Saturday, October 20, 2007

Not Your Mother's Opera

I think this snippet from the 10/26 New Yorker sums up the theatrical generation gap better than anything else I can write:
[Mercedes] Bass[, a $25M donor] said that she was thrilled with Gelb's attemps to bring a new audience into the Met, and that she understood what a commitment a night out at the opera could be. "Opera is somewhat of an acquired taste, and it is very time-consuming--you need to have three or four hours to devote to it," she said. "And then, to a certain degree you have to have the finances. I am very aware that for a couple to go to the opera, it means basically a hairdresser, a babysitter, a taxi or car, dinner on the Grand Tier. All of that mounts up to being sort of an expensive evening."
I'm glad that the emphasis is on all of Gelb's attempts to make it less expensive, as not all of us have that sort of money, let alone hairdressers, babysitters, or cars. But the fact that people think theater needs to be some sort of social statement -- not in of itself, but by those who attend it -- doesn't bode well. Note also that this is expected to be the average operagoer, which means that every night, 3,800 rich socialites are expected to make an evening of the arts. Gelb's singled out, time and time again, as an outside-the-box thinker, in that he's aired live performances in less expensive venues, like movie theaters, and that he's instituted rush seating (specifically for the elderly, retirees who can no longer afford it). But what sort of box was the previous manager, Volpe, thinking in for such a business model -- for something that is an "acquired taste" -- to ever work?

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