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Subject: Re: Does it really matter who heads the Met?
From: James Johnston <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:James Johnston <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 21 Oct 2004 15:43:10 -0400

text/plain (56 lines)

On Thu, 21 Oct 2004 10:05:36 -0700, Dawn Southwick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>... is the sudden success and profitability of opera lately, a
>product of the management, or of the bizarre, unexpected popularity of
>opera as a whole? I think at this point almost anyone with a love for
>the opera, and a lot of business acumen could run the Met, Giulani not
>excluded. Opera is now, "in."
>Is the rise in attendance due to the management, or the artistic
>direction, or something different? More attendees, means more money,
>which translates into more and better productions.

>What do any of you think is driving this popularity? Now that is an

I would say: All of the above (artistic direction being the least
important), plus - or rather, most importantly, changes in the demographics,
i.e., the Baby Boom.  Opera is still mostly something people come to in
middle age.  It was pretty much so for me (although my first opera
experiences were when I was in my mid-20s during law school) and it was so
among most of those with whom I serve on the board of the local opera
company, and the Baby Boom is hitting middle age big time.

This (middle age is the time most opera fans become so) isn't just in the
United States, either.  There is a myth that European opera audiences are
younger; well, maybe, but not in Paris, or Munich. A couple of weeks ago
(October 5, to be exact) I watched people come up the staircase at the
Garnier.  From 7.10 to 7.15 I counted about three hundred when they got as
far as the orchestra level - of these perhaps a dozen were clearly under 35.
There was a Japanese couple, and there were a couple of young, unmarried,
women with men considerably older than they, and finally, a covey of young
matrons - four, and they ended up seated right in front of me - on a night
out. Matrons - well, at least they were sporting wedding bands.  The other
95% of this sample certainly appeared to be 40 years or more
The house was sold out, and at intermission, and afterwards, I didn't see
anything that would lead me to think that my sample was skewed.

So, better marketing (the youngest audiences I see are in Pittsburgh, and
then Seattle - a lot younger than San Diego, Los Angeles or San Francisco -
and of course, the Met is practically a geriatric ward in the more orchestra
and grand tier - dunno about the higher seats)

I think artistic direction is the least important. I so believe based on the
following observations over the past several years: Seattle's artistic
direction is  consistently the worst (sometimes bad, usually mediocre,
sometimes great), but its marketing is among the best.  Pittsburgh and San
Diego have consistently fine artistic direction (Pittsburgh's is clearly the
best - that's why I wish Weinstein would get more consideration at the Met
and Hahn at San Francisco) - but Pittsburgh has the youngest audience of the
three and San Diego the eldest

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