Watching Opera With Lots of Older People

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.29.27 PMThis weekend I went to the Metropolitan Opera to watch Renée Fleming, Sir Thomas Allen, Nathan Gunn, Kelli O’Hara, and a host of other polished singers offer amazing operatic performances. No, I was not in New York City, and I did not sit in the Met’s gigantic performance hall that holds as many as 3,800 people. I did not purchase one of those hugely expensive tickets (though someday I’d love to buy one), and I did not get all dressed up. But the opera was still superb.

On Saturday afternoon my husband and I went to a local movie theatre to watched Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow streamed live in HD from the Metropolitan Opera. Along with several hundred other, mostly gray-haired, people we watched with rapt attention as the performers sang and danced on a huge screen, streaming into our theatre while the plot unfolded in the hall at Lincoln Center. We even got to see the bows and curtain calls.

At intermission the program’s host, another opera singer who was not in the production, introduced us to the performers, literally as they came off the stage from the first act. An added visual bonus allowed us to see, in the background, glimpses of act I scenery taken down and new scenery put up. All told we got to watch and listen to more than three hours of opera.

All this for $25 a ticket, with seniors entitled to a small discount.

Only one thing marred the afternoon. I looked around the room, and I could not see a single person under 30, maybe 35. Not one person. I saw no grandchildren, no kids who take music lessons, and no young adults.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.35.51 PM

Certainly the tickets to watch the opera live streamed were more expensive than a typical family visit to the movies, but they were far less than a trip to most live performances, and definitely not more than many families spend per person on a sporting event or on entry fees to a theme park (FYI, watching an opera is a bit like stepping into a captivating and superbly musical theme park). The age of the predominantly gray-headed attendees in my theatre and the age of those I saw in the New York audience does not bode well for the future of opera.

Now I am a third generation opera lover, and that would not have happened had not my parents and my dad’s parents taken seriously the importance of introducing children to the musical genre. My dad can tell, detail-by-detail, the plot and characters of half-a-dozen operas, and a few years ago he gave me a small stack of librettos that belonged to his mother, my grandmother. Grandma considered Saturday afternoons with the opera to be sacrosanct, and she would almost always be found listening and following along with the libretto.

Oh, but we enjoyed our time at the theatre on Saturday, and we plan to return in two weeks to watch a live performance of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Tales of Hoffman) with tenor Vittorio Grigolo in the lead. I hope I see a few younger folks at that performance.

Learn more about The Met’s Live in HD 2015 schedule.

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