Everything you need to know about the Met in 10 graphs

Everything you need to know about the Met in 10 graphs


norman lebrecht

October 28, 2014

The composer Suby Raman has been reflecting on the state of the Met and how it might present itself itself to a graph-oriented society.

He has mined the Met’s archives and come up with this set of tables:

met graph


Among other discoveries: the Met has never staged an opera by a woman composer.


I'm very sad


  • Simon S. says:

    Interesting, thank you! Striking that Wagner performances came down to zero by the end of WWI, whereas they reached an unequalled level during the Nazi era and the score of even 1945 has so far never been reached again.

    By the way, concerning the composers’ nationality graph: Did they count Mozart as German or as Austrian? (Yes, this is a serious question.)

  • Neil McGowan says:

    Pretty shocking stats on American composers, too :(( What other country would tolerate such astonishing neglect of its own composers?

    • Anne says:

      Britain would, or rather, did – at certain times and in certain quarters.

    • stanley cohen says:

      Berlioz was totally convinced that the French nation never appreciated his music. To think that The Trojans was first published nearly a century after his death and the very first first complete performance in France was in 1979 [I sang in it].

  • Herrera says:

    And how many anti-semitic operas?

    • Neil McGowan says:

      How many anti-semitic operas? None.

      • norman lebrecht says:

        Excuse me. Meistersinger?

        • Mike Schachter says:

          Maybe not so much anti-Semitic as anti everyone who was unlucky enough not to be Aryan German or some such fantasy.

          • Simon S. says:

            The role of Mime was clearly designed follwing antisemitic stereotypes.

          • Anonymus says:

            @Simon: not to my eyes. Fallacy from your side. Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe. And you meant Beckmesser? But also Mime: not a single word from Mime’s mouth gives a hint of anti-semitism. How is Wagner supposed to create the role of Mime according to the plot in order to avoid the figure being attacked by people like you who can’t see the difference between a pipe and a penis, due to their own preconceived perceptions?

          • Simon S. says:

            @Anonymous: It’s quite clear that especially Mime’s singing style was modelled follwing a contemporary cliché of “jewish” singing. There’s a number of verified quotes that any late 19th-century listener couldn’t help but see Mime as a typical jew as jews were seen in the antisemitic clichés of the time.

            I dont’ have my books with me now, otherwise I could tell you more precisely.

        • Susan Trexel says:

          Excuse me, but please to point out where the word “Jew” or the equivalent is sung anywhere in the libretto of Meistersinger. Just because you hate Wagner doesn’t mean you get to make up your own facts.

        • Susan Trexel says:

          Meistersinger is not anti-Semitic. There are no Jewish characters in the libretto of the work. There is no mention of Judaism in the work. There is no reference to Jewish music in the score. The villain of the piece, Beckmesser, is a German Protestant and a pedant.

          Where do you come up with this nonsense?

          • norman lebrecht says:

            Just read a bit of background, will you, before shooting off?

          • Susan Trexel says:

            Answer the question, please. What makes Meistersinger an anti-Semitic work?

          • Herrera says:


            Glaubt Katharina Wagner, dass ihr Urgroßvater Negativbilder von Juden im Sinn hatte, als er einige Charaktere entwarf, etwa die Zwerge im Ring oder Beckmesser in den Meistersingern?

            »Beckmesser ist für mich ein typischer Deutscher, kein Jude.«

            Ich frage Sie: Katharina, hat Richard Wagner an Juden gedacht, als er seine Charaktere entwarf?

            Ich sehe, dass das keine leichte Frage für sie ist, aber Katharina nimmt die Herausforderung beherzt an und antwortet: »Wahrscheinlich doch beim Beckmesser.«

          • Susan Trexel says:

            I will recall this citation of Katharina Wagner as infallible authority on the innermost thoughts of Richard Wagner when her next opera production premieres and the howling begins about how she is obviously ignorant of the composer’s intentions.

            By the way, I know her production of Meistersinger pretty well and there is nothing in it that suggests Beckmesser is Jewish. Though the production very aggressively challenges a lot of the assumptions we take for granted about the dramatic action of this opera, her take on Beckmesser, at least for the first two acts, hews pretty close to tradition: an unimaginative, small-minded pedant who has through hard work and what we would call today “networking” gained a position of great authority in the artistic life of Nuremberg. He is in Katharina’s production as in Wagner’s text very much an “insider,” the foil of the untrained and untried “outsider” Walther. Beckmesser’s flaw, in fact, is that he is so far “inside” that he has become insular, resistant to innovation, a persnickety preserver of the status quo. (There were a lot of slanders aimed at Jews during this period, but “conservatism” wasn’t one of them.)

