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On Thanksgiving morning, (just as my partner and I were trundling through a traffic jam on the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge) I received the following piece of reader mail:
I have seen you at many concerts and I would not truthfully say that you sit in the CHEAP seats. Would you???
I enjoy your blog but PLEASE replace your motto.
I thought I'd answer it here. When I launched Superconductor in 2007, I was just getting back into writing reviews. And although I had subscriptions at the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, they were not in the best locations in the theater. At the Met, my seats were way "up top" in the Family Circle. And at the Philharmonic, they were somewhere on the second tier in an Avery Fisher Hall box. about halfway "up" the house from the stage. So needing a slogan I went with "Critical thinking in the cheap seats."
In January of 2010, I made the decision to put my back into Superconductor as a full-time publication, writing about performances in and around New York City on what I call an "almost-daily" basis, averaging six posts a week. A few weeks later, I got my first press ticket in many years, two seats to te Gotham Chamber Opera's performance of Haydn's Il Mondo della Luna at the Rose Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, and the blog was, shall we say "off to the races."
Press tickets are free, it is true--and they are also in the premium parts of the house. They are also a contract. Asking for them demands that one be able to produce coverage that people will want to read--which means it has to be fair and honest, whether it's positive or negative. And since then, my press relationships with orchestras, arts centers and opera companies has expanded throughout New York to include Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Washington and Boston.
At the time of this writing, this blog enjoys that "press" status with every arts organization it covers--with one exception: the Metropolitan Opera.
Two years ago, my renewal package from the Met ticket office announced a new Broadway-style "pricing structure" for the Family Circle, subdividing that section into "Premium" (the first two rows) "Prime" (the center sections and the lower sides) and "Balance" (the upper right and left corners and the partial-view boxes). These new prices meant that the two subscriptions I held (Rows B and D on alternating Mondays) doubled in price, especially if you added fees and expenses that the company feels free to add to all of its mail-order tickets. So I changed strategies.
These days at the Met, you'll see me sitting in the orchestra (not far from the press seats--the other night I was in S-21!) with tired ankles. If I'm there, it's because I've stood on the company's "rush" line to get seats for that night's performance. (They are sold two hours before curtain, Monday to Thursday and cost $20, with no surcharges.) If necessary, I might pick up a Family Circle ticket or two (at the box office, I refuse to pay so-called "convenience" fees) but those are generally for premieres and opening nights. And yes, I generally go on Monday night because that's when other theaters are "dark."
So yeah, the thinking here is still critical. And yes, I'm still in the "cheap" seats. Not really planning on changing the motto--but suggestions are certainly welcome.
Thanks for reading!
Paul J. Pelkonen
Superconductor Classical and Opera.