Eugene Onegin - Metropolitan Opera, 23 September 2013
Opening night at the Metropolitan Opera is more about the occasion than the opera. There were gowns galore, celebrities of varying wattage, roped-off VIP areas and even the odd genuine opera singer to add to the festive vibe. Outside on Lincoln Center Plaza, orderly rows of seats were set up for a big screen relay. Inside there were extended intervals, formal wear in the cheap seats and the occasional glimpse of Heather Graham holding court amongst the glittering visitors.
With overdressed guests still drifting in some 20 minutes after the scheduled start time, the Met's opening night gala was already running late. Just as the lights dimmed and it seemed as if the Eugene Onegin premiere might finally get under way, a voice rang out from behind me.
It's usually the opera house that dumps the director. This time it appears to be the other way round. Michael Grandage has pulled out of the Met's 2014-15 season opener, Le nozze di Figaro, excusing himself with scheduling conflicts with his first-ever film. Although the '70s-themed production has been shown twice at Glyndebourne, the second run being overseen by Ian Rutherford rather than Grandage himself, the Met has decided to dump the whole show rather than bring someone else in to direct it. In its place will be an entirely new production from Richard Eyre.
Just a few weeks ago it was announced that this season's opening production, Eugene Onegin, would be without its original director Deborah Warner for medical reasons. Fiona Shaw, who no doubt saw the show on its ENO debut, will take over.
He doesn't mention which opera, but it's unlikely that Bieito's botty-tastic Stuttgart Parsifal (above) will be imported. The director is a latter-day master of tailoring his productions to the sensibilities of their intended audiences, so the temperate style of his acclaimed Bavarian State Opera production of Boris Godunov is more likely.
People who don't know much about opera often wonder about what exactly to see.
The Met has taken a small step to help them.
You answer four simple questions - the reason you go to the opera, and which languages, style of opera and type of story you prefer - and the Met website will suggest which of their 2013-14 productions will suit you best.
It's not perfect, and it presupposes a little existing knowledge, but I was quite impressed with the the suggestions it made for me.
If you'd like to see Jonas Kaufmann, Rene Pape, Peter Mattei et al in a full length recording of a certain New York opera house's certain Wagner opera, read on. As ever, the source material may disappear quickly, so you may wish to preserve it:
Things got heated at the Met's Don Carlo last night when the first act campfire burned a little too enthusiastically, sending smoke drifting across the orchestra pit. "This was my first time seeing this production" emailed reader John "and I didn't realise anything was wrong until a stagehand came on to put it out with a fire extinguisher and everyone started laughing."
Everyone except Ramon Vargas and Barbara Frittoli, that is, who carried on singing as if nothing was happening. Or almost. Ramon Vargas, reports John, could barely keep a straight face. And who could blame him?
The Metropolitan Opera is to cut ticket prices by an average of 10%, reports the New York Times. The average cost of admission will drop to $156 from $174.
Peter Gelb said he expected that attendance would rise to compensate for the lost revenue.
The cut is prompted by falling audience figures. Gelb said that this year's price increase was not "as successful as it might have been", whatever that means, and that HD audiences had cannibalised audiences. The New York Times says that attendance this
season is projected to average 81% compared
with last season's 84%, and that ticket revenue is projected to fall by $4m.
More than 2,000 seats for each performance will cost less after the cut, but not everyone will be better off. This is a business move, not a social improvement measure. An orchestra aisle seat
that is $360 this season will be $330 next, but the $20 seats in the
rear of the family circle will rise by $5.