Part of it's idiosyncratic, of course: blogs reflect individual tastes, which happen in this case to align a certain way. But such alignment reflects idiosyncratic responses to an unmistakable difference.
It was in sitting at a recent City Opera performance of Cav/Pag (one with this year's Tucker winner Brandon Jovanovich, who -- as far as one can tell in that juiced house -- sounded impressive despite a certain lack of Italianata) that I put my finger on it. There is certainly, for better or worse, a Met audience: an amalgamation, yes, but a coherent and meaningful one. And OONY, for example, has an audience some might find a bit too characteristic. But City Opera? True, at times it's a venue of Flanigan fans or the like, or the city's traveling pack of event-hounds encamps at some production. Yet the general impression is something else -- more living room than theater. They -- we -- watch, and applaud, and often seem pleased or moved afterwards, but there's an oddly detached undercurrent. It's an audience that's perhaps heard rumors about its own shape and existence and gives them some credit, but chooses mostly unconcern about such things. And so -- because every performance is also the story of an audience -- life-and-death urgency hardly ever makes it past the footlights here.
Sometimes I think it's the State Theater, a place seemingly designed to turn a public into a mass -- look at the undifferentiated sea of humanity in that huge rectilinear expanse of the only real intermission space... How different from the curves and niches of the Met. Or perhaps it's the inevitable outcome of running the country's biggest regional opera next door to the world's biggest international opera. Or...
Or maybe I'm wrong. But I think I'm onto something.
Is Gerard Mortier, then, the best person to get New York City Opera's audience to recognize themselves as such? I'd be surprised if he is -- assuming it's the current audience he at all wants. But we'll see.