Exclusive: Nathalie Stutzmann says, I’m  deeply sorry

Exclusive: Nathalie Stutzmann says, I’m deeply sorry


norman lebrecht

May 23, 2023

As we reported earlier, Peter Gelb has forced his current Mozart conductor to apologise to the Met orchestra for suggesting that they looked bored. Here, exclusively, is the text of her grovelling letter:

Dear Musicians of the Orchestra of The Metropolitan Opera, It saddens me deeply that my comments, as reported in the New York Times on 18 May have caused such disappointment amongst the orchestra. My intention was only to celebrate the fact that Simon McBurney’s wonderful production of The Magic Flute celebrates the orchestra visually, including it in the production, and I wanted to focus on that.

The audience can see you like never before, and you can see all the action on stage. It gives me much joy to be part of this positive experience. It was certainly not my intention to diminish or undervalue in any way the stature and standing of your outstanding orchestra. I understand the great pride you take in always being attuned to the singers on the stage, regardless of the physicality of the pit.

Maybe I should not have overlaid my experiences in the opera pit, when I was a bassoonist all those years ago! I am convinced that opera is the ultimate art-form which unites so many different genres, but for me the most important of all is the musical soundtrack – maybe we could more often work with directors that bring more visibility for orchestral players in particular.

Together, if I may say, we are achieving wonderful musical results, and I look forward to our further performances of both Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute in the coming days. It is a privilege to work at The Met, and to work with one of the greatest orchestras in the world. Yours sincerely, and with affection, 

New York, 22 May 2023

Nathalie Stutzmann


  • A.L. says:

    What one says at gunpoint.

    • samach says:

      When is the orchestra going to apologize, for behaving like a bunch of self-important hysterical ninnies?

      Didn’t Gelb prove during the pandemic that everyone of them was dispensable and replaceable?

      Stutzmann should seek her revenge by not cueing them, let’s see how many of them come in on time, so attuned are they to the music as they claimed.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Yes; anybody in doubt about the behaviour of orchestras (as herds) needs to do some reading about Robert Schumann.

      • EastsideArts says:

        Certainly the Met Orchestra could play entire sections of both operas without a conductor. You are out of line.

      • Kevin Purcell says:

        Every time on every day!

      • tom says:

        they would all come in on time. They’re not paying attention to her anyway, they’re pros and they are counting and working with the other musicians

      • Savannah says:

        Seeing as how multiple orchestras who have worked with her have all had similar reactions to her, I’d say she’s the problem

    • Eloise says:

      A French person apologising for insulting and being inconsiderate and rude to other people! That is a first!

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    That should put an end to the fuss, but perhaps it won’t. These are the same musicians whom, just over a year ago (perhaps), were complaining about not working and not getting paid – no to mention quitting in droves (allegedly).

    • Alviano says:

      They were complaining about not getting paid! The nerve!

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Complaining??? I think completely missing a year’s salary when your fellow musicians at the NY Phil were getting at least a significant portion of their pay must have have stung, not to mention caused extreme hardship. Mortgages, children’s educations, etc., can’t wait. The administration, on the other hand, did not suffer in the same way.

      • Rodrigo says:

        MET players accepted jobs with an opera orch & all that goes along with it. NYPhil isn’t joined at the hip with the stagehands union, for example. Borda only had to take care of her own musicians during the pandemic. Gelb would have had to cover salaries for all the union members which the MET orch has chosen to ally themselves. It was impossible. NYPhil didn’t have that issue.

        It works out great for the MET musicians to have a joint agreement with other powerful unions when it comes to salary negotiations. It’ s a big reason the MET orch salaries are higher than almost every other US orch. But it backfired in the pandemic because those other union members would have had to be paid along with the musicians.

        The MET orch is an opera orch. That’s the job those players accepted. They agreed to ally themselves with other unions. They get higher salaries because of it. It backfired in the pandemic.

        If they don’t want to work for an opera orch they have that choice.

    • Max Raimi says:

      The Met performed abysmally in comparison with peer organizations as far as taking care of their musicians during the pandemic. I am grateful to report that my own orchestra put the Met’s management to shame, and we were far from the only ones. And it caused real suffering on the part of the musicians. I can’t imagine how you find it inappropriate that these superb musicians called out their administration. I assume you like music, from your frequent appearance in these threads. How is it, then, that you hate musicians?

