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Exclusive: Peter Gelb wields the axe in a day of the long knives

September 28, 2017 by norman lebrecht

65 comments.


We hear that around fifty staff members of the Metropolitan Opera were fired yesterday, including some fairly senior administrators.

Some victims were told that Peter Gelb had to make $20 million worth of cuts after a fundraising failure last year.

No mention was made of the Met’s box office decline to well below 70 percent, or the continuing drift of a once-loyal audience to suburban Live from the Met screenings.

It is understood that most of the sacked staff are non-union. Many have not received a pay rise in eight years.

Gelb, by internal calculations, is working to a revised budget of $280 million.

Not a happy way to start the season.

If you are one of the people sacked, do get in touch with your reaction – anonymously, if you like.

UPDATE: One sacked director is named.

2nd UPDATE: What will Gelb cut next?


Comments (65)

  1. Ungeheuer says:

    And things are much much worse than acknowledged with the disappearance of stars, vocal stars at that. Proverbial elephant in the room.

  2. Petros Linardos says:

    Would be nice to hear anonymously also from people who are still working at the MET.

  3. Bill says:

    Has there ever been anyone else who has so consistently failed at their job, but yet has managed to keep it for as long as Gelb?

    I don’t blame Gelb for this mess, it’s been long apparent that he’s incompetent. The board of the Metropolitan Opera needs to be held accountable for standing by him this long.

    1. Olassus says:

      True enough, but you have to remember that the Board *is* the Met, accountable no further. There is no “culture minister” overseeing.

  4. Will says:

    I don’t there is any evidence that significant numbers of audiences members are opting to watch broadcasts instead.

    Audiences for classical music and opera in the US are aging out (i.e. dying) and not being replaced – probably part of what is happening at the Met.

    1. Bill says:

      Tourism has been down by 10% in NYC since February. I’m sure the Met has seen a drop off in ticket sales because of that.

      Who knew having a President openly hostile to foreigners would have that effect…

      1. AZ Opera Fan says:

        What in God’s name does Trump have to do with this? You haters just can’t get over it, can you. Are you so blinded by hatred, or so stupid, that you really think Trump influences who goes to the Met? Idiot. I used to go to NY every year for a week or so and buy tickets to the Met, the Philharmonic, and Carnegie Hall. But Met prices have risen to obscene levels and they have little new to entice me to go again. How many times can one sit through Tosca, Traviata, or Boheme? A stale repertoire, eye-popping prices and a general filthiness of NY since the current mayor took over and I’ll spend my money elsewhere. Get over your Trump obsession!

        1. CR says:

          LOL, NYC is filthy since the current mayor took over. Glad people like you are staying away. Coming from the same genius who doesn’t think a xenophobia-driven 10% drop in tourist volume would affect attendance.

        2. Bill says:

          Calling me an idiot? Kind of the way Mr. Trump himself might respond. Nothing like personal insults to raise the level of discourse here. Anonymity on the internet is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

          It has been well documented that tourism, especially from Europe, is down because of the policies of the Trump administration and it’s antagonistic attitude towards foreigners.

          Anecdotally, I have relatives in Europe that have put off their plans to visit, as have many they know, because of the sense that the political situation is unstable.

          And please stop with the personal insults, it’s quite unbecoming.

        3. James says:

          “Haters”? What age are you!? I’m surprised you didn’t render it as “h8trs”!

        4. MWnyc says:

          To the extent that its policies affect tourism from abroad, for better or worse, the Trump administration does affect attendance at the Met, which draws a considerable number of international tourists.

          Foreign tourism to New York City is down this year.

          And the Trump Administration – for reasons that some Americans dislike, many Americans applaud and yet others consider unfortunate but necessary – has made it more difficult for foreigners to enter the United States, by means of both stricter visa policies and increased (and often unpleasant) scrutiny by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at points of entry.

          To suggest that the former might be due to the latter would seem to be common sense, not hatred or blindness. And if one supports Trump’s policies in that area, then a decline in tourism to New York City would simply be an unfortunate by-product of those policies. (Some people don’t even see that by-product as unfortunate.)

