Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Innovation Redux


At the TCG Fall Forum, Peter Gelb, CEO of the Metropolitan Opera, in the event's keynote, demonstrated the extent to which the Met is willing to innovate and cultivate new audiences. In addition to showing us gorgeous footage from recent productions, he talked about how he was hired with the purpose of kicking up a lot of dust, changing old paradigms, and building a strategy of new audience development while maintaining stability with the current audience. Largely he has been successful, and not just because he has found new efficiencies in management, but because he has made opera exciting. He has taken opera to the streets--free large-screen broadcasts in Times Square (opening night of Madame Butterfly), introduced $20 rush orchestra tickets and broadcast live performances to movie screens around the world. He's brought directors from the theater world to stage operas, and he even recruited design celeb Isaac Mizrahi to create the costumes for Orfeo ed Euridice.

What has resulted is a revitalized Met. According to Bloomberg.com,
Sales during the 2006-07 season rose 7.1 percent to 810,225, said Gelb, who succeeded Joseph Volpe in August. In all, the Met sold 83.9 percent of tickets offered for its 3,800- seat opera house at Manhattan's Lincoln Center compared with 76.8 percent last season.
But, more importantly, Gelb has succeeded in ridding the Met of its stuffy image, has brought opera to the masses and, in a stroke of marketing genius designed to draw a more traditional theater crowd, ran a marketing slogan that exlaims "Great Opera is Great Theatre."

My favorite lines of his from the conference:

"The average age of our our audience five years ago was 60. The average age today is 65."

And, when describing the stilted qualities of most of the famous guest stars before his reign, "the perception was that they just came to park and bark"

Talk to you soon!