Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 55

Thread: Does size matter?

          
   
    Bookmark and Share
  1. #1
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    4,190
    Post Thanks / Like

    Does size matter?

    There's an interesting article in the NY Times about the Met and the author asks the question "Is the Met too big?"

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/a...-turns-50.html

    I've never been to the Met so I don't know what it's like to attend an opera in such a huge auditorium. The largest opera house (in capacity) I've been to is Royal Opera House - capacity 2256. The other houses I've visited have less, eg Munich - 2100, Amsterdam - 1594, Warsaw - 1841.

    Probably my favourite house is Zurich which has a capacity of 1100. I loved the intimate atmosphere and the acoustics were wonderful.

    Any thoughts? Is 'bigger' better?

  2. #2
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Midwestern U.S.
    Posts
    3,167
    Post Thanks / Like
    Perhaps whether or not "bigger" is better depends on the circumstances, as this article seems to suggest. I've attended a number of performances at the Met and Chicago Lyric Opera, and Cincinnati's Music Hall prior to the renovation it's currently undergoing had 3,500 seats -- so I'm accustomed to "big." (I remember thinking how small the LA Opera's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion seemed the first time I attended a performance there.) Assuming seating is available, I always choose a place near the front of the orchestra section where I can see as well as hear, and that may very well be a reason why large auditoriums (with good acoustics) are no problem for me. Sometimes, it seems these venues with 3,000+ seats pose more of a public relations problem these days, when there appears to be a significant number of empty seats. I once noted that an audience who filled only two-thirds of Music Hall would be a sellout crowd at many other opera houses. (There will be fewer seats post-renovation.) The trend for opera companies to use more than one performance venue also seems to be spreading. Even here, one opera per season, usually a modern work or a chamber piece, is staged in a smaller space -- the Corbett Auditorium at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts when Music Hall is in use, and the 400-seat Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Performing Arts, the CO's temporary home.

  3. #3
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    9,964
    Post Thanks / Like
    I don't have any problem with the Met's auditorium size. Like the article says, the acoustics are superb. Yes, I do buy cheap tickets up in the family circle and the sound reaches that area perfectly. It's far from the stage but there is an easy fix: my pair of binoculars.

    I much prefer seeing a few empty seats (the average is deceiving; the truly good productions I feel like traveling up there to attend in person are often quite full - it's probably the dull 1,000th Aida with unknown cast given in the middle of the week that drives down the average) but still being able to purchase tickets without a lot of advance planning, rather than having a smaller house with sold-out productions that I'd not be able to see.

    So the New York public no longer fills to capacity the 4,025 house every time - yeah, but I fail to see how the solution would be to have a smaller theater. Would people just feel better with the sold-out house? That would only mean that whoever couldn't find a seat would not be paying for a ticket. Revenues would initially go down, not up. Sure, market forces might then push up prices if the seats were harder to find, but Met tickets are expensive enough. In today's uncertain economy, I think prices going up would mean that then the new smaller theater would also start having empty seats. The market would re-settle in a new equilibrium, and again, the end result would be about the same for the Met's bottom line, just, with more expensive and harder to find tickets. Uh, no. I don't want that. It obviously doesn't work to the advantage of the public.

    Part of the fact that sold-out houses are less common at the Met as compared to the past, is the competition with itself: a lot of people from the metropolitan area and beyond now feel that paying $20 for a Met Live in HD ticket in a movie theater ten blocks from home is better than going all the way to the Met to pay $150 and more for the same performance. Other factors are obviously the economy and a decline in opera popularity in the modern world - factors that have nothing to do with the size of the Met auditorium, and won't be fixed by changing the size.

    It's not like the empty seats increase the expenses a lot. Sure, maybe you have to pay the janitors a bit more to clean the bigger space, and the electricity bill is a bit higher to light up everything; there will be the occasional maintenance expense if a seat breaks down, and you'll need some additional ushers, etc. - those are peanuts as compared to the larger budget of a world-class company like the Met.

    The only advantage of a smaller house would be some sort of comfort for the management: "We are so good, we get a full house every time." So what? I'm not a manager there. I want to have available seats whenever I wish to attend.

