Yannick asks Joe Biden to appoint secretary of state for the arts

Yannick asks Joe Biden to appoint secretary of state for the arts


norman lebrecht

January 19, 2021

The music director of the Metropolitan Opera has published an eve-of-inauguration letter to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Much of his letter is pure flannel, given that the inauguration is taking place without a single artist of the classical arts, and that the Biden team have more burning isssues on their agenda.

However, he does make one strong point: the arts in the US need a champion at Cabinet level. Will Biden be the one to open that door?




  • EU person says:

    Biden likes Lady Gaga and Jennifer López who will be dining at inauguration. He and his team don’t care problems of opera world.

    • EU person says:

      I mean “who will be singing at inauguration”. Just pop-stars, no opera singers, unfortunately

    • Lucca says:

      Democrats would rather look at trashy girls looking like strippers. What’s new???

      At least Bill Clinton will have incentive to come….

      • violafan says:

        How DARE you call Lady Gaga a “trashy girl”

        She is an icon.

      • NYMike says:

        “Democrats would rather look at trashy girls looking like strippers.” And your verifiable sources for this statement, GOP troll??

      • Ludwig's Van says:

        The Clintons attend Metropolitan Opera performances – I saw them there for a Tosca. Jimmy Carter is a noted fan of Classical music, and the Carter’s, Kennedy’s and Johnson’s hosted many evenings of Classical music at the White House. (P.S. – they were Democrats/).

        • J Barcelo says:

          Nixon’s inaugural concert was the Philadelphia Orchestra with Ormandy. class act.

        • EU person says:

          What is wrong with Biden and Harris? They are Democrats, but…

        • Oh dear... says:

          Why all the apostrophes? Please learn to write in decent English…

          • Martin Snell says:

            An easy mistake for a non-native speaker of English. I would suggest that the writer is German as, by comparison with English, their language rules are the opposite for apostrophes and plurals. CDs=CD’s, Clintons=Clinton’s

          • V.Lind says:

            Not in my experience. Not that many German nouns even form plurals with an “s” — “n” or “en” is much more common. And I don’t recall any apostrophes where there were “s” plurals.

            Alas, all too many native English speakers have taken in recent years to adding these superfluous apostrophes. They are NEVER employed in forming a plural. Simple rule.

            I blame the internet, which on the whole seems to employ illiterates. Of course the reason they are illiterate (aside from the fact that they appear not to read) is that schools have stopped teaching grammar, to the point that there are now teachers who would not be capable of doing so.

          • Ashu says:

            English orthography is essentially stupid, as is anyone who makes the mastery of it a standard of intelligence.

          • V.Lind says:

            That’s no reason to let Martin Snell utterly misrepresent German grammar.

            And, of course, you are wrong. Orthography is a convention, and abstract. As such IT cannot be stupid.

            Mastery of it used to be taught in schools, so that people could use their language correctly by about the age of 12, and could then more easily learn other languages. I now know someone teaching 4th year English at a university whose students are handing in papers in which they cannot correctly apply a full stop to a sentence. Let alone spell, use subject-verb agreement — or compose a standard English plural.

            It DOES affect communication. And I would like to think people communicating about the specifications for a bridge, or the steps to take in a kidney transplant, were understanding “orthography” in the same way.

          • Hayne says:

            Oh dear…
            Did you understand Ludwig’s van message? Please cut some slack on the grammar. Geez…

        • Hal Sacks says:

          President Eisenhower unknowingly inspired Leonard Bernstein to create his “Arias and Barcarolles” when asking for such music at a White House Concert. Lenny, no fan of Ike’s bit his tongue and chuckled to himself, but remembered the request.

        • Walter Griffith says:

          How many decades do you plan on revisiting only to illustrate how DEAD classical music has become under Democrats?

          What? Did Obama-Biden do so little in 8 years to create a college educated arts revitalization??? Yup!

          Lots of wasted time and money on what exactly? Solyndra and shovel-ready road projects??? How predictable.

          Democrats can’t even tell you what the Biden-Harris administration will do about jobs and the economy. Plus most of Biden’s cabinet picks are old Obama cronies.

          As the Left begins to slowly realize what they’re not going to GET, they’ll create a siege of their own. Too bloody bad!!!!

      • Trocadero says:

        Pardon me, Lucca, but it was a Republican president who slept with a porn star and a Playboy bunny (while his wife was left at home with their newborn son). FYI, he’s losing his job today, as he deserves to.

        • Paul says:

          Which brother?

          There were Soooo many skirts we lost track!

