Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Have we Met?

Okay, the Met just got even cooler…

The Metropolitan Opera, under the new general management of Peter Gelb, is initiating innovative ways to invigorate and rebuild steadily decreasing season ticket numbers and audience members. Using state-of-the-art technology, greater accessibility and good old-fashioned “get-them-in-the-seats” marketing strategies, the 2006-2007 season is full of exciting possibility. Not only is this exciting for The Metropolitan Opera, it’s also exciting to all opera lovers and the supporters of Opera Tampa.

Peter Gelb, formerly of Sony Classics, has long been known for innovative crossover approaches to classical music and artists. Agree or disagree, he is the man who suggested that Yo-Yo Ma record country music and Charlotte Church sing pop songs.

With the 2006-2007 Met season, Gelb has crafted an extraordinary season. For the first time in 20 years, the season opened last night with a new production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly -- this one directed by Oscar-winning film director and screenwriter Anthony Minghella (Truly, Madly, Deeply, The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain).

In an effort to increase the company’s accessibility to a broader public and reinvigorate its connections to contemporary culture, Gelb is staging several events to raise the Met’s visibility with younger audiences. In addition to those members in the Metropolitan Opera’s audience last night, there were two simulcasts of the production: one outside of the Met and one in the heart of Times Square for 650 lucky guests. Both outdoor simulcasts were free and open to the public. In a similar gesture of goodwill (and, let’s face it, good publicity) the Met gave away the 3,000 tickets to the Friday dress rehearsal of Madama Butterfly.

Such interesting marketing strategies are being used to expand the Met’s media presence. Working with the Met’s orchestra union (Local 802), solisits, chorus, and ballet unions (AGMA) and the union for stagehands (Local One), the Met’s archive will be available as part of an audio on-demand service, a new station-on-satellite radio, and the opportunity for the 2006-2007 season to be viewed in movie theaters across the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Europe.

Here in the U.S., the cinema company in partnership with the Met is National CineMedia. CineMedia is a venture of AMC, Cinemark and Regal Cinemas. AMC and Regal both have theaters in the Tampa Bay area! Thirty days following the production’s close, PBS will air the operas on both their standard channels and on those stations that offer HDTV.

The Met also will offer their productions through live streaming video on their website, and also have plans to offer digital downloads, video on demand, instant CDs, and even opera ring tones for your phone!

In addition, ticket prices for Met performances have been reduced on 11% of the seats in the house with the cheapest seats reduced from $25 to $15, and innovative new media efforts will greatly increase the availability of opera to new audiences. And the Met has launched a groundbreaking commissioning program in partnership with Lincoln Center Theater; a gallery in the front lobby featuring contemporary artwork connected to operas in the repertory.

The season includes the world premiere of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor staged by film director Zhang Yimou; Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, staged by Bartlett Sher; Puccini’s Il Trittico, directed by Jack O’Brien; Richard Strauss’ Die Ägyptische Helena in a production by David Fielding; and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, staged by choreographer Mark Morris. Plus, an abridged, English-language version of Julie Taymor’s hit production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute inaugurates a new annual series of winter holiday family performances at the Met.

- KariG, TBPAC

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