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Peter Gelb, the men in white coats are waiting

The Metropolitan Opera chief has banned his house magazine, Opera News, from reviewing any further performances at the Met. Peter Gelb’s fiat followed an editorial by Opera News editor, Brian Kellow (first reported here), which criticised the Met Ring and other policies.

Gelb is very quick to ban critical voices. He once persuaded the BBC to remove me from an interval presentation because he disagreed with something I had written about him (‘Banned from the Met’ became the title of a Chinese anthology of my essays and columns).

But banning the publication of the Metropolitan Opera Guild is another matter altogether. It indicates the kind of sensitivity usually reserved for artists and, in extreme cases, for lunatics. It is behaviour of such irregular order that even the over-friendly New York Times has seen fit to report it – as Page 1 news.

I am not sure what qualifies as the first sign of madness in clinical terms, but the second, in the arts professions, is starting to think that professional criticism is a personal onslaught that has to be crushed. Peter Gelb is losing touch with reality. The men in white coats will be waiting for him soon downstairs. Maybe he thinks they are there already.

UPDATE: here’s a blow-by-blow analysis from Paul Pelkonen. And more here.


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  1. Paul Ricchi says:

    Of all the active posters at Opera-L, I have been the least critical of Gelb. But his heavy handed tampering with organizations outside the Met, and his effort to turn a successful publication into a clubhouse newsletter, seem very much like the senile arrogance of fin du regime.

    The man is gradually morphing into an object of ridicule.

    Fortunately we have this forum and groups like Opera-L – a microscope aimed at the Met – where all can and will continue to comment on Met performances  influenced by their own personal, unique and often peculiar prejudices – but free from institutional influence.

  2. ShelleyR says:

    1. This was an unbelievable, ill-advised move.

    2. Peter Gelb had every right to make it.

    The Opera News is a Metropolitan Opera trade publication used for outreach purposes and solely supported by sales of tickets and donations to Met productions. It’s budget is primarily paid by the Met, which is consequently underwriting reviews of, and publicity for, other opera house productions. There have been many years where no Met reviews appeared in the magazine; in fact, it is an ongoing conflict.

    This move won’t result in anything positive, as far as I can imagine. But the Kellow article was not only factually inaccurate in a number of ways, it was extremely ill-advised. There are ways to write constructive critique (which would be useful) and ways to roughly shove a club in the eye socket of the person that pays your salary. Kellow unfortunately chose the latter. I simply wish Gelb had taken the high road in response. He does have some unique personality traits, no doubt.

    • ShelleyR, Opera News isn’t solely supported by sales of tickets and donations to Met productions. I, for one, subscribe to Opera News as a direct subscriber (I live in San Francisco and have never attended a performance at the Met).

      • ShelleyR says:

        You are correct, of course – apologies – I should not have said solely. But it certainly is dependent. It would be interesting to know how many subscriptions are gained through Met donations.

    • Depressed In the USA says:

      Opera News is a publication of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, an entity corporately seperate from the Metropolitan Opera Association, with it’s own board of directors. It has it’s own income and files it’s own IRS paperwork (see:

      For the most recent year reported, the Guild donated over $6 million to the Metropolitan Opera Association. It is certainly true that the Metropolitan Opera Association steers donors to the Guild, and grants privledges to Guild members. But corporately, they are two seperate organizations and, so far as I can see, Mr. Gelb has no right to dictate the content of it’s publication, Opera News.

      If the Met is unhappy with the Guild, perhaps the entities should be more clearly seperated, the Guild should be re-christened “The American Opera Guild” and donate funds to companies which are worthy of their support. Then Mr. Gelb and his board can blissfully run the Metropolitan Opera Association into bankruptcy, as they seem inclined to do.

  3. Diane Kamis Muzeja says:

    Opera News, by virtue of their filing Audit Department of Circulation, makes money off of advertising; the Met does not pay the salaries of its editors of writers, nor does the magazine get any money at all from the opera house. As someone who is familiar with the Guild, who has regularly attended lectures they present, and who has known writers of the magazine socially, I can tell you that their budget is, in no way, supplemented by the Met, and the opera company has never underwritten a review, nor is it their job to provide publicity.

    • Paul Ricchi says:

      And may I add that Mr. Gelb does not pay Mr. kellow’s salary, nor does Gelb own the Met, although with the Met’s flaccid board it might seem that he does.

    • I hope that scenario is true. But if it were, logic would dictate that they would spin-off the magazine and run it independently. Since they have not done so, one wonders.

  4. I subscribe to Opera News. I pay an annual fee. The Met Opera is not giving me this magazine, and I don’t see any reason for the Met to control its content. In years I donate to the Guild, I receive the magazine as a perk. The perk might just as easily be a free subscription to any lifestyle magazine of my choice, such as Travel & Leisure. Is Mr. Gelb to be in charge of its content, too?

  5. tom putnam says:

    Boycott the Met? I say attend and report. Would you stop reporting about the developments in a totalitarian country because you don’t approve of totalitarianism?

  6. Certainly hope the men in the white suits are there – just to cover him up – the opening night 2011 monkey
    suit he wore certainly should dispel any questions of taste either in clothes or in opera . The creature will
    be gone eventually -it is the mess and ill will that he leaves behind with which people will have to contend.
    The simple answer is for everyone to boycott anything that has to do with the opera house . Wonder what
    that wonderful QXR has to say .

  7. David Steinman says:

    This all sounds like trivial carping compared to what Peter Gelb has done for the Met.

    • Depressed In the USA says:

      You mean TO the Met, don’t you? He has done NOTHING for the Met; he has merely used a public charity for his own aggrandizement – which should be no surprise to anyone who read, for instance, Mr. Lebrecht’s book on the death of classical music. Having done his part to destroy classical music recording, Mr. Gelb has turned to destroying classical music performance.

  8. The latest news as the Met hurriedly reverses its policy allowing Opera News to cover the Met. Of course, that implies that the decision not to cover the operas announced yesterday in the Times in an interview with ON editor F. Paul Driscoll came not from Mr. Driscoll but from the Met itself. The saga continues:

    • Bystander says:

      Well this doesn’t make things much better! How will you ever be able to objectively look at a Met review in Opera News again?

  9. The space most newspapers and magazines allow for music criticism is so paltry that you can’t learn much from what is written anyway. Reviews just look nice in your grants application packages.

  10. Hanselino says:

    If Mr. Gelb would put on better productions, he would not have to have any worries; and if he continues as he has, if he cannot stand the heat, he should leave the kitchen.

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