Exclusive: Gelb orders conductor to apologise to orchestra

Exclusive: Gelb orders conductor to apologise to orchestra


norman lebrecht

May 23, 2023

We’re hearing from within the Metropolitan Opera that Peter Gelb summoned conductor Nathalie Stutzmann to his office and ordered her to apologise to the orchestra for suggesting in the New York Times that they looked bored.

Individual players had also complained that she was arrogant and unprepared in rehearsal.

Stutzmann, who is conducting two Mozart operas at the Met, is supposed to be sending a letter saying sorry to each individual player. We’ll let you know when we see a copy.

UPDATE: Here it is.





  • Don Ciccio says:

    Or, as Cantinflas memorably said: ‘Bonjour français Champs Élysées’.

    On a more serious note, how is she doing in Atlanta and / or Philly?

  • Achim Mentzel says:

    One can only hope that this is the end of her at the Met and that she will never return. Even if she hadn’t said what she said in the interview in question, this pretty much shows her inner attitude towards orchestral musicians. And that is a shame in itself. Especially as a conductor, when you are so incredibly dependent on other people, you should not only know how to behave, but also show gratitude.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      The cry-bullies do it again!! This particular herd will finish her off.

      • Anthony Guterwicz says:

        You need to just go away. She showed that she has contempt for musicians. Who are you, Sue? I was Principal Trumpet of the Orch. de la Suisse Romande for over 30 years. My name is Dennis Anthony Ferry. Look me up, you anonymous POS. You anonymous aholes need to go eff yourselves.

        • MWnyc says:

          Dennis, I still have, and remember fondly, your recording on Baroque trumpet with the late Judith Nelson.

        • notasgoodasAnthony says:

          LOL! dear Dennis Anthony Ferry, you special special man. So much more important and better than the rest of us. we are not worthy. bahhahahahhaaa!

        • Rodrigo says:

          And this comment, along with your full name will come in every public google search on your name for the rest of eternity. Congratulations.

        • Judy Geist says:

          So your response to someone, a woman in this case too, who doesn’t agree with you, is to curse at her?

        • Big Bong says:

          Well said!

  • doncarlos says:

    Ridiculous gossipmongering and totally blown out of context by NL. Everyone who has read the NY Times interview can see it refers to the particularities of this staging (besides, it might or might not have been quoted accurately).

  • Tom Moore says:

    let’s see how soon that happens

  • Mark says:

    ordered her?

  • EM says:

    I hope Norman’s sources are mis-informed. She did nothing wrong and the Met Orchestra are pathetic. And why did she take on two operas? No wonder she was unprepared. Greedy agents I suspect.

    • Sonicsinfonia says:

      Very possibly she was offered them by the Met? They wouldn’t do that if they didn’t consider they were going to get appropriate musical value for money. Contracts would probably have been signed a couple of years ago. Not exactly short of preparation time.

    • No comment says:

      She did nothing wrong except use a stupid figure of speech.

      And I doubt she actually was unprepared: It’s hard to be ‘unprepared’ with the two operas that everybody knows since childhood.

  • Henry williams says:

    Not a nice photo

  • John Blee says:

    I heard her conduct the best version of Messiah live and I’ve heard loads. I also have seen orchestral players look bored in opera pits including talking and reading magazines (in Paris!)
    Because they aren’t on view they sometimes do not focus when they aren’t playing.

  • Guesty234 says:

    Oh boy, here comes the deluge of conductor bashing. *eyeroll*

  • Couperin says:

    I’ve seen it. It’s a typical groveling apology letter most likely written by some flunky or PR agent with her signature attached. Same orchestra member who sent it to me also said that last time they showed up for work, within a minute she heard musicians complaining about boredom in the “cave”. That orchestra is a bunch of spoiled cry-babies. Blatant sexism, as I said before.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Cry-bullies is the way to describe them. Can dish it out but can’t take it!! Most children are like this.

  • samach says:

    That’s just humiliation, if they don’t intend to invite her back anyway, she should just send them each a bag of dog shit.

