Monday, September 17, 2012

Met season preview, part 1: getting in

The 2012-2013 season finds significant changes in the process of actually getting Metropolitan Opera tickets.

This post at "Superconductor" previewed the changes in detail when the Met first announced them months ago. In brief, there are three main alterations:

First, every level of the house has been carved up into "Premium", "Prime", and "Balance" designations, with the nicer boxes divided into "Front" and "Rear". This may sound like a mild continuation of the simple "Premium" carve-out that began five years ago, but a glance at the seat picker tells quite another story. The sections are now split approximately into thirds by distance from the stage. (In Dress Circle, though, the wheelchair seats have almost entirely swallowed Balance.)

This is, of course, a price increase -- the official claim is 7.6% average for single tickets -- but it's at least as importantly an attempt to eliminate the bargains in the house. (There's now, I think, only one area left that's worth much more than it costs -- and it's not very available anyway.) This has obvious short-term gain, but at an equally obvious cost to subscribers, subscription incentives, and general long-term goodwill of patrons. (The comments to the WSJ piece are telling.)

The second change is perhaps supposed to offset this a bit. Under the "dynamic pricing" model, ticket prices will actually increase as demand goes up. So prices may well rise if you don't lock in early.

The third change is probably more significant than the second, but appears to be hiding under talk thereof: the Met has actually already set varying initial prices for every show this season. (Information on this is in the subscription book, but doesn't appear in any easy to find place online, presumably because the house doesn't want you to know how much a show/seat initially cost.) Performances are categorized from A (cheap) to E (expensive), with special F (family -- kids' versions) and gala categories as well. This is both an outgrowth of the old "more expensive matinees/weekends" policy and an unprecedented price variation by cast and production.

Instead of going night by night, let's cross-reference the prices by run to the expectations set out last month:
Yes!... if the production doesn't bomb
Parsifal (E)
Ballo (C-E)
Maria Stuarda (C-E)

Sure to please
Otello (fall) (D-E)
Figaro / Don Giovanni (it's the season of Abdrazakov) (both A)
Carmen (don't miss Lee) (C-E)

Could really be something
Don Carlo (C)
Clemenza (A/D)
Aida (C/E)
Trovatore (C-E)
The Tempest (C-E)
Troyens (Graham for sure; who knows about Voigt and Giordani?) (C-E)
Otello (spring) (A-B)
Dialogues (A/B/E)
Rigoletto (spring) (D)

Only if you like that sort of thing
Elisir (Netrebko) (E)
Francesca da Rimini (Italian late-Romantic melodrama) (A/D)
Rigoletto (winter) (excellent singing + off-target acting) (C-D)
Giulio Cesare (David Daniels, or you really like Dessay) (C/E)
Rondine (rolling the dice on the lead soprano) (A/C)
Turandot (rolling the dice on lead tenors) (C-E)
Barber (kids' version) (special)

No, just no
Faust (A-B)
Comte Ory (A/B/E)
Traviata (C-E)
What do we see? Well, Mozart is a bargain, matinees are still expensive (the A/D, A/B/E, and C/E shows are matinee-dependent), and that wretched Decker Traviata is an even worse idea than you might have thought.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.