      • bare truth says:

        Your orchestra claims the credit? That credit should go to your donors in the first place, to your management in the second place.

        During the pandemic, you were home doing almost nothing, and receiving a big paycheck completely disproportionate to your efforts. Consider yourself very very lucky, and thank the rich donors who sustained you. You can earn a living only thanks to them, not because society is willing to pay for you. they are not.

        When i talk about entitled classical musicians, you are one of the examples

        • Shropshire says:

          You sir, are exactly the reason why we cannot have nice things.

        • Tamino says:

          “Consider yourself very very lucky, and thank the rich donors who sustained you. You can earn a living only thanks to them, not because society is willing to pay for you. they are not.”

          You got that totally wrong.
          The lucky ones are the donors, who can turn meaningless money into meaningful money by dedicating it to some of the best artists humanity has.

          You forget that society is totally meaningless and a dystopian nightmare, if money itself were the higher cause, not betterment of humanity through art and science.

        • Angry says:

          What are you talking about?!!! The Met Orchestra were NOT PAID A DIME FOR 18 MONTHS!! Why don’t you do even the slightest bit of research before you spout off your ignorance???!!

  • TishaDoll says:

    Not much of an apology. The lamest part about her bassoon years. If the MET wants the kind of HIP neo baroque Mozart sound with its madcap tempi that Minkowski has ‘perfected’ with and that Nathalie attempted but couldn’t hold together in the first act finale of Don Giovanni, then maybe they should hire Minkowski albeit he is a man. Minkowski’s conducting of a very brisk full of verve Mitridate was wonderful

    • Sonicsinfonia says:

      “Madcap tempi”? Do you mean the tempi that as far as can be determined by serious research and contemporary account to be that used in performances of the time?

      • Paul Lewis says:

        Who cares about performances of the time? Certainly not most producers now whose presentations couldn’t be more removed from “the time” Hypocrisy is alive and well

    • Rodrigo says:

      Minkowski is much more controversial than Stutzmann. A lot of orch players can’t stand him.

  • Joel Kemelhor says:

    Judging by broadcasts and livestreams, the Met orchestra sounded superb in the recent Mozart performances she has been leading.

  • doncarlos says:

    And? Even if correct, what is so interesting about this? Typical pathetic clickbaiting by NL

  • Leo Doherty says:

    What happened to free speech. The musicians of the MET need not be too sensitive about views that might promote their very existence.

  • touchdown says:

    She did not apologize, at all. Am I missing something? She’s saying it saddens me that you are so thin skin and did not get my comments.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      She did not apologize. That it saddens her is about the effect it had on HER, not the musicians.

      Surely PG, his editorial team, HR, and legal team edited the daylights out of this letter. They neglected–or purposely omitted–the essence of a true apology, which is asking for forgiveness.

  • Tim says:

    That’s not grovelling. It’s not really an apology, either, but more of an explanation. Hopefully the orchestra will accept it, as this all seems like much ado about nothing, but that’s up to them.

  • Ari Bocian says:

    To me, at least, this is an incredibly gracious and eloquent apology from a great conductor who may have spoken clumsily on this occasion (haven’t we all?), but whose broader point I understood and agreed with. On the other hand, I also recognize how the orchestra perceived her original remarks, and why they took offense to it. I think this was just an unfortunate miscommunication/misunderstanding that could have easily been avoided if her remarks had been phrased a little differently (or perhaps been proofread before publication). My sincere hope is that all can be forgiven, and that she will be invited back to the Met in a future season. I thought her Don Giovanni was outstanding, and I also saw her conduct a fantastic Tchaikovsky 6 in San Francisco last year. Don’t worry, Maestra; this too shall pass!

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      @Ari: Maestra? Is she an Italian primary school teacher?

      • Rodrigo says:

        Lots of folks don’t know that a female conductor is also called “Maestro”. Try not to be condescending. US flutists have to tolerate the idiots who call them “flauowtists” (rhyming with “now”). It’s been going on forever & they remain gracious. Try to do the same for the Maestra crowd, please.

    • Paul Sekhri says:

      Agree! And it’s hardly a “grovelling” letter.

