Ich kann nicht sitzen

The first donnybrook of the Gelb era may well be the Revolt of the Standees. As most of you know, the Met’s Standing Room policy for the past 20 years or so has been to sell tickets for each week’s performances on Saturday morning. The queue that formed early in the a.m. has been under the unofficial but unquestioned authority of Josephine Rowe.

For the upcoming season, however, a change of rules will be put into place. Standing room tickets will go on sale daily, for that night’s performance only, and the “Upstairs” (Family Circle) standing places will not be available unless the entire Family Circle seating section is sold out. Effectively, the Saturday morning “line” would cease to exist.

Now, La Cieca is of the offhand opinion that these changes would make little effective difference to most operagoers, even most standees, since only on rare occasions are Family Circle and both standing areas sold 100%. On the other hand, the diehard standees, those who attend multiple times weekly, would probably find it at least cumbersome to buy tickets daily. So there’s a tradeoff here, with the longtime standees getting something less than the best end of the bargain.

Well, this morning, La Cieca got an email from Ms. Rowe (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed) laying out her side of the story:

Madame La Cieca:

Please allow me to enlighten your good self as to standing room and standees. We are a loyal bunch who have risen since the 80’s when the late Helen Quinn successfully submitted a petition to allow standees to purchase their tickets one week in advance. The family circle nonsense is not as liberal as it would seem and the few available seats are in really bad locations, if at all. . . . As to Orchestra standing room 100 numbered positions, that is either sold out or not, depending on the opera and with the exception of a few hard boiled old well dressed and well heeled and financially secure old biddys who race to seats (3 or 4 of these) everyone observes the rules. If some departing patron chooses to offer his/her ticket stubs then, of course, the standee is more than grateful and delighted to accept a seat for the remainder of the performance.

To have changed their policy imposes MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE A BIG HARDSHIP in many people who work for a living at jobs that they cannot show up to late in the day. Many of us like to attend 3/4 times a week and no employer would tolerate the absences that this would entail if the opera lover had to feed his/her addiction. With so many jobs low level, midlevel, computer, manufacturing, etc. being ‘OUTSOURCED” with the blessing of our government (never to return) people who depend on their jobs cannot risk them.

The Met is the envy of opera lovers from all over the world because of its civilized arrangements for standees. Saturday morning purchases for the upcoming week (most of us are free to stand in line on Saturdays) and the numbered positions that allow us to dress decently for the opera instead of wearing bullet proof vests and combat boots in order to be successful in the stampede for tickets and thence for places. Only the bullies and the supremely fit would be successful. I would not attend many operas if I had to endure this madness because I would be at home nursing my injuries as I am only five feet nothing in my shoes!!!! Your good self would not like
to have her silks and satins and Armani clothing rent and stained in this horror.

Now if you would like to help us persuade Broadway Pete to reinstate the policy and use your not inconsiderable influence we would be most grateful Mama.

We had an extraordinary meeting to this end on last Saturday and hand delivered a letter with 20 signatures (Helen had 300) to backstage security at the Met. We hope that everyone we know will write letters immediately to Mr. Gelb to reverse this draconian act. Please send copies to me so that I may attach them to the Petition proper that I hope to hand in on or before next Thursday.

Yes, attendances and purchases of both seats and standing room have dropped dramatically since 9/11 sad to say and have never really recovered so all the more reason to encourage patrons from whatever station in life they come from an opera lover is a precious commodity in this day and age when audiences are shrinking. Gelb is all out, he says, to encourage new audiences especially young people. Well, young people cannot afford $350 seats or more and the standees of today may be the benefactors and expensive seat buyers of tomorrow. Some corporate and professional gentlemen have oft recounted to me their student days on the line and now they donate sizeable amounts of money from their own pockets and large sums from corporate funding to the arts. All this because of their good experiences as standees. One can never afford to insult people or be unkind in this manner it is short sighted and does not account for future developments. Someone once … reminded me that ‘THE PEOPLE YOU MEET ON THE WAY UP ARE THE SAME PEOPLE THAT YOU WILL MEET ON YOUR WAY DOWN” AND IT IS SO TRUE.

Madame, any assistance you may be able to give us will be greatly appreciated. Your wisdom and influence reaches far and wide so I am hoping for great results.

Thank you and Good night.

Sincerely, Josephine Rowe

So let’s throw the controvery open for discussion, shall we?

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