Met Tightens Its Belt

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Ralph
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Met Tightens Its Belt

Post by Ralph » Sun Dec 18, 2005 9:34 pm

Back Stage
December 18, 2005


Met Opera Slashing Budget
December 16, 2005

NEW YORK--The latest tune at the Metropolitan Opera is the box-office blues.

Because of a slump in ticket sales, Met general manager Joseph Volpe wants to cut operating expenses for the company's current fiscal year by 5 percent.


''We are currently projecting the box office to achieve 76 percent of capacity versus a budget of 80 percent, resulting in a shortfall of $4,303,000,'' Volpe wrote in Dec. 12-dated memorandum to Met department heads, a copy of which was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

''To offset this shortfall, we need to identify savings in all areas of our operating expenses,'' he wrote. ''Our targeted savings goal is 5 percent of the expenses budgeted for the fiscal year, which can come from payroll or non-payroll sources, or both.''

In the late 1990s, the Met often sold more than 90 percent of tickets for each season, but the box office slowed after the 2001 terror attacks.

Asked about the memorandum, spokesman Peter Clark said: ''Mr. Volpe does not wish to discuss it.''

In recent weeks, the Met -- the largest classical music company in the United States -- appears to have started the transition from Volpe, who took over in 1990, to Peter Gelb, the former Sony Classical music executive who becomes general manager in August.

Gelb has declined interview requests, but he appears to have formulated an aggressive agenda that could include an increase in new productions, which have numbered four or five in recent seasons. Some of the productions will be shared with other companies or borrowed.

The English National Opera says its new hit staging of Puccini's ''Madame Butterfly,'' directed by Academy Award winner Anthony Minghella, is a co-production with the Metropolitan Opera and the Lithuanian National Opera. While there has been talk that it will come to the Met next season, possibly for opening night, the Met hasn't acknowledged its participation.

The San Francisco Opera said this week that the Met plans to borrow its world premiere production of John Adams' Doctor Atomic for the 2008-9 season. Volpe said the decision to bring Doctor Atomic to the Met is not yet confirmed.

There also are changes on the business side. Coralie Toevs started work this week as the Met's director of development, replacing Lillian Silver, who had held the fund-raising job since 1997. Toevs had been the New York Philharmonic's development director since 1997.

Thomas Michel, the Public Theater's director of marketing since March 2004, began work this month as the Met's director of marketing. Elena Park, who had been with radio station WNYC and previously worked for the San Francisco Opera, starts next month as director of communications and will take over as head of press and public relations in August from Francois Giuliani, who's retiring.
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Post by Lance » Sun Dec 18, 2005 10:08 pm

Belt-tightening is happening with just about every artistic organization I know, major and minor. It's no different for the Met. You hate to see these first-class organizations having to do this, but, on the other hand, what I've heard from the Met broadcasts on Saturdays, is pretty depressing vocally.
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Dec 19, 2005 12:38 am

I've gone this round with Ralph even in person, but the plain fact is that live performances are a social experience that many people would just as soon forego. Last year I caught my famous spontaneous perfomance of Fidelio in Cologne, but I only enjoyed it because the house was half full and I could relax with empty seats around me.

If I can hear everything I could in a span of reason want to hear with high fidelity in the comfort of my own home, why on Earth would I ever go out? Because Lincoln Center is an eternal thought in the mind of God and I have an obligation to help keep it that way? No, the reason is that I want to be with other living people listening. A lot of people don't care about that anymore. (I suppose I thank whatever gods there be that Ralph does.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by Charles » Mon Dec 19, 2005 2:31 am

jbuck919 wrote:I've gone this round with Ralph even in person, but the plain fact is that live performances are a social experience that many people would just as soon forego. Last year I caught my famous spontaneous perfomance of Fidelio in Cologne, but I only enjoyed it because the house was half full and I could relax with empty seats around me.

If I can hear everything I could in a span of reason want to hear with high fidelity in the comfort of my own home, why on Earth would I ever go out? Because Lincoln Center is an eternal thought in the mind of God and I have an obligation to help keep it that way? No, the reason is that I want to be with other living people listening. A lot of people don't care about that anymore. (I suppose I thank whatever gods there be that Ralph does.)
I agree with this to some extent for non-operatic music. I'm happy at home with my CDs for symphonies, concertos, church and chamber music. For the full experience of opera, though, I think the theatre is essential. Because of the exquisite sets, lighting and use of the scrim curtain for unbelievable morphing effects, the Met Parsifal of 2003, conducted by Gergiev, was more transcendent and magical than any recording I've ever heard or can conceive of. The sets and color are still with me as much as the music. I could almost smell the musky odor of the woodland or the incense in the knights' hall.

