Top US music critic quits
August 31, 2015 by norman lebrecht
It is with a sense of sic transit harmoniae mundi that we report the retirement from Bloomberg of Manuela Hoelterhoff, a formidable music critic formerly of the Wall St Journal who successfully created an arts outlet on the Bloomberg business site. Manuela is a personal friend and any further comment would be compromised by affection. So here’s the Bloomberg internal announcement and, below, one of her first pieces.
To all in Editorial and Research:
Manuela is already the recipient of a Pulitzer for Criticism and a Guggenheim fellowship. She is now moving offsite to finish her latest book on “Hitler’s Summer Seasons: Backstage With the Fuhrer” (it’s only 10 years overdue, as she points out). She promises that she will also spend quality time with her menagerie, especially Hamlette.
Please join me in wishing her well and thanking her for all her hard work.
Let Sippy Cups Into the Metropolitan Opera: Manuela Hoelterhoff
2014-02-28 05:00:01.1 GMT
Commentary by Manuela Hoelterhoff
Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) — Could attending the Metropolitan
Opera be made a bit more pleasant?
Not for the first time, I wondered about this possibility
the other night when winter winds mowed down frailer
ticketholders as they shivered in the narrow strip that passes
for a lobby.
The Met is huge. On that rare sold-out night, almost 4000
people squeeze past the “have your tickets ready” phalanx of
doormen who funnel us through the ticket-control people.
Why is there no lobby? Because the architect forgot to
build one! Yes, that oversight happened some 60 years ago and
might have been addressed by now — after all, Lincoln Center
was imaginatively reconceived quite recently at the cost of
billions. But no.
It’s not a bad idea to wear a nice hat like Brunnhilde when
you go to the Met during a polar vortex.
Or secrete a screw-top split of wine into a muff like
Mimi’s, since the Met’s few bars exist to thwart you from
drinking. The lines are ridiculous. A friend claims they are
really run by a secret outpost of AA.
This is so strange. If the performance is less than
wonderful, you might need the solace of a drink. If Jonas
Kaufmann has just made you delirious with his rendition of
Werther’s ode to nature, you might want to celebrate with a
glass of champagne. Why is this difficult to arrange?
The dingiest crush bar in London lets you reserve drinks
Hungry folks don’t fare well either. Who makes these huge
sandwiches? Godzilla? You need claws to unwrap the cellophane.
Perhaps the Met, which collaborates on productions with the
classy Bayerische Staatsoper, could borrow their caterers as
well? In Munich, every ticket holder is made to feel special.
The place glitters at intermission. The champagne bar gets
pretty crowded, but elegant little sandwich plates are handed
over quickly. Those ice-cream ladies ladling raspberry sauce
over lovely scoops of smooth vanilla. Heaven!
Back at the Met, you can trudge down to the dismally lit
coffee place downstairs near the car park and have a giant
cookie. Couldn’t an effort be made to provide something a little
And what is that tacky souvenir table doing right smack in
the middle of the stairs leading to the orchestra seating? How
smart is that? I don’t want a blouse right now, thank you.
En route, the carpet is worn and patched with duct tape.
Money of course would solve a lot of problems, along with a
little flair, better lighting and more bathrooms.
How many more years do women have to spend inching toward
the bathrooms? Can’t a rich female sponsor associated with
promoting women take up the cause? Adrienne Arsht comes to mind.
The Met spent millions on rebuilding the stage to support
the “Ring” cycle sets. How about doing some renovations out
Ticket sales are down. There are many reasons for that, but
changing audiences are surely one. The place needs to get a buzz
going and reinvent itself the way the Public Theater recently
did with a new lobby, sparkling bathrooms, and a cocktail bar
and supper club which stays open outside performance hours.
1. Open the Met an hour before, not half an hour, so people
2. Morph the useless and unloved gallery into a bar.
3. Turn the souvenir shop into a media center showcasing
material from the company’s huge archives and information on new
productions. Move the press room from its dim hole by the
bathrooms and provide seating for visitors to tweet. There’s
hardly any old-style press left anyway.
4. Get rid of the overpriced Grand Tier restaurant, which
blights a huge swathe of territory underneath one of the two
murals by Chagall. Have designer David Rockwell and Chef Marcus
Samuelsson create a casual dining space with bar tables and
sofas that flows across to the other Chagall.
5. Drop that pompous “no seating once the performance
starts” ukase. This is a place of entertainment. Every act has
a moment that is less sacred than others.
6. Permit drinks inside like the Brooklyn Academy of Music
and most New York theaters. For a long show in cramped seats, a
sippy cup can be your friend.
7. Expand and encourage the use of a free coat check. The
auditorium often looks like a refugee center.
8. In nice weather, fill that loggia with bars on both ends
and students from Juilliard next door playing operatic
transcriptions that drift enticingly to pedestrians below.
9. Start performing on Sundays. Is there another opera
company or theater that shuts down on Sunday to please unions?
10. Hire a charismatic music director to articulate a
vision for the future and excite a new generation. James Levine,
here since 1971, has never become a public personality
identified with New York. What is wrong with “emeritus”? The
Met needs a visible, socially engaged leader to supplement
general manager Peter Gelb. We need someone like Gustavo Dudamel
in Los Angeles or Riccardo Muti in Chicago. It’s time for a
(Manuela Hoelterhoff is an executive editor at Bloomberg
News. All opinions are her own.)
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