          By the way, while New York City doesn’t run as smoothly now as it did under Mike Bloomberg (the most competent mayor of my lifetime), the place doesn’t look to my eye to be particularly dirtier. And to blame Mayor de Blasio for a decline in international tourism since February doesn’t make much sense, since he was mayor for the previous three years.

          1. Phil Davison says:

            I am British and live in Mexico City. I have many friends who love opera and have gone to New York, specifically for performances at The Met, for years. Some have decided not to visit the United States while Trump is President, after what he called Mexicans. I wonder how many others have decided likewise.

          2. Cam says:

            All I can offer here is a personal anecdote. I would typically take 1 or 2 trips to NYC each year, and it would be extraordinary if I didn’t attend the MET at least once each trip. Unfortunately travel to the US has progressively become less and less pleasant over the last 15 years or so, and while I don’t think you can blame Trump for that, he’s certainly the straw that broke the camels back. The last time I failed to visit NYC was in 2005, but I’ve not been this year and have no future plans to visit NYC, or any other part of the US for that matter.

            As for the price of tickets, it’s such a minor component of the cost of a visit that I doubt it has any particular influence on tourist attendance.

        5. William Safford says:

          I just picked a performance almost at random: Monday, Oct. 9th, La Boheme. You can get in for $31. Granted, it is a “stale” Zeffirelli production, but it’s still fun.

          If you prefer something new and fresh, you can go to “The Exterminating Angel” for $25. Hmmm, I think I just talked myself into doing so!

          I often sit in the Family Circle when I attend the Met — very good sound, good sight lines, and nice people in the audience. Bring binoculars.

          “Filthiness?” LOL. I think your own biases are poking through.

        6. SJ Reidhead says:

          This evening I was listening to a rebroadcast of a 1979 Tosca with Luciano, Shirley Verrett, and Cornell MacNeil. The last time I heard a live Tosca from the Gelb Met, it was mediocre and that is being complementary. They were superstars. You would get two or three world class stars in each and every performance. Now, though, half the time the talent is no-name pathetic. Sorry, when you pay those obscene ticket prices you want an obscenely decadent cast to go with them. I have a habit of saving my old ticket stubs. I had 2nd row, left orchestra, 2 seats from the aisle – two season tickets, for 15 years. For a performance with a Pavarotti, Domingo, Milnes, etc. I think our tickets were something like $90/each.

          I agree with you!

  5. RFS says:

    Just saw a phenomenal production of The Cunning Little Vixen at Severance Hall. They are taking it to Vienna and to Luxembourg.
    Peter Gelb could learn a few things from the Cleveland Orchestra.

    1. Janet Grossman says:

      There isn’t much to learn from the Cleveland Orchestra. Vienna & Luxembourg are financed by their governments so ticket sales & prices are irrelevant. They can produce garbage, and it makes no difference to anyone. Also, filling houses the size of Vienna & Luxembourg (ridiculously small in comparison to The Met) isn’t so tough.

      1. William Osborne says:

        Never mind that Vienna fills at least two houses, and Berlin three with their state support ‘garbage’. Must be those affordable tickets….

        1. Nik says:

          Deutsche Oper Berlin sold 72% of seats in 2016 with a capacity of 1,860.
          Staatsoper Berlin managed 88% but the Schillertheater where it is currently playing has only 1,200 seats. Komische Oper was similar at 90% with 1,200 seats.
          Wiener Staatsoper probably takes the prize with more than 98% of seats sold, with a capacity of 1,700. They are extremely good at tapping the tourist market. But the number of seats is also more manageable.
          When the met is 50% full, that’s 200 sold seats more than a sold-out Wiener Staatsoper. The size of that house is absolutely staggering.

          1. norman lebrecht says:

            Very true. But New York has five times the population of Vienna and the Met has no Komische Oper for competition.

  6. Justin says:

    Quelle surprise! Who would have thought that a privileged, spoon-fed dilettante who never graduated from college would be ill equipped to run the largest performing-arts institution in the country?! One wonders when Gelb intends to fire Tony Tommasini …

  7. William Osborne says:

    The Met actually sells about 660,500 tickets per year, an average of 2,869 per performance. This is more than the entire ROH seats at 2,256, or the Vienna State Opera at 2,284. The Met is just too damned big.