The full work of art as Wagner intended it needed the visual and spatial/sound aspects to be completely realized. When it succeeds as here, opera IS more than only music and is a fusion of the arts on a higher plane. The three dimensional space of the hall and the presence of other members of the audience produces a real physical theatre that is the modern equivalent of a sacred place, and can never be equalled by either music or spoken theatre alone, or for that matter by movies or recordings. This is primal theatre. When the arts are fused this way, opera succeeds in its original mission to recreate the charged public space of the Athenian tragedy, where citizens sitting together underwent a shared artistic catharis, or cleansing, from music and dance as well as the drama with its moral theme.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Dec 19, 2005 2:50 am

Charles wrote: Because of the exquisite sets, lighting and use of the scrim curtain for unbelievable morphing effects, the Met Parsifal of 2003, conducted by Gergiev, was more transcendent and magical than any recording I've ever heard or can conceive of. The sets and color are still with me as much as the music. I could almost smell the musky odor of the woodland or the incense in the knights' hall.
This wouldn't be out on dvd, would it?
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Dec 19, 2005 4:20 am

I'm sure there is truth in all this posting about opera needing to be seen on stage. The flip side is, has anyone ever seen the still pics of the original Wagner staging? They do look a bit ridiulous. We also cannot imagine a modern Papgeno who is literally bedecked like a bird man or a Monostatos who is painted black as something exotic.

Opera is so highly stylized that it will bear almost any staging. Thank heaven, I am tempted to add. Frankly, no opera can be greater than its music, and they could all perform in street clothes on a bare stage for all anyone who really knows what is going on cares.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Ralph » Mon Dec 19, 2005 6:47 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Charles wrote: Because of the exquisite sets, lighting and use of the scrim curtain for unbelievable morphing effects, the Met Parsifal of 2003, conducted by Gergiev, was more transcendent and magical than any recording I've ever heard or can conceive of. The sets and color are still with me as much as the music. I could almost smell the musky odor of the woodland or the incense in the knights' hall.
This wouldn't be out on dvd, would it?
*****

No, it would cost too much with regard to musicians' stipends.
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Post by Ralph » Mon Dec 19, 2005 6:49 am

jbuck919 wrote:I've gone this round with Ralph even in person, but the plain fact is that live performances are a social experience that many people would just as soon forego. Last year I caught my famous spontaneous perfomance of Fidelio in Cologne, but I only enjoyed it because the house was half full and I could relax with empty seats around me.

If I can hear everything I could in a span of reason want to hear with high fidelity in the comfort of my own home, why on Earth would I ever go out? Because Lincoln Center is an eternal thought in the mind of God and I have an obligation to help keep it that way? No, the reason is that I want to be with other living people listening. A lot of people don't care about that anymore. (I suppose I thank whatever gods there be that Ralph does.)
*****

Ticket sales may be down but there are few nights without most seats filled. And the City Opera next door does very well too. The Met's problem is cyclical but not grave. Far more serious is the problem facing second-tier opera companies and symphony orchestras that don't have mass urban populations, including scads of tourists.
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Post by Lance » Mon Dec 19, 2005 1:24 pm

Charles wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:I've gone this round with Ralph even in person, but the plain fact is that live performances are a social experience that many people would just as soon forego. Last year I caught my famous spontaneous perfomance of Fidelio in Cologne, but I only enjoyed it because the house was half full and I could relax with empty seats around me.

If I can hear everything I could in a span of reason want to hear with high fidelity in the comfort of my own home, why on Earth would I ever go out? Because Lincoln Center is an eternal thought in the mind of God and I have an obligation to help keep it that way? No, the reason is that I want to be with other living people listening. A lot of people don't care about that anymore. (I suppose I thank whatever gods there be that Ralph does.)
I agree with this to some extent for non-operatic music. I'm happy at home with my CDs for symphonies, concertos, church and chamber music. For the full experience of opera, though, I think the theatre is essential. Because of the exquisite sets, lighting and use of the scrim curtain for unbelievable morphing effects, the Met Parsifal of 2003, conducted by Gergiev, was more transcendent and magical than any recording I've ever heard or can conceive of. The sets and color are still with me as much as the music. I could almost smell the musky odor of the woodland or the incense in the knights' hall.

