chips….

      • Linda Breuning says:

        One thing no one takes into consideration is the size of the New York area audience. The population is so far greater than any city in Europe and the house is still showing empty seats. Why was opera so satisfying for nearly 200 years and now it is not ? Now thay want to change into no costumes and two pieces of scenery. I dont get it.

  • Critic says:

    I seriously wonder whether the so-called “diversity operas” will last when they reappear in subsequent seasons. I could of course be wrong, but I suspect there’s a lot of one-time buzz without lasting musical appeal.

    The main problem with the Met is the lack of great singers. Not generally the Met’s fault — the situation is what it is, although next season has a striking absence of so many important singers. I don’t know why they aren’t appearing.

    The Met can save money on productions. Most of what it puts on aren’t worth seeing. The staging has nothing to do with the text or the music. For example, the Don Carlo garden season without a blade of grass or any other greenery anywhere in sight, despite what the libretto says. The Met needs to get back to musical values, rather than letting directors make up whatever they feel like iinventing.

    • Lisa says:

      The lack of top singers is caused by the Met. For example Netrebko and Grigolo were fired by Gelb. Need I mention Domingo. Stupid politics and cancel culture. These people filled seats. In my 25 years going to the Met next season is the worst.

      • Tom Phillips says:

        Domingo hasn’t been in his prime for close to 20 years, Grigolo was never anything special (massively overhyped) and Netrebko now has a horrific wobble in her voice. Try again.

    • Giustizia says:

      The Met had a gorgeous Fedora, there was simply no reason to do a new staging, especially for a non standard rep opera, unless the old one had been broken up or rotted away. Nor was there any reason to retire an excellent Aida or do a new Carmen. As for what Andrew Porter called “malinscenation” it’s gotten far worse than he could ever have imagined. Nothing is ever produced in period. I’m sick of suits and ties and white slips.

  • John Pickford says:

    It’s NOT half empty; IT’S HALF FILLED. Perspective people, perspective.

  • Tony says:

    Why is anyone surprised? The singing has deteriorated over the last 50 years since I first started going to the Met. In short, the singing is awful, especially by the current so called superstars! No one remembers what good singing is, including the critics who heap undo praise on bad singing.

    Also, the productions are awful. The Met needs to stop finding ways to get creative with traditional productions. Nobody wants to see an Aida, taking place at the moon! If the singing improved, and everyone went back to basics, the house would be filled again!

    • Giustizia says:

      Top price for the best orchestra seat in the house (stalls in Britain) ca. 1968 was $12. Taking inflation into account, those seats should be not more than $100. And as you say the singing was on a far higher level, some Rossini and Handel aside.

      • Nick2 says:

        Not America I know but I saw the Ring at Covent Garden in 1965 for £12 for stalls seats, and that was for all four operas. It did not have Nilsson or Hotter as in the second cycle (but Amy Shuard and David Ward were excellent). On the other hand it had Neidlinger, Windgassen, Frick, Jones, Stewart and a host of other British singers who went on to become principals. Superb!

    • Gary Sudder says:

      Many USians need to find relevance, hence, their pathologic need to reinvent classics on the moon, in a septic tank, a black person portraying hitler, etc.

  • Rob says:

    I realize it’s probably not germaine to your point, and I’d be the last to say attendance at the Met is anywhere near consistently great, but I too have a picture of the orchestra section that night, taken at 8:30, and though not full, it is not nearly as barren as this shot suggests. Your source should check their watch.( I’d upload the picture, if you’d permit it.)

    Regardless, it is a shame more people were not present to to hear a wonderful night of opera.

  • MSF says:

    I’ve been at several late season performances and was alarmed at the size of the houses…and concerned for the future of the orchestra…one of the greatest in the world, perhaps the greatest…and which will be unaffordable if current conditions persist.