    These other cities have two or more houses, offering people a wider choice of repertoire and venues. And in a less stadium like atmosphere. So over all attendance for opera can be higher. It also allows for more performances in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and Hamburg than NYC.

    When Lincoln Center was first opened in the 60s, the Met was running at about 100% capacity. Rudolf Bing complained that non-subscribers could hardly get tickets.

    But art always changes. There is constant historical conflict between the living mailability of classical music and the frozen stasis of the architecture that hosts it. An interesting history could be written about this.

    It seems this should become a concept in the creation of architecture for the arts. Buildings should be built so that they can continually morph and thus adapt to the constant evolution of art.

    1. Bill says:

      You bring up a good point, the house is too large for today’s unreliable audience capacities.

      It will be interesting to see what happens next door with the Geffen Hall renovation. It appears they are going to shrink the size of the hall down and surround it with more amenities within the same shoe-box.

      The original plans for Philharmonic Hall in 1962 called for a smaller seating capacity then it now has, but a now defunct New York newspaper started a campaign to enlarge the seating capacity. The management of Lincoln Center complied with the ensuing demands, and the result was an oversized hall with poor acoustics (the acousticians were given no time or budget to re-work the design to accommodate the enlarged hall, as there was a tight deadline to get it open). I wonder if similar pressure to build a large theater capacity was involved with the design for the Met, which opened a few years later in 1966.

    2. Yet Another David says:

      And, just for comparison, Berlin has three active opera houses with the following capacities:
      — Deutsche Oper Berlin: 1,859 seats
      — Staatsoper Unter den Linden: 1,368 seats
      — Komische Oper: 1,190

    3. Stuart W Rogers says:

      Could a more capable and innovative manager than Gelb have kept the audience figures in the 80-90% range over the past decade? I doubt it. Whatever you think of Gelb’s talents, he has faced multiple cultural and economic pressures and has been fighting a losing battle. Yes, the theatre is too large, and New York is a terribly expensive place to do anything like opera. Let’s not discuss the union issue. Arts education in the US has been in decline for decades, and opera and classical music represent tiny niches. Millennials’ expectations about culture and entertainment were forged in the digital age whereas many large opera companies continue to operate in a manner developed a hundred years ago. Hence offering opera up to cinemas. The Met has become the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company of the 21st century – fondly remembered and bravely marching on, but more a museum than a vital arts organization.

      1. John says:

        I’m glad to read some intelligent discussion instead of this constant dumping on Gelb by people who have absolutely no knowledge of what it takes to successfully oversee an enterprise as vast as the Metropolitan Opera. Thank you!

      2. William Safford says:

        I think you may be right, but I’d love for you to be proved wrong. Time will tell.

        I do intend to attend “The Exterminating Angel.” So we’ll see.

    4. William Safford says:

      Excellent point about “frozen stasis of the architecture that hosts it.”

      As my elementary school principal great-aunt (who, as it happens, once hired the late Ron Wilford’s wife) used to say about grade school programs: “School programs are created to fill the available buildings.”

      The Met building, as good as it is, is big. I’m reminded of the Douglas Adams quote: ““Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Ditto for the Met. Maybe it was easy to fill in 1967, but it isn’t today.

  8. Janet Lee says:

    A General Manager in ANY OTHER company or industry for that matter, would have been FIRED years ago. Year after year, Peter Gelb proves what Lebrecht predicted over a decade ago : that Gelb is ” spectacularly unqualified” to run the Metropolitan Opera.
    He is a failed film maker. Nothing else about the job interests him. “. The ” Best Seat in the House” to see MetOpera is advertised at AMC now! What kind of leadership is that ?
    What is the Board of Directors planning to do with the empty building at Lincoln Center when they let him destroy the company ?

    1. Bill says:

      Rumor has it that Cirque Du Soleil has had their eye on it for a while.

      If that doesn’t work out, the stage is probably big enough to stage monster truck rallies.

    2. Janet Grossman says:

      Janet – Since you clearly don’t live in an art-subsidized EU country I hope you still have access to The Met when house seats are no longer in your Social Security budget or retire in Florida. I bet you’ll change your tune & express gratitude to AMC.