    OK, so this leaves the issue of what to do about the chamber operas, those with small baroque orchestra, etc.

    I've seen plenty of those both at the Met and in smaller houses across the US and some other countries. Yes, it feels a bit more intimate to attend this kind of opera in smaller houses and it is gentler on the singers. But again, the Met acoustics are so good that regarding the singers, if they can get passed the intimidating factor of singing to that huge auditorium, their voices will carry.

    And then, when the opera is very good and the cast is great, there are no empty seats. I've attended that Giulio Cesare there in person with Natalie Dessay, and oh boy, it was full! Mozart? Full almost every time and no, it doesn't feel swamped like the article says. So the ability to fill the house has nothing to do with whether or not the opera would be more appropriate for a more intimate setting. It has to do with the quality of the cast and the performance. Put a great production there, the public will come.

    What I do agree with in this article, is the need to go out in the community. The Met used to have the traveling company decades ago, and no longer does. The orchestra goes once a year to Carnegie Hall, and once-in-a-blue-moon to Central Park, and that's it. It's not enough. A traveling festival with younger singers would be nice. There are plenty of suitable theaters in New York City and the region. For example, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the already-mentioned smaller theater in the Lincoln Center (Vivian Beaumont, actually 1,080 seats), open air spaces right next to the Met (Damrosch Park) and in Central Park, and other open-air shells could be temporarily set-up in places like the Botanical Garden, etc.

    So with all of this already available, why in the hell would the Met need to build another theater? I'd rather use the huge resources needed for that, to pay for itinerant productions in already existing venues nearby and beyond.

    Besides, what the article advocates for - "a new, smaller theater would be ideal" - is bull. Whoever can do more, can do less. But whoever can do less, cannot do more. So, a smaller theater would mean that one of the Met's unique characteristics, that its huge auditorium and backstage facilities are suitable to put together truly grandiose productions, wouldn't be just as possible in a smaller theater.

    If people feel so adamant that certain productions should be more intimate, then cordon out portions of the auditorium. I'd find it quite ridiculous, though. Let us still have the cheap tickets at the Family Circle and let us seat where we want, and let's not worry so much about empty seats.

    Think of it: the Met goes for a smaller house. Then the economy gets a turn for the better (these things are always an up-and-down cycle) - people would then lament the fact that the Met would be only able to accommodate 2,500 patrons instead of 4,025.

    Nah, I love the fact that we have the biggest opera house in the world, where seats are not scarce.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #4
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    9,964
    Post Thanks / Like
    OK, I'm very verbose, you all know that. Let me rephrase in a very simple way:

    The size of the auditorium would be an issue if the acoustics were bad. They aren't; therefore, no problem.

    You know where it matters? At the Opéra Bastille. 2,703 seats, and the acoustics are terrible. So much smaller than the Met but still too big.

    Good architectural sound engineering is the issue; not the size in itself.

    Maybe the Met would build a smaller house and the acoustics wouldn't be so good.

    Enough said.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); May 6th, 2017 at 01:09 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  5. #5
    Senior Member Involved Member jflatter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    London
    Posts
    235
    Post Thanks / Like
    I think the design of a house is the crucial element rather than the size. If you look at Bayreuth it fits just under 2000, is very pretty uncomfortable, yet has the most wonderful acoustic you could dream of, due to it's wooden interior and Greek amphitheatre style of design. The Semperoper is a much smaller house at around 1200 capacity and also has a great acoustic but not as good as Bayreuth. Munich is good as well. In the UK I personally think that Glyndbourne has the best acoustic. Again it has a wooden interior but is generally comfortable to sit in being a modern house. ROH has great sound but it is at it's best in the cheaper seat, where you see less.

