Met replaces Jonathan Friend after 35 years

Met replaces Jonathan Friend after 35 years


norman lebrecht

November 16, 2019

The Metropolitan Opera says that its English artistic administrator Jonathan Friend will leave his post next summer.

His replacement is to be Michael Heaston of Houston Grand Opera, who was previously head of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program.

Friend covered almost the entire James Levine era at the Met.

Peter Gelb said: ‘Jonathan Friend has been at the forefront of the Met’s artistic efforts, playing an invaluable role in attracting the world’s greatest singers to our stage, helping to develop our repertory, and overseeing one of the most complex performance schedules in existence, and we thank him for his tremendous work over nearly four decades. With these big shoes to fill, I’m very pleased that Michael Heaston (pic) has agreed to return to the Met fold, bringing his considerable artistic and administrative skills to this important position.’



  • V. Lind says:

    Your headline implies that the Met sacked this man. And the mention of Levine reinforces that, subtly.

    Whereas the post in its entirety reports a man leaving a position after 35 years, with a good deal of notice, suggesting that he might have thought it was time to move on. He may wish to return to his native land. The Met’s press release is also warm and very solid in its praise of his tenure.

    What are you playing at?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      No such implication is intended.

      • V. Lind says:

        I accept your comment as to intention. But as a seasoned writer and editor, perhaps you would consider more careful phrasing of some of the headers you employ? You must see that “Met replaces” suggests an ouster rather than a mutually agreeable moving on of a long-serving administrator.

    • Chris says:

      A small point V Lind, the Met’s press statement says that Jonathan joined them in 1981, which by the end of the 2019-20 season makes it about 39 years that he will have been there.
      BTW I am not standing up for Slipped Disc, but I think your interpretation of the headline is a tad unfair. The Met ARE replacing Jonathan, which is correct terminology.

      • V. Lind says:

        Not quite — by emphasising the Met it makes them the protagonist of this story. The same “correct” information would have been more accurately represented by something like “Friend leaves Met after 35 (or 39) years.” The story is about his leaving, not about his being replaced. The body of the story does not focus on his replacement, it merely names him; the story is about Friend’s apparently happy tenure at the Met, which seems to be coming to an amicable and natural conclusion.

        These are distinctions a write, and not a fact-checker, would recognise.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Oh, the tales Jonathan could tell…I hope the Met had a nondisclosure agreement. But, then, Jonathan has always been (relatively) discreet.

  • Has-been says:

    My experience with J Friend has always been fair and courteous. I have known him since his days at Opera North [in those days ENO North] and he has always been knowledgeable and practical. You can certainly criticize some of the casting decisions but they are not always the result of one person. Working with conductors, directors and administrators who also also have a voice in casting is a complicated job. Good luck to him in his future endeavors.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      He can become Has-been2

    • Chris says:

      I, too, knew Jonathan during his (relatively) short time at ENON as it was in those days. I found him to be extremely conscientious in his work, and a complete gentleman. (I speak as I found him). Some years later my late wife (who also knew him from his ENON days) was visiting New York for work (performing) reasons, and he very generously not only provided her with a (very good) seat in the house, but ensured that a member of staff was, basically, assigned to her for the evening to make sure she was catered for during the interval(s). As I said, a gentleman in every sense of the word. I presume that having spent four decades with the Met it is retirement which beckons. If this is the case, may I, through this medium, wish him a long and contented one.

  • Ivy says:

    He’s been at his post for 40 years. He probably retired.

  • The Met is truly fortunately to bring Michael back. Quite a coup for the Met. At the same time we should recognize the many contributions Jonathan has made to the Met over the last four decades. Bravo to both men. Michael, welcome back. Here’s to many years of great work for the Met.

  • Ken says:

    He deserves the most effusive praise. And not because it was always perfect, but because he truly cares. (And could weather the territory. And keep up.) It’s not a greased slide. Good luck, Michael.

  • DrummerBoy says:

    JF was lucky to hold that job for as long as he did. He didn’t have a very good ear, and was not very well respected in the company. It just might be Gelb’s best decision of his tenure.

    • Chris says:

      I would rather hope you base your remarks on personal experience, and not hearsay.

    • Joseph says:

      I agree with Drummer Boy….over a period of 20 years that I personally observed, he often (rudely) reacted with people as if they were the paint on a wall!