      1. Sarah says:

        Wow Janet – you completely misread the post. She is criticizing the marketing strategy, not the existence of the HD broadcasts themselves. And how do you know Janet’s circumstances? Rather elitist towards both SS recipients and Floridians, aren’t you?

        1. MWnyc says:

          Oh, I think it’s a fair bet that most (not all, but most) Social Security recipients can’t regularly afford full-price Met Opera tickets, and that most Florida retirees can’t regularly afford the price of Met Opera tickets and plane fare. That financial fact is no slur on either Social Security recipients or Florida retirees.

  9. David says:

    He is cutting artistic corners everywhere to make up for his shortfall including REHEARSALS- you know, that’s the place where artists make the art all good and stuff so people say ‘hey, that’s good. Here’s my money’

    1. Bruce says:

      Gosh, David — the way you say that it, it almost sounds like you think there’s some kind of problem with that.

  10. Richard says:

    Exorbitant increase in ticket prices for poor productions, is one of the main reason why attendante has décline. The Traviata production for example is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. Decline in quality of artists (voice amplification, since they can’t carry sound thoughout the auditorium). awful staging and too much “artistic freedom” given to stage directors who appears not to understand the story/opera, are just a few of the reasons why the décline in attendance. It appears that there is a réal lack of compétence somewhere in the administration of the MET.

    1. Janet Grossman says:

      Richard – Unfortunately, Zeffirelli won’t live forever (and feel quite dated to the rest of the world) so new productions are a fact of life. The Willy Decker production of La Traviata strips away all the distractions, and the music becomes the focus of the performance.

      As for amplification you should check your sources. Met singers do not use microphones.

    2. Reuven says:

      Though most directors in recent years have been really bad
      – (Sher Bartlett nonsense topping perhaps: the guy has no sense of humour. Taking literally Dulcamara’s “patriotism” – rather that recalling that “patriotism can be the last refuge of scoundrels” – that the music describes; his others were equally pathetic. Or take Rusalka’s director doing another literal staging – when minimal insight would reveal that Rusalka’s silence was metaphor for two cultures failing to communicate, and assimilation means one’s “voice” is lost – Dvorak wrote in fearing for their identities Europe etc) –
      even if they excelled, how many times in a lifetime – that became much longer – can you see the same operas? And with increased tourism and increased mobility of the singers – you can see the same opera, same staging, same singers – everywhere. (Never mind movies, DVDs, youtube).
      Still, rarely performed operas in concert forms (there are plenty, and would fill even the Met); cutting music from very long operas rather than considering any version sacred (since the composers themselves – Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi etc. were adding, subtracting, repeating themselves – why not?) – how many people would sit for 5 hours of Handel? In Dresden, they cut and pasted Kalman’s Czardasfurstin (as good music as Lehar’s Merry Widow) in concert form (with voluptuous Netrebko, and miscasted Florez and Breslik – who looked like awkward schoolboys near her) etc.

      … I also noticed that lately soloists and chorus are often barefoot – even in Norma’s dark forest, and walking with off the shoulder, cut up to the thighs flimsy cloths – Since the singers were not up the task for this opera, and the director neither (missing the rather relevant religious debate part) – my thoughts were: did the Druids all died because of tuberculosis? … Saving money on shoes???

      1. MWnyc says:

        “how many times in a lifetime – that became much longer – can you see the same operas?”

        So does that mean you’ll be coming to see The Exterminating Angel and Semiramide?

        By the way, no Handel opera (unless toe conductor is taking Wagnerian tempos) is five hours long. His original productions ran for five hours because the intermissions were an hour or longer, and they were that long partly to allow the audience to socialize and partly because it took that long to replace and relight all the candles.

    3. Operadiva says:

      As an audience member and Met performer myself, I’ve felt the broadcasts don’t necessarily keep those who would go to a live production away, they are geared to attracting new audience members. However, the decline in attendance should be attributed to the hiring of the same, same singers. How many times can we really listen to the same singers? There are many super talented singers out there…. Volpe found them, used them, brought them in and rehired them when they were fantastic. I am constantly surprised how much PR the public, Board or patrons will accept. The excitement can be there, the real singers/performers can be there…. cookie cutter amplified blah is not cutting edge… it coping out.

