Mystery score

Mystery score

Monday, January 07, 2008

How Many Rings Does the West Coast Need?

I've written before about the choral car pileup problem, where six choruses perform the same weekend, diluting the audience and tying up every freelance player and the best venues in the Bay Area. Evidently the major West Coast opera companies are trying for something similar. During 2008-09, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle will be staging part or all of the Ring. San Francisco will have Das Rheingold in June, 2008; I'm just guessing that perhaps Die Walkuere will follow in the fall of 2008 or June of 2009. Seattle will present 3 full cycles in August, 2009, the third presentation of Stephen Wadworth's "green" Ring. Los Angeles will present Rheingold and Walkuere during their 2008-09 season, which was just announced today.

Oh, if this isn't enough, it's widely believed that the Met will stage the Schenk production once more during the 2008-09 series (see MetManiac for details) before Robert LePage's production arrives a couple of seasons down the pike.

7 comments:

Bryan said...

I don't see the problem. Seeing the Ring cycle is a fabulous experience, and a big money-maker for the opera companies. The works are among the very best in the repertory. This allows opera lovers in Los Angeles who can't afford to fly to Seattle and stay at a hotel for a week the chance to see it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

A big money-maker in what sense? Ticket sales account for no more than 50% of any opera company's budget, and the Ring is fantastically expensive to stage. Seattle Opera spent $16 million on their current staging (stagings after the first cost much less, of course). Opera companies can use staging a Ring cycle for fund-raising purposes, if that's what you mean by money-maker.

It's a problem to have them all the same year because someone like me, who might travel, will be less inclined to do so, and out-of-towners typically make up a pretty big percentage of Ring-goers. Plus, there are only so many singers at any given time who can perform the leading roles. All in all, it's a dilution problem: only so many audience members and singers to go around.

Bryan said...

The Seattle Ring sells out quickly, does it not? Presumably there are more who would like to attend, as well as those who can't afford the luxury of a trip away from home. Maybe the ticket price only pays 50%, but I can't believe they'd keep doing it if it lost money.

I guess we'll find out if they have trouble selling tickets, but there's a big difference in audience interest between a professional opera company and an amateur chorus. And presenting a full cycle like Seattle does is way different from single operas. People are much less likely to take a trip just to see Das Rheingold.

If there were three simultaneous Philip Glass festivals, your concern would be more valid.

miqewalsh said...

If there were three simultaneous Philip Glass festivals, how could you tell?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Now, now!

Yes, the Seattle Ring sells out quickly. Probably most good Ring productions do. As for "losing money," most opera companies balance their budgets, but, again, ticket prices cover about half of expenses.

Marcus said...

At least your companies are doing Wagner. Houston Grand Opera hasn't done any of his operas since I've been here (4 years), let alone the Ring. No Strauss, either...

Lisa Hirsch said...

That is worrisome, considering that David Gockley came here from there.