  6. #6
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    4,190
    Post Thanks / Like
    Quote Originally Posted by jflatter View Post
    I think the design of a house is the crucial element rather than the size. If you look at Bayreuth it fits just under 2000, is very pretty uncomfortable, yet has the most wonderful acoustic you could dream of, due to it's wooden interior and Greek amphitheatre style of design. The Semperoper is a much smaller house at around 1200 capacity and also has a great acoustic but not as good as Bayreuth. Munich is good as well. In the UK I personally think that Glyndbourne has the best acoustic. Again it has a wooden interior but is generally comfortable to sit in being a modern house. ROH has great sound but it is at it's best in the cheaper seat, where you see less.
    Your point about the design is a good one. Lyon (aka engine room of Nostromo) has a capacity of 1100 but acoustics are poor; probably due to the fact it's all metal.



    Lyon



    Nostromo
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); May 6th, 2017 at 08:03 PM.

  7. #7
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Arlington, VA
    Posts
    3,567
    Post Thanks / Like
    I'm not so sure about any of this. It's very sad to attend performances at the Met (you know - The Met!) and see so many empty seats - especially for top notch casts in solid productions. I remember going to the Met back in the late 1970s when it always seemed full. It was an exciting place and full of life in those days. These days, the audiences (myself included), all have gray or white hair and many have mobility issues. Young audiences are scarce - you try and peel them away from their devices! The audience at the Kennedy Center (seats 2,800) similarly is much reduced from before the economic downturn, perhaps by 30% during my Wednesday subscription nights. The economy is up again, albeit not to its pre-2008 level, but the audience got out of the habit. It's way easier to stay home and watch TV in your jammies.

    On the other hand, the much smaller European opera houses I've been to seem to be attended at capacity most of the time.

    If, in fact, the HD performances are partially to blame for cannibalizing the Met's local NY audiences, then the Met probably should start doing what the NFL does - go dark until shows have sold out. Maybe they only need to reduce the number of local theaters offering the Met HD Live performances. [Personally, I don't much care for the HD Live stuff. I am very fortunate to have seen many live operas and, for me, there is no comparison. Plus, here in DC, it's become a blood sport to try and find a seat in some theaters - HD Live here usually is done in only the smallest theaters in multiplexes].

    Anyway, I think the biggest drawback to the huge Met auditorium is that many singers today either can't handle projecting in that big space or else find the idea of singing in such a big auditorium to be intimidating. Many singers commonly seen in Europe are rarely seen at the Met. That might be for the above reason or it could be because of a lack of vision on the part of Met management. Maybe both. For example, I believe either 2017 or 2018 will be the first time Klaus Florian Vogt will be heard at the Met. Nina Stemme has started singing in one production per season. Jonas Kaufmann only signs up for one production a season and, typically, it's one that doesn't interest me (Manon Lescaut? Werther?). Of course, recently, his health issues have precluded his even showing up. Voices these days just aren't as big as they were in the 1950s thru the 1970s. Joan Sutherland could blow the doors off the place without breaking a sweat. So could Callas (though she didn't sing there very often because she and Rudolf Bing, well, didn't get along very well). When I saw Joyce DiDonato (who I think is terrific) and Juan Diego Florez in the Met's La Donna del Lago a couple of years ago, I was astonished that the orchestra was so subdued. I assume that was so they wouldn't play over these great singers.

    I agree that the Met should try and get out more often, but would prefer to see them start touring again. I know that idea is beyond the pale economically and it would be even more difficult to get in-demand singers to be willing to participate. The idea of taking bits and pieces of the Met - much less bits and pieces of operas - around NYC wouldn't seem to offer much pay-off in audience building. Opera lovers in NY know the Met, it's just too much of a hassle any more to make the trip and then get back home and to bed in time to be coherent for work the next day.

    So, yes, I think size does matter. I do not agree with the article, however, that the Met should build a new theater for smaller, more intimate productions. Use the money to build their endowment and financial security instead. I don't know how to go about rebuilding an audience, it's kind of like those days are gone forever, at least here in the U.S.

    The exception to all this doom and gloom? Wagner. Well cast strong productions of Wagner's operas bring people out of the woodwork like nothing else. SRO.

  8. #8
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    3,951
    Post Thanks / Like
    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Lander (sospiro) View Post
    Lyon (aka engine room of Nostromo) has a capacity of 1100 but acoustics are poor; probably due to the fact it's all metal.

