Peter Gelb summons Churchill and Napoleon to his side

Peter Gelb summons Churchill and Napoleon to his side


norman lebrecht

October 26, 2017

It’s always a sign of impending nemesis when leaders cast themselves in the shadow of greatness.

The general director of the Metropolitan Opera, in his latest public statement, manages to quote something Churchill never said and to mention Napoleon in the next breath.

The clock is ticking.

Read here.


  • Olassus says:

    … as he speaks to an audience of 7 or 8 people!

    Laugh out loud. What a sad joke he is, and how awful for the Met, which may now be headed for a Philadelphia Orchestra kind of crash.

  • Alexander says:

    quite a sober thoughts of him…just my opinion, of course

  • Alexander says:

    quite sober , no a

  • Anonymous says:

    “In fact, after 12 seasons as a general manager dealing with the fragile state of tenors and sopranos, I’ve come to realize that there are only three stages of health when it comes to opera singers: they’re always catching a cold, recovering from a cold, or suffering from a cold.”

    The Met has actively hired singers with compressed and bowdlerised techniques that leave them open to illness and ends their career early – all in the name of greater and greater volume (and little beauty of sound).

    It’s like training a dog to chew shoes, then complaining that it’s choking on shoe leather and you have no shoes to wear!

    When great singing is heard again at the Met, people will come. Until then, they’ll come in smaller and smaller numbers.

    • Ungeheuer says:

      But I am afraid it’s over. Something has broken. It’ll be a frigid day in hell before we hear great singing again at the Metropolitan.

      • Cynical Bystander. says:

        Or, with some very rare exceptions, anywhere else for that matter. Few houses can muster anything more than the mediocre. Directors’ Opera rather than singers’

  • Another Hasbeen says:

    Oh come on! Gelb himself points out the misattribution of the Churchill quote and as Napoleon’s apparent defeat and subsequent victory at the battle of Marengo provide key plot points in Tosca, referring to Napoleon when he is discussing a new production of that opera is perfectly appropriate.

  • Jackyt says:

    “The challenge of sustaining the aging art form of opera to keep it young and vital requires nonstop attention.”

    I do find that a most extraordinary statement. If opera is an ageing art form what are theatre, novels, painting …?
    As to “young and vital”, we found his production of Norma the most static, gloomy and turgid we had ever seen, particularly when compared to Cecilia Bartoli and John Osborne’s gripping production at the Salzburg Festival a few years ago. I will never forget the fiery inferno at the end, which seemed to engulf the entire theatre.

  • La Verita says:

    An aging art-form??? Great art is timeless – it doesn’t “age”. What does age are the sclerotic idiots who manipulate opera, in their pathetic attempts to make it “young and vital”. New opera lovers are born every day, and they aren’t seeking to revitalize opera any more than they are seeking to renovate the pyramids or the Parthenon.

  • buxtehude says:

    Perhaps what he was getting at with the 400-yrs remark, is the dissolving effect of tv and movies on opera. These have made people accustomed to narratives that move swiftly, or at least inexorably, forward, without frequent pauses and even more frequent (musical) requirements to slow the action, giving stage movement an underwater quality.

    That’s why musicals haven’t made any lasting transition from stage to screen, and why Shakespeare is so rarely successful in the movies — that requires very particular kinds of re-styling plus a massive concentration of charisma.

    Meanwhile stage opera looks more and more dinosaur-like, to new-comers, especially with all those hundreds of singers and musicians he mentions, and no matter how goofy the inspirations of modern-day directors.

    Less true in the German-speaking countries of course.

  • Bruce says:

    Gelb’s alleged Churchill [mis]quote: “It’s no wonder that one of our board members is fond of quoting an aphorism he attributes to Winston Churchill, that ‘the only endeavor more complicated than grand opera is war.’ Churchill actually never said that, I don’t believe.”

    The only use of the word “Napoleon” in this article is: The Met Opera is working on a different production of Tosca that Gelb said will “be Napoleonic in setting but contemporary in its theatrical ideals…”

    And anyway, “impending nemesis” makes no sense. Nemesis doesn’t mean doom or fate, it means an obstacle or opponent that one is unable to conquer.

  • Cyril Blair says:

    Norman, you didn’t get a single thing right in this post.

    What gives??