Peter Gelb

General manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. They have an annual budget of 250-260mm a year. He worked there as an usher when he was young. He has no formal musical training, but he’s now running the world’s biggest opera house. It’s interesting to be juxtapositioned with Liz because she’s transforming Lincoln Center from an architectural perspective, and he’s transforming the Met from an artistic perspective.

Peter Gelb

He just began his second season as a GM. He was most recently the president of Sony Classical, he was more famous for the crossover hits, like the soundtrack to Titanic — the anti-christ of classical music. The Titanic soundtrack sold 28 million copies, best selling pop album ever. The environment of the Met was at a point where ever since the events of 9/11 its attendence was steeply declining and its audience was aging.

The board declined to tell him just had bad thing were. There was a marketing survey that showed that the average age of the audience was 65 years old, the bad news was that 5 years older it had been 60 years old. The government doesn’t support the arts directly, but through tax breaks for donors to non-profits. The challenge was to come up with a program to convince the audience that gives them hunderds of millions a year would be non-threatening to them but would still appeal to a new audience.

The program was almost like a political platform, with many planks. Where the Met had lost its footing was through its very conservative and cautious approach to the theatrical qualities of opera. Opera is a sublime marriage of music and theatre. Richard Jones said to him, “Oh the Met, I couldn’t possibly work there. That’s where singers stand and sing, or as I like to say, park and bark.” So by increasing the theatrical values of Met by inviting the greatest theatre directors, do 7 or 8 productions instead of 3 or 4, comission new works, to open the Met up. Rehersals for the first time would be open to the general public. The first performance was simulcast into Times Square, with chairs and everything. The announced a family entertainment opera, one in English during the holiday period.

The Met was an isolated artistic island, he wanted to build the bridges back to contemporary art, to bring the Met back somewhere near the mainstream. 24-hour opera radio channel on Sirius, and a bigger connection with movie theatres around the world, like the Times Square simulcast.

Their attendence after six years of decline, is finally going up. They have sold-out houses as the rule, not the exception. Of the first 50 performances, they had 33 sold out. It seats 3,800 people, which is large for opera. The acoustics are all natural, no amplification. The top singers are singeng there than ever before. Trying to demonstrate that opera can be as engaging and exciting as any theatre production. 500 movie theatres in North America, another 100 in Europe, that are hooked up via satillete to show everything live. He’s going to end by showing a trailer for a new HD production they have showing in 3,000-4,000 theatres.

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