Why did the Met fail to honor Montserrat Caballé ?

Why did the Met fail to honor Montserrat Caballé ?


norman lebrecht

October 08, 2018

Open letter from Olivia S. in Konstanz, Germany:

Dear Mr. Gelb, I am deeply shocked about the transmission of the Aida last Saturday. Montserrat Caballe,one of the best singers of the 20 Century died- and there was no announcement, no minute of silence! It is a shame! She had sung at some of the greatest moments in the History of the Metroplitan Opera House! Is this Style? Honor? Class? I am so angry about this disgrace!

An artist gave her soul, her life, her personality, to fulfil the composer’s ideall. It is YOUR JOB to to that! You, as General Manager are responsible for the behavior of the Opera House. At La Scala, in Madrid, Vienna, even in Basel, Bremen, Saarbrücken, at the BOLSHOI!!! there was a minute of silent. Not to mention the tactful and grateful tribute at the Website of La Scala! Its a shame! I am so angry about this! And i do hope, that you get information about this letter. With greetings from Germany Olivia S.‎

UPDATE: The Met issues belated regrets


  • Anson says:

    TMEP; DR. (Too many exclamation points; didn’t read.)

  • Bill says:

    I’ll bet Gelb doesn’t even know who she is.

  • Bill says:

    Someone needs to get a grip.

  • Rise Zucker Press says:

    I agree. I waited and waited. Alagna was the only bright spot on that gloomy day. Gelb is a classless fool who has brought down the Met.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      Peter Gelb is a miserable failure who is dragging the Met down with his regie productiions and suboptimal soloists.
      La Superba deserved better on Saturday.
      This is one of her best (among her many greats)

      RIP great diva

      • Mark says:

        Yes, Ms. Melody, exactly. And now he has the Little Canadian Hotdog to help him …

        • Ms.Melody says:

          And he was nowhere in sight on Saturday. Off topic, just because you are usually well informed. The Met channel started playing Levine ‘s performances every day two weeks ago. It coincided with Domingo’s 50th anniversary at the Met. But it has not stopped. This is after 9 months of pretending he never existed. What gives?

          • Mark says:

            I haven’t heard anything new about the court case. A friend who works at the Met told me that they have been deluged with complaints about Levine’s recordings.

        • Ms.Melody says:

          I hope the complaints were about the absence of said recordings and not their renewed presence

  • Doug says:

    The fundamental Peter Gelb question is this: “how will he/she further enrich me personally?” In the case of Caballe the answer was “not at all” so the answer to the question of a proper tribute was likewise “no.”

  • Meal says:

    One can have different views on minutes of silence. But even if one has objections to public minutes of silence (e.g. because mourning should not be ordered, it is a personal matter) dedicating the performance to MC could have been an alternative to a minute of silence. At least the death of an important artist should be mentioned. I was very surprised that Mr. Gelb not even mentioned her name when talking about important voices of the past.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      By jumping straight from Leontyne Price straight to Anna Netrebko, a tenuous comparison and a stretch at best, Gelb left out generations of phenomenal singers before and after Price.
      He could not name all or even many, of course, But Milanov, Aroyo and especially Caballe should have been named for sure.

      • Robert Groen says:

        In all honesty I do think that there have been some great divas at the Met in between Price and Netrebko. Still, ignoring the demise of one of the finest of them all in the person of Caballe is unforgivable. I’d point out that even the BBC brought the news of her death. Now on an unstoppable downward trajectory, the once admirable British broadcaster did treat its viewers to a small sample of Caballe’s art: a song called Barcelona, in which she duetted with Freddy Mercury. Something there for everyone. DISGUSTING! I mourned her in my own way, by listening again to her brilliant Silvana in Respighi’s La Fiamma. Not a recording I’ll ever part with, in spite of the poor video quality.

        • John Rook says:

          Absolutely share your view of the Beeb. It’s an embarrassment; seeking its coverage of world events now never crosses my mind. The Guardian’s obit was dreadful, too: not even capable of mentioning for whom Caballé stood in for Lucrezia Borgia at the Met (‘another singer’). The final twenty percent of the article merely talked about her brush with the Spanish tax office. Classy.

          • Dominic Stafford says:

            The Guardian obituary was written by the late Alan Blyth. And, btw, obituaries are not hagiographies. For those of us who actually knew her, the Guardian review was full of praise, whilst still being factually accurate.

          • John Rook says:

            @Dominic Stafford – The Guardian obit I’ve just re-read bears no resemblance to the one published the day of her death, which was an utter disgrace. Alan Blyth’s is, as you say, full of praise and factually accurate. I don’t expect obits to be hagiographies, but that first version seemed to have been tossed off in five minutes by someone who’d just looked her up on a celebrity scandal website.

