The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: How can the Metropolitan Opera — and others arts groups — increase attendance? New York Times critics offer suggestions. | May 7, 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s no secret that a lot of classical music organizations in the U.S. are looking for new ways to attract bigger audiences and especially younger audiences.

Even some of the world’s most prestigious organizations are feeling the pain and sensing the scare.

Take the Metropolitan Opera (below) in New York City.

Met from stage over pit

Apparently, attendance at the world-famous opera company is dangerously low, putting the Met in financial and, eventually perhaps, artistic trouble.

So this past week, several of the music critics for The New York Times offered their suggestions about how to improve attendance at the Met. The suggestions include cheaper tickets, different repertoire and special events.

The story has relevance to the Madison scene, especially as many arts groups face similar challenges even at they are announcing their new seasons and seeking new subscribers.

It is also relevant to Madison both because of what yet remains to be done but also because of some of the things—like Sunday afternoon performances – that are already being done.

The Ear found it a good read, loaded with food for thought. (Below is an illustration by Peter and Maria Hoey). He hopes you agree. Here it a link:

Metropolitan Opera attendance drawing Peter and Maria Hoey

The Ear also thinks for some groups that shorter concerts, more informal concerts and lower prices would be helpful.

Do you have ideas you care to share?

Just put them in the COMMENTS section.

The Ear wants to hear.



  1. I think also that some unusual approaches like “Mozart in the Jungle” are highly effective in introducing young people to classical music. I know from posts that many here consider that series almost heretical: on the other hand, it mixes classical music, acting (on a high level), good photography, sex, life inside classical music, and realism perhaps unlike any other thing related to classical music. In the same way that to an earlier generation, Milos Forman’s movie about Mozart, Amadeus, made him real, and in the flesh. Neither is perfect but they do have a catch to them for the young especially.

    Comment by fflambeau — May 7, 2016 @ 11:40 pm

    • So correct, catch them when they are young. I used to listen to a local college station on a crystal set and for the most part the station played classical music. In school in those days we listened to the Standard School Broadcast on Fridays in class. Also, we sang choral music in class and in the school choir.



      Comment by — May 7, 2016 @ 11:56 pm

  2. Good idea by Symphony. But I’m not sure that brings in the younger crowd; more likely, the older people who do not have money and the lonely.

    But I think the problem is deeper than price cuts and so on, Jake, and it might not be solvable (if that is a word). Face it, young people look at modern media, meaning Youtube and the likes, and really the opera, and most classical music is repulsive to them. It’s the past and they are all about the future. They’d far rather see Linkin Park or dozens of other groups. And, their heroes are often free, pretty much on YouTube and with cheap down loadsl if they charge.

    Maybe it will never be possible to attract lots of youngsters. The idea should be to catch those who are willing and will be important (the mass of the young are neither) leaders and role models. That means education with classical music starting as early as possible, in grade schools. and freely available surrounding modern life. In the markets, the streets, the schools and so on. So, I think educational outreach is the way to go.

    I do like your idea about making classical music less sterile and less like visiting a museum: meeting with the performers, having some food and drink with them, these are great ideas. But face it: the top “stars” in classical music probably don’t wish to mingle with the masses (they’re too busy making money). Hence, the need for more local performances by non big names. These are the musicians who care about others. Madison is lucky to have the tie in with the Music department at UW. If I was in that program, I’d put the student performances and all performances (faculty, students and guests) online and make them free. Build a huge library of classical music, most of it coming from young performers that young people can relate to and easily access. It would be good for the program too.

    Comment by fflambeau — May 7, 2016 @ 11:33 pm

    • Correct, the live Met Opera in the local theatre does not bring in younger audiences. I estimate everyone is 50+.

      The cinema trailer to the Bolshoi 2016-17 season is a loving expression and I think would appeal to younger as well as older audiences:

      The music is contemporary and lusty. The ballet episodes in the trailer show tenderness, love and caring for another I find it to be healing to watch.

      Mahler perhaps represents the culmination of the Romantic period in music. Commercial FM in many ways has for the most part turned into another wasteland. In high school I was ridiculed by my friends for my love of classical music. For fifty years off and on I listened to the Bartok Six String Quartets on LP’s then CD’s now with the Emerson String Quartet. After playing I wake in the middle of the nigh hearing he Third which is so intense in my head and have to bring up a Schumman German Lieder to quite my mind and then go back to sleep. I would truly love to hear a complete live concert of all six of Bartok’s String Quartets.


      Comment by — May 8, 2016 @ 12:26 pm

  3. Since I do not live in New York City I find the local live theater broadcast of the Met Opera to be very special. It allow us to in effect go to the opera. At my end, networking with three of us gives us this opportunity. It is a “triatic relationship.” I would suggest that you created a local networking component on your site to do the same. So if John Doe would like to go to a live Met performance in a theater in any city in the U.S. he could network and go. This not only brings John as a cash paying customer but at least two others.

    Comment by — May 7, 2016 @ 12:33 pm

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