  • Alex says:

    It seems to me that the main problem at the Met is lack of coherent focus on musical values. Choice of vocalists often finds vocally miscast (mostly talented) singers or poorly balanced vocal casts. There was some improvement this season, but so much more can be done. Then there is often a poor choice of the conductor. Stutzmann is a prime example, perhaps politically correct, but musically her Mozart was dull, lacking dramatic tension, lacking synergy with the characters and lacking insight into the period music, despite the privilege of conducting two of the greatest operas. She also apparently failed to establish a strong relationship with the orchestra. When the vocal casting is mismatched and conducting is compromised it is very hard to put together a musically exceptional performance. Artistic casting at the Met needs a lot of improvement!!! The productions themselves are often weak, distracting, not faithful to the libretto, and physically distracting to the vocalists. Take Zauberflote’s constantly moving suspended platform. Perhaps the stage director should spend an hour non stop running around a slanted moving platform trying to sing into a huge auditorium?
    Opera’s primary artistic expression lies in its music, vocalists, and the libretto. That is why we enjoy listening to recordings. Met should focus its effort on realizing the musical values first and foremost, the staging enhances and comments on the musical aspect. Not the other way around.

  • Ari Bocian says:

    The Met should strongly consider doing Flying Dutchman in its 3-act version from now on; I would imagine many potential audience members (young and old alike) were/are alienated by the fact that they would have to sit through 2.5 hours of Wagner without getting a single intermission to stretch, get drinks or refreshments, use the restroom, or step outside for some fresh air. Their holiday presentation of Magic Flute, being performed next season, poses the exact same problem: sitting through 90 straight minutes of Mozart with no break is tough for people of any age (especially kids).

  • Andrew says:

    I don’t know if my perspective is correct, but it looks to me like an absolutely empty pit. I have never attended an opera where the pit was not filled with orchestra members five minutes before curtain time. I am quite dubious of this claim.

  • David says:

    House has been basically full for all other end of season productions, Don Giovanni, boheme, and die Zauberflote. Both Giovannis I saw were 98% sold out.

    Easy enough to see how final week performances are selling by going to the Met site.

  • Lesley Heller says:

    Not true! All our Magic Flutes have been at or near capacity! Bohemes have sold well, too. Wagnerites have died and have not been replaced. So, Wagner needs a rest and efforts should be made to cultivate younger ones in the future. Please be accurate!

    • Tom Phillips says:

      All other Wagner at the Met over the past decade or more has sold extremely well. Enough of this disinformation – there has been too little of his works performed at the Met (17 YEARS between Lohengrins!), NOT “too much” and indeed needs the very opposite of “a rest”.

  • CheckTheFacts says:

    This is a flat out lie. The house has been quiet full every single night the last few weeks (saw it with my own eyes) and tonight’s Flute is very full. Maybe you should check your sources before publishing smear campaigns.

  • ZkBk says:

    I was at this performance and it was packed. This photo is a lie.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      It is not. It was taken by a staff member.

      • trumpetherald says:

        A few minutes before the performance,and no one in the pit???????Come on!!! One can see the doublebass players from the audience(they are usually among the first to enter the pit for tuning and some practising…

      • Stuart says:

        Based on comments by people who attended the performance, and based on a review of the box office figures, it would appear that you were misled. Perhaps the staff member had an agenda (?) The photo may be accurate but not the stated timing of when it was taken.

      • Nelson says:

        You’ve been played, Norman. Might as well admit it and get over this s%$t. New Yorkers have enough to worry about with the air quality there right now without you blowing smoke at them..

  • Sabrinensis says:

    Do some Schreker. It’s phenomenal music and anything set on an orgy island, a forest that seduces a woman into sexual awakening, or a blazing inferno as a Freudian metaphor for a beset psyche will sell.

  • Deborah A Tucker says:

    Oh my!

