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Breaking: Peter Gelb is savaged by Met’s house magazine

The forthcoming issue of Opera News, magazine of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, contains an editorial by veteran editor Brian Kellow, who warns that the present management is losing the trust of its audience.

‘I think the majority of people who deeply love opera would agree that we are in the midst of a very bad period,’ argues Kellow. ‘The public is becoming more dispirited each season by the pretentious and woefully misguided, misdirected productions foisted on them. I know this because I sit in the audience and I listen to what people around me are saying in intermission.’

Answer that, Peter Gelb.

UPDATE here.

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  1. Wow…spot on. Surprised this was allowed to run.

    • Apparently ON is the one part of the Guild that Gelb does not (yet) control. According to one well-informed writer: ‘For those who do not know, the Guild which publishes “Opera News” used to be separate and in support of the MET. The current MET regime now controls the Guild as well, except for “Opera
      News.” One would hope the higher level contributors on the MET Board are
      starting to read these criticisms. They certainly should be seeing the
      numbers. ‘

      • Even with ful control to print what they want, it surprises me. The magazine is usually SO boring and dull…this spices things up and acknowledges the elephant in the room.

      • Justin Congreve says:

        I’m not sure that it’s a fair to call “Opera News” the Met’s house magazine. I believe they have operated independently for quite some time now … in both reviewing the productions as well as covering other operas around the world. I remember a review of the met’s Fleming/Pirata a few years back that was as spot on as any in the press. Either way glad that someone is giving Gelb his due. The new Ring is just awful and the Armida was an enormous disappointment as well.

  2. Good for Kellow. It’s painfully obvious there are a lot of people who aren’t buying into Gelb’s artistic “vision” and even the Met board has to be noticing the empty seats. HD transmissions ain’t going to cover all that.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      That’s justice!

    • The Anti-Gelb says:

      One must have experience to have “vision”. I would not describe what Gelb is doing as visionary in the least. The Metropolitan Opera begs for an experienced leader. One of the most unfortunate mistakes the Managing Directors of the Metropolitan Opera made was to give Mr. Gelb the title of Artistic Director when he was hired. That position should have been given to someone with real experience and on equal footing to his position. They are now paying for a really bad decision.

  3. lesismore says:

    While I am grateful for the HD movie theater presentations, as well as for the PBS television presentations, I cannot help but wonder why so many of the operas are ruined by such ugly and inappropriate productions. The Mary Zimmerman “Sonnambula” had two wonderful singers (Dessay and Florez), but the production itself was a tragedy. I found the Armida almost as bad, and the Macbeth was a disaster both vocally and production-wise. Then came the Dessay “Traviata”, which has the weirdest and most bizarre production that I’ve ever seen accorded a Traviata. Can any of you imagine Callas, Tebaldi, Sutherland, Price, etc. consenting to appear in productions like this???? I’m sure that both would have simply refused to perform.

    One of the reasons people love the opera is to see it presented in the context of what the opera is about. Today we hear about Sondra Radvanovsky seen scrubbing the floor as Aida, Dessay in sunglasses, carryi9ng a cell phone in “Sonnambula”, and Natalie Dessay doing Violetta looking like a walking zombie in he final scene of “Traviata”. I’m not even going to allude to the Wagner Ring production. At what point did opera production become so trashy??????????

    Are rhe stage directors, with their limited knowledge of opera to begin with, becoming the real stars of opera? At this point, I’m beginning to wonder. It’s getting pretty dismal — and the audience is becoming sick and tired ot it.

    • Lindsay Thomson says:

      I think the problem with Willy Decker is that he has a very limited palette of ideas in terms of production and design. I remember a slew of Decker productions in Europe in the 90s which always seemed to be stripped back to a large all-purpose staircase/pyramid – this was boring and unimaginative. Given that this was a known production, maybe the Met wanted to find a contemporary counterpart to the wonderful stripped-down John Dexter Carmelites which lasted for decades … but Dexter really knew what he was doing. The Met Traviata struck me as painting-by-numbers Central European modernism. I’m no reactionary – I have banks of treasured opera productions which play with period and style – but what can you do with a director who appears to miss the point that the entire plot of La Traviata is driven by one idea: shame.

    • The worst thing at the Met is that some of these new production feature great singers that I’d love to hear. But I just cannot stomach this nonsense. Next year Rigoletto – two great casts, but sorry, I am not paying to watch Rigoletto set in Las Vegas. For a moment I considered buying the cheapest pratial view seats with best acoustics and worst view so that I can listen but not see, but sorry, no. I heard they are going to ruin a few more of my favorite operas in the next couple of years.

      So much money wasted on the new productions when fixing up the old ones, bringing in the best singers there are today, maybe improving actual stage directions and acting, but leaving the sets alone would save a lot of money.

      Gelb likes to take credit for the slight reduction in the average age, but I wonder how much of it happened thanks to Agnes Varis. I’d imagine a lot of young people get discount tickets.

      In one of the previous Opera News magazines there was an interview with Carol Vaness where one of the things she said is that she’d love to be in charge of an opera house. The context was NYCO (they asked her if she’d taken a job of a director if asked, and she said she’d love to do it). So why not invite her as an artistic director and leave Gelb to handle union negotiations and other bureacratic matters.

  4. Patrick C. Byrne says:

    It is sad to see the once world class Met reduced to a sideshow presided over by a commercial carnival barker. Anyone with the slightest amount of understanding of the vocal arts would never have cast Marcello Alvarez (who is a great singer in the right role) as Radames. The Aida in the disaster was the completely mis-guided Violetta Urmana who shrieked and choked her way through one of Verdi’s greatest vocal treasures. The Dessay Traviata was a complete disaster, as was the Attila, Macbeth (the worst singing I have ever heard from any Lady Macbeth). I see far superior productions and performers around this country in houses small and large. I think this Gelb will hang himsel,, the sooner the better.

    • Depressed In the USA says:

      Unfortunately, Patrick, if the board hasn’t woken up by now they are not likely to do so until the Met reaches the edge of bankruptcy – which at the present rate should be by the 50th anniversary of the new house, in 2016.

    • Ed Rosen says:

      Alvarez WAS a fine singer in the proper, lyric fach. For the best four or five years, he yells very unpleasantly. One of Gelb’s biggest mistakes is constantly reengaging this really bad tenor, at least in the rep he has chosen, such as Manarico and Radames. Totally poor and unsatisfactory!
      As for Gelb, I know legions of folks, including myself, who are NOT renewing next season for the first time in decades. The Met is in huge trouble, and it’s getting worse.

  5. Depressed In the USA says:

    This is the result of putting a person in charge of one of the world’s great opera houses who had never in his life produced an opera! Or worked in the production side of opera (the REAL production side, not the video production.) When that person is also an arrogant narcissist who refuses to understand he does NOT know it all, refuses advice from competent experts, and refuses to understand the difference between marketing live performances and marketing videos. And when he is finally gone, the board and public will learn how they have been lied to over and over by this man. Peter Gelb is the worst thing to happen to opera in America in 50 years and his impact will continue to be felt for YEARS. He has decimated the subscriber rolls and the sad fact is that when many of your subscribers are over 70, once they lose the habit of subscribing it is nearly impossible to get them back. Gelb threw away the audience the Met DID have searching for a new audience that has never materialized. I have been writing all this for the last four years – it’s nice it seems to have finally sunk into some of the early Gelb supporters.

  6. Audiences have had it “up to here” with the emperor’s new clothing and the NY Times cheerleaders. It has been a depressing era these last 5-10 years at the Met where opera production is all about sets and lighting, leaving the singers to fend for themselves. I think this is the worst aspect of the Lepage ring, where it seems more attention was paid to the “machine” and almost none to the drama the singers were supposed to be portraying. Nobody mentions the Attila production a few years back where the stage was covered floor to ceiling in vegetation, leaving very small windows for the singers to squeeze around each other, all the while with a look on their faces like “what am I supposed to do here”? Very embarrassing for the Met. I think audiences truly appreciate innovation when it serves the drama, but that’s not what’s going on here. Why is it that these types of theatrical failures would be handily denounced by the NY Times’ theater critics and not their classical music staff? Let’s send Ben Brantley to the opera for once.

