Is the Metropolitan Opera Laying the Groundwork to End its Free Summer Concerts?

05/18/2010 3:33 PM |

HD is killing live music
  • HD is killing live music

This year, the Metropolitan Opera will again feature a scaled back summer outreach to the outer boroughs concert series, focusing instead on a ten-day festival of free HD screenings in Lincoln Center Plaza. Concerts will still be held in each of the five boroughs, though nothing as extensive as years past.

Is this being done to help lower expectations enough that it won’t be such a shocker if the organization does away with the outer-borough tours all together?

Free HD screenings require no musicians or conductors, and double as promotion for the not-free HD screenings held in movie theaters across the country throughout the year. I’m glad New Yorkers will be able to see Les Contes d’Hoffman, Doctor Atomic and Luc Bondy’s controversial Tosca production, among others. (Though I’m still not so sure I like the idea of opera in HD in general.)

But the opera company used to bring concert versions of entire operas to parks in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island during the summer. Then, in 2008, it held instead one megarecital in Prospect Park; last year, it hosted pared down recitals in out-of-the-way parks like Brooklyn’s Coffey Park—a treat for Red Hook residents, perhaps, but a schlep for the rest of us.

The Met won’t be hosting another concert in Coffey Park this year, moving the recital over to Brooklyn Bridge Park, which seems…well…has anyone from the Met ever been to Brooklyn Bridge Park? It’s really noisy.

My father tells me he can’t listen to the Debussy CD that I lent him in his car because it just sounds like silence: its low frequencies can’t overcome the sounds of traffic and the regular noises of car driving. Also, a friend tells me that the movies at Brooklyn Bridge Park are barely audible. Taking these into consideration, I fear the tenor, soprano and pianist scheduled to appear the evening of July 20th, a Tuesday, will struggle to be heard over the sounds of cars clanging over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Is the Met doing this on purpose? So that when the recitals disappear, people will say “well, those concerts weren’t so great anyway. You could barely hear anything”? It wasn’t always like this, Brooklynites!

Give it up for the New York Philharmonic, which will hold a free summer performance in Prospect Park, as usual. EXCEPT: the Brooklyn and Queens concerts will feature one-third as much music as the Central Park performance a few days earlier! (Oh, and Alan Gilbert won’t be leading any of the summer concerts, as he did last year. How Maazel of him.) And the Philharmonic won’t be traveling to Staten Island or The Bronx. (See bottom)

What gives, Met and Phil? New York needs more free, al fresco classical. Not less.

CORRECTION: It’s not true that The New York Philharmonic won’t be traveling to Staten Island or the Bronx. Its Brass and Percussion Ensemble plans to travel to those boroughs July 17 and 19 respectively for free indoor concerts.

One Comment

  • While Mr. Stewart’s comments on the need for more free al fresco concerts are worthy, he doesn’t seem to recognize the havoc of our current economic times. Both the Met’s and Philharmonic’s endowments that generate some operating expenses have taken substantial losses. Added to this are the cuts in city and state arts funding. Philanthropic funding has also been harder to come by.