ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Twilight of the Ringnuts

Richardwagner1His music has been praised in the most extravagant terms:

"He has his half hours."

"It's better than it sounds."

For fans of Richard Wagner (left), there is no better way to spend 15-16 hours than listening to his singular Gesamtkunstwerk, "Der Ring des Nibelungen."  That is why, as the New York Times reports, members of the Wagner Society of NewYork are hitting high C's in expressions of outrage over New York's Metropolitan Opera's decision to end its unofficial policy of giving Wagnerians the first pick of tickts for the Met's production of the Ring.  Instead, the Met's regular subscribers and patrons will be given preference.  As a consequence of this decision, Wagnerians contend that they may have to spend extra hundreds or even thousands of dollars to secure good seats for the last performance of Otto Schenk's classic production of the Ring in 2009. 

The Met's Peter Gelb is unrepentant:

“Wagnerians are very emotional,” he said. “But I have to look at the larger picture of the Met’s interests,” he said.

Limiting “Ring” priority to patrons and overall subscribers is another incentive to raise money and sell subscriptions, Mr. Gelb said. “We felt we needed to reward people who are patrons or subscribers,” he said. He provided his own baseball analogy: It is like buying season tickets for the Yankees, which includes the bonus of watching them play the Red Sox.

Mr. Gelb also pointed out that the earlier practice was not official policy, and that the Met was giving ample advance notice. “We don’t want to offend Wagner lovers, certainly, but hopefully they understand we are trying to maximize attendance and ticket revenues at the Met.”

So, here's the potential contract issue.  Is Mr. Gelb admitting too much when he acknowledges an earlier practice, even if that practice was not "official policy?"  Perhaps the prices that members of New York's Wagner Society were paying for their tickets included the consideration that those tickets assured them a place at the head of the line for future productions.

[Jeremy Telman]

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This is definitely interesting to think about. Would a court hearing this issue consider the fact that(if this is the case) other ticket holders were paying the same amount for their ticket and not receiving an assured place at the head of the line for future productions?

Posted by: Ryan Ballard | Apr 14, 2008 7:58:02 AM


I don't think the issue is that people sitting next to each other pay different amounts for comparable seats. Rather, because the Ring sells out, Ringnuts (as I'll affectionately call them, since I am a Wagnerian myself) may have to buy a season's subscription in order to even get seats to the Ring.

Posted by: Jeremy Telman | Apr 15, 2008 8:52:18 AM

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