Welsh National Opera is the latest musical organisation to bite the Gordon Getty bait.
In exchange for a seven-digit cheque, the company will perform an opera by a talentless musician who inherited and once managed an oil empire.
I have heard enough of Getty’s music to know that it’s bad. It is written in a mid-romantic mush that meanders nowhere for extended periods of time. I visited Getty once to discuss his musical involvements. It was a very hot day and he did not offer me so much as a glass of water. Had he done so, I might have been morally obliged to refuse it.
Mikhail Pletnev had fewer compunctions. He accepted Getty millions to perform pallid stuff with his Russian National Orchestra.
Now David Pountney has done the same at WNO. Pountney’s justification is that the cash will underpin four other contemporary operas, all of great merit, including the UK premiere of Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner’s Dream. ‘This series gives us an extraordinary opportunity to re-engage with contemporary opera writing and to transform our perceptions of new music, ‘ said Pountney. ”We hope to dispel the misconception that modern opera is either moribund or incomprehensible to our audiences.’
But a bribe is a bribe is a bribe. Had WNO not agreed to stage Getty’s opera Usher House, it is unlikely the gift would have found its way into Welsh hands. This is not arts philanthropy. It is a financial transaction.
Oh, and before Welsh politicians start slobbering with gratitude, they should bear in mind the scale of the bequest. Getty’s fortune is estimated at $2 billion. His gift to Wales is a tin coin in a beggar’s pot, one tenth of one percent of his worldly goods.
Here, below, is Getty’s own considered opinion of his musical worth: ‘I’m the best since Mahler.’