    • Depressed In the USA says:

      What do you have against Ben Brantley? In any case, the 8th amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual punishment”.

  7. Lewis Ashcliffe says:

    For many years I have been a student of singing and of the greatest voices of the “Golden Age of Singing”, particularly the first 60 years of the 20th century. In the days before microphones and amplification onstage, the greatest singers not only had beautiful voices and commanding techniques, they almost all universally had very large, auditorium-filling voices. And the conductors and opera impressarios preferred these big voices that could be easily heard above the largest orchestra. Today, world-wide, there is an epidemic shortage of big, beautiful voices…largely because most conductors and opera house managers do not want them. No more Del Monaco, Correlli, Ponselle, Martinelli, Tebaldi, Callas, Ruffo, and so many other greats. Today, If Enrico Caruso were to appear for an audition, he would be turned away by the powers that be. The result? Opera audiences are settling for second, and third class performances that are built around cheap staging and phoney productions. Its’ a wonder that audiences who must pay hundreds for a Met ticket are becoming disgruntled. And that the standards for great singing in our households is no longer the Met, but “American Idol”.

  8. An Onstage Artist says:

    ART is not art when a pencil-pusher is in charge of it’s livelihood. We need more ARTISTS running our treasured theaters! When we take back our art form from the people who have turned it into big-business, at that point, the audiences will return. Prime examples of my belief: Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo.

    When someone purchases a ticket, they are BUYING OUR ART, which just happens to be on the stage. An artist who is in charge of a company will care more about the quality of that art than an accountant will. The accountants are there to guide the artists and keep them within budget.

    An artist’s PASSION is what makes a theater company prosperous……not the bottom line of a big business mogul.

    • Cherie Sammis says:

      Having read many of the opinions regarding the deconstruction of the Met and it”s former reputation, I believe that your comments are exactly correct. Though my opinions are formed from creative passion, concern for artistic relevance and beauty, with great musicianship as a pre-requisite, I believe many would support the Met if it would return to the Grand art form it was meant to be!

    • Couldn’t have said it better! Kudo’s to you for speaking up! Passion for the art form is what it’s all about!

  9. John Edward Niles says:

    I was told by a very find stage director that in order to stage WAGNER, all you have to do is look at the score and the music tells you what to do. Wagner was a “theater animal” who was not only a great composer but a conductor AND a stage director.That is also true for all Operas of any value.
    While brings us to the main problem today with most–not all, thank goodness–stage directors. They cannot really read music. Oh yes, they can read the score but do they REALLY READ the score which by the way, if a vertical AND a horizontal process. Do they really understand the structure of Harmony, the way that the rhythm and harmony work WITH the text, etc, etc.etc. I am beginning to thing they do not.
    I’m sorry but we need to get some really well trained stage directors who really understand the music and its internal as well as external structure. Innovation for its own sake in opera direction is covering up for the fact that the stage director really does NOT know the piece.
    I remember Lenny Bernstein telling the students in the conducting classes in Tanglewood: “Do your homework!”
    I think that that could also be said of the stage directors today. Too music REGIE and not enough THEATER!!

    • John Edward Niles says:

      I meant to say: too MUCH regie and not enough theater.

    • Depressed In the USA says:

      It would also help if the directors either had a familiarity with the language or did their homework – it becomes embarrassing to explain to a director that what Leoncavallo set is not exactly the same as what Ruth and Thomas Martin devised.

      Also: “When one wants to find a gesture, when you want to find how to act onstage, all you have to do is listen to the music. The composer has already seen to that. If you take the trouble to really listen with your Soul and with your Ears – and I say ‘Soul’ and ‘Ears’ because the Mind must work, but not too much also – you will find every gesture there.” – Maria Callas

      • Patrick C. Byrne says:

        Apparently that fragile chain from the past, the ability to learn from the greats, has been forever broken. Gheorghiu thinks that emulating Callas involves wearing big hats and making assinine statements to the press. Belcanto. What is that? It certainly no longer exists at the Met.

      • John Edward Niles says:

        I remember assisting for a production of Fidelio where the conductor–a well known often recorded conductor with a Major Symphony Orchestra in the US–did NOT speak a word of German. We were doing this production in German(!!) with the dialogue. It finally got to a point where the singer who was singing Florestan–an American living in Germany–took over as a kind of diction and dialogue coach and he and I somehow or ever guided this production through to its final, not too awful, conclusion. I point out, HOWEVER, why hire a conductor in the first place to conduct a German opera who does NOT speak German.

        • Must be pointed out that Levine does not speak German, either. Syop browling, John, does you no good :)

        • Toscanini didn’t “speak” German exactly but singers who performed with him at Bayreuth and Salzburg said he knew every word of the German text by heart and what every word meant.

      • Words of wisdom from the divine!

    • harold braun says:

      Couldn`t agree more.Things are of course far worse in Germany.German “regie theater” crap has all but extinguished opera as a valuable art form here.What they call “opera” here in Germany is firmly in the hands of stupid ignoramuses who abuse a score as a kind of ill fitting soundtrack to self promotion with a little help of their equally imbecile friends of the press.The public stays away in droves,but who cares as long there is state subsidy. Those buggers are not only completely unmusical;they`re also proud of being so.
      So,my dear friends over there,be watchful and stop those things,before they get out of hand!

      “I would like to urge any young musician who contemplates this most ardous and responsible of careers to make his watchwords INTEGRITY and SINCERITY(to yourself) and LOYALTY(to the man whose music you are seeking to interpret)…..Performances that are made merely a vehicle for indulging the vanity of a personality,can only lead us away from that which should be the goal for all true musicians:Service to that great art which it is our privilege to serve.”(Sir John Barbirolli)

      I personally would like to urge any opera director to keep this words in mind too!
      “Regietheater” is nothing but a lame excuse for being unable to do opera properly!

      • Here is a classic example of living in an alternate universe. Reactionary, distressed Americans want to think things are also terrible in Europe. Nothing could be further from reality. European houses have intendants with a clear artistic vision and, for the most part, are thriving. The visibility of opera in the press and media have never been higher. There is more opera on TV and the Internet than a person can keep track of. Audiences are younger and houses are full. Repertory has expanded and audiences appreciate innovation and fresh thinking. There are exciting things and new audiences for opera in several cities in America too but these are below the radar of the tired “ancisn regime” that post here.

        • harold braun says:

          Soryy,but this bullshit.Non musicians changing the intentions of composers to the point of total distortion is clearly no valid artistic vision! Opera has to be larger than life,not smaller.And ,believe me, the audiences ARE dwindling.The worst thing about this “Konzept”-bullshit is,apart from degrading a complex score to a doodling soundtrack to some goings on onstage which don´T have anything to do with the music performed(and often also with theplot):It absolutely ruins the musical performance! If those people want to adress current problems on stage,they should comission new works which precisely do that instead of turning masterpieces into risible nonsense.For that matter,the reaction of American audiences is not reactionary,but musically educated and knowing! And,believe me,the days of this fad are counted:There are many singers, conductors and,yes!,even directors here,who are fed up with this amateurism turned into some kind of “artistic vision” .Leipzig did the right thing in dismissing Mr.Konwitschny and appointing music director Ulf Schirmer intendant!

