01 May 2007

The (movieplex) relays are the brainchild of the Met's new general manager, Peter Gelb, or one of his innumerable brainchildren, part of a campaign both to rejuvenate the Met's audience in New York and to welcome what he calls 'the global opera community' into the fold. When I met Gelb in New York last week, I told him I'd decided that seeing The Barber in Clapham was actually better than being at the Met. 'Oh no, that's bad,' he groaned. 'We must be doing too good a job!'
Let me be the first to declare my adoration for the Met's movieplex simulcasts. I think it's one of Gelb's better ideas. But it seems this slippery slope is one that Gelb doesn't see as a slope at all. His aggressive push for "theatrical" values at all costs is consistent with the over-all campaign to sell the world pretty operatic closeups. Meanwhile, a single Saturday afternoon simulcast takes in as much revenue as many sold-out evenings at the Met combined. If rejuvenation is measured primarily by revenue, then we have a problem.
Outside, dusk is settling on Lincoln Center and the wide plaza begins buzzing with smartly dressed sexagenarians -- the stately opera house's loyal patrons. But at the moment, Gelb, who arrived as the Met's new general manager last summer with a mandate to dust off the graying institution, has his mind on another audience, and a very different type of theater.

He rattles off numbers from the loose-leaf sheet that tallies advance ticket sales for the next day's live, high-definition broadcast of Rossini's "The Barber of Seville,"...

"We're going to be well within the top 20 weekend grossing films," Gelb notes with a dry sense of wonder.