Tonight's Madama Butterfly

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lennygoran
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Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by lennygoran » Thu Nov 14, 2019 12:18 am

A beautiful production, good singing and a superb performance from Elizabeth DeShong. Tonight Bruce Sledge took Andrea Care's place as Pinkerton and the role of Goro was played by Scott Scully in place of Eduardo Valdes who was ill. Great night at the opera-from where we were sitting attendance didn't look good. Pier Morandi conducted. Len

John F
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by John F » Thu Nov 14, 2019 4:26 am

That's the trouble with revivals of older productions of standard repertoire, with no star singers in the cast - tickets are hard to sell.
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by barney » Thu Nov 14, 2019 7:42 am

Surely part of the problem is the size of the Met. If I recall aright, it holds about 3800, and there is a performance most nights. Even in a city the size of New York, that's a lot of tickets to sell.

Melbourne's State Theatre, which is by no means small, holds about 2100 in a city of about 5 million - and it is not always full either despite a much shorter calendar.

John F
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by John F » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:08 am

With an attractive cast, even the most hackneyed revival can fill the Met's many seats. It's the fans who need a reason to come. In 1988 Carlos Kleiber made his Met debut in "La Boheme" with Luciano Pavarotti and Mirella Freni in the leading roles. Not only did the house sell out for all five performances, but the area in front of the house was crowded with people offering tickets at a premium, some of them scalpers but some of them not. Of course no opera house can offer a whole season of festival quality, but during Rudolf Bing's time at the Met he always included at least one star in every cast, and attendance averaged in the 90 percentages.

Who are the star singers and conductors today who can cause a run on the box office? There are a few - Placido Domingo and Anna Netrebko, for example, and Renée Fleming until she ceased singing staged opera, whle the performances conducted by James Levine always had above average attendance. This is not to say that there aren't plenty of good singers out there who can do the operas justice, but the kind of charisma that lures opera fans seems to me to be in short supply.
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lennygoran
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by lennygoran » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:16 am

John F wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 4:26 am
That's the trouble with revivals of older productions of standard repertoire, with no star singers in the cast - tickets are hard to sell.
John it worked for me-DeShong brought me to tears more than once-it's a beautiful production! Len [dinosaur]

John F
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by John F » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:27 am

That may be, but you and Sue filled only two seats, and not the most expensive seats at that.
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maestrob
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by maestrob » Thu Nov 14, 2019 10:39 am

John F wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:08 am
With an attractive cast, even the most hackneyed revival can fill the Met's many seats. It's the fans who need a reason to come. In 1988 Carlos Kleiber made his Met debut in "La Boheme" with Luciano Pavarotti and Mirella Freni in the leading roles. Not only did the house sell out for all five performances, but the area in front of the house was crowded with people offering tickets at a premium, some of them scalpers but some of them not. Of course no opera house can offer a whole season of festival quality, but during Rudolf Bing's time at the Met he always included at least one star in every cast, and attendance averaged in the 90 percentages.

Who are the star singers and conductors today who can cause a run on the box office? There are a few - Placido Domingo and Anna Netrebko, for example, and Renée Fleming until she ceased singing staged opera, whle the performances conducted by James Levine always had above average attendance. This is not to say that there aren't plenty of good singers out there who can do the operas justice, but the kind of charisma that lures opera fans seems to me to be in short supply.
Indeed, it's a whole different world now than the MET under Rudolf Bing. There just isn't the public interest to create star singers, as happened with the likes of Pavarotti and Freni. The general public (at least in NY) seems to have "moved on" from standard opera repertoire. Aside from the expense of mounting productions, where is the audience for opera? Companies like New York City Opera, New York Grand Opera, Eve Queler's Carnegie performances, DiCapo Opera, all have ceased to exist. The MET is the last standing, and while it has support from private philanthropy, attendance by the general public is way down. Even if ticket prices were cut in half, I imagine that the MET couldn't fill the house today except on rare occasions, no matter the level of performance, because the interest just isn't there. MHO of course, but there it is. Great singers exist today as in other eras, but does the wider public care?

lennygoran
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by lennygoran » Thu Nov 14, 2019 12:53 pm

John F wrote:
Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:27 am
That may be, but you and Sue filled only two seats, and not the most expensive seats at that.
John btw I have egg on my face and it won't be the first time-actually I got it wrong-it was Hui He who played Butterfly who I found to be superb-not that there was anything wrong with DeShong. Len :oops:

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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by Lance » Fri Nov 15, 2019 2:07 am

Indeed, it takes STARS to bring people to concerts/opera, and in my travels, even they don't sell out the house. I think maestrob/Brian very much puts his finger on the problem. An opera like Butterfly, especially, live, should bring many people who might not be able to afford the ticket prices when the stars are being presented. Glad, Lenny, that you enjoyed the performance.
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John F
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by John F » Fri Nov 15, 2019 4:56 am

maestrob wrote:where is the audience for opera? Companies like New York City Opera, New York Grand Opera, Eve Queler's Carnegie performances, DiCapo Opera, all have ceased to exist. The MET is the last standing
Of course this is true only of New York City, which we New Yorkers sometimes provincially take to be the world. :) The United States boasts major grand opera companies in many major cities from coast to coast and border to border, and looking further afield, I'm not aware that La Scala, the Vienna State Opera, the Teatro Colón or the Mariinsky Theater are suffering from poor attendance. Indeed, Chicago has a remarkable success story: "Over the past two decades the company has achieved unparalleled success in its ticket sales, averaging 100% attendance from 1988-2002, and more than 90% attendance since that time." With a smaller opera house and a shorter season they have fewer tickets to sell, but in their market they could hardly do better.
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by maestrob » Fri Nov 15, 2019 11:09 am

