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Friday, March 30, 2012

Twilight of the Ring

The Metropolitan Opera slashes the cost of Wagner.
Downwardly mobile: Wotan (Bryn Terfel) and Fricka (Stephanie Blythe) in Das Rheingold. Photo by Ken Howard © 2010 The Metropolitan Opera.
According to a report first posted on Norman Lebrecht's website Slipped Disc, the Metropolitan Opera has done the unthinkable, slashing prices across the board for upcoming performances of the three complete cycles of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen

Checking ticket prices for an April 24 performance of Götterdämmerung (according to the Met website) are now as low as $45 for the rear of the Family Circle. Orchestra Balance seats (off to the side) are as low as $180 (formerly $275), with better seats (Orchestra Premium) going as high as $345 (down from $650.) There are even a few coveted aisle seats available for some shows.Das Rheingold has had ticket prices cut by as much as 50%, with Family Circle seats priced at the normal rate of $25-$35. A few days ago, they were $55.

Even more surprising: the wide availability of tickets for the April 13 Die Walküre, opening night of that opera, which is considered the most popular entry in the tetralogy. 

This quiet, unannounced move may be a desperate attempt to fill the house as the Ring approaches. The cycles launch with the return of Das Rheingold on April 4. No information is available as to whether ticket holders who already bought seats under the old price structure will receive some sort of remuneration from the Met.

The Metropolitan Opera's current production of the Ring, designed and directed by Robert Lepage, has met with mixed reviews as the four operas have launched over the last two years. The multi-million dollar production, constructed around a massive movable set (sarcastically dubbed "The Machine" by the stage crew) has had its share of performance malfunctions, occasionally forcing singers to improvise on the stage apron. More serious were two onstage accidents, both during 2011 performances of Die Walküre.

The January premiere of Götterdämmerung featured some shaky special effects, including exploding plaster statues that were meant to evoke the fall of Wagner's Germanic gods but caused the opening night audience to laugh at the opera's climax.

This month marks the first "full" performances of the cycle, which are traditionally sold to the Met audience as four-opera packages at double the face value of ordinary seats at the Met. The company's former production, by the German team of Otto Schenk and Gunther Schneider-Siemssen, was notable for being one of the company's most coveted tickets, and a perennial sellout.

Met ticket prices have steadily gotten higher in the last three seasons, as the house has had to cover increased operational costs. These include general manager Peter Gelb's pricey Met Live in HD series, which brings Met operas to movie screens around the world on Saturday afternoons. Next season's brochure features a "staggered" ticket policy with higher rates being charged for new productions and of course, Wagner operas.

In other news, the company has been generating much hoopla over a planned series of Live in HD re-runs of the video broadcasts of the four operas in the Ring. These screenings are not new films drawn from the April and May Ring cycles, but re-broadcasts of the performances shot in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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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.