The Marketing Genius of Peter Gelb
My friend, Goldberg, had a subscription to the old Metropolitan Opera on West 40th St. For years he sat next to a lady whose husband, on the other side of her, fell asleep through most of every performance.
When the Met moved to Lincoln Center, Goldberg decided he’d had enough and informed the lady he was giving up his seats.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed having two men sleeping with me for the past 20 years.”
Now—at age 72—I have become hooked on opera.
Who’d a thunk it?
Typical Opera Experience
Opera was never my thing. Several years ago, my wife, Peggy, and I went to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center with a friend from Boston who donates a lot of money and gets good seats. We saw “Rigoletto,” which is about a hunchback. Our friend took care of the seats, and we bought dinner at the Met before the show. Dinner was elegant—I imagine rather like Delmonico’s in the 19th century. I could picture Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell at the next table. During intermission following Act 1, we returned to our table in the restaurant for dessert, coffee and brandy. Seats for the opera and dinner for three were hundreds of dollars.
At the opera: bench-like seats, painful knees and a lighted crawl with the libretto in English running across the back of the bench ahead of me. Stage was half a mile away, not great for my lousy (20/400) eyesight. Dramatic scenery, but tiny figures in the far distance. Whole lot of singing and yelling, but nothing tuneful to remember.
Finally in Act 3 came the great aria, “La Donna é Mobile” (“A Woman is Flighty”). Roughly two exquisite minutes after seeming hours of unintelligible vocal mush—not great to someone who grew up attending the melodic Broadway masterpieces of Cole Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, and Frank Loesser. I prefer “Die Fledermaus” or “Carmen.”