The Met in Motion

HD Liveness: What is "Live in HD"?

Since 2006, when Peter Gelb launched Live in HD, 141 performances of 105 operas have been simulcast as part of the program. I collected all of those operas, along with some information about them and their productions, into a dataset in order to get to know Live in HD by its numbers.

The Beginning:

Live in HD's first season included only 6 broadcasts — Die Zauberflöte, I puritani, The First Emperor, Eugene Onegin, Il barbieri di Siviglia, and Il trittico — since then, they've dialed up to 10 per season, with a little less than half of the Met's full season being broadcast. According to a 2007 New York Times article, that first Zauberflöte broadcast, "played at 100 theaters, most of them scattered throughout the United States and Canada, with seven in Britain, two in Japan and one in Norway." Now, the broadcasts go out to thousands of theaters in 73 countries. According to another 2007 New York Times article:

For the first live show, “The Magic Flute” on Dec. 30, about 21,000 people watched in front of 98 screens. For the last, “Il Trittico” on April 28, 48,000 people watched in front of 248 screens.” In all, the Met sold 324,000 tickets worldwide at $18 each in the United States and more overseas, taking 50 percent of the proceeds and earning at least $3 million, as well as additional income from the sale of rights. Each simulcast cost $850,000 to $1 million to make.

The Operas

Across 141 broadcasts, the Met has shown:

The Languages

The Met has broadcast operas in 9 different languages. Here's how the ratios break down:
Of the big three operatic languages, Italian, French, and German, Italian is, obviously, over-represented. Unsurprising, given the dominance of Verdi and Puccini amongst the composers. The one opera in Sanskrit is Satyagraha, by Philip Glass. The one in Hungarian is Bluebeard's Castle, by Bela Bartok.

The Composers

Of the 40 composers represented on HD Live, 6 are still living (Tan Dun, Philip Glass, John Adams, Kaija Saariaho, Thomas Adès, Nico Muhly). 1 is female: Kaija Saariaho, whose opera L'Amour de loin was broadcast on December 10, 2016. 1 is a person of color: Chinese composer Tan Dun, whose opera The First Emperor was broadcast on January 13, 2007, a part of Live in HD's inaugural season.

The Years

Unsurprisingly, given that only 6 living composers have been broadcast, most of the Live in HD's operas have not been recent compositions. Here's a look at the years of premiere for these operas:

For context that helps explain where this pyramid shape comes from, here's another look at that chart, but with the composing careers of Verdi and Puccini mapped over it:

Clearly the overlap in the second half of the 19th century when both these men were actively composing has significantly affected these seasons' demographics — this is the canon at work.


The Co-Productions

Opera is very expensive. Something that is common at all levels, from regional houses to the Met, is productions done in partnership — two companies will split the costs of a new production, and then they both get to show it and both benefit from having a new production in their season lineup. Of the 141 performances broadcast, 95 have been co-productions. For the truly dedicated, here's a chart of which houses the Met collaborates the most frequently with:

As a way of interpreting this data, here's a chart of where these houses are, globally:

As you can see, while my map of performers' birthplaces showed that opera singers come from just about everywhere, opera productions, or at least the productions you can catch at the Met, overwhelmingly come from Europe.

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