  • John D'amrmes says:

    This is an absurd! They should be apologizing to her and Simone Young for their clearly sexist, old boy attitude! I guess women aren’t allowed opinions.

  • Clem says:

    This is getting pathetic beyond belief. Did anybody ever read that NYT article? She never said or suggested that they looked bored. In this production the orchestra pit is lifted and the orchestra at some moments participates in the production by looking at the stage. In that context, she had the temerity of saying, in general terms, that constantly sitting in the pit is boring. Oh dear oh dear. Maybe this was the last straw in a deteriorating relationship, but in itself this was a total non-issue that was blown up beyond all proportion. What a bunch of snowflakes.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      “Snowflakes” is putting it mildly. It only demonstrates, once again, that a bullying herd which complains about dictatorial conductors is utter hypocrisy. They’re far more formidable as a herd than any single person on a podium!!

  • Pu Er says:

    Stop your nonsense, will you? If she was unprepared she wouldn’t be performing so well and getting such extraordinary reviews on her work with the orchestra. Latest one fresh from the Financial Times: “She made her Met debut earlier this month in a musically excellent Don Giovanni; now, with the energy and colours from the orchestra and the superb phrasing from the singers in Die Zauberflöte, she has cemented a place as a leading Mozartian.”

  • Soprano Clef says:

    A conductor who is unprepared. I’m shocked.

  • John says:

    Maybe she is correct?

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Leadership. However, a letter is a coward’s attempt at apology, but it’s a way to try to mend fences, but probably not her behavior .

  • Christopher Hall says:

    I recently received the Met’s rejoin the Opera Guild and/or renew being a Patron. I was both when I could afford it years ago. This kind of stuff makes it easier not to respond.

  • Ari Bocian says:

    I can’t imagine her being allowed to continue performing (let alone get two simulcasts) if she was truly unprepared. After all, Leonard Slatkin showed up unprepared for La Traviata at the Met back in 2010 (which, by the way, really isn’t so hard to conduct, especially compared to the more contemporary scores that Slatkin excels in), and he was gone after the first performance.

    • Praying the reign of Voldemort Gelb ends soon says:

      We’ll you didn’t have a Soprano actively toying with the conductor purposely screwing him in every way she could, with ridiculous rubato and accelerandi so fast that Verdi himself wouldn’t know what to do… and in a cunning display of vitriolic bravado, she stood in front of a Veteran Seasoned Baritone blocked sight lines to the conductor and made sure he was so lost during the duet he had to stop, feign a cough to get back on with the orchestra and the poor small leather voiced tenor’s debut was that evening where she sang so softly at times and dramatically at others, he clearly spent the evening confused as to what was going to happen next. had Stutzman EncounteredLa Draculetta it would have been an evening I cherished not have trying to forget….

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Very, VERY spot on. She was a talented nightmare, remembered more for her antics than her accomplishments.

  • OM says:

    I wonder about who commented about her being unprepared for rehearsals. Had they really experience that ?
    Or were they actually ‘forced’ to write that? One wonders!
    As a musician who has been working in orchestras with various conductors for these past 28years, and worked with Nathalie Stutzmann for multiple times, I can say that this is truly not possible. From what I experienced, she always shows up fully prepared before she even walks on stage and she always knows exactly what she wants to hear, with full blown energy. Who doesn’t like that?
    If musicians in an orchestra cannot accept some direct comments or get highly sensitive with conductors’ ideas or wishes, then they’re in the wrong job!

  • Operagoer says:

    Have any of you people even heard her performances?
    Don Giovanni was one of the most exciting evenings at the opera (and not just the Met) in 50 years of opera-going.
    Easy: echoing the anonymous snideness. Not easy: producing excellent back to back performances, as she did.

  • Praying the reign of Voldemort Gelb ends soon says:

    She is the single worst conductor they have had on the podium in more than a decade… Sanctimonious, unprepared musically, horrible tempi, bad balance in the orchestra, losing the brass section in not just one opera but both… Singers and orchestras deserve better than this two bit mezzo failure…..reinventing themselves as a conductor with no training and certainly no ability riding the wave of DEI….. To think this season the 3 biggest disgraces in the conducting department Don Giovanni, Rigoletto, and Flute both conducted by women PS Scappucci should never be back on the podium either…. And one of the greatest triumphs of the last two decades was Kerri Lynne Wilson conducting Lady Macbeth of Mtensk….too bad she is married to Voldemort Gelb… she would be there more often….

