The Met bans veteran critic

The Met bans veteran critic


norman lebrecht

February 12, 2018

The author Joseph Horowitz who, by his own count, has ‘written more about Wagner at the Met than any other living human being’, was refused press tickets to Parsifal, the first time in 40 years that he has been excluded.

He thinks it might have something to do with a recent piece he wrote about James Levine.

Right now, Joe is worried that the Met and its Times-puppies are creating a new cult of hero worship around Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

The performance (I attended Saturday night) ignited a lusty ovation that peaked when Nezet-Seguin took the stage – and suddenly ended. A response to received opinion.

Our new music director is not yet 45 years old. Whether he grows into the big Wagner works remains to be seen. But I fear that, with the disappearance of Levine, a new cult may already be upon us.

Read on here.



  • Freebies. says:

    Horowitz was not banned, and nowhere in his article does he claim to have been banned. The Met simply declined to provide him with a free ticket.

  • William Osborne says:

    I suppose there could be some legitimate reasons for not giving Joe press tickets. Perhaps he was only reviewing for his blog which doesn’t qualify. That would also be an error since blog reviews are often the most thoughtful and complete, and his is noted for that.

    One is reminded how the American opera world lives behind a lot of delusions that they maintain even with censorship when necessary. The USA ranks 34th in the world for opera performances per capita, behind every European country except impoverished Portugal. We only have one city in the top 50 for opera performances per year, and only three in the top 100.

    And yet schools like Indiana University and Julliard crank out opera singers like factories, knowing full well that almost all of them will have to leave the country if they are to have more than very sketchy careers. Do you ever recall seeing an article by a mainstream American publication about these problems? There’s something fraudulent in it all, which is why silence and censorship become part of the scenario. Delusions must be maintained.

    • Greg Hlatky says:

      Any time New York or any other American city wants to set up their own publicly-funded opera companies to employ all those singers Julliard is cranking out they are free to do so.

      Please point out what sinister “censors” inhibit political monocultures like San Francisco or Chicago from discussing this urgent problem.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Mr. Horowitz hit the nail on its head. Indeed a personality cult surrounding the still unproven and so far unimpressive YN-S is in full force. One would think an important and original conductor is among us but that is not really the case.

  • Kundry says:

    Re: Parsifal at the MET and the Horowitz review.
    Please, everyone , relax and hold on tight to your home collection of opera audio and video oldies – from Verdi to Wagner and many in between. Try to get used to the new ( and not so new) “realities”. Among the many examples – the last “Chenier” at La Scala (Del Monaco, Callas and De Sabata were spinning in their graves) with dubious voices, wrong style ( I include in this Chailly and the orchestra ) and a desperate marketing machine , trying to make the sposi Netrebko into a success, even before the provincial level opening night. Fast forward to the sophomoric and superficial Parsifal of everyone’s-friend-and – good -at -everything -Yannick, who has been slated quite a while ago to become the next cult conductor, light, pushed up ( btw Pape never had a basso voice for Gurnemanz) and monochrome voices and a production short of ideas, but generous on the blood shtick. Mr.Gelb – try Stefan Herheim once and the few real Wagnerian voices left! Some of them are, surprise ! – American.

  • Sharon says:

    Admittedly I do not know the business of classical music reviewing but could it just be that the Met is reacting to charges of impropriety, whether in promoting people who submit to sexual harassment or by providing “swag” in the form of free tickets to reviewers who are also classical music lovers?
    I was under the impression that a restaurant reviewer cannot accept of free meal from the restaurant he/she is reviewing and a product reviewer cannot accept free merchandise from the company whose product he is reviewing. In fact, about two years ago I had seen an “indie” play about a NY Times product reviewer who was fired because of false internet comments that he had accepted “swag”, in this case, a free vacation in the Caribbean, from a company whose products he had reviewed (he had not).
    I know that as a nurse in a state hospital I am not allowed to accept any sort of a gift from a patient or his/her family for fear that it will create an impression of favoritism towards that patient on my part or that it will create the impression that the patient or family is trying to bribe me. The no gifts or tips to individuals prohibition is true of almost all health care facilities.
    I have read on Slippedisc that Mr. Lebrecht considers the New York Times a shill for the Metropolitan Opera. When I first read this I thought, “Well, it only stands to reason. The New York Times owns WQXR.” which is the major classical music radio station in the New York City area and broadcasts Met operas.
    I am not questioning the integrity of Mr. Horowitz but in these times one must not only be squeaky clean but also give the impression of being squeaky clean at all times. Through requiring reviewers to buy their own tickets the sponsoring organization is preventing itself from being vulnerable to accusations that it is trying to buy a review. By buying his/her own ticket the reviewer is making him/herself less open to accusations of favoritism or bias. Everyone wins

  • Kundry says:

    You are correct, Sharon. You do not know the business of classical music.

