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Just in: Bartoli is reviewed with a blank after insisting on image control

Cecilia Bartoli, touring her Steffani album, “Mission”, hit trouble with the Hamburg press after a concert at the Laeiszhalle. The Hamburger Abendblatt gave her a glowing review, but her management insisted on vetting its photos taken at the concert.
So the newspaper printed a blank space around the review and captioned it: “We would have liked to display here a concert photo of the artist. But her Swiss management laid down unacceptable conditions, including that the photographer present all his photos during the interval and delete any that were deemed unacceptable. We refused to accept such conditions.”
See it here.
Her management lashed back with an angry letter. The newspaper offered to interview the manager. Oh dear, it’s all getting rather out of hand.
bartoli mission
UPDATE: They did interview her management, not very sympathetically, poor things.
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  1. There are several letters to the editor in the link given, including one from Konzerdirektion Dr. Rudolf Goette which is the local manager in Hamburg (not the Swiss management). What I didn’t see is the newspaper’s offer to interview Ms. Bartoli’s manager.

    • An interview with Mr. Kuhnt has taken place and has been published. You can find the link in N.L.’s update.

  2. Rgiarola says:

    Mr. Lebrecht,

    I’ve got one doubt and perhaps you know about it. These demands were just applied at Laeiszhalle for the Hamburger Abendblatt? Or it is a regular demand of the artist’s management everywhere?

    • I don’t know it, and I’d also be interested in learning about it. Nevertheless, even if these demands were regular, they wouldn’t be legitimate in my view.

  3. If you are so afraid of a bad picture, you probably shouldn’t be performing in public.

  4. poor things’…???????
    her management makes a fortune off the Diva..!
    what ‘control freaks’ this ‘mgt.’
    they should be grateful a critic comes to a concert, much less writes a review …..

    and how many recitalists get a n y picture at their recital efforts..!

  5. I think Jim Naughtie might struggle with her Manager’s name too.

  6. What’s so wrong with choosing a good photograph for publication? Doesn’t sound too excessive to me.
    Action shots when actually singing can be horrible/hilarious and as a singer, I should know!
    She is now in a position to choose what is published when she can and I and I’m sure many singers would do the same.

    • Please distinguish between the (legitimate) right to decide when photos may be taken and when not (the paper didn’t have any problem with this) and the claim to decide which photo is going to be published. Her management fails to make this distinction, too.

      A review is (or should be) an independent expression by the free press, not something controlled by the artist reviewed, or her/his management. And the photo is part of the review. A newspaper isn’t a PR broshure.

      • Agreed. Unless the newspaper is “The National Inquirer,” which you know would pick the worst photo, newspapers are not generally known for choosing unflattering shots.

        Pushing back publicly on this issue is important for another reason. It draws a line in the sand between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Letting the artist dictate the content of your newspaper leaves you open to letting other people do the same. Do you want a politician to dictate the photos it should run? A government official? Everybody?

  7. Mathieu says:

    If they are so eager to control her image, maybe they should have begun with the cover picture of her latest album. Looking like Golum isn’t the most flattering image a diva could wish

  8. Theodore McGuiver says:

    What a refreshing interview. Makes a real change from the lobotomised, consensual ‘Everything and everyone is just Five Star’ we’re so often subjected to in the performing arts.

  9. Johannes Pausch says:

    In that article ‘Hamburger Abendblatt’ writes about Agostino Steffani, the composer to whom the evening had been dedicated, he being an early baroque Kleinmeister, and his music radiating something between not-anymore-late-renaissance and not-yet-baroque. Well, to me people who are capable of such genuine errors of judgment had better keep a low profile.

    • Like it or not, a free press will always include bad press as well. Still no reason for unfree press.

  10. The newspaper refused a reasonable request from the management to view the photos in the interval.
    The management did not refuse any photos to be published.
    However Mathieu, you have made a very salient point!.

    • And tomorrow, politicians (or their spin doctors) will request the press to see the photos taken during debate in parliament and have those deleted they don’t like. A reasonable request, too?

  11. Musiker says:

    The management wanted to view the photos during the interval so that Bartoli could pick the best one.
    All others would then have to be deleted.
    Those were the management’s demands. Sounds very much like a refusal to allow certain photos to be published to me.

  12. Pick the best photograph? And why not? Then it would have been published…

    • Because, as a matter of principle, a free press cannot allow others to dictate what is going to be published.

    • Musiker says:

      Ever heard of freedom of the press?

    • Subjectively, I consider Bartoli as perhaps the best mezzo among her contemporaries. But it is disturbing that her management will have veto over photographs. That is done in restrictive or intolerant societies like Nazi Germany.

  13. It’s not Bartoli’s management. They just work for her. It’s Bartoli herself. And it’s evident that she suffers from situational narcissism, a psychological problem that afflicts people in positions of power–in the performing arts, in business, in the military, in politics–who surround themselves with Yes Men, such that no one around them dares to contradict him/her, who hence come to feel that his/her whims should be others’ marching orders.

    Of course in a free country Bartoli is free to demand whatever she pleases. And others are equally free to accede to those demands or refuse them.

    But look at it from the other side. A publication can only continue to exist if it has a reader base who use and trust it. When a publication becomes a shill for its advertisers and/or the people its articles are about, readers cease to trust it, and will then turn to a competing publication that keeps its bargain with its readers to put their interests first. Why should I read a publication that doesn’t serve me?

    Bartoli demanded that this publication choose between her and its readers, though I doubt she realizes this.

    The only way Bartoli could make such demands stick would be if she started her own publication, as Oprah Winfrey did, and applied her ideas of journalism to it. Then we’d see how it does in the free market.

    If Bartoli were really smart about cultivating her fan base, she’d do what soprano Jackie Evancho’s parents do, putting out Keeks (the visual equivalent of Twitters) of her kicking back before concerts, signing autographs, looking a starfish–candid-looking stuff that humanizes the artist and cultivates a feeling of connection with her.

    Evancho isn’t sacrificing a bit of privacy, since her people only put out the Keeks they choose to. Yet they make fans feel loved. Instead of fans looking at this news item in question and thinking “So Bartoli’s another diva. Talented, but a diva.” And then they feel less connection with her. If you want to act like that you’d better be the best in the world at what you do–and have that be acknowledged by everyone else.

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