  • Jay Sacca says:

    The recent phenomenon of the well selling new works is not something to be trusted. Each production that did well – deservedly it seems, for the most part – did well because of a particular set of characteristics. If those types of things can continue true for new shows, many will also do well. BUT – most new music performed today is not well received, and the vast majority of it never receives a second performance, or in any case not a third. I have given up season tickets to the Symphony in my hometown, which I will not identify, because of the inclusion of new works on every single concert, most of which are just plain bad. I’m a fairly sophisticated musician in my own right, I feel qualified to make at least somewhat of a judgment, I won’t say it stands as the only possible opinion. But to the average Symphony patron, they can’t possibly come across as anything but noise, though as we say: fast is good, loud is better, fast and loud is best. Occasionally something is worth listening to and maybe even listening to a second time. The fact that the orchestra records all of these works, or a great many of them, is truly astonishing to me, because I cannot imagine any living human being purchasing that recording other than the composer. I can guarantee you the musicians aren’t purchasing them. Opera is a little different, it’s much harder to get an opera produced than it is to get an orchestra to play a 20 minute composition (not that that is easy), and therefore the quality of new works will be higher because they are more thoroughly vetted, and also subject to various workshops and trials. But despite what Mr Gelb seems to think, a diet of new works is never going to build a sustaining audience for a place like the Met. These people will come on occasion, they won’t come to six or eight operas a year, year after year. I support new music, there must of course be new music. But to suggest that works of great art that have survived for centuries need to give way so we can have more new music, is foolish. But also typical of modern society. I attended only two performances at the Met this year, Don Carlo and Peter Grimes. The Grimes was quite good, certainly up to a standard that one would expect for the Met. The Verdi was a bit more mixed. A cover was singing the title role the night I was there, and he started rather poorly. He did improve as the evening went on, and the women sang well, and the baritone very well indeed. But the production is just ugly. I mean pure and simply ugly. And tells us nothing about the action or the characters that it surrounds. I did feel strongly that it could have been helped quite a bit by a better lighting design. But overall one wonders how much the thing actually cost and to what extent that was the driving factor. Certainly not the kind of glorious thing one hopes to experience at the Met for a work of this stature. And I don’t mean things can’t be modernized or changed up in other ways, they can be, but we still want a feast for our eyes in such a case. And aimlessly scattering the singers around rather pointless arrangements of irregular platforms smacks of rank amateurism. But my main point in all of that is to say, in neither case was the house even half full. I was in Grand Tier, my favorite spot unless I want splurge on Parterre, and occupancy there both nights was oddly very similar, 20% at best and honestly I suspect closer to 10%. Orchestra was probably 40 to 50% occupied, and I couldn’t really tell what was going on in the balconies. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I don’t think an onslaught of new works is it. But I will say this: the difference between good and great is found in the basics. Do the basics well, consistently.

  • Anthony says:

    This is because of prices skyrocketing and the explosion of violence in the area for the last 6 months. Influent people would rather avoid trouble in an online age nowadays.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      There is no explosion of violence in the area. I’ve live here for 45 years. Trust me. Don’t believe everything you read.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      No violence at all in that area, let alone an “explosion over the last 6 months”. Even with housing projects across the street. Your claim is totally absurd!

  • Karden says:

    There’s some debate whether this post on SD is accurate or not. Some say ticket sales at the Met are actually much better than suggested. Or better than indicated by things like the post’s accompanying photo. Since that image is a bit too extreme, I’m wondering if the person who sent it may not have been giving the full story. (Perhaps “5 minutes before the start…” meant a few minutes before the start of letting more ticket holders into the auditorium?)

    As for Geffen Concert Hall across the plaza, I notice today’s NY Times has a story that covers its acoustics with a bit more detail.


    “And the sound, for all its improvements on the old acoustics, leans coolly antiseptic.”

    (Sound recorded in Geffen Hall and broadcast on PBS’s Great Performances suggested what the Times’ writer is describing.)

  • Jorge VG says:

    I attended on that day, and seats filled more than what the picture shows. I was on Grand Tier, there were some empty seats but orchestra was pretty full. The picture must have been taken earlier than 8:25. It was a magnificent performance and audience was enthusiastic.