      1. Dave says:

        At least for me, you’re correct about HD broadcasts drawing a new audience. I don’t have the money to travel to NYC, much less purchase a Met ticket, but my local theatre, which is normally packed for Met broadcasts, is a unique opportunity to see these productions. My only criticism of them is I wish to see more full-stage shots instead of so much close-up camera work. Reaction of other actors and context within the setting are all part of the live theatre experience.

    4. Greg says:

      There is no voice amplification at the Met. Ever. Any subjective opinion you may have about the singing quality is certainly valid, but the only microphones used are for broadcast and recordings.

  11. herrera says:

    Would all the complainers prefer 50 members of the chorus or the orchestra to go?

    I say 50 stage hands.

  12. John says:

    I work as a pianist in an A house in the USA. The biggest reason is that the productions lately at the met are awful. Poor staging, terrible lighting, and minimalist sets you pay hundreds to see! Peter sucks at his job, and needs to be replaced. The audience wants to see grand productions that warrants the high price, not strange conglomorations for the director’s own vanity.

  13. John H. Haley says:

    The last post by John the Pianist has hit the nail on the head. Let’s face it, despite the famous Rudolf Bing quote to the contrary (he said running the Met is the second hardest job in the US after the President), successfully running the Met is actually an easy job. All you have to do is put on great shows (with care), and the audience will clamor for the tickets and fill the house. You have some of the best singers in the world available (admittedly, not enough of them), and a huge list of undisputed masterpieces–some of the greatest works in all of Western Art–to chose from, to put on. But the Met fails miserably at this fairly basic task–instead we get awful, stupid productions mounted by untalented people at enormous cost, and let’s face it, musical standards are a very low priority in this Met regime. In my lifetime (I am almost 70), they have never been lower, despite the Met now having a very fine orchestra at its disposal. The real problem here is that Peter Gelb just doesn’t know the difference. The board won’t fire him because they are in his pocket, so here we are. Nothing has to be the way it is. We all need to realize that.

  14. Will Not says:

    How about how awful the singers are at the Met recently, or that the orchestras sound sloppy and second-rate. I am fairly certain that a lack of artistic quality is at least, partially responsible for a low attendance.

    1. William Safford says:

      Second rate? I don’t think so. There may be legitimate issues at the Met, but second-rate playing from the orchestra is not one of them. Opera mavens love to debate the relative quality of singers, but I haven’t heard any bad singing at any performance I’ve attended in years.

  15. Robert Berger says:

    William Osborne, the Met may be too big, but there’s no “circus-like atmosphere” there , and it’s actually a very beautiful house . And the New York City opera has fortunately been revived recently even though it still has to travel to different venues . And there are also several smaller but enterprising opera companies around the city . Plus first rate professional quality productions by Juilliard and the Manhattan school of music.
    So New York now has the most diversified operatic scene in America . You can now see a remarkable variety of operatic repertoire in the city .
    Yes , sometimes performances at the Met can be lackluster, but the same is true at opera houses everywhere and always has been . But overall standards of performance there are still very high, and at their best, you will not find better performances anywhere .

    1. William Osborne says:

      Hello Robert. I didn’t say it was circus-like. That was somebody else. Yes, aside from theMet, NYC by necessity has many different kinds of stagings, especially of the smaller, more economical variety. Sadly, there are limits to the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention. Emaciation isn’t always pretty. It’s true that NYC has the best opera scene in the USA, but that is a pretty low bar, even though we have no shortage of training and talent. Just no money due to our isolated, quasi-feudalistic funding system. We only have 4 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year. A tragic loss of human potential. Meanwhile, the Met’s budget is about twice that of its European peers.

  16. Robin Worth says:

    Am I alone in finding the chorus of disapproval irritating at best and bitchy at worst?

    Consider this : here is an enormous house in a city which has changed enormously since the new house opened. The old (mainly Jewish) philanthropic patronage still exists, but perhaps less so than in the past. The (partly but significantly gay) NY cultural audience is somewhat diminished, and Gelb has to try to fill a house that was conceived for a different era. Who remembers a time when the President put on white tie and tails for a Casals recital in the White House and his wife spoke good French? European culture (and that’s what opera mainly is) fits uneasily into today’s USA.

