The 10 worst press offices of 2017

The 10 worst press offices of 2017


norman lebrecht

August 11, 2017

It has been a while since we last published a list of the least helpful music and opera press offices and, with some satisfaction we can report improvements in four major institutions. The Vienna State Opera has become a model of cooperation (that may change under the incoming management) and the Kennedy Center has received staff upgrades from Chicago. The Boston Symphony now knows a news story from a hole in the ground and the Berlin Phil are totally on the ball. These four have lost their coveted places in the 2017 list of worst press offices.

On the debit side, the New York Philharmonic press office draws the 2017 wooden spoon for offering a Trumpist half-lie to our straightforward question, Bayreuth remains magnificently obstructive and the Met’s press operation still runs via the back passage of the New York Times.

So, here’s the 2017 Slipped Disc list of the worst press offices:

1 New York Philharmonic

Gold standard bad

2 Bayreuth Festival

Rhinegold bad

3 Metropolitan Opera

Plain bad

4 Opéra de Paris

Quoi? Vous voulez quoi, Monsieur?

5 Van Cliburn Competition

Slow, dumb and sometimes downright rude

6  Aix-en-Provence Festival

Please leave a message

7 La Monnaie, Brussels

Great website, no media initiative

8 Dutch National Opera

We’re very busy. We’ll contact you once the production is over

9 Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Geneva

We have absolutely no comment about anything. 

10 Teatro Real, Madrid


Now check out the 2017 list of the best press offices.


  • John Groves says:

    ENO press office just ignores emails it cannot be bothered to reply to!

  • Helene Kamioner says:

    For me, Stuttgart Opera press office gets extremely high praise. Lovely, organized, efficient and eager to help. My worst experience with a press office happens to be Zurich and Israel.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    As in government, many artistic press offices clearly see their main function as obstruction,.

  • Daphne Badger says:

    No one cares.

    • Helene Kamioner says:

      Being a very seasoned press agent and having worked with so many press offices for a multitude of reasons from scheduling interviews to hotel accommodations and transportation issues, i have found that in an odd way, it’s the luck of who answers the phone, whom you speak with….and how you speak to them. In most cases, certain requests are treated with a that’s beneath my dignity attitude, or read the press release, it’s on the website or contact their manager. Many of the staff members in the press office shouldn’t be there at all. Working with the press is a “service’ career,” and press offices in my opinion need to realize that their main function is to serve journalists who in addition to promoting the artists, etc. alert the public at least to what’s happening. There’s so much more to a full serve press office than the release, or anniversary book. It would be so much nicer to work with your colleagues in a cooperative, giving manner, rather than what’s the usual fare. Unfortunately, as in every situation, it depends on who you know, and who they should know und so weiter.And yes Daphne, I care because it’s my life. The rules of an effective, efficient press office, press spokesman/officer apply to every aspect of Press from the opera house to the white house. Ya gotta love it. And I’d like to add one of the nicest experiences I ever had was the Bayreuth Press office. Sehr gemuetlich indeed.

  • Bryan says:

    what a miserable, unpleasant and ungrateful article. similarly toned commenters should be similarly ashamed of themselves.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      But you read it, didn’t you, Mr M? You wanted to know who’s the worst. The shame is mostly yours.

      • Bryan says:

        Norman – like many readers I consider Slipped Disc to be a nasty habit which you’ve just give me another reason to break. You could tell from the clickbait headline that it was going to be a mealy-mouthed attack on hardworking (often underpaid) members of the industry who you profess to be a member of. I clicked with the sole intent of calling you out on it. And I did.

      • Rosana Martins says:

        You’re so right!..

  • Fred says:

    wonderful idea…but what are the criteria. Anyway in my experience : all press offices are overstaffed with people working in a branch they have no affinity with nor do they have any knowledge at all about opera, its history, its performers, the history of the house they are representing, the specialized media etc.

    Norman is in fact too kind

  • Craig says:

    The idea that press offices are to be judged purely on their ability to serve is pretty laughable. That’s not exactly the only thing they do. Perhaps the reason they might seem uncommunicative to journos might be that they don’t wish to speak to them?

    • Helene Kamioner says:

      Ha Ha to you Craig. The idea is to answer the phone with “How may I help you?” not how may I make your day more difficult and unpleasant. When you get paid to work in a press office, you do not have the right to chose which member of the press you are going to help or speak to. I suggest with that attitude you don’t bother at all. The Opera News staff particularly the former employee Brian Kellow was a great offender of simple etiquette. Robert Jacobson, RIP was a gentlemen, and certainly the MET’s now retired Head of Press was always helpful in every way. And I must include Dr. Ulrike Hessler among the greats. Being part of a press office is a privilege, particularly in an opera house and if you don’t treat it that way then get the hell out of the business.

  • Brian says:

    The Met and the NY Phil are wild cards now, with a new Aussie press director arriving at the former and Deborah Borda taking over at the latter. Of course, the Met will still be under the controlling hand of Peter Gelb (who rarely lets any of his employees give interviews with the press; only he). The NY Phil has long had an uptight, top-down corporate culture that I doubt will change overnight. But we’ll see…I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    The Schleswig-Holstein Musikfestival is hard to beat for provincialism. When the first British orchestra appeared in the Elbphilharmonie in July, the CBSO with Mirga, it wasn’t even interested in providing press tickets for British critics.