  • Bozidar Sicel says:

    Why don’t they call Gergiev and Netrebko back!?
    And, by the way, Marinski and Bolshoi are full all the time.
    Georgiev conducted 3 performances of Verdi’s Nabucco in one single day

  • Nelson says:

    Although, I’m not surprised, based on past trends here, I’m still amazed that anyone would make a comment about the Met’s fortunes, one way or the other, based on this kind of shoddy, inaccurate and biased reporting. Those who are doing so are just unbelievably gullible! And that some of you were doing it after others report that it was not only a different opera, but the house was not empty, is typical of those of you with an agenda in search of confirmation regardless of reality. Enjoy your life “in the bubble”.

  • Christine says:

    I thought die Zauberflote was magical, loved every minute of it. Everyone in it was superb, orchestra ‘n all, nothing wrong with the conductor. It was a spectacular performance so thankyou the Met, LOVE your productions xx

  • Rise Press says:

    Dump that failure of a General Manager! He was the biggest mistake in Met history!
    The empty seats tell it all!!’ I was going he biggest fan of the Met, often going five nights a week! I saw and heard all the greats for decades!!! Gelb fires all the greats!!!
    When the Board renewed Gelb’s contract I was in shock!
    If he is nor immediately removed the Met will be finished!

  • Peter says:

    I attended the opening night of the Dutchman and it was pretty well sold. And the Lohengrins were all virtually sold out. this Dutchman is a lousy production and it probably won’t be around too long. But Gelb worships Girard who directed it – and the Parental and the Lohengrin – I just hope he doesn’t get the new Tannheuser.

  • Franco Corelli says:

    You’ve got a conductor who splits his time between three organizations. To quote Broadway Danny Rose you can’t ride two horses with one behind

  • Sulio Pulev says:

    After all #metoo, cancel culture, “diversity” and current neocon bla bla it’s clear that interest to this opera will substantially decrease. It’s a good for opera to go in bankruptcy and to be closed forever. It will be force signal to others that mix current politic with the art.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      Your comment probably sounded better in the original Russian.

    • Gary Sudder says:

      Spot on. The us empire and its populace created this situation of extreme elitism, hyper-consumption, and focusing on tushies/celeb gossip/extremism of genitalia as being what was impt to them. Let it close. Sure, may trustees/execs cleaned up monetarily. It’s the american way

  • Jo-Ann Sutherford says:

    Same problem in Europe. Producers and stage directors have simply lost FAITH in opera.

  • Player says:

    Um, given no interval, everyone was still ‘in line’ for the ‘bathroom’?

  • Sheela Griffin-Colson says:

    Much like all other cultural venues, the opera has become horribly expensive. A couple, not residents of Manhattan can easily spends thousands for tickets, dinner and transportation. For those with children, who’d like to introduce them to opera, Broadway, art,concerts, etc., need financial loans to do so. Culture, music and art should be experienced by the masses. Historically it translates the human condition to all and fosters understanding. Can’t happen, if you cannot afford to go.

    • George says:

      Absolutely, I thought I would see more comments like this! It’s just ridiculous how expensive it is to see and hear classical concerts, opera.

    • Madeleine Richardson says:

      Opera has always been expensive if you factor in travel to see the famous singer, the hotel and expenses, the sky-high ticket prices (you should have seen them in Domingo’s heyday). As I said Europeans travel to see a singer they like. Always have done.

  • trumpetherald says:

    A production by the director of the Song of Names,just sayin….

  • Una says:

    The enormous cost of living crisis, as I saw in Chicago in February, and then listening to my friends having to work over the age of 70 to make ends meet, no wonder opera and the likes are becoming a luxury and people’s habits have changed with the advent of Zoom all time in some people’s lives to a fault. If it weren’t for the Cinema relays, even in the UK, and they lowering the price compared to pre-pandemic prices… and then the Met on demand or anything for that matter on demand from one’s bed – rather than go and join live – the Met would be even more worse off perhaps. Nothing to do with Dutchman, or any of the previous operas, many of which I have seen in the cinema from the north of England, and they have been terrific. But there is a genuine shortage of money, and the barn-sized American opera houses does not help. People are not going to flock in their thousands anymore, not even to another Traviata or Boheme!

  • George says:

    I scrolled through these comments for a while and didn’t see one that mentioned the high price of tickets. Maybe they should reduce ticket prices and secure more corporate funding, grants, etc. A lot of people simply can’t afford to pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket, it’s gotten outrageous.

