The company sold 83.9% of available tickets in 2006-07, up from 76.8% in 2005-06. (Sales figures had slipped every year since the 90.8% reached in 2000-01, according to the AP.) 88 performances were sold out this past season, up from 22 the previous season. Among the sellouts were five high-profile productions (four of them new to the house) by well-known directors: Madama Butterfly, staged by filmmaker Anthony Minghella (The English Patient); The Barber of Seville, directed by Bartlett Sher (The Light in the Piazza); Tan Dun's new opera The First Emperor, directed by filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Raise the Red Lantern) and starring Plšcido Domingo; the special English-language holiday version of The Magic Flute in Julie Taymor's popular staging; and Orfeo ed Euridice directed by choreographer Mark Morris and starring David Daniels.
Gelb acknowledged, according to the AP, that expenditures had increased this season over last, though he pointed out it was too early to give a bottom-line financial result. "It was essential," he said, "that in order to fuel the longer-term recovery of the Met, that the kinds of significant changes that we put into place had to begin with this season rather than sitting back and allowing the box office to continue to flounder."
Among the new initiatives undertaken by the Met under Gelb, who began his tenure as general manager this season, are free simulcasts of the season's opening night on Lincoln Center's Josie Robertson Plaza and in Times Square, the launch of an all-Met station on Sirius Satellite Radio, free streaming audio of one performance a week on the Met website, $20 orchestra-level tickets for weeknight performances, and, most successfully, simulcasts, in high-definition video and audio, of six selected Saturday matinees into movie theaters in North America, four European companies and Japan.
A total of 323,751 tickets were sold for the high-definition broadcasts in about 400 cinemas. Several of the operas received an encore presentation on a subsequent weeknight in some theaters, and, according to The New Yorker's Alex Ross, the Saturday showings have consistently been among the top moneymakers, on a per-screen/per-showing basis, in the U.S.
Gelb said that the company plans to expand the high-definition simulcast program next year from six Saturdays to eight and from 400 screens to up to 800; negotiations are underway to extend the broadcasts to several more European countries.
The Met's 2006-07 season ended last Saturday night (May 12) with a performance of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice starring David Daniels and directed and choreographed by Mark Morris.