August 22, 2011 at 6:01 PM

A Morning at the Opera

"This year, the Lensic had its act so together that it was almost a joy to buy tickets"

By Casey St. Charnez

Media Rare

Casey St. Charnez has been video editor for Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide since 1986 and buyer for Lisa Harris' Video Library since 1981. He likes Lisa, cats, crosswords, and the Metropolitan Opera, probably in that order.

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How how how I'd been dreading 10 a.m. Friday, August 19 -- the moment the Lensic box office would start selling tickets for the Met Opera's fifth season of "Live in HD"...but to Guild members only.

Which included me, at Lisa's insistence. From summer's dawn, she inveigled me, and wisely so, to reup with the Guild, a $150 prerequisite for early birds to purchase tickets before the gates open to non-members on August 29. By then, of course, most of the good seats are gone. Unlike other participating theaters, Lensic seats are reserved and snapped up faster than bel canto patter that first Friday morning.

While I think that the Met's satellite transmissions, subtitled and stereophonic, are the number-one best way to enjoy opera, my trepidation arose because we'd have to queue up no later than 6:30 a.m. You see, a couple of Augusts back, Lisa and I had dutifully joined the faithful on San Francisco St. around 7:30 a.m. The sun was ghastly, the people accordingly grumpy, and by the time the line had wound down Burro Alley around onto Palace, the waiting had turned into an ordeal. And the doors wouldn't open for another 90 minutes.

Even then, each transaction stretched so long that it took another hour inside, the snaky line inching towards the sales window like parents do at Space Mountain, and believe me, the kids were getting plenty antsy.

We made it out alive, but never again, I said.

Wrong.

This year, gritting my teeth, we found ourselves 12th in line, 3 1/2 hours before the bell. I was ready for an unpleasant repeat experience. But, no! This year, the Lensic had its act so together that it was almost a joy to buy tickets. House manager Bob Martin arranged to guide the line down the shaded atrium, opening the iron portal to bring in the breezes. The restrooms were unlocked. His crew wheeled in stacks of padded chairs so no one had to stand any longer.

Meanwhile, concessions manager Dennis Mares kept a cart of free (!) coffee rolling, as he lugged can after can of regular and decaf, full and empty, back and forth, to the highly in-demand servers.

Box office manager Jo Fisher (whose birthday it was--"Cupcakes at three," she whispered to me as she made the rounds) had personnel pre-checking Guild membership cards and handing out expeditious order sheets. I heard one of them exult, "Last year, each sale took an average of eight minutes. This year it's down to four. We're doing great!"

Indeed they did. Though not a perfected system--one can't order online like the rest of the world can, as the Lensic claims it is unable to erect a password-protected site--still there was good cheer among those present.

Including me, as I said above. Who'da thunk it?

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