  • Chill out says:

    All of these comments are interesting to read through but I was in the house that night and it was nowhere near this empty haha maybe it was 70%?

    I love that we live in an age of gossip blog for a dying, niche art form. But don’t forget the gossip part… Everything you read isn’t always entirely accurate.

  • Ana says:

    This can’t be true. I was at Don Giovanni week ago – it was full! Also checked tickets for The Flying Dutchman it’s not completely sold out but not this empty either.

  • Rosalind Russo says:

    The new Met productions I.e. the one with the fighter in a ring, is not what I would see once , no less return again and again.

  • David says:

    No need to rely on anecdotes.
    Here’s the link to Met seating availability for upcoming performances.

    Wagner 80 % full.
    Everything else about 90%.

    Zauberflote was practically full last night.

  • Cygon says:

    They should invite Dan Vasc to perform. He’s got quite a following and a helluva voice

  • MMcGrath says:

    Raze the old barn with its 4000 seats and build an 1800-seat New New Met. Change the repertoire back to classics with a smattering of new works. Get an opera person as admin/creative head.

  • Kc says:

    Time to retire the Gelb, too much anti everything and woke.

  • trumpetherald says:

    Just asked a former colleague and friend of mine who plays in the MET Orchestra..He plays in all Holländer performances and confirmed the show was ,and always is, 75-80% full….he also says that at no time ,never ever, the auditorium looks like that a few minutes before a show begins….the photo must have been taken at least 45 min before the curtain went up….Never publish anynomous sources without checking them! And,why for God´s sake should a staff member of the MET send you a pic from his working place with such blatant and intentional misinformation?

  • J. Lukas says:

    The photo is very deceptive as a representation of the Opera season. Was it taken 10 minutes before or 20 minutes before. It makes a big difference in NYC where most people arrive by subway or cab. More than half the audience pours into the hall 10 minutes before and they typically start 3 to 5 minutes late.
    I’ve gone to about 30 operas over the last year and a half. Wagner, Mozart, Strauss, Puccini, Verdi, etc as well as newer ones. I’m there at least twice a month. Most nights I have attended, the place has been mostly full or sold out. I went to Mozart’s Die Zauberflote a few weeks ago and the House was packed.
    Same for Strauss.
    Champion was less well attended but that was one night. A great deal depends on the night of the week ….and the review. Champion and Der Fliegende received marginal reviews.
    NYC is a global city with hundreds of thousands of professionals living here from all over the world as well as tens of thousands of tourists here everyday. A great many foreigners attend the Opera.
    I hear so many different languages, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese, etc at the Opera House. I also see many New Yorkers and Americans in general attending. The Metropolitan Opera has recovered from covid and it is prospering.
    Now does it need to use modern marketing techniques to appeal to younger audiences or promote itself better with young people by incorporating new operas? Of course it needs to and so do all the other high art forms especially since they are competing for an audience with so many other forms of entertainment.
    But getting rid of the classics is not a solution. It will only hurt the Metropolitan Opera.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      5 minutes before, as stated.

      • Couperin says:

        Just accept it man, you were lied to! This is sad and pathetic already. Packed house last night June 7 for Dutchman on a night where Broadway shows were cancelling.

      • trumpetherald says:

        Any evidence? According to players,and the audience,not…..I´ll ask Thomas,whom i happen to know very well.

  • Alla says:

    I used to go to at least 5-6 operas every season… Now the price is prohibiting and some new operas are not interesting for me to see… Some great singers are gone, the replacements are not of the same level… Lower the prices, give discounts to students and senior citizens, stick to good operas with great staging and hire world known singers and you will bring the crowds back!

  • Oscar The Grouch says:

    Maybe if those who took countless injections kept going,every night and than some it wouldn’t have come to this.

    I guess the fat lady did sing.

  • justsaying says:

    A lot of comment stirred up here!