          • germanoperafan says:

            Perhaps Mr Harold Braun would like to provide some official statistics to back up his statement about dwindling audience numbers in Europe.
            From where I sit in Germany, the country with the highest concentration of opera houses in the world — and home to “Regietheater” — many houses are full to bursting. OK, not every single production is a hit. But that’s showbusiness for you. If audiences stay away, then the production is shelved or not revived in subsequent seasons.
            Surely, the vitality of an art form is measured by the range and scope of different interpretations and readings of a work. No single production is the only way to do an opera. Some productions are good, some bad. Some work for lots of people, others don’t. There are good directors offering modern, radical, challenging readings, just as there good ones offering more traditional, conservative ones.
            A lively, vital opera scene will cater to a wide range of tastes — from the traditional to the radical — and will offer productions that spark intelligent debate and discussion. If you don’t like one particular reading or decide you don’t like the work of a particular director, then you’re free to choose not to go to her/his next one.
            And if you feel so strongly about how a particular piece should be done and you feel you can do better, then get off your butt and do it.
            In my long opera-going career, I’ve seen plenty of dire and dismal productions, whose aesthetics I’ve strongly disagreed with. But that’s OK. That’s part and parcel of this wonderful art form. Listening to classical music and watching opera is a life-long learning process. And you can learn as much about a work from seeing a production you dislike as you can from seeing one you love.
            Neither the traditionalists nor the radicals hold a monopoly on knowledge and expert opinion in opera. I have friends and colleagues whose tastes are more traditional than mine, whose opinion I greatly esteem, just are those who hold high opinions of directors I have no truck with.
            But I’ve gotten sidetracked. I apologise.
            I’d be interested to see your statistics on audience numbers in European opera houses.

        • Patrick C. Byrne says:

          Opera is subsidized heavily in Europe. Half empty houses, and there are many as a good friend who sings there reports, are no problem. Governments are involved in televising opera. None of this will ever apply to the situation in America and trying to compare them is sheer uninformed foolishness.

          • germanoperfan says:

            Again: show us reliable statistics please. The testimony of “a good friend who sings there” can hardly be seen as an authoritative source.
            Half-empty houses are “no problem”???
            What planet are you and your “good friend who sings there” on? Public spending on the arts is the first to be slashed in these times of budget cuts and financial crisis, and if you read this blog regularly, subsidy cuts are leading top-class orchestras to be disbanded. That’s very much a problem, not only for the musicians affected, but for the classical music scene in general.
            You’re right. The situation for the arts in Europe is very different to the situation in the US.
            If things continue, Germany will no longer be able to boast that it has one of the richest and most vital opera and classical music scenes in the world, an industry where many fine, talented singers and musicians from all over the world — and the US too — can find work and garner valuable experience and build their careers.
            The US may not subsidize its opera, but where would US opera houses be without the multitude singers who have been trained and found their feet in the subsidized opera houses of Europe? The US benefits from Europe’s subsidies to the arts too.

        • Just a simple guy says:

          This sickening relativism is precisely what is destroying the art form. Excuse me, but if the composer wrote an opera with a plot for a certain period, it means he had his clear conception of how that should sound and look like on stage. Some things can be done, especially with sets and the technological stuff we have today, but changing completely the plot just to satisfy an ego?!! There some directors that even dare to change the words of the libretto! This is profaning Art and shows a complete lack of respect. Most people who go for a performance of Rigoletto wants to see on stage Verdi’s Rigoletto, not a jackass’ inovative plot for Rigoletto. Some are going to opera for the first time and have to face a true horror circus, which keeps them away and reinforce the conception opera is nonsense and boring. And this happens because they are not moved.
          Furthermore, the most important thing in opera is the human voice. Acting comes second and must be submitted to the needs of the voice and to the limits of the singer’s phisicality. A singer should be an actor foremost through his voice. All the gestures necessary are given by the composer in the music. Singers cannot sing their best if not inspired. Unfortunately, many of the famous singers are only worried with more fame and money and do not denounce these things or refuse to appear under such abominable directions. The great singers of the past would never cope with this bullshit.

          • tiredofitall says:

            “Excuse me, but if the composer wrote an opera with a plot for a certain period, it means he had his clear conception of how that should sound and look like on stage.”

            By extension of that logic, Bach should not be performed on a Steinway nowadays because he could have had absolutely no conception that such an instrument would ever exist when he composed works such as Kunst der Fuge, Goldberg Variations etc.

            Funny, but I don’t have you down as a particularly fervent advocate of historically informed practice. In fact, I’d bet my bottom dollar that you get all in a huff and a puff about period instrument orchestras and ensembles, as well.
            Perhaps you’d like to elaborate on the apparent contradiction in your artistic credo here.

            Wagner once famously told his followers and descendants “Kinder, schafft Neues!” (Create something new).

            Composers have more often than not handed over their works to be staged by others, by professional theatre directors, rather than doing it themselves. That also seems to suggest that the composers themselves are open to their works be interpreted by others.

            Living, thriving art is all about renewal and reinterpretation. Art is the mirror through which each new age views itself. Opera houses aren’t airless, stuffy museums, but living, breathing creative spaces for interacting with and responding to great works of art.

          • “Renewal and reinterpretation” are good things. What we are being offered too many times are half-baked concepts that are devoid of drama, presented by directors and managements who should know better. Nobody cares what instrument Bach’s fugues are played on if the performance sucks and nobody really cares how much a production of the Ring costs if the singing isn’t stellar and the only drama is provided by some gizmo because that’s all the director has to offer.

            “Renewal and reinterpretation” cannot compensate for a director who can’t get his cast to express the drama created by the composer and librettist.

          • To Stella, You are so right on with your comment! It’s good to hear from someone who really knows what they are talking about!

          • tiredofitall says:

            That, Stella Maria, is an excellent point and very true.

          • tiredofititall-You obviously know what you’re talking about!! Kudo’s to you. I can’t see Verdi approving Rigoletto set in a Las Vegas gambling scenario or Puccini putting up with specific directions for his Tosca being completely ignored and his masterpiece trashed. You are so right when you mention the word “respect”. It’s beyond me that the Metropolitan is buying into this obvious disrespect of the composer’s specific directions and that artists are going along with it. I’m absolutely positive that the famous Metropolitan artist whom I was fortunate to study with years ago would not sing Tosca with the current production at the Metropolitan! We are often told by managers that change is good. Sometimes change is NOT good!!

          • tiredofitall says:

            Sorry, Duane, are you saying I DON’T know what I’m talking about?
            Simply because I have a different point of view to yours?
            Wow. Long live freedom of speech and freedom of opinion here, eh (that’s a bit of sarcasm there, in case you didn’t notice).
            As soon as someone has a different point of view, hurl abuse and insults at them. That’s a very intelligent way of carrying on a conversation, I must say (more sarcasm, in case you didn’t get it).
            Since you are not aware of my professional qualifications or credentials, where I come from, how old I am, or what I do for a living (I may, for all you know, be a successful singer unlike your good self) you cannot accuse me of not knowing what I’m talking about.
            But — and I’m speaking purely from my own personal point of view here and no offence meant — I feel I know a great deal more about what I’m talking than YOU do.

          • WOW! I don’t believe I’ve ever been put down like this in my entire life! I believe in freedom of speech and encourage different opinions and views in all I do! I do apologize if I’ve offended you! That certainly was not my intention. My main thinking here is that a well trained musician with theatre training,also, may have a better chance of a fulfilling and rewarding career than, perhaps, somebody that might not be well prepared. There are always exceptions. Many years ago I heard a natural, colorutura soprano who, quite simply, was blessed with a natural great voice. People flocked to all of her performances. Circumstances prevented her from pursuing a career in opera. Perhaps you are a successfull, star singer and I give you a lot of credit for your success. You’re right, I don’t know your qualifications. I can only go on my own experience and training and how it has helped me. I certainly don’t consider myself any better qualified than anybody else with making suggestions and comments! I do enjoy reading many of the comments and quotes ( for example, the Jonas Kaufmann quote). Again, please accept my sincerest apology if I’ve offended you. That was not my intention!!

