The Met Considers Naming Rights, and Other Ways Forward

16 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

New York’s Met Opera Goes From $22 Million Shortfall to $1 Million Surplus.

A bigger glass lobby stretching into Lincoln Center’s plaza. The opera company, founded in 1883, announced Wednesday that it closed its most recent season in the black, with a $1 million surplus and a balanced budget.

NEW YORK (AP) — A tenor wearing no blackface, a baritone undeterred by illness and a rising star stepping in for a mourning mezzo — these are some of the performers in the spotlight as the Metropolitan Opera launches its new season Monday. “If you look at the first week alone, it’s as if most of the best singers in the world seem to have congregated in New York,” Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in an interview 10 days before opening. Monday: Verdi’s “Otello,” in a new production directed by Gelb favorite Bartlett Sher and starring Latvian tenor Alexandrs Antonenko as the jealous Moor. Last November the company reported a $22 million shortfall for fiscal 2014 soon after it averted a potential lockout by striking a series of deals with unions representing its musicians, singers and stagehands. For the first time since the company began presenting the work in 1891, the title character will not appear in dark makeup, a change the Met said it made because it is “committed to colorblind casting.” Wednesday: Puccini’s “Turandot,” in the lavish 1987 Franco Zeffirelli production, the first of 16 times that popular favorite will be seen this season, with four sopranos taking turns in the title role.

First up is Christine Goerke, who created a sensation two seasons ago as the Dyer’s Wife in Strauss’ “Die Frau ohne Schatten.” Friday: Anna Netrebko sings her first Met performances of Verdi’s “Il Trovatore.” Fellow Russian Dmitri Hvorostovsky surprised many by announcing he will appear in the baritone role of Count di Luna despite ongoing treatments for a brain tumor that forced him to cancel all engagements this summer. Gelb’s first decade was notable for technological innovations that broadened the Met’s reach outward — his popular “Live in HD” simulcasts of operas at cinemas reached 2.6 million people last season — much of what he would like to do in the coming seasons looks inward. “The last thing that we can do is sit idly by,” Mr. Gelb said in the interview in his office. “We have to keep poking the tires, and looking at new ways of approaching the art itself in the form of new productions and commissions, and also looking at the physical plant of the Met, and how we perform. The Met’s popular live, high-definition simulcasts boosted the company’s total paid attendance to 3.2 million, among the largest total audiences in its history. Gelb attributed the company’s improved overall financial performance in large part to union agreements that called for expense reductions as well as pay cuts for both union members and employees on the administrative side. “One of the advantages of having such a large budget, we shaved a little bit here and a little bit there, and those little bits added up,” Mr.

The rest of the season includes: Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus – Nov. 13 and 1; Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking,” March 4 and 6; and Puccini’s “Tosca,” April 8 and 10. Gelb said that the Met had raised the first $100 million of a five-year, $600 million fund-raising drive aimed at doubling its endowment, supporting operations and paying for new capital projects, including the hoped-for renovation and expansion of its lobby. The cuts ranged from whittling some rehearsals down by 15 minutes or half an hour to reducing travel expenses and “being more careful about costumes, literally down to the buttons,” he said. The company has also increasingly turned to joint productions with opera houses elsewhere, such as a new staging of Alban Berg’s “Lulu,” which premiered this summer at the Dutch National Opera and will come to New York in November. Gelb said. “The costs of building a production elsewhere are shared, and quite frankly less expensive to build outside of New York,” he said, adding that union agreements require about half of the company’s new productions to be “homegrown or built at the Met.”

One of his ideas — inspired in part by last season’s new production of “Pagliacci,” which featured a troupe of traveling vaudevillians — is to create an opera truck to bring small-scale, staged opera performances with a small orchestra to communities around New York. He has been working on the project, tentatively called “MET2GO,” with the Dutch director Lotte de Beer, who has an organization, Operafront, which does similar work in the Netherlands. Toward that end, he said, he wanted to make the Met more welcoming by expanding and renovating its cramped lobby — which the building’s architect, Wallace K. That addition would add several thousand square feet of space that would allow the Met to redesign its box-office area, gift shop, art gallery and possibly add a cafe.

I don’t know, because we haven’t seen any idea of really what that would mean, or what that would look like, or any of those things.” Capital projects are often more attractive to potential donors than equally needed campaigns to, say, boost endowments. The Met, which was drawing more than 8 percent of its endowment annually a few years back, has been steadily reducing that amount, from 6.5 percent in 2014 to 6 percent last season and this season; it plans to phase down to a more prudent 5 percent by 2018.

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