      • Yes Addison says:

        Caballé would not be a name to bring up when discussing someone new who has entered the pantheon of great Aidas. Now, I’m not claiming to agree that Netrebko merits that praise anyway, but just for the sake of argument. It makes sense to name Price. She had a lyrical sound for it, especially for that era, and she never sang the lower reaches with much authority, but she made it work on her terms and sang it for a very long time.

        Caballé, by contrast, set down a very beautiful version of it under studio conditions with Riccardo Muti. Live, it was neither a frequent role for her nor a very successful one. She had trouble sustaining it. On some attempts, she gave a lot in the first two acts and then had little left for half the opera. Her total number of performances of it at the Met, the theater at issue: two. Netrebko has surpassed her (at least in quantity) already.

    • Yes Addison says:

      I don’t have any doubt a performance will be dedicated to her. That’s standard practice. The opening night Tristan a couple years ago was dedicated to Botha. A whole series of (unfortunately, terrible) Verdi Requiems was dedicated to Hvorostovsky. A performance of Macbeth was dedicated to Bergonzi, and a season-opening Otello to Vickers, shortly after those singers died.

      So that will happen at some point in the coming weeks. I’m equally sure people will claim they shamed the Met into doing something that would have happened anyway.

  • Julia Lagrua says:

    It was a discraceful ommission. Clearly Alagna was offended as should be any lover of opera. Gelb’s sell by date has expired as recent reviews of Met productions suggest. If I see that tired old Zefferelli production of Boheme one more time . . . to the moon, Alice!

    • Ms.Melody says:

      “The tired ,old Zefirelli production “is still the best there is and it still packs the house 30+ years later, provided it is well cast.
      If you prefer the moon version, we can oblige. You just need to go to Paris, Opera Bastille
      Personally, I prefer to stay in the Latin quarter garret.
      And… this is a free country, you can just skip it.

      • Julia Lagrua says:

        I don’t want to “skip it” Ms. Melody. I want to see arguably the greatest opera house put some creativity and (yes!) effort into La Boheme! Instead it has been turned into the Met’s version of Nutcracker. Sure audiences love an old chestnut and box office is king but those sets are developing mold and poor Susanna Phillips has become so bored with the role she’s practically got her shoe pulled off before she even spots Rodolfo. It’s a great opera with transcendent music but I no longer believe the Met regards it so. If they can put on The Dinner Party they can catch up with the rest of the opera world and devote some creative energy to Boheme.

        • Ms.Melody says:

          This thread is really not about merits of various productions . Doing something new because one is bored is not an excuse to scrap a great production. New is not necessarily better as amply demonstrated by a number of misbegotten Met productions recently. I fully agree that la Boheme is a gem
          and as such deserves the best singers ,the best conductor and most of all respect for the music and the libretto.

      • Yes Addison says:

        “Provided it is well cast.” So, in other words, when it’s filled with mediocre singers (which it is at least half the time), there are many empty seats, as there would be with any poorly cast revival, whether it’s this or the Vegas Rigoletto. I saw the evidence of half-full Bohèmes with my own eyes in the 2015-16 season.

        There actually was a time when that Bohème sold no matter who was in it, when it was newer. The Met spent much of 20 years testing how far they could push the point, and attrition did what it does with audiences.

        Great voices and great performers get people into the house. Not the faded, very familiar, nearly-40-year-old work of some decorator.

        • Ms.Melody says:

          This “decorator ” has directed the likes of Callas, Gobbi and Sutherland , Domingo and Obrastzova. He has been decorated by her Majesty the Queen. Hardly someone to be so dismissive about.

    • Alex Davies says:

      Franco Zeffirelli’s La bohème is quite simply the best production I’ve ever seen of any opera at any opera house. It’s so meticulously detailed one can almost imagine that one has actually stepped into 19th-century Paris. I thought the John Copley production at Covent Garden was good, but the Met production just takes it to a whole other level. Zeffirelli perfectly captures the opera’s tragedy, its comedy, and above all its beauty. There is no attempt to use the production to draw anything out of the opera or to impose any interpretation upon it. Zeffirelli brings the opera to life, nothing more nor less.

  • Lana says:

    Guys! The interview with P.Gelb was recorded a week before, he couldn’t know about the sad news

    • Bruce says:

      Stop making sense. We’re having a moment here, OK?