  • Brenda says:

    I think they have bigger problems in NYC to worry about than this “pit” issue…Maybe they should invest in a floating venue? 🙂

  • Oliver says:

    Good luck getting reinvited.

  • Philip NYC says:

    Would the orchestra have done this to a male conductor?

  • soavemusica says:

    I do understand her, because there is nothing more boring, mundane, and inappropriate than a woman conducting.

    She also appears to be under the impression that her singing is/was beautiful.

  • Montblanc says:

    Welcome to America, Ms Stutzmann, where everyone is entitled to be offended at all times and dirty laundry gets washed preferably on social media to generate the most attention.

    • Couperin says:

      She was absolutely right anyway. That orchestra is miserable overall. When YNS had his very first rehearsal after getting the job, he introduced himself to the musicians as “the orchestra’s new daddy.”

  • bare truth says:

    Nothing more comical than a bunch of entitled classical musicians who feel like they are solving for world hunger and get easily offended.

    A sabbatical year of doing real work would give them the right perspective.

    Enjoy the fat pay check until it lasts! (not for long)

  • Thornhill says:

    The musicians may have won the battle, but they’ve lost the war.

    As I said before, her quote was taken completely out of context. She could have chosen her words better, but it didn’t merit the lengthy rebuke from the orchestra. She wasn’t being malicious. Her point was simply that it’s more fun to be a pit musician when you get to watch the action.

    Not only is this bickering not a good look for a musicians and the Met, but when Stutzmann doesn’t return to the Met, the press will blame the musicians for blackballing one of the Met’s few female conductors.

    This all just feeds that narrative that the Met is dysfunctional.

  • Soprano Clef says:

    Too late, she cried ….

  • Tzctslip says:

    It seems to me that she was referring to how they look in a production that makes the orchestra more visible (I haven’t seen the Don Giovanni that may be causing all this commotion), not about what she thinks of them as musicians or as their commitment when playing.
    Having said this it is puzzling such comment wouldn’t have jumped at her on a first reading.
    Whatever. Can’t we just be all friends?

  • David G says:

    Interesting. One of the Met’s horn players has often spewed his MAGA-propaganda on Facebook, a public forum where he touts his musical credentials. I threatened to report him to the Met’s HR Dept. I think his behavior is far worse than this little tempest, but not a word from Gelb.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Why? Because he doesn’t bleat in time with the rest of you?

    • soavemusica says:

      “One of the Met’s horn players has often spewed his MAGA-propaganda on Facebook, a public forum where he touts his musical credentials. I threatened to report him to the Met’s HR Dept.”

      Please, do also report the (very) few conservative donors still in the audience.

  • Sammy says:

    That is not an apology. She needs to just go away.

  • Hans-Dieter Glaubke says:

    “… one of the greatest orchestras in the world.” Lady, get a solid grip on reality!

  • Monty Earleman says:

    This whole affaire is as real as that photo of her-

  • Anne says:

    This letter would never have been demanded of a male conductor. Shame on the orchestra, and shame on the Met.

    • Save the MET says:

      Shame on Peter Gelb. The only reason most of the staff remains there is they love the MET. He’s been a cancer since he arrived and the ticket sales clearly demonstrate this fact.

  • Gabriel Parra Blessing says:

    What a bunch of whiny, spoiled brats! Her comments could not have been more anodyne. Regardless of what one thinks about Stutzmann as a conductor, and besides the idiotic misogyny bandied about by some commenters on this site, she did not deserve to be treated like this by MET management nor the entitled members of the orchestra, which had no need to air their petty grievances for all to see. I hope for HER sake that she never has to conduct these pathetic miscreants again. If anyone comes out of this looking like an absolute tosser, it is them.

  • Phillip Gainsley says:

    All I know is that her “Don Giovanni” opening night was as good as I’ve ever heard — a tribute to her and to the Met musicians.