        • Karl says:

          And it was a democrat who went to Epstein’s pedo island and settled a sexual harassment lawsuit by forking over $850,000.

          • V.Lind says:

            That would be the same “pedo island” where (among other places) Epstein was enabled by a woman Trump wished well…

          • Heubert says:

            Hillary?? That makes sense after she trashed a little girl who was raped and laughed about it. Of course you are willfully ignorant of this.

            Don’t worry. Bill Clinton and Alan Dershowitz were in and out of Epstein’s private island. That’s after Trump threw him out of Mar-a-Lago. You know, the only club on the island to admit anybody who wishes to be a member. The others are wasp and Jew only. Something else your kkklan isn’t informed about.

      • Dr. Grimwood says:

        How do explain all the lip-smacking that goes on SD for Yula, rubberised fembot Lola and many other female performers? Most of you are, to put it mildly, right wing (read: boorish, ill-informed, blinkered, and hypocritical).

        • She’s only a woman then?? says:

          You’re a misogynist Dr. Grimwood in the grand democrat tradition like the Kennedy kkklan.

          Now there’s “senile Joe”

          Biden today stands accused by his former staffer Tara Reade of sexually assaulting her 27 years ago, and his response is: “Don’t believe her! I’m innocent!”

          The irony is delicious!

      • Scott says:

        Luca, perhaps you prefer Lik Wayne? Do all Republicans love him? Foolishness.

  • JussiB says:

    yes Yannick my boy we really need a Minister of Culture and Propaganda here in the U.S.

    • and his name shall be called Bruce Springsteen

      • V.Lind says:

        If Trump had appointed one his name would have been called Lee Greenwood.

        You are unbelievable.

        • buxtehude says:

          So you see the problem here.

          Worst suggestion ever, this ArtsMin.

          It was a gambit beautifully exploited by Joe Goebbels, Mr. Public Enlightenment, who entered handing out money, before orders. The German film industry never realized what was happening to it.

          Just because It-Can’t-Happen-Here doesn’t mean that something less drastic can — and eventually will. I just don’t see the advantage, save maybe for the bureaucracy of “arts administrators.”

          All this is part of the reason I just can’t see the government’s medals in the arts.

          Hands off!

          As for classical music, we need wide tributary streams of Real new music in order to survive, not ribbons and medals trophies which only serve to clog the drains.

        • buxtehude says:

          And apart from the dangers of bum steers from above, this ArtsMin is certain to set all against all, to the extent that it achieves anything.

        • MikeyM says:

          Lee Greenwood is a far better singer than 98% of the “opera singer” jokes out there.

        • Bone says:

          I think Biden is partial to Cardi B…

        • Greg Bottini says:

          JussiB and Helene Kamioner are MAGAts left over from the last four years of Trumpist shame.
          Hopefully they’ll wither away.

    • BruceB says:

      Please explain your introduction of the word “propaganda.”

  • We can’t seem to decide.

    When the government is involved in the arts, we don’t like the political trap it creates.

    When it withdraws from the political problem, we don’t like the loss of funding.

    A Cabinet Secretary for the Arts is a hopeless task in a nation with so many arts competing for a piece of the pie.

  • I. Cooper says:

    Biden was Obama’s 2nd senile banana for EIGHT YEARS while they catered to rap and pop stars using misogynistic lyrics.

    They ignored opera as they thought it too boring and too White to support going on to trashy, soft news and late night ‘progroms’ meant for the leftists appealing naturally to the lowest denominator.

    Neither Biden nor Kamala know anything of opera except it does not fit their diversity-selective “narrative”.

    Yannick can’t accomplish anything with a chosen administrator even if it does come to pass. It’s opera; ergo too elitist. Monies will get “lost” by Democrats as usual anyway.

    Trashy, emotional, uneducated people of color are much easier to manipulate and their willing audience. Obama’s terms bore that out with bitter POC’s supporting Trump since nothing materialized for them.

    Opera is not appealing to young and “diverse” kids out of college.

    It’s also meant for in-person enrichment which has been BANNED!

    It’s too bad for opera but it’s been dying a slow death considering the last 2 decades of college-educated crops vs paying audience which are grey hairs dying out. US educated is no longer “well rounded”, only radicalized L’s.

    • violafan says:

      You’re full of it:


      I don’t recall Trump doing anything close to this. In fact, he had “lil pump” whom he called “lil pimp” come up to speak at one of his rallies last year

    • NYMike says:

      A. Biden is not senile. B. Opera isn’t the only cultural venue. Orchestras, ballet companies, libraries and jazz venues would also be in the mix. Since this has never been done on a cabinet level in the US, there’s no way of knowing whether or not it could be done or be good for the arts. BTW, just what are “radicalized Ls”?