            Jews did not generally enjoy insider status in any part of German society in the middle ot the 19th century, so it would seem quixotic to to try to present a coded Jewish character as a social insider.

            Far more plausible surely as representations of Jews as Wagner saw them– i.e., as eternal outsiders– might be Vanderdecken or Kundry. I could even entertain an argument that Loge represents the status of Jews in 19th century Germany, i.e., vitally useful but personally reviled. But I just don’t see the sense in trying to read Beckmesser as “Jewish.”

            I realize I am arguing against received wisdom here, but, as Peter Gelb pointed out in a recent interview defending his programming of Death of Klinghoffer, there is a long and noble tradition in Judaism of intellectual curiosity, which by its very nature requires the questioning of authority. I’m not Jewish, but I do very much admire that aspect of Jewish culture, so I don’t like to see these thoughtless statements stand unquestioned.

      • stanley cohen says:


        • Schenkenberg says:

          The Death of Klinghoffer is not anti-Semitic. That would leave Die Meistersinger by the anti-Semite Richard Wagner.

        • stanley cohen says:

          If “Jews did not generally enjoy insider status in any part of German society in the middle ot the 19th century” please explain why Jews constituted approximately 60% of all of the doctors and lawyers in Germany and Austria, please.

  • Paul Thomason says:

    The Met has indeed performed an opera by a woman composer. At least one. DER WALD by Ethel Smyth during the 1902-03 season. It was given a rather ritzy cast including Johanna Gadski and David Bispham. Information that is freely available to anyone who bothers to look in the most obvious of places, the Archives section of the Met Opera website. There’s even an essay on the subject.

    • william osborne says:

      It’s true that the Met has only performed one work by a woman — Ethel Smyth’s “Der Wald” in 1903. The premiere received a 15 minute long ovation. In the spring of 2000, The International Alliance for Women and Music wrote a letter to the Met asking that they perform a work by a woman composer. The Met did not even answer. A copy of the letter can be read here:


      Unless there has been a change of plans I don’t know about due to the Met’s financial problems, Kaija Saariaho’s 2000 opera, “L’Amour de Loin,” will be performed during 2016-17 season – 16 years after the IAWM wrote its unanswered letter. This will create a 116 year gap between performances of operas by women.

      The Met has never performed a work by an American woman, and this seems unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.

      In late 2005, the Met initiated a commissioning program that included Rachel Portman and Jeanine Tesori, but the Met ran into financial problems and the program seems to have been quietly shelved. Information about that initial commissioning program and the composers involved can be found here:


      The program was reinitiated a few years ago, but in recent articles I have seen no mention of women composers being included. Here are a couple examples:




      Perhaps someone here knows if any women are still among the active participants in the commissioning program.

  • Nick says:

    One opera the Met should consider is Thea Musgrave’s Mary Queen of Scots. Commissioned by Scottish Opera, it had a major success at the Edinburgh Festival in the mid-1970s and has had some productions into US. Critics and audiences loved it – but then that’s perhaps not in its favour!

  • fer says:

    It is quite interesting, and certainly the author has spent a fun time drawing these graphics … but don’t worry: if you produce an equivalent study in any major opera theater, the data can be very similar. La Scala and the Vienna State Opera also offer online archives as well as the Salzburg Festival, for example.
    To properly interpret the data related to the date of composition of the operas, one should also take into account the dates of composition of all of the standard repertoire operas. Regarding the nationality of composers outside Italy or Germany, probably the graph will always have a similiar appearance (except possibly the Paris Opera).
    And as it relates to women composers, I do not think any opera house in the world can boast much in that aspect so it is better to work in the future to regret the past …

  • Schenkenberg says:

    Schoenberg? Albrechtsberger? Franz Schmidt? etc.

  • Michael Endres says:

    Interestingly enough Munich and Vienna have performed operas by Women composers.

    The Staatsoper Munich has done the premiere of Unsuk Chin’s ”Alice in Wonderland ” ,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVRdZzTQgAA , a mesmerisingly beautiful work,
    one that should be marketable due to the attractive libretto alone.

    In Vienna they performed Lera Auerbach’s ”Gogol” at the Theater an der Wien in 2011. ( Radio Symphony Vienna under Vladimir Fedoseyev ).
    Auerbach was also composer in residence in Dresden at Thieleman’s Staatskapelle.
    and her ”Requiem , Ode to peace ” was premiered with the Staatskapelle and Vladimir Jurowski.