The full work of art as Wagner intended it needed the visual and spatial/sound aspects to be completely realized. When it succeeds as here, opera IS more than only music and is a fusion of the arts on a higher plane. The three dimensional space of the hall and the presence of other members of the audience produces a real physical theatre that is the modern equivalent of a sacred place, and can never be equalled by either music or spoken theatre alone, or for that matter by movies or recordings. This is primal theatre. When the arts are fused this way, opera succeeds in its original mission to recreate the charged public space of the Athenian tragedy, where citizens sitting together underwent a shared artistic catharis, or cleansing, from music and dance as well as the drama with its moral theme.
I tend to agree, that opera is a combination of music and the theatrical elements in order to receive full enjoyment of a work, as it was meant to be. However, I can fully enjoy just listening to the music in the comfort of my surroundings. I often relate, mentally, i.e., visually see what's going on, to great scenes from the countless operas I have seen in the USA, Europe, and especially in Russia.

As someone else has said on this thread, it is the second- and third tier symphony orchestras and smaller chamber groups who are going to feel the crunch of this downturn in attending live concerts. The Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Minneapolis ... and a few others, will always draw decent audiences because they are among the best in the world and also have the population to support it.

It's kind of reminiscent of the classical music compact disc market right now. It's way off except for, perhaps, budget-priced (and outstanding) labels such as Naxos, Arte Nova, and a few others. I read just the other day where top classical artists such as Renée Fleming can sell over 100,000 copies of a CD - and that's considered "great." When one thinks of the total alleged music-loving population, for me, that figure is pretty bad. A Horowitz or Rubinstein could garner huge sales from their releases, but one wonders if even they would sell in today's climate. If Renée can sell that many recordings, what about other artists, perhaps of a lesser-known (but outstanding nonetheless) variety? Their sales are severely limited.

Veteran collectors such as myself, who have wide musical interests and have accumulated large numbers of recordings (with emphasis on the performing artist or conductor), eventually have to draw the line somewhere. I draw it more on symphonic recordings. Who needs another Beethoven Fifth, or a Mozart 40th, or another Water Music of Handel? I already have what I consider to be among the finest inscriptions ever made of these works with many of the most celebrated conductors. Vocal recitals (of which there are seemingly fewer releases today than yesteryear) and piano recitals or concertos do continue to capture my interest, so I continue to be active in acquiring this kind of repertoire. I am careful, however, in which artists I acquire, in other words, more selectivity. I may miss something along the way, but it's rare.
Last edited by Lance on Mon Dec 19, 2005 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by MaestroDJS » Mon Dec 19, 2005 1:42 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I've gone this round with Ralph even in person, but the plain fact is that live performances are a social experience that many people would just as soon forego. Last year I caught my famous spontaneous perfomance of Fidelio in Cologne, but I only enjoyed it because the house was half full and I could relax with empty seats around me.

If I can hear everything I could in a span of reason want to hear with high fidelity in the comfort of my own home, why on Earth would I ever go out? Because Lincoln Center is an eternal thought in the mind of God and I have an obligation to help keep it that way? No, the reason is that I want to be with other living people listening. A lot of people don't care about that anymore. (I suppose I thank whatever gods there be that Ralph does.)
By coincidence journalist H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), a.k.a. the "Sage of Baltimore", expressed these same sentiments during a 1948 interview at the Library of Congress, Washington DC. He preferred radio or recordings, or playing in amateur ensembles, rather than attend concerts.
I play the 2nd piano. I’m not good enough to play piano as a major instrument. I never practice; don’t want to acquire a technique. I’ve always believed early in life that it’s foolish for an amateur to get too good. He wastes too much time on music and it becomes an obsession and a curse to him. I want music for pleasure, not as a labor.

I don’t go to hear music much, because I dislike sitting in seats confined for an hour or two, between maybe unpleasant people, and having to hear stuff that I maybe don’t want to hear. When you go to a concert you’ve got to take what the professor offers.
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Post by Charles » Mon Dec 19, 2005 10:45 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Charles wrote: Because of the exquisite sets, lighting and use of the scrim curtain for unbelievable morphing effects, the Met Parsifal of 2003, conducted by Gergiev, was more transcendent and magical than any recording I've ever heard or can conceive of. The sets and color are still with me as much as the music. I could almost smell the musky odor of the woodland or the incense in the knights' hall.
This wouldn't be out on dvd, would it?
Not to my knowledge but I'm not certain. You could check around. I don't know if the unbelievable effects produced by the scrim curtain could be captured on DVD or not. Someone else might know. The most impressive was when Klingsor's garden, full of healthy-looking three-dimensional bushes and trees in multicolored bloom, withered and collapsed into a ruin of twisted, blackened husks in 5 seconds' time.

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