    • Roger says:

      Plus 100! so strange to preface remarks with that caveat and then go on to spout absolute nonsense.

    • Leo says:

      Knowing the classical music business a bit, I wouldn’t call it a business at all.

      Maybe if it were a real business, where success means making money, and failure means losing it, we wouldn’t be having such a decline. But for this to happen, a paradigm shift is necessary, which will be uncomfortable for many people, and put the last 70 years in question.

  • Novagerio says:

    The Music world has been a Wall Street since at least the last 40 years, and the agents, managers, career advisors et all have substituted their roles with the role of brokers. As simple as that. Some “madiatic products” have however grown in their roles though (!)

  • harold braun says:

    Horowitz wrote one good book,Conversations with Arrau.The rest,poorly researched,mistake ridden self aggrandizing pseudo intellectual drivel….

  • Vaquero357 says:

    Well…..having been the beneficiary of critic tickets, I can say that they are usually free of charge. And at the time I did wonder a bit – how would I feel if the performance was a clinker? The readers of the publication I was writing for would want to know. Fortunately, I had favorable things to say about the performances, so I avoided amoral dilemma. (And as my editor used to say, “OK, you didn’t like the performance. Think of somebody who might have.)

    The institution can certainly say “no” to a critic’s request for tickets…..and I’m sure that there are times when the involved staff members say “OK, yes,” they find themselves doing it through clenched teeth.

    • Sharon says:

      When an editor says something like VAQUERO357’s said to him, how honest can the review be? I know that as an unpaid, paying for my own ticket, thoroughly amateur reviewer of theater on the blog show-score, I am hesitant to say anything truly negative since I do not want to contribute to the hurting of the financial viability of a show that others worked so hard on or even remotely hurt the careers of anyone connected to the show. How much more so with paid reviewers writing in serious publications, and receiving free tickets?
      I am reminded of a book I read by the former arts editor of New York Magazine, which, especially prior to the publication of Time Out NY, had a lot of influence in the New York City performing arts world. The book was called “Callas kissed me, Lenny too!” and was his autobiography, focusing on his work as a reviewer . With no shame this married reviewer mentions at least two brief sexual liasons with people he was reviewing at that time and having as close friends or his daughter having as close friends others whose performances and productions he was reviewing. Some of his books sounded just like publicity pieces which could have been written by the public relations department of organizations like the New York City Ballet.

  • Don Hohoho says:

    I have yet to see a blog worth reading. Blogs make vivid the importance of editors and the format of magazines. Blogs are by their very nature, self-indulgent, self-centered, and uninteresting. Without the objective view required by publications, blogs are subjective ditherings by minds that are just not that interesting. We need publications. We need editors. We need our own music magazines, not just British imports.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      If you have never seen a blog worth reading, what are you doing here? Please leave.

      • Gerhard says:

        If everyone would read only publications considered to be really worth reading, very few would be read at all. But if once in a while a little more quality emerges than one has reason to expect, it becomes a positive surprise, which is nice.

  • Sharon says:

    I agree that a lot of blog writing is repetitive and sometimes (but less on Slipped Disc than elsewhere) I have to go through a lot of slog until I can write or reread my own unique and insightful (lol) comment. In the case of Slippedisc I like providing the non musician’s nurse/government bureaucrat’s point of view.
    It is the free nature of the blog that makes it so democratic whereas most print magazines have to take into account the wishes of advertisers and sponsors. How can a print publication be truly objective?
    Blogs are self-indulgent, self-centered dithering you say? That’s what makes blogs so much fun! (again, lol)!

  • Sharon says:

    My first field of academic study was sociology and one of the things that fascinates me about this blog is that one can truly see an constant examples of “What goes around indeed comes around”. That is, how all political, economic, and cultural trends in the outside world affect the supposedly esoteric and insular world of the classical arts.
    What is truly unique about Slipped Disc is that instead of just agreeing with each other every political, economic and cultural viewpoint, from the far right to the far left, and everything in between, can and is freely expressed, generally in a quite respectful manner.