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Met Opera’s Programming Strategy Not Paying Off As They’d Hoped

By Sara Schabas on June 17, 2024

Met Opera
(Photo: Jonathan Tichler / Met Opera)

In an effort to recuperate from pandemic-related funding challenges, the Metropolitan Opera has been programming contemporary works to attract fresh audiences. But the new works aren’t drawing the crowds the organization hoped for.

Driving the news: Over the last few years, Metropolitan Opera general director Peter Gelb has been programming contemporary operas at the Met in hopes of attracting newer, more diverse audiences. A third of the Met’s repertory now comprises 21st century operas, such as Anthony Davis’s “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X,” Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” and Kevin Puts’s “The Hours.” But unfortunately, this gamble hasn’t paid off. The opera house, which has 4,000 seats, averages only around 72% full. The contemporary works average houses that are a third empty. 

Get up to speed: The Metropolitan Opera is the largest performing arts institution in the United States. It has a budget of $300 Million USD. But since the pandemic, it has withdrawn nearly $40 Million from its endowment.

Yet things are looking up for the organization. Gelb’s bet on presenting new works has resulted in younger audiences, with average ticket buyers’ age now 44 rather than 50, as it was in 2019. Audiences have slowly returned, and the Met’s modern operas have received some of this seasons’ most glowing reviews. Let’s wait and see if the tides turn for these innovative works.

Sara Schabas
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