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Pauline Lerner

Selling classical music

October 9, 2006 at 5:29 AM

I’ve had some unusual experiences with affordable classical music recently. I’ve bought tickets for some world class performers at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC for only $20. I arrived late at one of these concerts and was prepared, unhappily, to wait until intermission to be seated. After waiting for about 10 minutes, an usher told me that I could take my seat immediately in a box seat and stay there for the whole concert. What’s happening?

I just read an article in the NY Times called “Operas for $20? New Audiences Hear Siren Song.” The article says, in part,

Jaws no longer drop at the thought of paying $375 for a prime seat at the Metropolitan Opera. It’s the $20 orchestra seats that have people gaping. Last week, the opera house announced that it would sell 200 seats for every weeknight performance for just $20 each. Tickets for these seats, which would normally sell for $100, go on sale two hours before curtain time. On Tuesday, the day of the announcement, 160 tickets were sold in 20 minutes. The remaining 40 were sold out by 7:10 p.m…

Next door at Lincoln Center, the New York City Opera is in its second season of “Opera-for-All,” selling every seat in the house for $25 on eight evenings over the course of the season.
The discounts, underwritten for the most part by corporate donors, are an effort to compete for leisure time with an increasing array of multimedia offerings and, in an era when patrons of the theater, opera and classical music are aging rapidly, to reach a younger, more diverse population…

The Met’s $20 ticket program is part of a larger effort by the new general manager, Peter Gelb, to throw wide the doors of the opera house. A free open dress rehearsal with brown-bag lunch last month was followed by a populist opening night — with the gala performance of “Madama Butterfly” simulcast free on large screens on the Lincoln Center Plaza and in Times Square. “The goal is to broaden our audience and to fill the house,” Mr. Gelb said. “The average age was 65 when I arrived.”…

The Met’s $20 ticket program is part of a larger effort by the new general manager, Peter Gelb, to throw wide the doors of the opera house. A free open dress rehearsal with brown-bag lunch last month was followed by a populist opening night — with the gala performance of “Madama Butterfly” simulcast free on large screens on the Lincoln Center Plaza and in Times Square…

In the first year of City Opera’s Opera-for-All — which includes introductory videos before the performance — 71 percent of the audience had never been to City Opera before, and the two performances sold out. Of those who attended, 11 percent came back to the series this year…”

There is hope for the future of classical music.


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