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Mrs Ziff assures Met supporters: all is just hunky-dory under Peter Gelb

A letter has gone out above the name of Mrs Ann Ziff, $30 million chief benefactor of the Metropolitan Opera, reaffirming her unshakeable faith in general manager Peter Gelb and music director James Levine. Yes, you read that right.

Mrs Ziff finds nothing strange in Gelb’s paranoid attempts to ban critical media from the Met and nothing sufficiently alarming in Levine’s long-term debilitation to declare a search for a successor.

Here’s what she writes:

When Peter Gelb became the Met’s general manager in 2006, he and Music Director James Levine announced a series of visionary initiatives (…). Our goals remain the same today. (..) the Met has offered seven new productions including a groundbreaking new Ring cycle by Robert LePage and a popular world premiere Baroque pastiche opera, The Enchanted Island.

And here’s the vision:

Fortunately for the Met, the cost of mounting new productions over the past six seasons has been fully covered by incremental contributions from the Met’s board members and other donors. These gifts are over and above their annual unrestircted gifts and most of these donors have assured us that they would not make an extra gift for anything other than a new production. My family and I are thrilled to have been able to underwrite the new Ring cycle, in memory of my husband, William Ziff.

Lady, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

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  1. It seems to me that this answers the questions from some here regarding Ms. Ziff’s gift and the additional underwriting she did for The Ring Cycle. It did not come out of her “annual unrestricted gift” of $30 million.

    I also think Ms. Ziff’s contributions to opera and other causes have earned her the right not be referred to using the pejorative term (in that context), “Lady.”

    • In England, that ain’t pejorative.

    • Janey:

      It answers nothing. Matthew Teppers assumption below is actually quite correct. She did not write that letter, it was written by Peter Gelb’s office. The Metropolitan Opera has yet to file their taxes for this year and are being quite esoteric about the details. She continues to be the only thing keeping him in his job. It’s time for a change.

      • Are you sure it came from Gelb’s office? If that can be proved, the regime will fall.

      • I would be surprised if Ann Ziff would allow a letter to be issued under her name, no matter the author, that would entirely misrepresent her financial support. Are you suggesting she did so?

  2. Kenneth Conway says:

    “In England, that ain’t pejorative.”

    Slick move, dude.

  3. The Oracle says:

    Ann Ziff remains part of the problem at the MET. She is still under the spell of Gelb and is unfortunately the Chair of the Managing Directors. She is a woman with a large amount of cash at her hands inherited from her husband and she has found a cause. But mark my words, sooner or later the lustre will wear off, he will do something heinous she finds highly objectionable and like the Queen from “Alice in Wonderland” it will be “Off with his head.” Based upon my conversation with several Managing Directors there, she is the only reason that he remains, as she gave $30.0 million and they won’t. Her letter also offers the spectre that the Metropolitan Opera might be operating in the black and they are not. Once of the most telling tales is the note with J.P. Morgaqn Chase on the Chagall’s is not paid off. While that note is not paid off, you can rest assured they are not on solid footing.

  4. Just because people have ridiculous amount of money & can throw it around for their own self glorification doesn’t mean they have an enormous amount of common sence.

    It is America after all.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I fully agree about your first sentence but find your second sentence insulting and as good as any generalization.

      • I used to work with an American who was very well up on Classical Music.

        When I was telling him that I was going to hear a particulaly long piece of music he said.

        They wouldn’t like that in America. A large percentage of Americans have the attention span of a gnat.

        His words not mine.

        • Petros Linardos says:

          I would agree about the comment on the attention span, but would question how exclusive this is to America.

          I am a naturalized American, living in the US after having lived most of my life in Europe.

          Classical music is not everybody’s cup of tea. I’ve experienced good and bad audiences in both continents.

    • …except that in America we spell “sense” correctly.

  5. Laurence Glavin says:

    Here in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, a multi-millionaire supported Opera Boston until he didn’t. Opera Boston no longer exists. Now it’s up the the Boston Lyric Opera to stage a decent production of “Fidelio”.

  6. Matthew B. Tepper says:

    Too bad that letter isn’t longer, or it might be possible to analyze its style. When Peter Gelb was running (and ruining) the classical division of Sony Music, his decrees took the form of press releases. He’s doing much the same thing at the Met. I’ll bet the true author or authors of this letter is the same loyal Gelb flunky as has been working for him for years.

    By the way, Mr. Gelb, if you’re still keen on shutting down criticism in blogs, I’ll be happy to go away and leave you alone for all time upon payment of one meeeellion dollars (after taxes). Just because I’ve been complaining about your business methods and results since the 1990s (!) doesn’t mean I don’t have my price.

  7. Most people have the attention span of a gnat; this is not a special American trait, And there are people everywhere who enjoy lengthy and complex musical experiences. I conduct an orchestra in Scottsdale Arizona, a hotbed of very public stupidity and rampant philistinism and perhaps the most reactionary musical demographic I have ever seen. (I know this because we have surveyed audiences and tracked the tastes of the concert going public there) . In this environment, there are still people to show up at my concerts when i do new music, and when I do traditional repertoire, it is long Bruckner and Mahler Symphonies that get the biggest audiences. So maybe your American friend was hanging out with the wrong people.

    • “Scottsdale, Arizona, a hotbed of very public stupidity and rampant philistinism and perhaps the most reactionary musical demographic I have ever seen.”

      A rather incautious statement, I might suggest, especially since your own rather unimpressive and unprepossessing educational and professional backgrounds are available online for anyone’s amusement and delectation.

      And isn’t ninety-nine per cent of the adult population of Scottsdale, Arizona, far more highly-educated than you, far more highly-compensated than you, and far more highly-sophisticated than you? Demographic surveys, if accurate, certainly would suggest such.

      And aren’t you going to have to step down from your three-concerts-a-year post with Scottsdale’s amateur orchestra once your characterization of Scottsdale hits the local newspapers, which I suspect it shall?

      • The orchestra is not amateur. And we do much more than the three concerts a year. The “incautious statements” were there to contrast with the fact that even in a place that is publicly perceived in a certain way-this is after all, the part of the world where “Birtherism” has had some of its most public adherents-there are many people who are interested in complex, difficult and novel music. I mentioned the “hotbed of public stupidity”-an observation that came from a number of things like the public embrace of birtherism by some public figures- to undermine the stereotype, not to reinforce it. I was saying that yes, there are people who say these things, and yes, the public is overall musically very conservative, but that does not really tell you very much-the public in every place is much more diverse than people who stereotype give them credit for. I was trying to undermine the idea that “Americans” have the attention span of a gnat-some do, some don’t. Sorry if that was unclear.

        I have no idea where you get the 99% number, It would imply that 99% of Scottsdale’s resident have doctorate degrees, which I rather doubt.

  8. Ann Ziff has my thanks for her contributions to the Metropolitan Opera, and her enduring all this second guessing. Imagine the Met’s bottom line without the serious bucks she and other patrons kick in to the operating budget.

    Boston’s late Sarah Caldwell of the Opera Company of Boston once said to me that “the people who complain the loudest are the ones that give the least.”

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I worked with Peter Gelb back when we were both at the Boston Symphony organization, and he is smart, sensitive and tenacious.

    • Great! I once sang in an opera directed by the indefatigueable Sarah Caldwell. She implied that same phrase- in context with our performances amongst the cast. We were given great interpretive freedom;however, she didn’t care for complaining and expected us to give our best! By the way, tenacity can be a good attribute when the going gets rough! I am thankfull that Grand Opera is alive and that benefactor’s, such as Ann Ziff, are willing to part with their money to present Grand Opera in all it’s glory!

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