Mrs Gelb gets hammered in the Times

Richard Morrison, chief critic of the Times, on English National Opera’s new Aida:

The show’s musical qualities are fatally impaired, however, by the conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson’s continual struggle to keep pit and stage together.

His colleagues are just marginally more respectful.

Tim Ashley (Guardian): Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson propelled the score forward with considerable passion. There were a couple of awkward moments of stage-pit coordination on opening night.

George Hall (FT):  Conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson engages their focused attention, though here and there a bit more drive would be welcome.

Rupert Christiansen (Telegraph): There are some solid musical consolations, starting with Keri-Lynn Wilson’s elegantly incisive conducting and the vivacious playing it draws from the orchestra.

Warwick Thomson (Metro): Keri-Lynn Wilson’s conducting feels underprepared and lacking in accuracy.

Keri-Lynn Wilson is married to Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera.

It is unclear why she has been given a plum production at a national opera house in London. Her only other operas this year were Don Giovanni in Bilbao and Tosca in Toronto.

Reember Sir Thomas Beecham’s quip? ‘Why do we in England engage at our concerts so many third-rate continental conductors when we have so many second-rate ones of our own?’

Plus ca change.

 

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  • Experience has taught me that the views of music critics on opera conductors have limited value but if we’re going to play that game here are some reviews for Keri-Lynn Wilson’s previous appearance with ENO – The Girl of the Golden West in 2014

    “It seems otiose to mention that debutante Keri-Lyn Wilson is wife to Met supremo Peter Gelb: her richly embroidered and forceful conducting needs no apology, contributing greatly to a glorious evening of old-fashioned operatic pleasure.” – Rupert Christiansen (Daily Telegraph)

    “The Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, making her UK operatic debut and unquestionably one of the stars of the evening, hurled herself and the excellent ENO orchestra into the music while the audience was still reaching for off buttons. It made an arresting start to a compelling evening.” – Fiona Maddocks (The Observer)

    “The conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson gets full value out of the score orchestrally, too, even if it’s sometimes at the expense of its subtler shades.” – Andrew Clements (The Guardian)

    “But two women hold the trump cards …and in the pit Canadian conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, who hurls us into Puccini’s whole-tone vortex and takes us by surprise as the lights rapidly dim. Her approach mixes full-bloodedness with pointillist-flecked lyricism very well; only in the second-act crux could I have done with a bit more spring-heeled pace.” – David Nice (The Arts Desk)

    “With such a male-dominated cast (apart from Susan Bullock, of course), it was good to see Keri-Lynn Wilson conducting the orchestra.

    This was her first appearance at the ENO and her assurance in tackling Puccini’s difficult score was a considerable factor in the success of the performance.” – William Hartston (Sunday Express)

    “Canadian Keri-Lynn Wilson has conducted plenty of opera in Europe’s major houses – Munich, Zurich, the Mariinsky, Vienna and more – but this is the first time she has conducted an opera in the UK: clearly, we’ve been missing out. This was an exceptionally sure-footed orchestral performance: pacy, exciting and with a good sense of melodic arc. What impressed especially was Wilson’s control of dynamics: in the build up to a dramatic moment, you might have thought that you were hearing a relatively fully voiced orchestra, but when the critical moment arrived, there was masses of power in reserve which Wilson would unleash to blow you away.” – David Karlin (Bachtrack)

    I could go on….

  • That is Ms Wilson. Treating her like a mere appendage of her husband when she clearly has a career by her own merits (yes, she has collected enough praise throughout the years to stave off any accusations of nepotism) is nothing but misogyny and sexism.

  • Just to note also that one review praises her for “propell[ing] the score forward with considerable passion” while another says that “a bit more drive would be welcome”. Am I the only one seeing a contradiction?

    • The first critic is of the mentally-slow type, the second the fast one. A critic’s assessment also depends upon what he/she has eaten just before the concert. Constipative food causes irritation about fast tempi, while garliccal substances create a general impatience.

    • ‘Another Has-Been’ hit the nail on the head when he or she typed “Experience has taught me that the views of music critics […] have limited value […]”.

  • From a NY Times review of a Juilliard double-bill presenting L’heure Espagnole and Gianni Schicchi April ’11:

    “Ms. Wilson conducted the orchestra in a lithe, vividly shaped and nuanced reading.”

    I attended and concur.

  • I am firmly in the anti-Peter Gelb camp & I think the anti-Wilson sentiment is wrong, because she is actually quite a good conductor whose career is probably held back because she is married to Gelb.

  • Ms. Wilson conducted an open-air performance of “Rigoletto” last July in Hannover with Nadine Sierra, Stephen Costello and Ludovic Tézier. I watched it on TV and can report that Ms. Wilson did an excellent job.

  • Keri-Lynn Wilson has been around for a while, perhaps not on the conductor A-list but working steadily. And perhaps we can comment Mr. Gelb for not engaging in nepotism and booking her at the MET. If I’m not mistaken, the conductor partner of another major opera chief worked steadily at that director’s house.

  • I get it: you don’t like Peter Gelb. But going after his family – calling her “Mrs. Gelb” instead of Keri-Lynn Wilson – is contemptible.

  • I think you were rather to quick to lambaste Ms. Wilson:

    Rupert Christianson: The Telegraph Sept. 29, 2017

    Fortunately, there are some solid musical consolations, starting with Keri-Lynn Wilson’s elegantly incisive conducting and the vivacious playing it draws from the orchestra.

    Kate Kellaway: The Guardian: Oct. 1, 2017

    “Keri-Lynn Wilson got a rapturous cheer before she had so much as
    twitched her baton on the first night of Aida – partly because it is still a rarity to see a woman lead an orchestra. But that pleasure aside,
    she can be cheered for all the right reasons too: she leads the first- rate orchestra with verve. Musically, this was a satisfactory evening – if you had closed your eyes throughout, blamelessly good.”

    Michael Church, The Independent September 29, 2017

    “Under Keri-Lynn Wilson’s direction, the chorus and orchestra were superb.”

    Jessica Duchen, The Arts Desk

    “The chorus mostly stood and delivered, which they did extremely well, with the hushed moments especially fine. There was strong playing from the orchestra
    under the baton of Keri-Lynn Wilson, who took often brisk tempi and provided
    solid support to her soloist’s voices, mainly without drowning them in orchestral
    splendour and cavernous Coliseum space.”

    Barry Millington, Evening Standard Oct. 2, 2017

    “Despite the inertness on stage, Keri-Lynn Wilson conducted with enormous flair and empathy.”

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