      • Wesley says:

        Whenever Biden speaks he sounds as if he’s largely forgotten either what he wanted to say or what he was told to say. I’m happy to accept this isn’t senility, but it still isn’t a good look. Never mind; Kamala will take over shortly.

        This is a view from the UK.

      • Seth says:

        Biden is clearly senile spouting off “if you’re not sure who to vote for, then you ain’t black!” along with his stammering, stuttering “I,I,I,I….” and leftist celebrated hair sniffing of young girls to name just a few problems.

        Biden is not mentally fit to serve.

        The 25th amendment needs to be enforced on him soon before he does something dangerous during another senior, Depends fog. He doesn’t even know where he is most of the time. Cuomo has space in a COVID nursing home for him though.

        As you say rightly, opera is now irrelevant to young democrats. Quite true noting their lack of social skills and propensity to riot. It’s bared out in the Met’s paying audience for both box office and streaming. Donations have merely been plugging holes in the Titanic. Gelb’s poor management has it plunging downward full steam. Most of the paying audience has died off. The singers haven’t the bel canto technique to be performing there either. They’ve been getting into the Met with less talent and more agency connections, ‘diversity’, flash and physical appearance. Glad CAMI went under. Singers used to be both vocally solid and well-dressed no matter their weight or looks. Hard work used to count too. That’s CLEARLY gone at the alter of endless “poor me” narratives.

        Once so splendid hath become coarse to the ear and eye…

      • Hayne says:

        A. You’re right, Biden is not senile. The proper term for what he has is dementia.
        B. More government involvement in the arts.
        With all the state’s past debacles, you still
        want more?

    • Curvy Honk Glove says:

      I’m not sure the folks in the back heard your racist dog whistles. Perhaps one more time and louder for everyone in the cheap seats, and don’t be so subtle next time.

    • mary says:

      “Trashy, emotional, uneducated people of color are much easier to manipulate”

      The white ones are just as fucking dumb as a rock.

      • Curvy Honk Glove says:

        No kidding, Mary. Their tired, white, racist music is the worst part. We must continue to tear down all supremacist and patriarchal musical traditions.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Funny how Yannick has “found his voice” after so much criticism for his ten months of relative silence. Help starts at home, Mr. Nézet-Séguin, and you could have been more of an advocate for the artists of the Metropolitan Opera. Too little, too late.

    There is no federal Deus ex machina in the US to solve our woes. If there were, we’d have our pandemic under more control.

  • JussiB says:

    Biden and Harris will be too busy opening up the Southern boarder floodgate to the Honduran ‘immigrants’ to worry about the arts.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      The Southern “boarder”?
      You are a racist meathead, and you are shaming Jussi Bjoerling’s name.

    • True North says:

      Too bad, then, that Trump didn’t manage to finish building his stupid wall (oh, and Mexico didn’t pay for it, either).

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    There is a sure-fire way of ensuring that arts and culture thrive in the United States : Prohibition.
    It worked with booze.
    It works, on a gigantic scale, with drugs.
    It will work with culture.
    Ban it, forbid it, drive it underground. Samizdat it.
    Try to suppress it. Once it has become illicit, it will become lucrative. All of it. And pervasive. Grassroots.
    Plus, the cartels are quite adept at administering; the administration, a lot less so.

    There is also a risky way of achieving a fraction of the above, at much greater cost and effort: an intelligent fiscal policy. Regressive fiscal deductions for money spent on artistic endeavours. Yes, regressive : the less flashy the oeuvre, the more evenly spread the dough, the greater the deduction.
    Prestige acquisitions will be deemed thesaurisation, and doubly taxed.
    Venture capital spent on burgeoning artists with no previous patrons will go tax-exempt.
    As I said, it’s a risky avenue, because it requires effort, intelligence and dedication: scarce ressources in politics.

    Then there is the hopelessly counterproductive way, the one Yannick Nézet-Séguin is begging for. But that hardly constitutes a surprise, does it?

    • Peter San Diego says:

      What you say in our first paragraph was well demonstrated behind the Iron Curtain, where poetry, in particular, became a vital art form precisely at times of greatest repression. Much is better in many of the former Iron Curtain countries, post-1989, but the arts, with poetry as perhaps the most salient example, have suffered a great drop in readership.

  • sam says:

    Not a given that an Arts Secretary would necessarily champion European arts or well heeled organizations like the Met.

    The left would champion African-American and Latino arts. The right would champion country music, Christian music, American folk arts.

