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Where to Sit at the Metropolitan Opera

Updated: Jan 4

The ultimate guide to choosing a seat at New York City's opera house.


By Alkis Karmpaliotis

Founder of AppreciateOpera.org


The Metropolitan Opera House is one of the largest theaters in the world. The historic building includes numerous bars, several lounges, and a theater made up of everything from luxurious boxes to standing-room areas. The Met season runs from September to June and stages an opera (sometimes two) per day, making it the busiest opera house in the world. Its workforce includes thousands of musicians — from its fantastic orchestra to its pristine chorus, — a large staff of conductors and répétiteurs, and a huge maintenance crew.


Seeing an opera at the Met is a remarkable experience, but it can be hard to figure out where to sit, especially if it's your first time attending. The theater is made up of six sections, one higher up than the other, each of which has its benefits and drawbacks. One thing you can be certain of is that no matter where you choose to sit, from the front to the rearmost section, you are guaranteed an enjoyable experience!


Orchestra

$75-$300

The aptly named Orchestra is the lowest section in the Met theater. The Orchestra section is very popular largely because, being on the lobby floor, it is very easy to access; you are the first one in and the first one out. Another benefit of sitting in the orchestra section is that there is a lot of variety, and you can pick between a plethora of different viewing angles and distances from the stage. Seats close to the stage ($250-$300) give you a close look at the singers, but the sound is often muffled. Seats toward the rear of the theater ($75) also offer a good, albeit distant, view of the stage (unless you're seated behind a tall person, in which case you will struggle to see much of anything without uncomfortably tilting your head) but with better acoustics. The above image is a picture of what you'll see from the middle of the Orchestra section (around $140), a good mix of the two. However, with all these benefits come some drawbacks. Legroom is typically very narrow in this section (unless you're sitting in the front row); furthermore, you won't be able to see — or hear very well — the orchestra pit, causing the sound to be a bit muffled.


Sit Here If:


- You want a solid view of the stage

- Easy access to the theater is important to you (no elevators or stairs are necessary as it is on the ground floor)


Do NOT Sit Here If:


- You want a solid view of the orchestra pit

- Legroom is very important to you

- Acoustics and sound quality are important to you


Parterre

$150-$500

This level of the opera house is made up exclusively of boxes, each with six seats and a coat closet. This section is the most 'luxurious' in the theater, and is the most expensive. Center boxes ($300-$500) are usually not worth the trouble, as you can get the same view and acoustics for about half the price if you sit in the grand tier. If it's the intimacy and luxury of the parterre boxes that are appealing to you, you can enjoy practically the same experience in the less expensive side boxes ($150-$200).


Sit Here If:


- You value intimacy and luxury

- You want a good view of the stage and orchestra

- Legroom is very important to you


Do NOT Sit Here IF:


- The price is a dealbreaker


Grand Tier

$135-$315

The Grand Tier section offers the best of all worlds. First, it is on the same floor as the Met's intermission bars, lounges, and excellent restaurant, giving you quick access to all these lovely areas at intermission. Second, it offers the perfect balance of sound and view. The Grand Tier experience is practically identical to the Parterre, the only difference being that the Grand Tier does not have boxes with coat rooms. Both the frontmost rows ($300) and the rear ($200) are excellent options. The side boxes ($150), although they do not have coat closets, are solid options, although many of them are partial-view, meaning you have obstructed view to parts of the stage.


Sit Here If:


- You want proximity to intermission bars

- You want a solid mix of view and sound

- Legroom is very important to you


Do NOT Sit Here If:


- The price is a dealbreaker


Dress Circle

$100-$200

The Dress Circle is directly above the Grand Tier and offers a similar experience, albeit with a tad less legroom. While the front rows ($200) provide a good view, sitting in the back ($150) can blur your view of the stage. Although the Dress Circle is generally a great deal, the side boxes ($100) — which, like the Grand Tier's, do not have coat closets — aren't worth it since they are largely partial-view. If you're looking for side boxes for a good price, you're better off sitting in the Grand Tier.


Sit Here If:


- You want a solid mix of view and sound


Do NOT Sit Here If:


- Legroom is very important to you


Balcony

$50-$120

The Balcony is the middle child of the Metropolitan Opera House, sitting in between the more appealing Dress Circle and Family Circle sections. If you prioritize view, sit in the Dress Circle for a similar price and better quality; if you prioritize sound, sit in the Family Circle for a far cheaper price and comparable quality. It's only worth sitting on the Balcony if you sit in one of the front rows ($120). The back ($100) is not really worth it, and neither are the partial-view side boxes ($50), as there are preferable options in other sections. Generally speaking, I would recommend just sitting in the Family Circle instead; it's the same experience — in fact, the two levels are on the same floor in the house, separated only by a narrow aisle — only for a far more reasonable price.


Sit Here If:


- Acoustics and sound quality are important to you

- Price is important to you


Do NOT Sit Here If:


- Legroom is important to you

- View is important to you

- You want to be the first to get to the intermission bars


Family Circle

$30-$50

The higher up in the house you sit, the worse your view will be; that is why seats are so cheap in the Family Circle ($50). However, what many do not know is that, as you ascend up the theater, the acoustics become much, much better. If you value sound over view, then the Family Circle is the place for you — and you can sit here at a remarkably reasonable price. (Plus, any issues with view can be fixed with your everyday pair of opera glasses.) The "side boxes" up here ($30) are quite unique; they have small desks for people who like studying the score or taking notes during the performance (I sit there often to write reviews) — however, despite their cheap price, these are not worth it if you're going for leisure and entertainment, as you will hardly be able to see the stage. The Family Circle can also be quite cold (it is known colloquially as the "nosebleeds") as it is very high up in the theater, so bear that in mind when making your choice.


Sit Here If:


- Acoustics and sound quality are VERY important to you

- You want to pay a reasonable, cheap price


Do NOT Sit Here If:


- Legroom is important to you

- View of the stage is important to you

- Cold temperature bothers you

 

I hope this guide helped anyone who is thinking about going to the Met soon! Be sure to leave a comment with any suggestions!


By Alkis Karmpaliotis, Student at Fieldston High School

Founder of AppreciateOpera.org

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4 Comments


A must read especially for Met Opera novices!

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The comments on seating in the Met by Alkis are quite brilliant!! Thank you so much Alkis these are the sort of notes I keep for my own use but I can't get around all the theatres I would like to, often enough to manage the exercise. So helpful for opera fans. Thank you

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Wonderful article😊 So helpful.

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tessachaet
tessachaet
Aug 03, 2023

Really good to know Alkis! Great article!

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