    Who's the design genius that . . . ???

  9. #9
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    9,964
    Post Thanks / Like
    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    I'm not so sure about any of this. It's very sad to attend performances at the Met (you know - The Met!) and see so many empty seats - especially for top notch casts in solid productions. I remember going to the Met back in the late 1970s when it always seemed full. It was an exciting place and full of life in those days. These days, the audiences (myself included), all have gray or white hair and many have mobility issues. Young audiences are scarce - you try and peel them away from their devices! The audience at the Kennedy Center (seats 2,800) similarly is much reduced from before the economic downturn, perhaps by 30% during my Wednesday subscription nights. The economy is up again, albeit not to its pre-2008 level, but the audience got out of the habit. It's way easier to stay home and watch TV in your jammies.

    On the other hand, the much smaller European opera houses I've been to seem to be attended at capacity most of the time.

    If, in fact, the HD performances are partially to blame for cannibalizing the Met's local NY audiences, then the Met probably should start doing what the NFL does - go dark until shows have sold out. Maybe they only need to reduce the number of local theaters offering the Met HD Live performances. [Personally, I don't much care for the HD Live stuff. I am very fortunate to have seen many live operas and, for me, there is no comparison. Plus, here in DC, it's become a blood sport to try and find a seat in some theaters - HD Live here usually is done in only the smallest theaters in multiplexes].

    Anyway, I think the biggest drawback to the huge Met auditorium is that many singers today either can't handle projecting in that big space or else find the idea of singing in such a big auditorium to be intimidating. Many singers commonly seen in Europe are rarely seen at the Met. That might be for the above reason or it could be because of a lack of vision on the part of Met management. Maybe both. For example, I believe either 2017 or 2018 will be the first time Klaus Florian Vogt will be heard at the Met. Nina Stemme has started singing in one production per season. Jonas Kaufmann only signs up for one production a season and, typically, it's one that doesn't interest me (Manon Lescaut? Werther?). Of course, recently, his health issues have precluded his even showing up. Voices these days just aren't as big as they were in the 1950s thru the 1970s. Joan Sutherland could blow the doors off the place without breaking a sweat. So could Callas (though she didn't sing there very often because she and Rudolf Bing, well, didn't get along very well). When I saw Joyce DiDonato (who I think is terrific) and Juan Diego Florez in the Met's La Donna del Lago a couple of years ago, I was astonished that the orchestra was so subdued. I assume that was so they wouldn't play over these great singers.

    I agree that the Met should try and get out more often, but would prefer to see them start touring again. I know that idea is beyond the pale economically and it would be even more difficult to get in-demand singers to be willing to participate. The idea of taking bits and pieces of the Met - much less bits and pieces of operas - around NYC wouldn't seem to offer much pay-off in audience building. Opera lovers in NY know the Met, it's just too much of a hassle any more to make the trip and then get back home and to bed in time to be coherent for work the next day.

    So, yes, I think size does matter. I do not agree with the article, however, that the Met should build a new theater for smaller, more intimate productions. Use the money to build their endowment and financial security instead. I don't know how to go about rebuilding an audience, it's kind of like those days are gone forever, at least here in the U.S.

    The exception to all this doom and gloom? Wagner. Well cast strong productions of Wagner's operas bring people out of the woodwork like nothing else. SRO.
    So gloomy, my friend! I don't see it as negatively as you are seeing it. The only time I remember the Met seriously empty of late, was The Rake's Progress - a pity because it is such a good opera! But you know, modern and contemporary operas unfortunately don't get as much public.

    Most of the other times I was there in the last couple of seasons it was either pretty full, or with just a few empty tickets.

    But yes, sure, the public has shrunk since the 2008 crisis when you look at averages, that's a fact, but I still think it is more visible when the production and the singers are not that great; the Met can still put a lot of people on the seats for the better productions and great singers.

