I’ve caught a few transmissions at other venues, but the Lensic version remains in a class by itself, given our town’s ravenous opera lust. Preshow audiences greet, air-kiss and gossip in the theater’s jammed lobby like they’re at the niftiest cocktail party in town. Come intermission, sandwiches appear, and the lobby hosts a chattery picnic. Patrons even applaud the on-screen singers, just as in a bona fide opera house.
These broadcasts have become something of financial bonanza. Last season, for instance, the Met’s media revenue—mostly from the high-definition showings—amounted to $34.5 million, or 10.7 percent of all revenues in a year of diminishing in-house ticket takes. Each one of a season’s 10 to 12 transmissions costs roughly $1 million to distribute to over 2000 screens in 64 countries, selling up to 300,000 tickets.
The Lensic charges between $22 and $28 per, with the Met collecting half of each ticket sold worldwide—a pleasant sum.
Right now we’re half-way through the 2013-14 season that kicked off with a so-so Eugene Onegin back in October, followed by a manic, crazygood William Kentridge production of Shostakovich’s The Nose. Yet to come: Borodin’s sprawling nationalistic epic Prince Igor on March 1, perhaps the most highly anticipated show of the season. Peter Gelb, the Met’s GM, recently commented that “this is one of the most important pieces that we will have attempted to put on here.” Controversy already swirls about “improvements” to the opera’s piecemeal score.
Publicity for Massenet’s Werther, showing March 15, blares “Forbidden Love” over the image of a broody Jonas Kaufmann, the opera world’s reigning sex god and now “the tragic poet undone by obsession.” Oh, please. His death scene should merit at least two handkerchiefs in this new production. Then on April 5, more tears may fall when Mimí succumbs in a revival of Franco Zeffirelli’s bloated production of La Bohème.
Along with instituting the live transmissions, Gelb takes credit for purging the repertory of most of Zeffirelli’s opulent triumphs of staging excess, Carmen, Tosca and La Traviata among them.
Circle April 26 for a welcomeback James Levine reading of Così fan tutte in a smiling production that’s easy on the eyes if less than willing to explore Mozart and DaPonte’s darker side of l’amour. An airy dessert soufflé finishes the season: Rossini’s delectable La Cenerentola on May 10 with Santa Fe Opera fave Joyce DiDonato in the title role. Other voices familiar to SFO mavens will be heard in these offerings as well—Isabel Leonard, Susanna Phillips and Luca Pisaroni.
And then, it’s a short wait until June 27 when opening night at the Crosby Theater kicks in.
Blood. Sex. Cigarettes. Name that opera!