  10. It sometimes seems to me that those who’ve been attending opera for decades would rather see the artform die than attract new audiences. Odd, that.

    • John Morariu says:

      … if a marrage is in trouble you don’t solicit a prostitute to fix things …

      • What???!!

        I suppose I’m just a simpleton, but are you saying Gelb is a prostitute?

        • Where in the world did you get that idea? I didn’t mention or refer to Mr. Gelb in my commentary. I am referring to the general management of running opera productions and considerations that I would recommend!

  11. You’ll notice in this piece that we have to listen to the audience, because they are right, unless they love Danielle DeNiesse, in which case they are, oddly, wrong…!

  12. Just a simple guy says:

    It’s a very sad situation. Being a singer with a limited regional career, sometimes I wonder how much my colleagues suffer, especially in German teathers, having to cope with every kind of stupid production just to eat and not getting fired. That’s why most opera performances I see in Germany are nothing more than bureaucratic, boring and bellow par. However, what makes me furious is reading or listening in interviews well-established singers with good recording contracts pulling the leg of these directors and accepting their idiot productions. In my opinion, these international singer are guilty too.

  13. Gelb’s real failure is not admitting when he has made a bad decision, i.e., Tosca, the new Ring. Butterfly was brilliant, though.

    • The Anti-Gelb says:

      The Butterfly was an already successful and critically accalimed ENO production that had been around a few seasons at the time. He just rented what was already a proven audience pleaser. A no brainer anyone could have done.

  14. Isn’t opera with perhaps a very few exceptions an “aberration ” how can an aberration be done properly .?What person in his or her right mind would want to sit through Sonnambula just to name one aberration . Or
    an audience that sits through the silly Lucia and only responds to the soprano hitting the top “e” as an
    artistic achievement providing she hits it correctly. They respond only to vocal gymnastics pretending it is
    all high art . Most opera houses are nothing but museums resuscitating the same old same old and have little
    to do with music as a living art form .

    • Ariel, are you actualy capable of writing anything positive and constructive for once?

      • As opposed to the comments here?

      • The only singer to have graced the Met stage this season and to have sung well enough to have earned
        a good reception as an artist was Mr. Beczala as Des Grieux (positive ) The person singing
        Manon whose name is not worth mentioning should be replaced with a good singer . (constructive ). To
        Janey who seems to be an apologist for the Met – the audience buys in to your favourite soprano because they
        have little knowledge of the art of singing and if some top notes come off well that’s all they care about and
        to their taste find her attractive and she thrashes about seductively in her latest role .

        • You may not have it both ways. Either “the audience knows and should be listened to by Gelb, who is ignoring them, or the audience is too ignorant to know good signing. Which is it?”

          I am no apologist, but neither am I an individual ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I prize logic and well thought out arguments. All I see is kvetching and complaining with no realistic positive ideas for change. In other words, typical reactionary longterm opera fans at the Met.

          • Gelb is serving Gelb – which translates he puts on things he hopes will sell at the Met . and he is
            not ignoring the audience – he knows his audience is ignorant to the art of good singing except for the C and E’s so you get your Lucia , Sonnambula and the last ridiculous L ‘elisir goings on. The problem
            is that with staging which can be off putting he has not the singers to over ride miscalculated
            directing a Traviata a perfect example of three missfits . A soprano who is
            beyond even her worst days – a tenor who rises to bland – and a baritone who bellows like
            a bull in heat without sense or reason . And the ignorant audience gives them all a great hand .
            You don’t think Mr. Gelb doesn’t take note of the response -he has to – he is not presenting opera as
            much as he is presenting an entertainment called opera and if you prize logic as you claim you do
            you should know that “longterm fans “of the present Met is an oxymoron.

          • Another_Jeremy says:

            I am 25 years old and have seen every production at the MET this season with the exception of Boheme (which I had already seen a few years ago), Tosca (which I saw on PBS) and Satyagraha. I am sick to death of hearing about how old fogies are holding opera back. The problem is that these directors feel like they need to reinvent the wheel with every show. It’s great that so many people who otherwise would not have access can see performances at the Metropolitan Opera House, but the quality of the performances seems to have suffered in the process. As Joyce DiDonato says, “We shouldn’t be apologizing for this art form.” If you want to put opera on tv, great. But it should not be at the expense of opera in the theater, because the people who are going to hear/see it live are the lifeblood of the organization.

            The quality of performances this season has varied from passable (the Radvanovsky Aida), to appalling (Faust), to downright embarrassing (Macbeth.) I haven’t been too offended by the productions (except perhaps that rank Faust), but what I’m shocked by is that no one boos the singing. New Yorkers seem very keen on letting productions have it while shrugging off truly abysmal singing. Deborah Voigt is an excellent spokeswoman, but a horrid Brünnhilde and Nadja Michael’s Mabeth was one of the worst professional operatic performances I have ever seen. I think some of the productions would have more credibility if some of the performers in them could get through their parts without such obvious strain. Has anyone else noticed the complete lack of singers who can credibly sing Verdi, Wagner and the Verismo repertoire?

            My solution?

            The powers that be at the MET (Gelb, casting/artistic department) need to prioritize singing above all else. Stop hiring people who are a “total package” which is more often just code for they look nice on camera and can sort of sing. Buy out some contracts of singers who are no longer performing at an international level. Put great VOICES in LYADP and teach them how to act.

            In the not so distant past, there was something of a consensus about what a professional sound was. Some of the house singers on broadcasts from the 50s and 60s could sing some of our current “stars” right off the stage. There was nothing magical in the water. I’m sure the fact that Europe had been bombed to pieces in WWII helped assure that the US (MET) became the beacon of operatic excellence around the world because of our strong economy in the 50s and 60s while Europe recovered. But real difference is that every singer worked for years to develop a certain sound above all else. The teachers and students and conductors and impresarios knew that the sound was what it was all about. Yes, great operatic artists act as well, but first and foremost there has to be a true, functional, ringing voice. Now it seems that the name of the game is versatility of skills. DIction classes. Vocal pedagogy. Stage movement. So the result is that there are very well educated singers who do not sing particularly well.

            Obviously not all blame goes to the impresarios, but they are certainly in a position to shake up the status quo. If they demand great voices above all else, the top schools will produce and develop great voices instead of people who can sort of act, sort of know languages, sort of know of how to write in the IPA above an aria’s text, and can sort of sing. “Sort of being able to sing” in opera quickly turns into being bad. I have a feeling people would have been a lot more forgiving of that weird Bondy Tosca and the LePage ring had Leontyne Price and Kirsten Flagstad been the leading roles. Unfortunately there are practically no artists of their caliber at the moment. And that’s the issue that really needs to be addressed.

            “Opera is about singing.” Beverly Sills

          • I am very pleased that such a young 25 year old has such insight. Many people blame the”old fogies” such as myself: however, this young person is correct! Personally, I spent 8 years studying voice before I began to sing semi-professionally. I studied theatre and acting and performed in plays and musicals a number of years before I performed in operas. Coaching with professionals for a number of years before I ventured into opera was very helpfull. Having a solid,secure vocal technique- along with a solid background in theatre and a professional musicianship study/performing background prepares one well for the rigors of opera performance.

        • Another Jeremy, BRAVO!!!

          After reading quite a number of singer biographies and experiencing the music business first hand, I believe that a large part of the vocal shortage you brilliantly described is that young singers are not taught to sing as they used to be. 100 years ago, singers had a voice lesson every day and listened to other singers’ lessons in addition to daily coaching to learn the repertoire and stage craft. After about 4 years there was usually enough proficiency to begin a career. Look at all the singers around the turn of the 20th century who made major debuts in their late-teens, early-twenties, even Wagnerians (Astrid Varnay made her debut as Sieglinde at the Met when she was 24 – on a day’s notice). After WWII there was a huge emphasis on going to college, which for the most part only offer one or two voice lessons a week, with minimal coaching sessions, so that students can take college classes in a variety of non-musical subjects in pursuit of a degree (useless as that is in the music business unless you plan to teach). Therefore, it takes a lot longer to gain a secure technique, and singers nowadays are considered young in their 30s and 40s. Also, I believe that most voice teachers are scared of big voices and force young spinto/dramatics to sing material which is not really suited for a large voice. This does a lot of damage both physically and psychologically and is tremendously difficult to overcome.

