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It's all about the music, dude! Sit down, relax and listen to some tunes.

RE: On the other hand...

It's a safe guess that at least 80% of each nite's audience (at the Met, Covent Garden, LaScala, you name it) are seeing an opera production for the first time, or maybe the second.

I highly doubt it's that many, and challenge you to find that statistic. In fact, data has recently released indicates it's more like only 10% or 20% of the Met's audience is seeing an opera production for the first time on any given night.

With the whole Opera Guild snafu the other day, the NYTimes reported that the magazine has a circulation of 100,000, and more than half of those people receive the magazine as a result of being a Met Opera donor. It seems likely that almost everyone who donates money to the Met is seeing at least one opera a year (and I bet most of those donors are either subscribers or seeing several operas because being a donor allows you to get preferential ticketing treatment). And of course, this doesn't count people who go but do not donate.

The Met has an annual attendance of 800,000. Like I said before, those 50k+ donors are likely all going to at least 1 opera. Let's say the average donor goes to an average of 4 opera performances a year (the main subscription packages are for 6 to 8 operas, and the mini packages are mostly 4, but sometimes 3 and 5), and each one of those donors represents a couple. So that's 2 x 50k x 4 = 400,000. So half of the Met attendance is likely made up of people seeing multiple operas a year. And remember, that does not include people who have seen opera at other houses but are going to the Met for the first time, or go to the Met less than once a year.

But despite all of this math, to remain the #1 opera house in the world, you cannot design your productions for first time opera goers -- that's pandering. Each production should strive for artistic excellence and to challenge audiences. The beauty of being a non-profit performing arts is that you can take risks -- because you're highly subsidized by donations you don't have to worry about selling every seat at every show like Broadway has to.

Edits: 05/24/12

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