    The thing about projection is that volume is not always required. There are many other qualities in a singer's voice. And I still think that the Met acoustics are so good that the impact of the auditorium size gets greatly diminished.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  10. #10
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    9,964
    Post Thanks / Like
    Quote Originally Posted by Ann Lander (sospiro) View Post
    Your point about the design is a good one. Lyon (aka engine room of Nostromo) has a capacity of 1100 but acoustics are poor; probably due to the fact it's all metal.



    Lyon



    Nostromo
    Hilarious!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  11. #11
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    9,964
    Post Thanks / Like
    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    Who's the design genius that . . . ???
    Pardon my language, but if the interior of an opera house has ever deserved the expression "What the (bleep)?", that's the one. Wow!

    It looks weird from the outside too.



    It doesn't blend very well with the urban landscape either:

    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); May 7th, 2017 at 04:29 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  12. #12
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    4,190
    Post Thanks / Like
    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    Pardon my language, but if the interior of an opera house has ever deserved the expression "What the (bleep)?", that's the one. Wow!

    It looks weird from the outside too.


    http://www.jeannouvel.com/en/desktop...e-opera-house1

    The architect is Jean Nouvel and it's the winning entry to a design competition. If this was the winner ...

    It was an interesting experience though and Lyon itself is a wonderful city.

  13. #13
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Midwestern U.S.
    Posts
    3,167
    Post Thanks / Like
    It looks like a 19th century structure that's had an unsympathetic modern addition slapped on top of it.

  14. #14
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    9,964
    Post Thanks / Like
    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    It looks like a 19th century structure that's had an unsympathetic modern addition slapped on top of it.
    That's exactly what it is, according to the architect who apparently is famous and celebrated. I guess he had a hiccup. He built this eyesore on top of the existing old building. From the inside it is fine: a beautiful space for modern dance on top of the auditorium. The problem is how it disrupts the urban landscape surrounding it, to the worst possible effect.

    One wonders what the other contestants had produced, for the winner to be this monstrosity.

    I visited Lyon years ago before this abomination was planted inside the heart of the city. It pains me to see the beautiful urban landscape ruined by this thing.

    Sure, the Beaubourg in Paris is also a modern structure surrounded by more ancient buildings but somehow it doesn't look as offensive in my opinion, although there is a case to be made that it is just as bad. But it's still fine, I think, because it is square like the other buildings and it presents another kind of busy roof which is also the case for what is around it. Also, it is modern from the ground floor up instead of being some sort of hybrid atrocity.



    Another example is the Louvre glass pyramid. It works fine.



    But this hideous structure does not, including because it is too tall as compared to the surrounding roofs. It's like someone by accident dropped an airport hangar on top of an old Lyon building.

    I wonder why nobody at City Hall approached this architect and said - "huh, sir, sorry but this won't work."

    If that's the best they could do with the contest, it was time to scratch the results and open new bids, inviting more architects to compete again.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); May 7th, 2017 at 01:27 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  15. #15
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    4,190
    Post Thanks / Like
    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    It looks like a 19th century structure that's had an unsympathetic modern addition slapped on top of it.
    Yep!

    Nouvel built downwards as well and the main rehearsal room is 5 floors down. One of the singers told me it was a dreary place in which to rehearse.


    Name:  P1020490.Opéra de Lyon.jpg
Views: 204
Size:  91.5 KB

Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 4 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Appropriate Subject Matter for Opera
    By Polednice in forum General Operatic Discussion
    Replies: 13
    Last Post: December 12th, 2011, 03:19 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  


free html visitor counters
hit counter




Official Media Partners of Opera Carolina

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of Opera Carolina

Official Media Partners of NC Opera

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of North Carolina Opera

Official Media Partners of Greensboro Opera

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of Greensboro Opera

Official Media Partners of The A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute and Piedmont Opera

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of The A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute
of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Piedmont Opera

Official Media Partners of Asheville Lyric Opera

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of Asheville Lyric Opera

Official Media Partners of UNC Opera

Opera Lively is the Official Media Partner of UNC Opera
Dept. of Music, UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences

www.operalively.com

VISIT WWW.OPERALIVELY.COM FOR ALL YOUR OPERA NEEDS