          As to the decline in vocal standards in the last 30-40 years, I cannot understand it. How can people who now have unlimited access to recordings made before let’s say 1975 (both studio and live) via YouTube and iTunes, accept and even bravo some of the off-pitch, underpowered, bland and poorly styled (you cannot sing Donizetti and Massenet as if it were Puccini) singing we have heard broadcast from the Met this past season?

  15. Ruth Steinberg says:

    The promise afforded by the new Butterfly production has not been fulfilled, not even approached. The Gelb era productions have been more than disappointing. The glory of opera provided by composers and librettists have been undermined by directors who choose to desecrate, subvert and make fun of their works. Some productions have been just boring (Don Giovanni), some diminished (Tales of Hoffman), some insulting (La Sonnambula), some ridiculous (Attila,) and some blasphemous (Tosca.) And, god forbid you should write to Mr. Gelb; just expect a put down, insinuating that you are just an inflexible traditionalist who only wants old Zefferelli productions. Let us remember that one of the least expensive and most powerful productions of the last 50 years is John Dexter’s Dialogues des Carmelites. Why can’t the current administration look to that extraordinary production as a model for exciting, compelling productions? Why does Gelb believe that the way to attract young people to this glorious art form is to stoop to gratuitous vulgarity? As a young college student in the late 60′s, I sneaked into my first opera–Mephistopheles at the New York City Opera, with Norman Triegal and Julius Rudel conducting. I was so bowled over that I have been hooked on opera ever since. I did not need lewd, tacky, hi-tech effects to lure me to this great art form. And I don’t think today’s young potential audience should be pandered to or belittled by the Met’s current administration. The affordable and available HD productions have their place and are a great service to the opera loving public. But nothing can substitute for the magic of a live performance, where well cast singers are encouraged to paint an aural and dramatic picture that enhances, not undermines, the composer’s and librettist’s magnificent works.

  16. Scott Rose says:

    If the Met can be said to have a “house magazine,” it would be Playbill. When writing for Opera News, I have never been told that there were limits on how critical I could be. I remember one specific case when I was critical of a Met production, handed in my draft, and the editor then asked me further to elaborate on the negative aspects of that production.

    • The Anti-Gelb says:

      Opera News, sometimes known as Sopra Snooze was the only part of the Guild, Gelb is not allowed to touch. The alignment occured when Gelb threatened to take away “Metropolitan Opera” from their name via a lawsuit. The Guild Board rolled over like an armadillo on the highway, rather than fight. Dick Miller, is a Gelb appointee with board approval. Then again, not a problem for Gelb as most of the Guild Board is also now part of the MET Board. Compare and contrast the names, they are mostly the same.

  17. I would like the learned commentators here to tell us what exactly they would do instead of what Gelb is doing? How would things be different, specifically?

    Remember, you have thousands of people dependent on the Met for their livelihoods, multi millions of dollars of debt developed over at least 20 years, a highly conservative audience, no access to television except PBS sometimes, no free national classical radio, a dearth of big voices worldwide, a full schedule, a 5 year planning cycle, a shifting American preference for single ticket purchases nationally, a multitude of unions and benefit requirements, and no foreseeable public funding from any government sources.

    So, learned colleagues. What would you do differently?

    • The Anti-Gelb says:

      First of all, they need to go on the Vienna plan, more productions, less repetitions. Makes for a more exciting and varied season. Second, listen to the audience. If the audience is telling you your productions suck by not buying tickets, then you adapt and change. Earlier mention was made of Madama Butterfly. That wss a change made at a moments notice. It can be done, and it does not need to wait 5 years. Bringing inexperienced Broadway directors in to direct and produce opera is not a winning plan and has not worked, nor has Mr. “Cirque de Soleil” Lepage. Time to listen to the critics for a change, as they are finally speaking out on behalf of the audience which is abandoning the Metropolitan Opera in droves. Gelb has been the worst GM since Hugh Southern and the Board took action there. Time to remove Gelb in favor of an experienced opera leader. The Grande Experiment has failed, now even some on the Board refer to him as “Bubbles Revenge.”

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Anti-Gelb, I totally agree about the problem with inexperienced directors: ignorance doesn’t bring renewal.

        As for the Vienna repertoire system, quantity doesn’t necessarily translate to quality: during the six years I spent in Vienna in the 80s, I ended up staying away from the unrehearsed repertoire performances, because they were mostly substandard, sometimes even with big names in their late years.

      • This is interesting. What evidence do you have that the audience is abandoning the Met in droves? A 70% attendance rate – even if comments here are true, which I question – for the Ring Cycle? How about the over 100% for Anna Bolena and Le Comte Ory? The over 90% attendance for Enchanted Island? The sell outs for Decker’s La Traviata, Satyagraha? The over 10 million tickets sold for HD performances this season alone?

        How about the previous performances of Das Reingold, which were mostly sold out? Or the 8 previous performances of this Die Walkure, with shows at least 90% sold? The previous Siegfrieds, all sold out weeks in advance.

        The Vienna plan, btw, is supported by the gov’t. What audience in NY is going to go to under-rehearsed, rushed performances of operas they don’t know, starring singers they’ve never heard of? The gov’t won’t step in here. How do you propose to adapt the Vienna plan to NY? If you have a plan, I’d be open to hearing it.

        I do disagree with decisions made on the numbers of Ring performances at the Met. They did, I think, 8 DR, 8 DW, 5 Siegfrieds and 5 GD – within a year of this current cycle – and in GD’s case within a few months. I think that’s Ring overload for the audience and it has caused the lack of sell outs for this go-round.

        I agree with you that there’s no need for some of these directors.

        • Bravadamejoan says:

          The previous Rings were always soldout. You can see the auditorium packed with audience coming from around the world especially from Germany and Japan,mesmerized with the romantic production and of course with overall better singers.I’ve been to the previous Ring numerous times and still could not have enough of it. I’ve the seen the current Ring Cycle once and swear I’ll not return unless Birgit Nilsson wakes up from her grave and sings again.The current Ring is totally directionless and cold. If I want to see Cirque de Soleil,I can see them in las Vegas.It is absoultely pathetic and unimaginable to see lots of empty seats during the first season of the new complete Ring.

          The reason for the sold out Anna Bolena and even the first season for the new Tosca is the big hype the made,I guess successfully. I can guarantee the following seasons will be empty like the Tosca. ( Thank god they are bringing back the Zeffirelli production.The reason for the soldout Ory was thanks to the great csat,the production however sucks,worse than high school standard.

          Gelb only blindly worship European ideas ( ? inferiority complex ) not realizing the European themselves called those minimalistic productions as Euro-Trash. ( They dio so because of lack of fundings ). People from all over the world used to flock to the Met for the sumptuous productions such as Boheme which did not have a break since it was first produced in 1982.

          I am so sad to see my favorite productions going one by one to be replaced by directionless trash,Tosca,Don Carlos,Faust,Traviata,the Ring,Rigoletto … and so on.

          Solutions ? Yes ! If Gelb does not have any good ideas,don’t fix it as it is not broken. Keep the beautiful productions ( like Falstaff which is still working greta after 40 years ),save the 30-40 millions each year and cut the ticket price. ( Instead of raising it every year despite the record low ticket sale ).Don’t make Netrbko the Queen of the Met, there are other great singers like Radvanovsky and Bezcala (who are first rate singers treated by Gelb as stepchild ) whom he should cast them in more productions. The audience knows who is good and who is bad.I’m not going to pay $300 because Netrebko is beautiful ( according to Gelb ).