  • Obviously Anonymous says:

    This whole thing reeks of something not told to us. Let me say this. I have played heaps of opera and yes it gets repetitive and dare i say boring. Read the quote. She was not saying the playing was boring! One can be actually bored and excellent at the same time. I just did an opera somewhere I shall not name. In Performance: musicians taking out their phones in the pit to check facebook during extended breaks and recits. And there was such an array of food it was a practically a buffet. (I was not amused.. this is not my style.. and I find it incredibly disrespectful.) But at the end of the day, Nathalie has a point. And she is not wrong.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      What you describe is the 21st century equivalent of the 19th century pit orchestra musicians’ behavior that Berlioz described in his Evenings with the Orchestra. Plus ca change…

  • william osborne says:

    Many musicians in the opera pit are indeed often bored. It’s only natural. Lots of repetitive repertoire, five hour long operas, endless counting of measures for some instruments, violinists playing in unison with 20 to 30 people, accompanying singers who are the entire center of attention, hidden away where the audience can’t even see them, productions that after years and years that have grown stale. Typical phoniness of classical music which can’t admit the truth. Bury the truth, gotta keep up the marketing hype. Maybe if we honestly looked at the boredom, we’d do something about it actually start looking for forms of music-making that are genuinely innovative.

  • Pu Er says:

    Good to see in this letter that she doesn’t apologize. She shows them how stupid all this story is!

  • Orchestra player, admirer of the Met musicians. says:

    Hardest job in the world. Staying healthy and playing well is the ultimate challenge. More important then acting. That’s for the cast, possibly?

  • me says:

    Most players in full time American orchestras look bored, and barely move.

  • Piston1 says:

    Who cares — just read the Times reviews. In their hands, the Philharmonic gets bashed on a weekly basis, while the Philly Orchestra and the Met can do no wrong.

  • Arameo says:

    She is definitely strong, this is not an apology at all, only an explanation and she obviously doesn’t care about being invited again or not.
    She is convinced what she said in the NYT is right. Respect!

    • Save the MET says:

      She’s music Director of the Atlanta Symphony. She’s got skills. Perhaps the orchestra was bored and not playing well.

  • Serge says:

    A small glimpse of life in North Korea. She said something a few didn’t like. Most probably didn’t care. The fuzz was big. Get on with it, sissies.

  • MMcGrath says:

    Was this helpful for all the snowflakes? Now everyone looks bad. Maybe personal exchanges before rehearsal would have done it?

  • Ben says:

    Too late to apologize!

  • Clem says:

    The most enlightening comment in this sorry affair came from the orchestra, in the last sentence of their initial complaint. It’s like calling yourself the boss: if you have to call yourself “one of the world’s greatest orchestras”, you aren’t.

  • Sarah says:

    It was clear from her comments in the NYT that all she was doing was promoting the Die Zauberflöte staging, not maligning the orchestra.

    If that’s all she is being made to apologize for, then the Met orchestra has painted themselves in a bad light.

  • Singeril says:

    Where does she say she is “deeply sorry”? Where does she even use the word “sorry”?

  • Save the MET says:

    It is my opinion that Gelb should be forced to apologize to the entire Metropolitan staff, including performance artists for creating a hostile atmosphere, alienating people, raiding the pension fund and not returning the money he took and running off subscribers. I’m not sure the House will ever recover after the disastrous tenure of Peter Gelb, a hapless buffoon.

    • Brenda says:

      Gelb needs to apologize to Stutzman for even asking her to pen an “apology”…she is not his henchman. Fix your own relationship with the musicians, Gelb; not through an awesome guest conductor. You (Gelb) can’t be so blind to understand her meaning in those quotes. Did he ever ask Maestro Levine apologize so broadly and publicly. It’s blasphemous, really!

  • Mick the Knife says:

    The “I’m sorry you feel that way…” is a non-apology. It further blames them for the problem. The rest is self-aggrandizement.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      It’s like the Marlene Dietrich story…”Let’s not talk any more about me, let’s talk about you. So… how do you like my dress?”

  • Jobim 75 says:

    Good for her she’s not a male, she would have to apologize twice, for what she said and for what she is, this usa “i am sorry ” culture is so childish and ridiculous….

  • Anne says:

    As I said in a previous thread, this is not the pre-pandemic Met Orchestra. *That* orchestra deserved the “one of the world’s finest orchestras” accolade.

    But due to Gelb’s mismanagement, many of the players of that orchestra are gone, and there has been a notable depreciation of the sound and talent.

    It is a very bad look that the newbies in the orchestra are coasting on a reputation they have not earned. This, and this deplorable toddler tantrum has sullied their reputation even further.