    The likes of the Met will have to fend for themselves.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      The arts are the arts are the arts. High art or low art. Creativity is the common thread. All forms need to be supported and not just by the government. Let’s see who will “support” the arts when subsidies (both public and private) decrease after the pandemic. The public’s taste will dictate what survives. Otherwise, it’s all artificial.

    • Patricia says:

      I am on the right and I have been listening to, teaching, and writing about classical music for decades. You paint us with a too-broad brush. And are ignorant about who supports the arts.

      • mikhado says:

        Please tell me where I can read your far-right screeds on classical music. Do you have any qualifications other than being a well known bigot?

  • PaulD says:

    Oh, yes. At a time when freedom of speech is under assault in the United States, we need a Secretary of Culture. Hmm..

  • RW2013 says:

    I believe even Australia has a Minister for the Yartz

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    This is really eye-opening. It sounds like the industry is anxious to create government-funded initiatives catering to a specific demographic group. It feels uncomfortably familiar.

    • V.Lind says:

      Which “demographic” is it that embraces Yannick Nézét-Seguin, Odetta, Bruce Springsteen and Lee Greenwood, to name just a few of those mentioned today?

      Many civilised countries have Ministers of Culture. But of course many civilised countries embrace public support for things from health care to the arts. Of course many civilised cultures do not object in principle to paying taxes.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    In twenty years, this guy will sound like Muti.

  • cara259 says:

    ohhh yannick, what a obvious maneuver.
    doing nothing for a felt lifetime and now you are so deeply engaged?
    you are right, but i do not believe you at all. you are just trying to save your a….!
    say sorry! stay to your tremendous failure and ignorance for such a long time.
    no one takes your actions for real as long you are not honest.
    you are not a hero! just normal like so many other weak people from our business, thinking about them self all the time but trying to appear so sovereign, masterful and , and , and….
    grow up!!!

  • Monty Earleman says:

    This idea is a disaster at Universities and would be the same for the US.

  • Jimmie says:

    That will be great. Another bureaucrat with a new agency. Shouldn’t cost more than a couple of billion by the time you add a new building, staff is with untold numbers of new federal workers who can never be fired. They will be overpaid and receive incredible benefits. Nothing like a government program. Just imagine how this dept. will dictate what music will be paid, the makeup of orchestras and other performing groups. I can’t wait for this.

    • J Barcelo says:

      Exactly right. And let’s not forget that anything the US government touches turns to crap. We once had great schools nationwide — then came the Dept of Education thanks to Jimmy Carter. Now the public schools turn out uneducated dolts. National Public Radio and the PBS have what they consider arts, but I can’t remember the last time there was a classical concert or opera on PBS. Just endless reruns of British dramas, has-been rockers, and yoga.

    • V.Lind says:

      Funny, that’s not how it works in the UK. Nor, as far as I am aware, in France. Or anywhere else with a cultural ministry.

  • SMH says:

    What a bunch of shitty, ahteful comments. Why are you people even looking at a classical music blog? Clearly you disdain both the artforms and the performers. Shame on you.

    • Hayne says:

      Maybe this blog pertains to Yannik’s ignorant comments on more political involvement into the arts? Censorship doesn’t pertain to Mr. Lebrect’s website? It will eventually in spite of his toleration of different views.

  • SymphonyMan says:

    Flannel!!?? Well that fits as Yannick Nézet-Séguin is Flanneur In Chief !!

  • jack says:

    One wonders if this new Secretary of the Arts would give funding to an artist in the mold of Robert Mapplethorpe. My guess is that the “Secretary,” instead of of being a facilitating supporter of the arts, would function as the chief censor instead. How will Yannick react when a Calixto Bieito production comes the Met and needs this government support?

  • Thomas F Godfrey says:

    Good grief! I think many in the comment section have lost the point here. Flannel or not, Yannick has correctly identified that there is no strong advocate for the arts in the US at the cabinet or executive branch level, unlike other countries and the arts, no matter who you want to put under that umbrella. The Arts in the US suffers greatly because of it, especially at the times when budgets are getting cut. (read now) Professional Sports draws the big bucks. The accompanying verbal mosh pit of bitchy remarks will not likely advance the cause.

  • M2N2K says:

    Here is an article that appeared just before YNS’s letter: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2021-01-18/culture-secretary-biden-administration-cabinet – with a couple of “nominations”, no less. One of the main problems with all these proposals is that even if such a position is created, the person chosen for it will much more likely be someone like Jennifer Lopez (because she represents the dominant “culture”) than anyone from classical music world.