    So what have you (we) got? it’s still a house where the orchestra is superb. The chorus as good as any, and the singers the best on the scene. Sure, Harteros and Kaufmann won’t travel, but you can’t blame Gelb for that, and I would defy anyone to say where there is a better ensemble. Where else does new talent get recognition faster than at the Met? And where else will you see the best of today’s operatic talent? And where will you pay less to see it? Not London/Munich/Vienna. Maybe Berlin, but it’s not really comparable. And there are plenty of second rate European houses where you will pay a lot more than at the Met.

    So they can’t fill the house. But it is not the quality of the performers or the productions you have to blame. The ROH London, where I am most often to be seen, has had a series of disasters under the Holten regime, many of which will continue to be inflicted on the London public. But the ROH audience will traditionally put up with anything, although even they have started to boo, not unreasonably. Contrast that with the Met’s reversal of a poor Boheme. Boileau said it 400 years ago : the business of art is to please. If it doesn’t please, it’s no good. But you can’t fill 4000 seats if the public would rather go to Hamilton and you can’t blame Gelb for that.

    So what makes them think that replacing Gelb would improve things?

    1. John Campbell says:

      Where is Aprile Millo when it would be great to have a connection to old-school opera stars?

  17. John H. Haley says:

    Ah, excuses, excuses. We mustn’t pretend that everything is just fine at the Met. With all due respect to Robert Berger and Robin Worth, that is sadly untrue. The Met is in serious decline, and truckloads of denial and excuses won’t get us anywhere. You can’t blame audiences, opera, house size, competing Broadway shows, or even the singers. No, the problem is the management. That is painfully obvious.

    1. Done says:

      The problem is opera is slowly over in America. The singers, administrations, and general tone of the art-form is elitist and off-putting. Talking to someone involved in opera is like being waterboarded.

      1. Robert Cornwell says:

        Methinks you simply know dull self-important people who work in a theatre ?!
        The relationships I’ve cultivated with a vast network of opera singers, chorus members, supers, orchestral musicians and some technical professionals have been among the most fascinating, interesting and hilarious of my life !( not young anymore !)
        Though if you get any of them on the topic of PG the mood definitely does become dark , if this what you mean ?

    2. Robert Cornwell says:

      Yes John it is and has been long before Donald Trump became the President. Ticket sales have been declining, not just in a slow ” aging” decline as has been suggested by Gelb himself but in a cataclysmic way.
      The productions by non-opera directors just don’t have ” lasting appeal” . Just because Zeffirelli is no longer directing doesn’t mean there aren’t great theatrical/ operatic directors available or for that matter composers who would relish a commission from the Met ! Gelb just isn’t that interested in opera … read his remarks it’s public record. He ran Sony Classical into the ground and as a favor to their mutual manager, Beverly Sills championed him for the job as he was without one ! Managing the Metropolitan Opera is a huge and complicated job as has been stated. Gelb has tried and failed. As for the Janet Grossman remarks about social security/ Florida and AMC … hardly worth responding to such shrewish remarks but as was noted, the Met ticket sales for seats at the Opera House are at an historic LOW. The AMC campaign that presents Peter Gelbs movies of the Operas as having ” the BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE ” is in terribly poor taste as employees with families have lost their livelihoods within the last 24 hours, rank and file took big pay cuts last contract negotiations and the business model is still a bust.

    3. Robert Cornwell says:

      Yes
      John exactly… the ” business model ” that Peter Gelb insisted on, new productions, non opera directors HDTV films etc has not been a success. The HD works but it has decimated the theaters audience. As we’ve discussed what works on film doesn’t necessarily work on the stage and a few of us have been very disappointed by many of these new but dull productions. One can only wonder why the Board has not been more pro-active ? Peter is notorious for ridding himself of dissenters so there are s huge number of new names on the board from his inauguation. Mr. Gelb is also a man who will not take suggestions from top management as to how to save the Met .. it’s his way or the highway.
      I’d be interested to know if Francesca Zambello would be interested in the Mets 2018-19 season ?