    • Singeril says:

      By that logic, EVERY orchestra is less than it was before the pandemic. Yes, the Met orchestra is still “one of the world’s finest orchestras”.

  • Celloman. says:

    NS is fairly new to the big leagues. She probably needs some guidance and coaching from Gelb and others. Plus English is not her native language.

    • Rodrigo says:

      This. And the MET players know that perfectly well. Picking on a guest conductor publicly for a reason like this is petty.

    • SAM says:

      She’s a far greater opera conductor than Yannick! BTW, I also met her after the performance on the 19th. She was very nice and charming.

  • What’s good for the goose… says:

    This is so ridiculous. Anyone in opera who knows the things that conductors/directors/administrators etc say to singers can be downright nasty and difficult to take at times to heartbreakingly painful. However, singers are taught to let it wash off and dare not to complain. Why is the orchestra exempt from any ‘feedback’ or commentary while singers get completely beat up? When is there going to be an actual healthy boundary with singers and all musicians for feedback/constructive criticism in our industry? This was a nothing comment from a conductor.

  • Snark Shark says:

    Sorry she got pushback, not sorry for what she said.

  • Cave dweller says:

    Is that pic from 40 years ago? Good grief.

  • Rodrigo says:

    Did Gelb ever make Levine apologize? Or Domingo? Or any other men guilty of far worse at the MET?

    Shame on you, MET orchestra. Your response was childish & unprofessional. She’s a guest conductor. If you don’t like her & don’t want her back, there are classier ways to do it.

    Just shut up & do your jobs. You’re making exponentially more money than nearly every orch musician in the US. Many of us are as good or much better than you & we’d be happy to replace you.

    You guys make north of 6 figures & you still have time to pick ridiculous fights with a guest conductor & troll these comments like rabid incels. You’re a disgrace to our profession.

  • G.T. says:

    She did not criticize the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. People don’t read and these musicians are so quick to take offense over nothing. Here’s the excerpt from the article:

    During the spoken sections at rehearsal, players in the orchestra turned toward the stage like flowers to the sun. They could watch the action for a change.

    “There’s nothing more boring than being an orchestra musician and being in the back of a cave with no idea of what’s happening on the stage,” Stutzmann said. “Can you imagine spending three or four hours, five for Wagner, at the bottom of a pit and have no idea what’s happening above you?” Not only can the musicians see this “Zauberflöte”; some also become part of the action.

    Where does she criticize the orchestra? And the word “cave” in French means cellar. Sorry. I just think this is much ado about nothing. Give it a break

  • trumpetherald says:

    Hmmmh……I personally found it quite boring to play the same 30 or 40 works for years,often under mediocre routine kapellmeisters organizing things without little musicality and inspiration.That´s why i left after 14 years to play with symphony orchestras.Just BTW, how many MET principals left for symphony orchestras during the last 20 years( Izotov,Ferrilo, Höskuldsson,Williamson, Anthony McGill,Morales…etc)????

  • Madeleine Richardson says:

    I wouldn’t have apologized. Take away all the European operas and classical music composed by Europeans and the Met would be putting on musicals like Hello Dolly to fill the house. The Met is getting up itself.

  • SAM says:

    She should not have had to apologize.

  • Can’t handle the truth says:

    The publisher of this has single handedly blown this
    “controversy” out of proportion and it is shocking and disgusting. What do you even stand for?
    Your pattern for repeatedly putting down women artists based on sex and race Berlin
    Phil Concertmaster, Chicago Symphony Viola) should give you pause. Your gossip column that professional musicians across the planet all groan when it’s brought up should be embarrassing to you. Shame, shame, shame.

  • Radbod says:

    The bottom line is that
    Stutzmann is not a very good conductor. Her Don Giovanni had little verve or energy, but plodded along. I suspect the orchestra didn’t find her very convincing as a musician even before she made the comment in the NYT.

    • Floria Tosca says:

      Did we even watch the same production? Or perhaps you had on blinders and plugs in your ears?

  • Some guy says:

    MET was going for a social media boost and they got it.

    The expense: more proof for those over the pond that Americans are pathetically easy to take offense and that our emotional capacity is blinkered by the hysteria of American grievance culture, where those with true grievances are undermined by the most trivial grievances of the extraordinarily privileged.

    Or even worse, we are so cynical we’ll play that role for some social media engagement.