    • BL says:

      Gelb could’ve easily issued a statement…..but he didn’t. They could’ve easily dedicated the performance to her. But they didn’t. It’s shameful. No excuse. Are we sure Gelb’s interview wasn’t recorded live? I heard from a reliable source (employee) that it was. Who knows, it doesn’t matter. Gelb messed up, once again…

    • Meal says:

      Important point! I was not aware of that. Did I miss a notification that the interview was recorded earlier? However, they should have thought about broadcasting this interview twice (cf. the discussion we have on that). If there was no possibility to do an interview live they should have subtitled the interview that the performance is dedicate to MC or something similiar.

  • M McAlpine says:

    See today NY Times:


    The Metropolitan Opera mourns the death of Montserrat Caballe, one of the great sopranos of the 20th century. At the Met, Caballe dazzled audiences with her extraordinary vocalism in 15 roles and 98 performances. She made her Met debut in 1965 as Marguerite in Faust in the final season of the old opera house. At the new Met, she quickly became a phenomenon, winning raves in the inaugural 1966-67 season of the new house for her stunning portrayals of two Verdi heroines, Leonora in Il Trovatore and Desdemona in Otello. Over her Met career, she starred in two opening nights, as Violetta in La Traviata in 1967 and in the title role of Tosca in 1985, and sang leading roles in two new productions, Luisa Miller in 1967 and I Vespri Siciliani in 1974. The velvet plushness of her voice and her almost superhuman ability to float soft high notes made her an audience favorite and today are legendary thanks to her many recordings and broadcasts. Caballe’s final Met performance was in 1985, but her extraordinary talent will never be forgotten by those of us fortunate enough to have heard her live or through recordings. We offer our sincerest condolences to her family, friends, and many admirers. Peter Gelb General Manager Yannick Nezet-Seguin Music Director

    Published in The New York Times on Oct. 8, 2018

    • AMetFan says:

      Perfunctory and pro forma for the Met. With the international platform of the HD broadcasts to directly target opera fans worldwide in a timely manner, Saturday’s performance was a hugely missed opportunity. Montserrat Caballe is deserving of something extraordinary, as befits her talent and career.

  • Terry Van Vliet says:

    Placido Domingo dedicated the performance of “Don Carlo” at the Los Angeles Opera yesterday afternoon and the audience’s response was to honor her memory with a thunderous standing ovation.

  • Ron Paluch says:

    I was never lucky enough to hear Caballe sing live on stage, only on her recordings. Truly, her voice was compelling, and smooth as honey. The only time I “saw” her was on an internet clip when she was siniging the finale of Norma in an open air production of Norma, somewhere, in europe. It was one of the most emotionally satisfying operatic experiences I’ve had. I was a puddle of tears.

  • Ms.Melody says:

    Don Domingo is a class act and is in a class by himself. The Met management can learn a lot from this great man

  • HN says:

    only Alagna mentioned something during the HD video stream

  • anon says:

    Everyone here is so virtuous, so courageous, um! to speak out against Peter Gelb!

    Me too, let me bathe in your collective pathos.

    Bad bad Peter Gelb.

    There. I feel transfigured already, almost Christ like.

  • Richard Craig says:

    I would not consider myself a fan of Cabell’s but I think the Met should have done more to honor this great artist who performed there many times,and I may point out that the only reason the BBC covered it was her association with Freddie Mercury who had a great love of opera(I wonder how many of his fans knew that)by the way congratulations to Roberto Atlanta for mentioning Caballle s demise.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Freddy Mercury described himself as “a musical prostitute”. He loved great music and great singers. He adored both the Beatles and opera.

  • John O. says:

    Having my head buried in the SCOTUS debacle the past days, I just found out about the loss of this magnificent woman. I did attend the Aida HD performance, and in retrospect I am FURIOUS at that little twit Gelb for failing to mention her passing and honor Caballe.
    As a side note, I am WEARY of Gelbs provocative, Eurotrash, controversial productions !!

  • Richard Craig says:

    I meant Roberto Alanga

  • Olivia says:

    I had wrote that letter after the transmission. I was so angry, I just sit and wrote it. Because, Style, Honor and Respect for the Artists are so important. After such a long, illustrious, important career Mrs Caballe had deserve that. I know the financial aspects of time at the transmission. But it is Mr. Gelbs Job to go out and say a few words. Art is a signature of Civilisation said B. Sills once, and Mr Gelb is not at the director of a cineplex in the australian desert, he is General Manager of one of the three best Opera Theatres in the world. He shows just one thins, that he doesnt know what his job also is. He has no respect. But, we, the Audience, we go because we love the Music. And the Artists. And they deserve Respect.