    Anyone going to the Met at all regularly knows that the sales are generally weak, and anything that looks like an “average” house from 20 or 30 years ago is cause for celebration. The important numbers are not generally released (how much was paper, how much was discount, etc.), but it’s clear enough that two things are true at once: SOME things – nobody can predict exactly what – can still sell pretty well, and some things that used to sell are doing dismally.

    I would add one thing: comparing recent sales for, say, “Aida,” “Dutchman,” and “Norma” to their sales a generation or two ago does not necessarily say anything about the public’s appetite for those works, which were already extreme antiques 30 or 60 years ago. It’s an untested hypothesis whether adequate performances of them would generate sales as they did then.

  • Myra Craig says:

    Well, I’m not ready to can the Western Canon, but I do think the younger folk want more Akenaten and less Madame Butterfly.

  • Sue says:

    Old rich blue haired folks have set the tone of exclusive for DECADES in the arts. This has carried over into a lack of peripheral funding to keep alive at the educational level where art appreciation starts. Parents/students/teachers can’t afford it. Bring it to the level of the common man and woman

  • Miriam says:

    They cancelled Domingo who obviously turned out to be like the Tenors before him. He was a huge plus at the Box Office.

  • Sylvia says:

    Like Gelb, I’m “using my voice” to make a political statement: I can’t in good conscience contribute to an Orwellian institution that punishes thought-crimes or institutes loyalty oaths. I know, “Russia bad” and all that, but I just won’t go there.
    This is of course coming from some Neanderthal clod who used to attend regularly and sit in the balconies…
    Unlike Gelb, I won’t be celebrated at after parties and at Martha’s Vineyard summers where the buttery little Chardonnay flows. My bravery won’t be lauded by my enlightened compatriots…
    Cya at Target and Balenciaga…

    • Chrysantheme says:

      You mean philistine, not Neanderthal, who had the vocal apparatus to make song like sounds, read up on your Anthropology if you’re European/Asian you may have Neanderthal genes

  • Couperin says:

    Norman you definitely got played on this one. Yesterday June 7, on one of the most unhealthy air days in NYC history with smoke in the air, I went to see Dutchman and orchestra level was full. Couldn’t see far up to the balconies but the parterre or whatever it’s called was full too.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Maybe the Met air-con worked better than at home

      • Couperin says:

        Oh definitely. Their invest in air filtration must have been huge. As soon as I left the house at shows end, the lobby smelled like a campfire.because.the outer doors were all open. Wild. But a nice full house.

    • Paul says:

      I was there as well and totally agree with you.

  • Dr Tara Wilson says:

    This is one night. The night before (Don Giovanni – 2nd June) was 100% full; not an empty seat in the house!

  • SAM says:

    It’s very sad. I don’t know how the Met will survive.

  • Potpourri says:

    The Met is at the end of an era, according to Zachery Woolfe in the New York Times today, June 8. Norman Lebrecht was a day early making a similar observation.

  • David says:

    Attended Zauberflote tonight. Full house. Orchestra section was full, save for stray seats here and there.

  • Paul says:

    I’m not sure this picture is so accurate. I was there on June 7th, the day of orange smoke and it was full. NY is notorious for seating at the last minute.

    • James says:

      That’s the way it looked June 7th until right before curtain, but the house was almost full to capacity by the time the maestro stepped up.

  • Janos Magyar says:

    FYI: The matinee performance of Dutchman was packed.

  • Kris says:

    I went to the Met twice while visiting NYC. Could only afford way in the back upper tier seats. I didn’t enjoy being so far away from the stage but it would have been an unrealistic part of my monthly income to purchase a ticket close to the stage. How would the water bill get paid? After reading all the comments it turns out the original posting is fake news. Glad I read all the comments so I realized it was fake news. But….I still can’t afford tickets. The HD live Met opera in cinemas is a wonderful experience. I don’t live in NY state anyway. Long live the Met! Long live live in HD Met cinema broadcasts! If Gelb is responsible for them, then three cheers for Gelb!

  • barcher says:

    It was packed for every single performance of my subscription.

  • Laura says:

    My daughter went to one of the last performances and she said it was almost to capacity. Is this fake news?