  18. BP says:

    Some here are blaming new-fangled, director-ego-stroking, poorly staged productions for at least part of the Met’s decline. Looking at the current season, I’m genuinely curious to know what production qualifies. Parsifal (should that opera get a literal staging) ? Elektra, by the great Patrice Chéreau ? Most of the new productions seem to be flashy, Cirque du Soleil-ish rather than dour, and are angling for a large audience. Absent are the handful of directors who rule European stages. To my eyes, it’s all utterly stale.
    Of course, staging rarer works and inviting directors willing to try something different might not prop up the box office much. It’s an investment, but the building of a smaller, second stage would probably give the Met a much-needed breath of fresh air.

  19. Done says:

    The elitist tone of most of these comments are why people hate going to the opera and talking to opera people. Musical theatre folks are so kind and nice- this kind of rhetoric and nonsense makes me never want to sing an opera or talk to an operatic type ever again. Bleh.

  20. Nick says:

    Stuart W Rogers stated the following –

    “Millennials’ expectations about culture and entertainment were forged in the digital age whereas many large opera companies continue to operate in a manner developed a hundred years ago.”

    Amidst all the criticism of the House being too large (it is – but then it was conceived at a time when the old Hiuse was playing to capacity almost every night), blame being heaped on the lack of music education (true, but in my year at school in the 1960s I reckon only two go to more than one opera performance every few years), cinema screenings killing part of its audience in the New York area (which I believe has to be true), the lack of great singers and so on, the fact is the expectations of today’s 20s, 30s and 40s generations are vastly different from those in the 60 and up bracket. It is the job if all Boards, Chief Executives and Artistic Directors to analyze changing trends and then, like it or not, find ways of meeting a wide range of greatly differing expectations.

    Gelb hung his hat on winning new audiences through the use of more Directors from the world of theatre. Not only has it shown that many of these have little clue how to work with singers in an operatic environment, they have failed to win new audiences whilst alienating some of the regular subscribers. Yet he has persisted! It seems he had but one idea and when that did not work, he was and remains clueless. Yet he is still in a job for which he never had the qualifications where many would have been fired years ago! And his Board totter on believing him to be a Messiah of sorts. Perhaps not surprisingly, “He was Despised” is one of the great arias of that great work!

  21. Eddie Lew says:

    Our capitalistic influenced pop culture dictates opera isn’t important. It has disappeared from most people’s reality. There is no hint of it on prime time the way it was in my day in the 50s and 60s. Mighty Mouse cartoons were often operas; the theme song to the Lone Ranger was the William Tell Overture and The Flying Dutchman overture opened every Captain Video show. Classical music appreciation was taught to us in school then. Not everyone responded to classical music and opera but enough did at an early age because it was respected by our parents. Years ago there was no peer pressure if you liked opera; today if you like it you are looked at as if you have two heads; it’s a total alien form.

    In addition, Gelb has a tin ear and no sense of what opera is about. He keeps hiring directors who think there is something wrong with opera and keep wanting to fix it, when they should only be allowed in an opera house if they buy a ticket, not “fixing” something they do not understand or even like.

    There are a lot of problems, but panicking to cast mediocre singers who think they can “act” and directors who think they can “direct” to fill the gigantic barn is Gelb’s great flaw, if you ask me. By the way, until about the mid-seventies, there were singers whose vocal techniques were such that the the size of the house was never a factor; they sang big and acted big and houses were packed, in those days when the name Zeffirelli wasn’t a dirty word (remember, you may hate the fact but he was the only director who sold tickets).

    Before you call me an old fart who lives in the past, just check out the Bing Gala and hear the audience reactions. I was there. I wasn’t dreaming it.

    I think Gelb’s flaw is that he is drinks the Kool-Aid that there is something wrong with opera, a knee-jerk responses to what the art form should be instead of what its real essence is and build on that: acting through singing, voice, voice!

    Yes, Americans don’t care but Gelb should make them care instead of telling us there is something wrong with it.

