Day: September 23rd, 2006

The Met for the masses

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006 | All Things, Arts, Music

Wasn’t there just a street fair along Seventh Avenue? Yes, I believe there was.

Seventh Ave Fair

On the way home after work, I passed Josie Robertson Plaza, still set up to accommodate the droves of people who turned out for free tickets to the Metropolitan Opera’s Open House, which took place yesterday.

Tickets for the Open House were distributed first-come first-served at the Met Box Office beginning at 10:00AM on Wednesday morning. For the first time in its 123 year history, the Met invited the public to a final dress rehearsal, offering a preview of the highly anticipated new production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Included on the program was a box lunch and a panel discussion with cast members and the show’s director, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Anthony Minghella. Attendees were offered the opportunity to head backstage for a behind the scenes look at the Met, to examine production sketches and set models, and to take individual walks across the famed stage. So cool!

Josie Robertson Plaza

It still amazes me the lengths to which New Yorkers will go to gain access to events like these. With a program lineup like that, though, it was no wonder that the crowds descended. I would have loved to be right there with them, but sadly, despite living just a few short blocks away, I couldn’t justify taking the time off. Just as well: news reports were that the first arrivals lined up for tickets the night before, camping out on the stone plaza ground for a free shot at those $375 seats. All 3,000 tickets were gone by noon.

The Met’s Open House, which garnered quite a bit of media coverage, was intended to generate interest in the new season and spur ticket sales, which suffered a dramatic drop-off during the 2001-2002 season and steadily declined to last year’s new low of 77% capacity. As part of the plan to broaden opera’s appeal to younger audiences, new General Manager Peter Gelb also reduced ticket prices for the least expensive seats –- thanks to which I have season tickets this year — and orchestrated six high-definition video simulcasts to be shown in over 100 specially-equipped movie theaters in the United States, Canada and Europe, and 500 long-dormant historic opera recordings to be broadcast on Sirius Radio.

Coming soon to a movie theater near you… six matinees will be presented live this season: beginning on December 30, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, directed by Julie Taymor and conducted by James Levine; Bellini’s I Puritani on Jan. 6; the world premiere of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor, with Placido Domingo in the title role, on Jan. 13; Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, with Renee Fleming, on Feb. 24; a new staging of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on March 24; and a new production of Puccini’s Il Trittico, conducted by Levine, on April 28.

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