John F wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 4:56 am
maestrob wrote:where is the audience for opera? Companies like New York City Opera, New York Grand Opera, Eve Queler's Carnegie performances, DiCapo Opera, all have ceased to exist. The MET is the last standing
Of course this is true only of New York City, which we New Yorkers sometimes provincially take to be the world. :) The United States boasts major grand opera companies in many major cities from coast to coast and border to border, and looking further afield, I'm not aware that La Scala, the Vienna State Opera, the Teatro Colón or the Mariinsky Theater are suffering from poor attendance. Indeed, Chicago has a remarkable success story: "Over the past two decades the company has achieved unparalleled success in its ticket sales, averaging 100% attendance from 1988-2002, and more than 90% attendance since that time." With a smaller opera house and a shorter season they have fewer tickets to sell, but in their market they could hardly do better.
Yes, of course, all of which makes the case of what's happening here in NYC even more stark. Our culture of opera universally available has really gone down the tubes. It used to be that the MET employed many fine singers in secondary roles, or in standby positions, ready to take on the leading roles at the last minute. La Selva's NY Grand Opera would employ many of these (Ted Lambrinos and Marisa Galvany come immediately to mind), and audiences could hear them in exemplary form starring in his productions. NYCO groomed many young potentially great singers (Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo), but now these farm teams (to use a baseball analogy) have gone up in smoke. Where do these singers go to grow and mature? Now, they must migrate to Europe, where opera culture flourishes.

It used to be that young singers could come to NYC and earn a living singing in churches and synagogues, but no longer. NYC has become fantastically expensive for young artists, and they have literally nowhere to go to be heard in a professional context. Meanwhile, the MET is importing Eastern European and Russian singers who will work for less money. It's a strange situation. We used to be at a center of the artistic universe. I fear we are no more.

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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by John F » Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:01 pm

maestrob wrote:Where do these singers go to grow and mature? Now, they must migrate to Europe, where opera culture flourishes.
Which of course a great many American singers did during the 1950s and 1960s. Leontyne Price was singing Aida (1958) and Pamina (1959) in Vienna years before her Met debut in 1961. Some never came home: Claire Watson, a leading soprano in Munich who's Ellen Orford in Britten's recording of "Peter Grimes," made only a few guest appearances in Chicago and San Francisco, none in New York.
John Francis

maestrob
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by maestrob » Sat Nov 16, 2019 11:44 am

John F wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:01 pm
maestrob wrote:Where do these singers go to grow and mature? Now, they must migrate to Europe, where opera culture flourishes.
Which of course a great many American singers did during the 1950s and 1960s. Leontyne Price was singing Aida (1958) and Pamina (1959) in Vienna years before her Met debut in 1961. Some never came home: Claire Watson, a leading soprano in Munich who's Ellen Orford in Britten's recording of "Peter Grimes," made only a few guest appearances in Chicago and San Francisco, none in New York.
Sure. Many singers who sing small parts for the MET are invited to sing leading roles in Summer productions for European houses where they can pick up some extra earnings. They've been doing it for generations. All I'm saying is that NYC no longer has the support system in place to feed singers to the MET, a sad loss for our art. I feel it weakens the MET as well, not having a steady flow of graduates from around the country available for their young artists program waiting in the wings.

Finally, the MET has what it has always wanted. They are the only game in town, but they are paying a price for having their monopoly.

John F
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Re: Tonight's Madama Butterfly

Post by John F » Sat Nov 16, 2019 1:09 pm

You and I are talking about two different things. Leontyne Price, James King, Cheryl Studer, Claire Watson, Teresa Stich Randall, Evelyn Lear, and many others of that calibre did not "sing small parts for the MET." They sang principal roles in the opera houses of Germany, Austria, and elsewhere in Europe; when I was in Germany I saw Judity Blegen and Janis Martin often at the Nürnberg Opera. Having made their names abroad, their experience and fame were exploited later by American houses. American singers have done this successfully for years and with the drying up of opportunities in the U.S. they can do it again, as some are.

Of course there are other singers whose careers had the shape you describe. Winners of the Metropolitan Auditions such as Teresa Stratas and Frederika von Stade signed Met contracts as part of their prize and sang small roles there before going on to major parts.A more important source of talent for the Met, now gone, was New York City Opera, even though Rudolf Bing closed the doors to City Opera singers as long as he could. A few notable singers were able to showcase their talents with New York's minor companies such as Bel Canto Opera and Amato Opera and made professional careers, though rarely at the Met. And many experienced singers who had sung principal roles with lesser companies were covers for such roles at the Met and, if the scheduled singer couldn't go on or be replaced, made their Met debuts by the back door, so to speak, though I can't think of any who went on to become regulars.
John Francis

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