    Mannheimer Nationaltheater premiered 2012 ”The Outcast” by Olga Neuwirth.

    That was just a very quick 5 minute check , would be interesting to see some more statistics.
    The Met seems to be extremely conservative here…

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Maybe a keen and knowledgeable artistic planner might help the Met. That said, it is an arduous task to enable a huge tanker like the Met change course… Clever smaller companies could take advantage here. Provided they have curious and adventurous donors. Some of this may also reflect the current state of minds and culture in the USA.

  • Susan Trexel says:

    How? Mozart was born in Salzburg and lived for long periods there and in Vienna. How else would you define his nationality?

    • Jan de Jong says:

      If Mozart was not German, but Austrian, than Wagner wasn’t German either, but Saxonian.

      • Simon S. says:

        During Mozart’s lifetime neither Germany nor Austria existed as nation states. There was this complex entity called “Holy Roman Empire”, which encompassed most of both countries’ present territories and other countries as well. “Germany” at that time was something like a cultural concept, and “Austria” was a dynasty, which ruled a considerable share of this empire and other territories, but not Salzburg, which was an independent ecclesiastical principality. Legally, Mozart was born, lived and died as a subject to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg.

        At that time, and even much later, any German native living in Central and Eastern Europe (excluding Switzerland), including those in today’s Austria, would have considered themselves as “German” – and Mozart did so – though this term then didn’t mean what it means today.

        A German nation state (exluding Austria and Salzburg, which had meanwhile become a part of Austria) was founded in 1871, therefore, there is absolutely no problem in counting Wagner (d. 1882) as a German. However, even after 1871, in the multiethnic Austrian Empire the German speaking inhabitants were officially counted and considered themselves as “Germans”. The idea of an Austrian nation different to the German one didn’t become popular until after 1945.

        However, for the purpose of such statistics, I can see no point in distinguishing “German” and “Austrian” composers, for this (at least concerning the pre-1871 period) is always arbitrary – and there is no really significant cultural difference. What about a unique cluster “German/Austrian”?

        • Anonymus says:

          Spot on. What about it? The Angst of the non-germanic cultures to look inferior in that field. That’s why they prefer to split it into two entities. This blog is very active in the intifada against Germanic based culture.

  • Dave T says:

    The salient point of all these graphs is not the “oldness” or the national origin of works at the Met, it is the dominance of just four composers. With the exception of about seven or eight years, as I read the chart, from the late teens to the mid 1920’s, about 55-70% of all productions were bogged down by these four: Verdi, and his junior partners Wagner, Puccini, and Mozart.
    If works by just four composers took up two-thirds of the programs in the concert hall there would be a riot… or crickets. This is a shameful lack of imagination and stewardship.

  • Bill Ecker says:

    Berlioz died in 1869. I’m a big fan of his music, but one also has to understand that while Berlioz was visionary in his work, he also had the propensity to piss people off. In the case of Troyens, he wrote and re-wrote the score, multiple parts were left at the time of his death and the question was which to put together, what cuts did he intend to make before publication, etc. The first complete performance took place in 1890 under Felix Mottl in Germany, who cobbled together his own version from what was available.

    Keep in mind this opera was along the scale of a Meyerbeer opera with a larger cast then a Meyerbeer opera. Expensive to produce. Now Choudens his publisher released the scores as such, piano-vocal complete 1889 at the behest of Mottl for his first performance. The partitur were released as follows, Part 2 Les Troyens a Carthage, 1885 and Part 1 La prise de Troie in 1899.

    Not 100 years after his death and one can understand that without theatres clamoring for it at the time, Choudens released the scores based upon needs and their ability to put together what they thought was Berlioz’s intentions. I’ve sold all three first editions in multiple editions over the last few years.

  • Dorian Komanoff Bandy says:

    These graphs are good, and make me wonder what we’d learn if we had access to data from other opera companies. For example, though it’s nice to have statistical confirmation that there’s too much Puccini at the Met, I don’t think anyone ever doubted that. What I’d like to see are graphs plotting the relationship between repertoire (and country of origin, and vintage, and composition date, and sex, etc.) against the size of various opera houses. It might confirm what many have suspected all along, viz.: that the Met’s management may be reactionary, but, in addition, the house is just too big. At some point, everything begins to suffer, from singers’ enunciation, to stage direction, to programming and innovation.

  • Karen Mercedes says:

    They’re wrong about there never having been a female composer’s opera performed at the Met. There was, in fact, one – Ethel Smyth’s Der Wald – which was performed at the Met in 1903, on a double bill with Verdi’s Il Trovatore.