          • Bravadamejoan says:

            Thank you.

          • Completely agree! Audiences are smart and it would be wise if management would start paying attention!

          • “I’ve the seen the current Ring Cycle once”

            When? They haven’t completed the first Cycle yet. That’s odd.

            “It is absoultely pathetic and unimaginable to see lots of empty seats during the first season of the new complete Ring.”

            This is the first season of the new complete Ring and they have not yet done a complete Ring. When did you see these seats?

            My cursory glance at Die Walkure showed perhaps 200 tickets available on the day of the performance during this first Cycle.

            There certainly were not “lots of empty seats” in the single productions rolled-out over the last two seasons. Far from it – the majority were sold out or nearly sold out.

            Official attendance figures for the last two seasons, which included the individual roll-outs of the new Ring productions, showed overall attendance at the Met had either risen or stayed even.

            Are you sure you are talking about the Ring at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City?

            “Keep the beautiful productions.”

            I didn’t find the stuffy, overdone sets and productions beautiful. I did love Traviata. On the other hand, I like the Decker Traviata also. I wish there were some way to have both.

            “Don’t make Netrbko the Queen of the Met, … The audience knows who is good and who is bad.I’m not going to pay $300 because Netrebko is beautiful ( according to Gelb ).”

            Another odd thing. I wonder why the audience keeps filling up her performances, then? If they know she is not good. Yes, odd.

          • “Thank god they are bringing back the Zeffirelli production.” (of Tosca)

            Is this true? When?

        • The Anti-Gelb says:


          Not sure where the figure of 70% is coming from. But I know from my contacts within nthe MET, they have been running at about 50% all season, not including papered seats. The 1st Rheingold of the first Ring Cycle itself had 1100 papered seats. With a bill approaching $30.0 mil U.S. for the cycle and Gelb still telling the press it cost $16.0 mil, who is he fooling? Not thew public and the press has woken up…..he’s folling himself and the MET Board who should give him the heave ho before he destroys the companies fiances any further. Today, it is very difficult having an uneducated man run an educated business. No BS, No MBA, he spends like a drunken sailor.

          • Me thinks the Anti-Gelb has wrong information regarding the Ring.

            it does not match what is shown on the the ticketing service. It does not match what I have seen or what friends have seen.

            The NY Post reported that the Ring had “scarce” tickets available.

            Now, that bastion of Gelb hate, Parterre, reports on the “very expensive, sold-out revival of The Metropolitan Opera’s epic new production of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle”

            It is fine to hate Gelb, calling him all the names you want because he doesn’t meet your required pedigree for opera. It is not fine to make up figures in order to raise others against him.

            One last thing…. In a recent WQXR interview, Gelb said the Ring Cycle equals four typical expensive Met opera productions and no more. Absent any evidence to the contrary, why shouldn’t we believe this? The figure I have heard from the same individuals who clearly stated weeks ago that the ticket sales for the Ring were trending toward a sell out is between $21 million and $24 million. They couldn’t be more specific because very few people have seen all of the exact figures together yet. They will soon. But that is the range. The stage rehearsals were limited for this revival, which saved a good chunk of money.

            Keep in mind, the costs for this Ring are being absorbed over three seasons. DR and DW were first. Next season, S and GD. Then, this season the full cycles. You won’t see the cost in one chunk because of that. It also means that the costs for producing the new productions were at least partially on the books and released already. The cost for reinforcing the stage was already four seasons ago.

          • Concerning Mr. Gelb’s academic qualifications: Mr. Kaiser’s education prepared him well for the running of the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. A multi-disciplined education- including all aspects of management would be a great prerequisite for running such a large house as the Metropolitan. Someone who has had some theatre production and musical background, additionally, would be helpfull. I don’t understand how someone who has never directed an opera or taken courses on theatre/musical production can call themselves the Production Director? After all, many of the solo and chorus artists of the Metropolitan Opera have Master’s Degree’s in music-their preparation shows!

          • I would underscore that there are numerous things I would change in this Ring Cycle and at the Met; I have elaborated them above. But comments suggesting 50% attendance are severely off from all evidence that is available. If there is other evidence, I am very willing to examine it.

            If we are to have a decent and constructive conversation – which I believe is important given the challenges at the Met – we must begin from a place of basic facts based on available evidence. Otherwise, we devolve to nothing but hurled hyperbole from all sides.

            Should the comment about the cost of the Ring from “Anti-Gelb” have been phrased differently, I would have said that I agree the Ring cost too much, in the end. $21-$24 million is too much for a Cycle budgeted at $16-$18 million. But we cannot begin a constructive conversation with hyperbolic claims that end in insults against someone’s education.

  18. As an opera lover,well-trained singer, actor and a teacher for many years, I am very concerned. T have worked with and studied with a number of artists who have performed at The Metropolitan Opera and have supported the Metropolitan Opera for over 40 years. Innovative ideas are important to the art form; however, first and foremost is the high standard of vocal performance/interpretation/technique in opera. I’m a firm believer in following composer’s wishes when an opera is presented. When I have acted in spoken Shakesperian roles, my emphasis is on enunciating and acting. When I sing operatic roles, because of the nature of technique in singing, my acting is a bit modified. For example, sacrificing good vocal technique in order to act vigorously by running up and down stairs and around the stage is NOT a good thing. Theatre directors who have no experience staging opera singers must take into account the nature of opera singing with it’s technical requirements. This is not done in many of the productions. Minimalist, standard, plain set design that doesn’t at all respect the composer’s wishes can be very offensive to the opera lover and/or singer who is aware of how it ,perhaps, should be. A person who has multi-disciplinary training in the theatre, acting and professional singing/musicianship would br the best choice in decision-making at the management level in order for the art form to thrive.

  19. John Morariu says:

    As a friend said, if it isn’t broke Gelb will fix it anyway he has put his tacky mark on everything, pissing on everything and marking his territory like some demented canine!!!

  20. Joe schmoo says:

    The real problem with Opera is that people like Peter Gelb and every other “artistic director” in the world have allowed the stage directors become the real stars of opera and allowed them to call the shots. These people present in these productions “singers” that look like hollywood actors but have no earthly idea of what singing is, in order to allow these stage directors to fulfill the deepest and sickest fantasies with these barbies and kens, using the excuse that “opera is now a visual art”….The golden age of opera happened because of the voices of “REAL SINGERS” that filled historic after historic night in places like the Met, Covent Garden, La Scala…now is ok to discriminate and relegate “REAL SINGERS” because of their weight, height or age in favor of these barbies and kens who last only a few years because they dont know squat about singing and damage their voices quickly….”oh, but they look so good on HD”…weight, height and all that other BS that these sick people have made the most important thing their minds, and therefore the parameters they use when casting singers meant nothing then….SINGING is what mattered and until we return opera to its REAL roots and these idiots realize that is what opera is TRULY about…then..maybe then..we will experience another golden age in opera….hopefully Maestro Fabio Luisi will be the leader of this change and we see opera return to what it has been about since its inception….SINGING.

    • Outstanding commentary! I couldn’t have said it better.! Not only that, but,as a performing artist, I feel my artistic interpretation is compromised when I am force-fed a strong willed narcissistic director’s order’s! It didn’t used to be that way. Artists were valued highly for their vocal opulence,technique and interpretive ability.

    • The Anti-Gelb says:

      Excellent point. The regies, especially the Broadway regies should stick with what they know. These ventures out have been problematic at best.

      • I can see giving famous theatre director’s an opportunity to stage opera; however. if the results are more of a miss than a hit I would think management would reconsider their path forward-in terms of using theatre director’s.