    1. Robert Cornwell says:

      Amen! Well said. Peter has no taste . And he certainly would never stoop to pander to
      audience preference ! He doesn’t like the Zeffirelli Tosca so we had that ghastly brick wall of Luc Bondys. He was asked by members of the board ” are we bringing back the old Tosca ?” He replied; ” the Zeffirelli Tosca will never be in this house again while I am General Manager”
      Let’s take a look… in his tenure we we are now onto another Tosca production …he SPENDS foolishly… and then blames the product ( ” the unions” as he describes them ) for the expense. He makes all the artistic decisions including singers ( looks are more important to him than unique vocal quality : let’s not say names but some vocal choices for leading roles that will be immortalized in his films are second rate at best )
      He is clueless from a wealthy family and accustomed to getting his own way.
      One wonders why the Board of Directors can’t see what we are seeing ?
      I think Kevin Kennedy did and pulled out with his conscience in tact.

    2. Reuven says:

      Eddie, you wrote “Our capitalistic influenced pop culture dictates opera isn’t important” … Actually, in the best days of Bel Canto, opera was really “capitalistic.” Italy’s opera houses were private and profitable – St Carlo in Naples, La Scala included. Domenico Barbaja was a the great impressario managing these houses, and commissioning new operas and ballets – from Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini etc. Where were the profits coming from? The casinos attached to each opera house (Monte Carlo is the sole reminder of that arrangement). Read Stendhal’s biography of Rossini, and you’ll find details of his contract: earning serious takes from the roulette tables (as part of the contract: Stendahl refers to roulette as “rouge et noir’). For political reasons, governments prohibited casinos – and that was the end of this profitable arrangement. OK, there was Rossini, Puccini later – but since it is mainly “statistical, academic” operas funded by bureaucrats – and operas sound like like what you’d expect when bureaucrats or some charities finance the composition. By the way, before his opera incarnation, Barbaja was an arm dealer, and also invented the “capuccino.”

      Imagine what would happen to cinema complexes these days, if governments prohibited popcorn and soft drinks. They would go bankrupt – or ask for government subsidies …

      Though i seriously doubt that in the present political environment in the US Mr. Trump would be allowed to change the US gambling and casino laws, and erect a casino – a la Monte Carlo – attached to the Met … It is funny that when speaking of the Met’s dire financial state, nobody even mentions the above well known facts – as an option … But then ideology often blinds people. Briefly: opera was far more “capitalistic” then than Broadway these days. Some entertainment options are not viable when governments prohibit certain activities …

  22. Robert Berger says:

    Casting at the Met is variable , the same as it is at every major opera house in the world and has always been . To dismiss their current casts as “mediocre” is unfair . They regularly get the world’s top and most charismatic singers despite the fact that they get higher pay at the top European houses . Also , there are many rising young singers who are major talents appearing there who are poised to become big names in opera . Looking at current casts , there are too many singers I’m not familiar with for me to pre judge the current season .
    Sometimes the Met gives lackluster performances but you are at least as likely to hear a superb one there . Lackluster performances happen in every top opera company and away shave . On the whole, the directors Gelb has chosen for new productions are actually far less guilty of the kind of Eurotrash garbage which is rampant in Europe . It appears Gelb is damned if he does and damned if he does’t . Being general manager of the Met is one of the most thankless jobs in existence .

  23. Robert Berger says:

    OOPS . Should be ” and they always have “. I’m recovering from cataract surgery and my eyesight is still somewhat shaky .

  24. Terry Runnels says:

    I am a MT person. I had an operatic voice but the pretentiousness of the form bothered me. That didn’t deter me from going to the Met and NYC Opera whenever I could. As a young singer I was turned off by the size and stilted acting styles until the time came when I had to sing full out, operatic style, in actual operas. i realized that if I was singing that very, very difficult music, I had no physical way to do anything but stand and deliver. That’s the art form and the Met is a monstrous house to fill, vocally. I was just too lazy to learn the roles and deal with the snobbery I felt. I have never been to the Met that I wasn’t impressed. It is Grand Opera. The scale of the productions were so massive, like the acting and singing and dancing and production values. I paid more and got more. I am so far out of the opera world that I only know that MT values do NOT work in Grand Opera. New works….maybe, but if you are at the Met you expect the biggest and best. I wish Mr. Gelb and the Met the best. Great productions and innovative artists will one day fill the houses again. I hope. I wish. I pray. I know for a fact that no HAMILTON could ever replace the TRAVIATA I saw at the Met 30 years ago.


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