  • Yes Addison says:

    Caballé was a great singer, but is she more deserving than numerous others who have died in recent years, had major careers at the Met, and didn’t have more than a performance dedicated to them? That is the standard practice. I do not remember any on-air ceremony for Jon Vickers, Carol Neblett, Johan Botha, Roberta Peters, Kurt Moll, Nicolai Gedda, and so many others.

    I’m sure they’ll dedicate something to Caballé in the fullness of time, but as far as making her passing an important feature of the HD broadcast of Aida, no. People had no reason to go to that and expect anything except a performance of Aida.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      With all due respect to the other great artists, how many died on the day of an HD broadcast of an opera in which they sang a title role to huge acclaim? The Met and P.Gelb
      missed a great opportunity to show respect and honor a major artist

      • BL says:

        Exactly! This was different! She passed that morning. Many may not have known. It would’ve been the respectful thing to do-especially since so many opera fans/lovers were united for this HD.

        • Yes Addison says:

          “Many may not have known.” So, in your opinion, besides presenting live performances in cinemas, the Met HDs have a supplemental responsibility as a sort of news network to cover major events of the music world.

          Maybe they could install a little ticker along the bottom of the screen with all the breaking events, just in case something big happens during all that irrelevant singing.

    • Olivia says:

      i didnt know that. If I had know that, I had written for Peters, Gedda, Neblett, Vickers, Moll, Botha or who ever. Its a question of style. Das mindeste wäre es gewesen eine Änderung des Abendprogramms, der Poster am Eingang,oder ähnliches durchzugeben. Das nennt man Haltung, Klasse und Stil!

    • JAVIER says:

      The Metropolitan Opera even waited 2 days after her death to mention anything in social media… They might be the only one who did not know anything about it…

  • Ilio says:

    Overreaction. Hard to put together something appropriate on such short notice. Yeah, Gelb might have said something, but that can seem so on the fly and un heartfelt. Better to wait and see what kind of tribute they put together for the next MET in HD showing.

    • Olivia says:

      PLEASE! When Euroa Houses in Europe could do that- and Carnegie Hall- AND Los Angeles! Mr Gelb has no manners. That is the point.

      • Julia Lagrua says:

        “AND Los Angeles” has Placido Domingo. We may have to wade through the sagebrush killing rattlesnakes along the way to the Dorothy Chandler, but we go for the music.

    • Quodlibet says:

      No, it is not hard to put together something on short notice. (I know – I do this sort of thing for a living.)

      It was in the news several days ago that Maestra Caballe was ill and (I think) hospitalized. At that time, the Met PR staff should have brought forth their statement on her death and career, which should have ALREADY been written, update it if needed, make sure it was perfect, and issue it as a news release. This is standard practice.

      Major newspapers generally have on hand ready-to-be-updated obituaries of prominent people. Surely a major opera house would have some of these ready for major talents, now nearing the ends of their lives, who graced their stage. Maybe it would be less likely for a younger singer whose death would not be expected. But supposing Jonas Kauffman died in an accident tomorrow, do you suppose the Met would manage to make a statement, even on “short notice?”

      And if so many opera houses around the world could figure out how to make a gracious announcement and perhaps dedicate a performance, then surely the Met could have done so as well.

      What this failure points to is internal disorganization and failure to follow standard business practices.

      • BL says:

        You are completely right! Everybody loves to make excuses for Gelb. The reality is, it could’ve been done very easily if Gelb said the word. The fact is, he didn’t. He didn’t care enough. I’d think that he would try and get all the good publicity possible-especially after the year the MET has had. It was a mistake not to mention Mme. Caballé’s death. Now, he will hear from the public. Though I doubt he will care…. such a shame.

  • Helene Kamioiner says:

    Who and how will Gelb be remembered? btw, this should have been the responsibility of the press department, and such an oversight would not have happened under Peter Clark.

  • Lana says:

    I’ve just heard the Semiramide with Ms Caballe it was maybe 28 times I can hear it again and again.Thank you great singer! You are in my memory and heart forever….

  • Sharon Beth Long says:

    Why has the format changed? It was better to be able to post a comment right after the comment that is most relevant to what the poster has to say.

    With regard to the Levine case, we have not heard a lot about it recently because there is a confidentiality agreement with regard to most aspects of the case and especially to the names and testimony witnesses. According to the original calendar for the case depositions should be taking place now through November but according to my understanding of the case calendar I am not sure a decision to have a jury trial (which will probably be closed to the public) or just reach some type of a settlement will be made until March

  • Roger Mayer says:

    What was the Met thinking? Montserrat Caballe was a lady of class and grace with the voice of a angel! She deserved better