14 February 2007

Box Office Meter

Snow decisively drifting at this hour. Regarding this current Jenufa, which I adore and am seeing again this evening, Alex Ross asks:

Why do Janácek's operas still fail to sell strongly at the Met?
I have here list of a dozen factors that can boost ticket sales: (1) singer with extra-opera popularity in cast (e.g., Renee and Anna, Angela and Placido); (2) international singer from country with large tri-state representation (Anna and Dmitri pull in the Russians, Hong and Kim's just concluded Traviata well-attended by Korean population); (3) entry level opera (Aida, Boheme, Carmen vs. Ariadne, Bartered Bride, Clemenza di Tito); (4) composer popularity (Puccini and Verdi); (5) operas of some extra-musical cultural importance (Onegin is popular with Russian New Yorkers; Turandot and Butterfly pull in Asians, and the Chinese came out for Tan Dun's First Emperor); (6) novelty factor (Met premiere, world premiere, new production premiere, rare opera); (7) cults (i.e., Wagner); (8) extraordinary press, unanimous acclaim, mercurial buzz (Mattila's Salome, Minghella's Butterfly); (9) debut of a major artist (Bartoli sold out the Cosi, Taymor sold out the first couple of years of her Zauberflote, and watch how Audra McDonald and Kristin Chenoweth will do the same); (10) rarity of local engagements of singer (Millo, Gheorghiu, Bartoli); (11) an ardent, sometimes inexplicable, following of a singer among rabid opera fans (Filianoti, Domingo, Netrebko, Mattila, Fleming, Florez, Hvorostovsky, Voigt, Pape, et al.); (12) star conductor (Levine, Gergiev, Thielemann; Gelb's strategy to bring in Barenboim and Muti will pay off handsomely).

So, for the Jenufa, here's the scorecard: (1) Karita and Anja are popular only within knowledgeable classical music fans; (2) Finns aren't really a big bunch of folks anywhere, even in their own country (only 7 million); perhaps the Germans are coming to see Anja? or not?; (3) not an entry level work by any measure; (4) Janacek isn't familiar; (5) Czech population in New York probably isn't sizeable, I'm guessing; (6) Jenufa is a rarely performed opera, so that's one positive factor; (7) unfortunately, it wasn't written by Wagner; (8) enthusiastic press but not infectious, no buzz beyond Anja Silja's incredible age; (9) no one major is debuting; (10) clearly, Anja is a rare sighting in these shores, so that's another point; (11) Mattila has a strong fan base in New York; (12) Belohlavek. However, the aggregate "score" of this current run of Jenufa is barely average, not strong enough to fill such a large house for six nights.

Working out the scorecard for the current Eugene Onegin, on the other hand, explains why all its evenings are sold out. (Same with Netrebko's just-concluded Puritani and, I predict, Gheorghiu's Simon Boccanegra.)