Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds
Supergelb makes an edgy PR appearance on CBS Sunday Morning.
Gelb’s problem is he still does not understand the art form, or the audience. Here he is 7 years into his job and the ticket sales continue to erode, playing to half empty houses. Gelb thought he could bring in a young audience who does not care for the art form and has walked the ticket buyers he had. It’s time to cut ties with Gelb and bring in a seasoned professional who understands the market and the art form. Gelb is the antithesis of a quality manager.
Alright, I understand your point, oracle, but you are exaggerating by a mile. I know what half full looks like and the only time this season I have seen anything remotely resembling that was last week after the hurricane. Last night’s Figaro was PACKED. I don’t think it helps when you make inflammatory statements. It makes it sound like the place is in its death throws, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
I get so tired of this argument that the audience is getting older, espoused here by Gelb. There is always gray hair in concerts, what, these grays are immortal? How is it that the grays are keeping on coming? Even when spurned by the administrators they still come, though in lesser numbers. Many of them, like me, loving the whole spectacle, the old and new.
The answer: Grays have finally settled down in their flibberty gibberty nervous systems enough so that they can listen. And more Grays can be had easily. New ones are being created even as we speak. A lot of them can even afford tickets. Why not reach to them as well? In their earlier, more prized demographic, they are just kind of worthless, wanting blunt sensation, lots of it.
Gelb: too old to know how to attract the younger generation anyways, he is a man thinking of a young generation thinking.
PS, yes I love the Met at the Movies.
My wife and I used to go to the opera 10-12 times a season, with tickets in LA and San Francisco. Now we have kids, and we’re down to 2-3 times a season — it’s a different proposition, with babysitters, bed-time routines, etc., etc. We’ll both be gray before we get back up to our previous consumption. In the meantime, we watch a lot on DVDs.
A couple of weeks ago John Gilhooly gave an interview to The Guardian in which he said that the over 50s were his target audience for all the reasons given by John and Linda Grace – and was widely praised for understanding his audience.
Peter Gelb’s big achievement must be the HD transmissions which make opera accessible to so many people throughout the world. In my case, they have renewed my interest in opera and brought me back to the opera house.
Ah, that old canard about “half empty houses” again. Funnily, I have not seen any of those when I have attended. I’m sure they must exist on some nights, but again funnily, the official sales figures do not show that. Yet, the Met’s critics continue with it.
Gelb will be my hero when he can figure out a way for those of us who love opera to be able to afford to attend a live performance — at least occasionally. A peanut gallery — way up high, or with a post blocking part of the view would be just fine. Anything to sit in the audience and to have the thrill of being in the same space with the live orchestra, the beautiful voices, the large choruses and the gorgeous sets and costume. It’s wonderful that it’s on a large screen in high definition around the world and that so many more can have a sip of the operatic waters. I want to swim in the ocean!
I have used the rush ticket system often. I have also entered the lottery for tickets and won twice. In this way, I have paid $25 for good orchestra tickets. I highly recommend these methods, primarily the lottery if you don’t wish to stand in a line.
I had forgotten until this point that you may find a few $25 balcony or family circle seats available on a less-busy night. They are full view but not close. If I may, I recommend examining the various nights. The prices do change per evening.
What about rush tickets, or student tickets, or standing room? I’ve done all of the above. (Or is standing a physical problem for you?)
Gelb is your hero then. Family Circle tickets on a weeknight can be had for $20-25. The sound quality is very, very good. (Nobody believes this until they sit there.) This is the best entertainment value in the city.
Giulio Cesare tickets with Natalie Dessay for example:
Ah, yes, but will Natalie sing! I suspect the questions around her condition will ensure many $25 tickets available for a quite some time. As a fan of Ms. Dessay, I hope she is able to fulfill her commitment,
Good to know, David, thanks.
Who cares if the audience is often grey-haired? After all, why don’t we do something for them instead of vilifying them as pension-drawing parasites on society? If it also takes advancing years for people to appreciate the multiple facets of classical music in all its forms, then so be it. This cult of pandering to ‘yoof’ has become extremely tedious; let the young prove they’re capable of appreciating quality, then we’ll talk.
In this treacherous time when we have been forced by media to see only money and anything that does not feed the imperial soul is to be jettisoned, isn’t it time we unsubscribed to the sniping and kicking about a weakened body and started proclaiming the positive and good?
When the history is written of these first 2 decades of the 21st century, the sad dismantling of access to our cultural roots will be saddest and most tragic alongside the chapter on oafish ignorance being raised to the pretense of leadership.
Mr. Gelb to his credit has increased the audience through the live streaming initiative. I’m in with that because I’m too far away from the physical location. I get some of the tactility of the live presence and I get the opera experience. What I have missed is are the new operas. This is the future if we can get ourselves on board with it, in my estimation.
I was very pleased tha Gelb hired David Alden, who has a huge career in Europe, but his works seem to go without understanding in America, and so Mr. Gelb keep on taking chances and keep a fresh outlook for the MET.
Author, novelist, broadcaster, cultural commentator.
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