    This is what what happens when you hire an uninvolved mediocre part time music director who cares more about the shoes and clothes he wears than developing an orchestral sound or actually rehearsing the orchestra or understanding voices… God forbid he might accurately conduct a score well….however his instagram account has tons of shirtless pictures… he makes Viotti seem downright bashful…

    • Scott says:

      Nonsense. She is a magnificent conductor. The opposite of what you say. I haven’t heard the orchestra that energized since Levine left.

      • Praying the reign of Voldemort Gelb ends soon says:

        Then you are delusional… and the orchestra hates her!! Knowing quite a few of them…. Constantly behind the orchestra, miscues, and no communication with the stage…bad musical choices, awful tempi and the singers clearly hate her as well…. Blessedly she has cancelled Flute Saturday so I may go hear it again with someone who can conduct.. Maestro Morrell will be a huge improvement over this quota filling disgrace.

    • Floria Tosca says:

      Calling a contralto a “mezzo” makes it clear that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • Singeril says:

    If Gelb “ordered her” to apologize, she “disobeyed”. From the words printed, it isn’t an apology.

  • Judy Geist says:

    This is still happening… the old, conscious or unconscious overly critical, competitive, and/or dismissive attitudes by some men, and some women… the double standard gets triggered, once again throwing tar at women in leadership positions or for being blunt and reactive, or anything she puts forth honestly. The complaints to Gelb who then ordered this conductor to apologize, and dictating how, is extreme and disturbing. Double ugly double standard. No tolerance for a woman, but if a male conductor gets annoyed, or wants more emotional and reciprocal involvement, well, they roll with it and then appreciate the results, and move on. They don’t go crying to the CEO and demanding an apology. But I wasn’t there. I have worked with Nathalie Stutzmann and observed the double standard. In fact, I was glad one of my colleagues apologized to HER for HIS over-reacting and mood that day. Perhaps her comment that some musicians look bored may have stemmed from what she heard too. In any case, there is no justification, in my opinion, for this double standard kind of response. NS is an exceptional conductor who’s interpretations of music demand a vast range of emotional and expressive playing, not whining and complaining.

  • Dee McGregor says:

    Why on earth did you choose a personal photo with a snake? How horribly insulting.

  • SAM says:

    This is such nonsense. I am astounded that the Orchestra is so upset about a harmless remark. For those of you that jumped on the bandwagon hoping that this is the end of her career at the Met….all I can say is there is something wrong with you. I heard the first performance of Zauberflote, and it was a brilliant performance. I sent a private message to the Met Orchestra page and received these responses. I have no idea who represents and speaks for the orchestra.

    Sun 1:19 AM
    You sent
    Is the orchestra really insulted by that remark?
    Sun 2:36 PM
    MET Orchestra Musicians
    MET Orchestra Musicians
    Yes- but it was preceeded by many accounts of aggressive, rude and just bad behavior. Several complaints to HR from all areas of the house.
    You sent
    I’m surprised. The orchestra played brilliantly for her, and seemed very inpired. Is there animosity for the remaining performances? That’s sad to hear.
    Mon 9:29 AM
    MET Orchestra Musicians
    MET Orchestra Musicians
    We always do our best for the singers, for the music, for our own sense of what’s right. We don’t always have the best conductor, so we really rely on ourselves and listening to the stage more than looking at the conductor…
    Mon 10:53 AM
    You sent
    Thank God the orchestra had Levine for the last 50 years.. Conductors do have an influence,on a performance. Don’t you think?
    Mon 11:19 PM
    MET Orchestra Musicians
    MET Orchestra Musicians
    They do!! And his positive influences still affect us to this day

  • David McQueen says:

    A tempest in an orchestra pit

    pretentious nonsense by all involved