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Met Opera in New York sold 72% of tickets this season, up from 66% and highest since pandemic

FILE - People appear in Josie Robertson Plaza in front of The Metropolitan Opera house at Lincoln Center in New York on March 12, 2020. . (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The Metropolitan Opera sold 72% of its available tickets this season, up from 66% in 2022-23 and an increase from 61% from its first season following the pandemic.

Box office remained down from 75% in 2018-19 and a projected 76% for 2019-20 before the mid-March shutdown caused by the COVID pandemic, the company said Thursday.

“We’re on a good path in terms of our ticket sales and most impressive is the fact that the audience is remarkably younger,” Met general manager Peter Gelb said.

Factoring in discounted tickets, the Met took in 64% of its potential box-office revenue, an increase from 57% in 2022-23. Gelb said single-ticket buyers, who amount to 85% of the audience, averaged 44 years old and the subscription audience averaged 70.

The Met withdrew $40 million this season from its endowment and it currently has about $255 million, Gelb said, down from $309 million last July. The Met hired Boston Consulting Group to examine cost reduction, ticketing and fundraising enhancement.

“They and we estimate that over the next four seasons as a result of their findings and recommendations we will have a positive swing of between $30 and $40 million,” Gelb said. “There is no question that we are still climbing out of the hole of the pandemic, as are other opera companies.”

A revival of Julie Taymor’s 2004 production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” presented in an abridged English version during the holiday season, led the 18 productions with 87% of available tickets sold. The Met will offer 17 performances of “Flute” next season, an increase from 13.

“We have built a very large audience base for that, particularly of parents and grandparents bringing their kids because as a family show it’s been sort of the operatic response to `The Nutcracker,‘” Gelb said, a reference to New York City Ballet’s popular holiday presentation. “It fills the house with the audience of the future.”

Franco Zeffirelli’s 1987 staging of Puccini’s “Turandot” was second at 82%, followed by a new staging of Bizet’s “Carmen” by the British director Carrie Cracknell at 81%, the Met premiere of Anthony Davis’s “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” at 78% and revivals of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” (75%) and “La Bohème” (74%) and Verdi’s “Nabucco” (72%).

Among other new productions, Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” sold 71%, Daniel Catán’s “Florencia en el Amazonas” 68%, Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking” 62% and John Adams’ “El Niño” 58%.

Revivals of Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut up in My Bones” sold 65% and of Kevin Puts’ “The Hours” sold 61%. A revival of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” sold the lowest at 56%.

“I’m convinced that we are on the right path in terms of mixing the presentations between timeless classics and new works," Gelb said. "It's the only way the art form ultimately can advance, and we have to experiment. Not everything is going to be as successful as we would like.”

The Met said it had 84,934 new ticket buyers, up from 75,930 in 2022-23, and about 25% of those attended one of six contemporary operas — and approximately one in 10 of that group returned for another opera.

The Met released its tax form for the year ending last July 31, which showed music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin earned $1,307,583, a rise from $1,195,702 in the prior fiscal year, and Gelb earned $1,379,032, up from $1,094,327.

Revenue in the year ending last July 31 was $303.1 million, up from $281.6 million in 2022-23. Contributions and grants were relatively the same at $185.1 million.

Ronald Blum, The Associated Press

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