The Metropolitan Opera House, the glittering crown jewel of Lincoln Center, is not typically attended by high school students. With red velvet adorning almost every surface, chandeliers in the entrance hall, and patrons in ball gowns, the atmosphere is different from the Bronx Science school building. At a recent performance of Carmen, I got to look inside the mysterious glamour of this renowned opera house.
“It is so good that you’re here,” the elderly couple seated next to me kept repeating emphatically. “Just so good.” The crowd below in orchestra seating was broken up by smatterings of empty seats, their owners perhaps delayed by the snow. The late-seating policy here is strict, and no late-comers are allowed to take their seats until intermission.
With the last notes of the orchestra’s introduction, the curtain rises and the opera is set to begin. However, tonight’s performance is unusual. While the opening dance goes off without a hitch, when the larger ensemble takes the stage the set has failed to appear.
“We are experiencing technical difficulties,” a disembodied voice announces after a few minutes of improvisation. This not a part of the Met Opera routine. “Please allow us a minute while we reset.” Once this small hitch was overcome, the performance was ready to continue.
“I would go, but it’s just too expensive,” said Tanzila Haque ’19.
Opera is not generally regarded as the most accessible art form. At the conclusion of Carmen’s three hour performance, one of the youngest audience members inquired, “What language was that in?”
With a seating capacity of 3,800 people, the Met Opera will need more students in its audiences to keep seats filled. A recent outreach program, Met Live HD, brought performances to schools via live-streaming technology, but there’s a long way to go. From overcoming the intimidation of stepping into an illustrious opera house to simply overcoming the financial barrier of purchasing tickets, there are many challenges to address.
The Met Opera Students program offers full-time undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to purchase student tickets to select performances at a special student rate. This offer, however, does not include high school students. Where financial barriers prove too great, even interested high school students will not be able to purchase a ticket. “I would go, but it’s just too expensive,” Tanzila Haque ’19 explained.
I was lucky enough to attend a beautiful performance of Carmen, and hopefully through ongoing outreach initiatives, more high school students will take an interest and have it made available to them.