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Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, since 2007. All written content © 2014 by Paul Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Metropolitan Opera User's Guide

All you need to know about the big house on W. 64th St.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
The Metropolitan Opera open for business.
(Ed. Note: This is an updated version of the Metropolitan Opera User's Guide that originally published in May of 2011. It has information on new (more expensive) ticket policies for the coming 2012-2013 season. For information on repertory and performances visit our 2012-2013 Metropolitan Opera Preview.)



When should I go?
The Met season runs from the last week in September to early-or-mid-May. The house is usually open for performances Monday through Saturday with two performances on Saturday, and closed on Sundays. Being an opera-goer is much like being a sports fan--if you enjoy the activity there's no limit on how many times you can attend. (I average about 30 shows a year, and write about almost all of them--and that's just the Met.)


What should I see first?
This blog tries its damnedest to answer that question, with "Metropolitan Opera Previews" that usually run on the site about a week before the prima (the first performance in a run). Generally, Italian opera is good to start with--Verdi, Puccini or Rossini. French opera (especially Carmen) is always popular. Get into the art form, and then experiment with German opera (a passion of mine), works by Russian or Czech composers, or baroque works.

How will I understand what is going on?
In 1993, the Met added the "MET Titles" system to the house, little computer-controlled screens at your seat that provide a running translation of the opera. Currently, Met Titles are offered in English, German and Spanish at the touch of the button. If you don't want to be distracted, turn them off.

How do I order tickets?
View of the Met's famous lobby chandeliers, made by Swarovski.
Tickets for Met performances are available to the general public starting in mid-August and throughout the season. You can order them through the official web site, by calling the Met box office, or by going to the box office, located in the lobby of the opera house on the north side of the theater. At the window, the Met does not charge the same "handling fees" as phone and web orders.


Should I subscribe?
If you like opera enough to see six or seven performances a year, yes!
Subscribers get the benefit of having their tickets mailed to them without having to spend the same handling fees as for individual orders. Tickets are cheaper too.

Seven operas? That sounds like too much!
View from the right side of the house from the Dress Circle. Those red railings are the titles system.
The Met also offers 3 or 4-opera mini-subscriptions for opera lovers getting their feet wet. Also, subscribers have the option to order extra tickets earlier than the general public, and can exchange their tickets (for a small per-ticket fee) at any time during the season.

What does it cost?
Seating plan of the Met.
Ticket prices for 2012-2013 are radically different from the way it was done in years before. The Met has installed a graded system, (A through E) with prices higher for "premium" operas (like Wagner operas) or star performers like Renée Fleming or Anna Netrebko. Additionally, the house sections are now SUB-divided into "Premium" (front and center seats) "Prime" (front side seats and rear center) and "Balance" (the crappy seatS) with correspondingly higher prices. Consult the Met website for your ticket prices.

Good God! Are there any cheap seats?
Yes! Here are some options.
  • It is cheaper to sit in the partial-view box seats or the back corner seats ("Balance" on all levels above the parterre. . Tickets cost the same on the sides as they do at the main seating above. For example, Dress Circle seats cost more for Premium and Prime and less for partials. same as the Balcony above it.
  • Standing Room (offered in the Orchestra and Family Circle) is an option for the athletic or the dedicated opera-goer. The Family Circle is a better, cheaper experience.
  • The Met also offers 150 "rush tickets" (in the orchestra seating) for every weekday performance (except for premieres.) The "rush line" forms on the Lincoln Center concourse at 12pm. You have a good shot at tickets if you get there by 3. Tickets are sold ($20 apiece) at the box office at 6:30pm, first come, first served. A limited number of rush tickets are available (by lottery) for weekend performances through the website.
  • It is sometimes possible to score tickets to a dress rehearsal from a Patron or through random lottery draw on the Met website. These performances are at 11am and are not always open to the general public.
  • Finally, "score desk" seats (located on the Family Circle level at the very top of the house with no view of the stage) are still available through the Metropolitan Opera Guild's Educational Dept.
Can't I just go see the opera in a movie theater?
If you can't physically make it to the Metropolitan Opera House, the company offers several HD broadcasts (shown at a movie theater near you) throughout the seasons. They are usually on Saturday afternoon with an encore later in the month. Tickets sell for about $20 a seat, and you get a nice intermission interview with the artists and a look at the backstage machinations of the Met. Not a bad deal--but not the same electric thrill of being at a live opera performance.

I'm coming from work. Do I have to "dress up?"

Members of the Metropolitan Opera Club are required to wear black tie. But that's a private club with a membership fee in five figures, and they all sit in the same part of the theater (hence the name "dress circle." The general public can wear anything--though it's a good idea to dress neatly. At the minimum, jeans and a t-shirt are OK as long as they are clean, neat and free of decoration. Some people wear Valkyrie helmets to the Ring but Superconductor does not endorse such activity.

What is the Metropolitan Opera Guild?
The Met Guild is an organization that supports the opera house, raises funds, holds lectures and the "OperaTalks" series, and publishes Opera News Magazine. Donors get the magazine in the mail and the card gives discounts at various places including the Met Opera Shop. Sadly, it doesn't give sandwich discounts at the opera's little snack bars.
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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.