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Selling The Met

Posted by acdtest on December 4, 2003

Selling The Met

ow’s this for a great idea — from a big-media NYC classical music critic (name withheld as an act of charity)?

I went to the Met last night, to see Die Frau ohne Schatten.

[…]

At the two intermissions, I found myself deep in conversation with someone from the opera business, about why there were so many empty seats. […] [It was] a major evening. Why couldn’t the Met attract more people?

[…]

I’m not a marketer, and what follows is, maybe, amateur speculation. But still I’ve been around the business quite a bit, and talk a lot with marketers. Besides, classical music is, as we all keep saying, in some kind of trouble. So every classical music institution has [to] go many extra miles to make some noise. The Met shouldn’t only advertise its operas. It ought to do things designed to get people talking.

[…]

Why not do really popular stuff? An Andrea Bocelli concert, for instance? Or an Aretha Franklin event, in which she’d sing some of the opera arias she’s refashioned into Aretha tunes? […] Oh, sure, these things don’t meet the Met’s usual notion of its artistic level (though I’d argue that on a good night, Aretha’s way above the usual artistic level of opera). The point, though, is to show that the Met is for everybody, that it doesn’t make rules, or turn anyone away. Combine that with edgy stuff that artists like, and you expand your reach both to the right and the left.

[…]

We could take this further. We could imagine the Met getting involved in all kinds of New York cultural events, from the Next Wave festival at BAM to the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. Big pop concerts, too. If Sting or Bruce Springsteen come to town, wouldn’t some of the orchestra, chorus, and even big-time soloists at the Met like to hear them? Can’t believe they wouldn’t. They’re people, just like us. So the Met makes sure they get tickets (house seats, more likely, which the people going to the concerts would be happy to pay for), and also makes sure the world knows it’s involved. In return, of course, Sting and Springsteen (and everyone in their road crews and their bands) gets invited to see opera at the Met. Maybe people in touring pop shows couldn’t go; they aren’t in town long enough. Never mind. The gesture counts, and in other circumstances — when the circus is in town, maybe — the people involved could happily accept the offer.

Uh-huh. Lord save us all from such classical music champions. As the old saw (approximately) goes: With such champions, classical music needs no enemies.

(To be fair, I singled out the above quotes from a piece which contained in addition a few not-so-grotesque if otherwise unremarkable ideas.)

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