The Met Guild wields axe at Opera News

Brian Kellow, the magazine’s veteran features editor and Diane Silberstein, recently appointed publisher, have been laid off by the Metropolitan Opera Guild, effective immediately.

The reasons given are cost cutting. The dismissals came two days after the annual Opera News awards gala.

Peter Gelb has long resented the magazine’s moderate critical voice.

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  • This doesn’t make complete sense. Any magazine needs an editor and publisher; can’t operate without these. It won’t be cutting costs just to remove incumbents and hire replacements. Maybe there are more changes to come, such as making someone already on the Met Opera staff the publisher — but the Guild puts out Opera News, right?

    • The position of publisher was a new one: previously – and now, again – the position was held by the head of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.

      Reminder: The Metropolitan Opera Guild is not owned or controlled by the Metropolitan Opera. The MOG is an independent fundraising organization – something like the American Friends of the Louvre or American Friends of the London Symphony Orchestra. Those organizations were created to support the performing arts institutions, but aren’t ruled by them; if the institution somehow offends the fundraising organization (though it would have to be grave), the latter can take its money and walk away.

      Some here may recall that this almost happened with the Metropolitan Opera Guild several years ago: when Peter Gelb tried to interfere with reviews at Opera News (I think he declared that the magazine must no longer review Met productions), te Guild publicly considered changing its name and mission to something supporting opera in the United States more generally.

      • Thanks. That’s clear. Of course, they will still need a new editor, so the cost-saving is just one position (publisher).

  • This month’s issue features a page devoted to four-figure bags and briefcases one can take to the opera. More escapist fantasy shopping spreads, please!

    • The magazine has indeed taken a nosedive in seriousness and informative commentary since the days of editor Frank Merkling in the 1960s. The slide actually began after him.The emphasis now is on glitzy food and fashion features, fawning interviews and excessive coverage of pop and Broadway type singers and shows. The closest thing I recall in the Merkling era was a feature on Tom O’Horgan. The ON review (Live performance and media) section continues to be of high quality but many of the most interesting events/recordings are available only in the online edition. The Saturday broadcasts themselves, even though heard internationally , have been shunted to the back of the mag almost as an afterthought and with little editorial content actually linked to those broadcasts. Yet those broadcasts and HDs are the way most people, millions, still experience the Met.

  • The magazine has become a flashy ‘hotel’ magazine with lots about side events like hotels, restaurants, fashion etc. In-depth articles are long gone now. Sad the way it is going. In due time no in-print magazine will survive and often they are themselves to blame, sometimes the WWW is to blame, sometime sboth. In this case both. But in the guild’s defense Kellow wrote exactly one page an issue. One page doesn’t need a full-time paid job, does it?

  • In addition to the puff pieces (“Anna Netrebko: Truly Fabulous, Or Merely Great?”), Opera News is full of valuable information about cruise lines, financial services, Bulgari jewelry and Rolex watches; also what to see and where to stay/eat when you go to Vienna, Moscow, Munich, Milan, etc. There are some well-written articles about singers and singing and reviews of recordings & performances from all over the US and Europe, but those are mostly toward the back.

  • The magazine has definitely become more of a boldface name/escapist fantasy publication focused on fluffy pieces on top singers. They don’t run critical or investigative stories about the field and especially, not about the Met. You can’t blame them entirely given the current climate for magazines but I do wonder if they lose readers with so much froth.

    But unfortunate that Kellow – a fine writer and editor – was let go just after a lavish awards ceremony at the Plaza Hotel.

  • Brian K was arguably the best thing about that magazine. BIG blunder by the flailing Guild. I have a hunch he will land on his feet.

  • All music magazines are having a difficult time in the era of the Internet. Most magazines, of any type, keep getting thinner. OPERA NEWS has the added problem that its audience, like the audience for opera, is aging out. I would be surprised if ON has a significant number of readers under 60 years old.

    Here in a flyover state, OPERA NEWS has been unavailable for single-copy purchase, or newsstand browsing, since Borders collapsed five years ago. Single-copy sales probably don’t net any money; but without a newsstand presence, anyone outside of the (aging) Metropolitan Opera fan-base will not be aware of the magazine.

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