  21. “Then came the Dessay “Traviata”, which has the weirdest and most bizarre production that I’ve ever seen accorded a Traviata”

    Never saw Opera until recently. Saw La Traviata a few days ago. Loved it. Loved the set. I also liked Tosca. I liked The Valkeries too. I thought Enchanted Island stunk.


    R.I.P. Agnes Varis. You did good.

    • Nice to meet you, Rr. I like your blunt honesty. This is even though I adored Enchanted Island.

      • Bravadamejoan says:

        I am glad you enjoyed the performances you attended recently.Thta’s what really counts. I remembered my first exposure to live opera was 30 years ago at NYC Opera. I was mesmerized when the curtain rose and I must have been to 30 performances in the first two seasons and I enjoyed every on of them. Then I crossed th plaza and tried out the Met.My first reaction was OMG,what have I missed ! My point is Rr,I wished you have seen the previous productions with more first rate artists.You may think differently now like many of us.

        Just to clarify,I apologize about the cofusion. I have seen the current complete Ring from individual performances instead of subscribing to a particular cycle.Check the Met website. There are still plenty of tickets for sale for this weekend’s Siegfried.I still remember those days when the previous Ring Cycles were completely sold out before the season even started in spite of the very high price. On several occasions,I had to wake up at 4am and go to get a number and then line up for 2-3 hours in the morning to get a standing room ticket. Those were the days.

        Anyway, the overall 70% ticket sale is an official Met number and the Met is loosing money like carzy. They even have to put the two Chagall’s magic flute painting in the lobby at risk for 40 million dollars

        Janey,if you are speaking for the Met administration,they should wake up now before the doors close down. Go and listen to the audience’s conversation during intermission.

        • Perhaps it is unbelievable to some here, but I speak for no one. I simply like the Met and have enjoyed most recent productions I have seen. Shocking, I know.

          I saw my first Met Ring Cycle in 2009, when I was able to get discounted tickets on the day of the performance for both Siegfried and Gotterdammerung. Perhaps in the 70s, there were lines, but certainly not in 2009, and from what I have been told, not in any of the rings of the last 10-15 years. I thought this current cast, by the way, far out sang the previous cast.

          I do know that the official Met attendance figures are far higher than 70%, from a discussion on this very topic on another blog. 70% is what is being claimed, but is not confirmed, for the first performance only of DR.

          You say that “the Met is loosing money like crazy.” Yet, you produce no evidence. How do you know this? All I know is what I read, which is that there is significant debt that has been accumulated over many years, but that the Met will end this season in the black based on expenses vs revenue. If that is a lie, someone needs to inform the authorities about the malpractice of the Met auditors.

          • Bravadamejoan says:

            Rows of empty seats at the Met Ring?
            April 17, 2012 By Norman Lebrecht 4 Comments
            A colleague reports:
            My unofficial understanding of the 1st Ring Cycle “Rheingold” is that 1100 of the
            MET’s @ 3625 seats were papered, ie: given away, or sold at significantly
            reduced prices. My further unofficial understanding is that only 55% of the
            seats were sold via subscription for the entire Ring Cycle, the lowest
            subscription sales for a Ring Cycle in MET history.
            I guess you won’t be reading this in the Gelb-friendly New York Times.

          • This would be a interesting piece of information, Bravadamejoan, if I believed it. I don’t. This, I suspect, is the same individual who said the Met had never before sold single tickets to Ring Cycles. Since I have bought single tickets – at discounts on the same day of performance – previously, that is simply incorrect. If that basic piece of information is not correct, why should I believe this piece? “My unofficial understanding” is not the most reliable statement, is it?

            But let’s say it’s absolutely true. What does this mean? It means that ONE performance of Das Reingold – already produced 8-10 times recently in this production at the Met – ONE performance sold at 70%.

            As I said, the season DR was introduced, two seasons ago, it was sold out for most performances, if not all. That season, ticket sales increased overall, according to the audited information released to the public. The next season, when DW and Siegfried were introduced, ticket sales increased, according to AUDITED information.

            I choose to believe the auditors, not someone who didn’t know that single tickets were sold for Ring Cycles.

          • Another_Jeremy says:

            @ Janey

            I guess i’m not sure what your overall stance/point is. Do you agree or disagree with the assertion that the MET is in a bad spot artistically? I’ve seen three of the four ring operas, and they have most definitely not been sold out. Do you work at the MET? I’m trying to avoid hyperbole and ad hominems, but it really just sounds like you’re making excuses for what has not been a critically well received season.

          • @Another Jeremy

            I apologize – I have just seen your comment.

            You asked if I work at the Met. No. I do not even live in the city. I travel from RI several times per year to see several productions (at other venues also).

            You asked: “Do you agree or disagree with the assertion that the MET is in a bad spot artistically?”

            I am unable to agree or disagree. This season has been uneven and troubled. I believe the opera community in general is facing a number of issues that are most apparent in a house like the Met – huge with no subsidies.

            Music schools/conservatories are producing singers seemingly cut from the same cookie-cutter, with indistinguishable voices. No opportunities exist for opera singers to perform anywhere on television except in the operas sporadically and infrequently broadcast by PBS. The classical crossover industry has muddied the idea of classical singing. Cultural mores now mean size and age matter in performance more than ever.

            Audiences are demanding theatrical productions where more and more is expected from singers. The perfect note is no longer the ideal – instead, it is a note as perfect as possible while doing the often athletically difficult staging and acting required.

            In an instant gratification society, young singers do not want to do the studying and work for an opera career, especially when they can simply go on The Voice for instant fame. Finally, a group of opera lovers wants everything to stay as it was in the 1960s before any of this happened, while attacking every innovation designed to counter these issues at the country’s largest opera house.

            More specifically to the Met, I believe that HD productions are slowly cannibalizing house ticket sales and despite aggressive marketing, their outreach is old-fashioned. Several other opera houses in the US have managed much better at producing young, trendy material that could spur interest.

            Things are not all rosy.

            Nevertheless. Ticket sales have risen (slightly) each of the last two season. This information is readily available to all interested in the season announcements. It is not insider information. How this season actually will end up financially, I cannot possibly surmise.

            My posts on these topics have dealt primarily with claims of “rows of empty seats,” because that picture is not what I have seen either in person or from friends or on the website.

            I know that the three Siegfried’s last season were sold out; I was unable to procure a ticket through the web site. Opening night and the performance I attended of Die Walkure were sold out, while my performance of GD looked just about full. We now know from the NY Post and audience members that the 2nd and 3rd cycles of the Ring are either sold out or very nearly.

            I sympathize with cries for better singers. I must say, however, that Stephanie Blythe has never caused a stampede to the box office. I say this as someone who will, and has, seen Blythe in everything available. She is phenomenal. I attended a recital in recent years that was, generously, 70% sold. Likely more like 60%, although well advertised. Her NY Philharmonic engagements last season were sadly not well attended. She is the toast of the “it should be like the old days” opera set. And yet…. recitals by various scourges of this same set (all of whom are said not to be able to sing) sell far better. I would note that Voigt’s Brunnhilde’s have sold faster and more completely than Dalayman’s.

            I would also note that another singer celebrated by lovers of the old times, Angela Meade, was given a production this season at the Met, and the attendance was well below expectations. As was the attendance for the universally critically acclaimed Khovanshchina.

            Surely, in today’s times, when the myth of the fat lady singing continues to be mocked and used as a reason not to attend opera, it must be apparent why singers like Blythe, Borodina and Eaglen (not to mention Wilson and Wagner) have either disappeared on the big stages or are not the faces we see promoted. (I would point out that there is much more to the disappearance of Eaglen). Conversely, while many opera buffs may criticize Voigt’s essentially new voice, she is the one we see on the billboards and has a packed schedule. I am not suggesting, for the record, that the treatment of larger singers is correct; simply that it is what it is.

            I have a friend who saw an opera as a teen and was turned off by the singers who did not seem anything like their roles. It took me until this Ring production to convince her to go. She loved it and said she was relieved that the singers fit the parts. She wants to see La Traviata now.

            I wish we could have a group of singers like Sutherland, SIlls, Callas, Horne, Scotto, von Stada and more. I wish we could have a talk show like Johnny Carson’s that regularly welcomed Horne and others. Or even a show like the Muppet Show that provided opportunities. We don’t.

            We have a few spectacular singers, many very good singers and others who are not particularly adept, working with tighter schedules, handling far more on stage than ever before, fighting to be relevant in a society that values Kardashian-style fame over a career built on hard work and true talent. All the while, a portion of critics and back seat drivers complain that everything is being done wrong, leaving a pall of negativity over the entire industry.

            I simply suggest that giving some credit and understanding the environment is a better philosophy than criticism of everything.

            (Not suggesting you or anyone here specifically are constantly criticizing – I am explaining the environment I feel, which creates a desire to defend the artform and house that I enjoy.)

          • I must say, your comments reflect, quite accurately in my opinion, the state of the art form today. You seem to be very knowledgeable, wise, and well informed. I agree,also, about your comments concerning Ms. Eaglen (who now teaches at my alma mater-Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory of Music). Ms. Wilson has a superior natural talent and it is sad that we don’t hear much about her here in the U.S.A. Thanks for sharing your views!

        • “I was mesmerized when the curtain rose and I must have been to 30 performances in the first two seasons and I enjoyed every on of them. Then I crossed th plaza and tried out the Met”

          I’ve now passed 20 shows including a “Ring Cycle” and I didn’t even know what a Ring Cycle was until recently.

  22. “A 70% attendance rate – even if comments here are true, which I question – for the Ring Cycle”

    Total invented figure. I saw only a few seats empty when I saw Valkeries about a week ago. and people were in the standing room section. And unless the audience is completely full of shite, the long standing O is at odds with the comments here, though I get we are also applauding the mere act of singing through thst 5+ hour marathon. I was expecting The Machine to be bad from what I heard but I thought it was pretty cool. Though when The Valkeries were “riding” those planks and whipping them and then slide off them to “dismount” I did laugh.

    La Traviata and Manon were packed. Tosca looked sold out too. The only performances “light” on the people recently that I saw was an early performances of that Russian one.

  23. Oldoperafan says:

    Come to think of it, pre-current management Met live radio transmissions were mostly special, pleasurable experiences. In the past few years, I have been listening to randomly snatched bits of frequently atrocious singing where I know the role in other interpretations. For this reason, would never risk to pay the not inconsiderable amount of money for an cinema HD performance. I would say the orchestra is still very good, but that can be just me clutching at the straws. A very sad decline.

  24. Bravadamejoan says:

    Zeffirelli production of Tosca scheduled to return during the 2013-2014 season. James Levine also requested to keep the previous Ring production in storage,just in case !

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Bringing back the old Tosca? Good, maybe there is hope.

      James Levine may not know how to bow out gracefully, but he was wise about requesting that the Met keep the sets of the old, great, unforgettable Otto Schenk Ring.

      Bravadamejoan, I coudn’t agree more with all your arguments.

  25. Petros Linardos says:

    Here is a not so Gelb or Eurotrash friendly quote from the New York Times:

    What did [Jonas Kaufman] think of the new Met production of “Faust” in which he had just sung? No comment.

    “I am too much of a diplomat,” he said. “But I will generalize this much. Too many directors arrive at the opera house these days knowing little or nothing about music. Most come from the spoken theater, focus only on the text and don’t understand how to give the music its space. It may seem obvious to you and me, but a brilliant theater director does not automatically translate into a brilliant opera director. If I am a crack racecar driver, that doesn’t qualify me to be an ace pilot as well.

    “I sometimes feel that directors devise all these elaborate concepts because they don’t trust the power of the music and are terrified of boring the audience. Opera is a truly magical art, but the magic originates primarily in the music that we singers work so hard to communicate.”

    • Mr. Kaufmann-one of the greatest singing/actors and a truly great artist- speaks from experience and wisdom. I,likewise, feel the same about directors and the magical world of opera!

    • Ed Misogino says:

      A great stage director is someone who realizes that at the end of the day, it’s the singers who make great opera. A great stage director supports the singers in this massive task.

      Many directors, realizing that they are basically superfluous to the art form, fight very hard to torment the singers whose art they envy. Most directors are just loudmouthed fanboys with an ax to grind, steeped in the pungent jargon of music critics, and lacking any real theater experience they impose their oh-so-revolutionary concepts (really just parroted bitter commentary of the fanboys before them) on the people who actually have to stand and deliver.

      How many times have I seen a singer with great potential worn down and broken during the process of trying to install some idiot director (or conductor’s) “concept”.

      I would like to see a “bold, new innovative concept”– Let the artists create the art.

      Let the Scenic artists in collaboration with the singers create a set. Let the singers work out what to do dramatically among themselves. Some of the best singing and acting I’ve ever seen, the most touching opera I’ve ever witnessed, has been in settings where the singers were left to their own devices relying on their stagecraft, chemistry, instinct, and creativity, their natural desire to communicate.

      • I agree! Words of wisdom Mr. Misogino! Many years ago I sang in a modern opera directed by Sarah Caldwell. Her directions were minimal. The singer’s/artists communicated with each other and put their own input into stage directions etc. The performances were a rousing success and we all got along well and didn’t feel put down by a director who wished to impose their version on us! Creativity flourished and we had a good time!

  26. bravadamejoan says:

    Glad to see so many people have great insights into the true arts of opera.It seems the plethora of great artists in the 50-70s maybe coinnsidental but obviously the vocal training for solid basic techniques at those times cannot be overlooked as well described before.I remember attending a master Class by Joan Sutherland.She said the basics are so simple : breathe,support,project. It may sound simple but it takes years of hard work and daily drill ( no matter hoe fomous you are ) to attain that.Some singer may be able to hit a high note but with total lack of support. The live audience may not notice but on the radio that is widely exposed.People who really know the real art of opera will tell you that for the great artists in the past,you may often mistaken a live recording as studio recording because of the solid tecniques,not need ing the help from computer correstions.

    There are still a few great singers out there nowadays like Radvanovsky,Beczala,Damrau,Borodina,Blythe … etc but you don’t see their posters all over NYC like Netrebko ( who is not bad in lyrical roles ). Who’s fault is that ?
    Well,even Voigt had to yield to pressure to loose wight at the expence of loosing her voice. I do not have the good fortune to hear Nilsson live but amongst all the Brunhildes I’ve seen in the last 30 years at the Met,I like Jane Eaglen the best vocally but where did she go ?

    We can argue all we want about the finance at the Met,I seriously can care less except if it goes bankrupt,that will be a very sad story. I am seriously concern about how much Gelb knows or care about opera. It’s painful to see all the sumptous and great productions replced by directioness trash and some very good singers are not given enough opportunities at the Met.

    • Fabulous commentary! By the way, I met Dame Joan and had a nice talk with her when she was on tour with The Metropolitan Opera during a run of La Flille Du Regiment with Luciano Pavarotti. She was a very humble and gracious lady who took the time to give me an autograph and a brief chat!

  27. Bravadamejoan says:

    Absolutely.I have been communicating with dame Joan for many years until her death. She always was very graceful and dwon to earth and very welcoming to her fans,not like some current younger singers behaving snobbishly backstage.

    I was appalled to see comments from youtube saying Netrebko is superior to Sutherland,Caballe,Gruberova etc. in the Bel Canto roles and critized that they are ugly, fat and old. They believe the arts of opera is a beauty contest.

    Gelb is also crazy to cast aside Fleming as she is older now. Renee still has a beautifu voice and solid technique. I still remember her very sensuous Manon who is far better the the recent manon at the Met.It’s ashame.

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