Met orchestra slaps down conductor for calling them bored

Met orchestra slaps down conductor for calling them bored


norman lebrecht

May 21, 2023

The French conductor Nathalie Stutzmann was a trifle disparaging of opera musicians in a Times interv interview: ‘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.’

Within hours, the players hit back on social media:

In the recent otherwise excellent article in the New York Times about the Met’s innovative new production of Die Zauberflöte, we were disheartened to read our guest conductor’s supposition that the Met Orchestra might be bored playing in the pit.
“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. 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?”
Our time spent in the orchestra pit is anything but a mundane experience, and we do not consider it a cave. Though we may not see the grand visual spectacle unfolding above us, we know exactly what is happening onstage. We want to emphasize the passion we feel for our craft and the enormous amount of preparation we undertake in order to have a deep knowledge of that which we cannot see. We study the score and the synopsis and are keenly aware of our role at any given moment—sometimes supporting, sometimes soloistic. We intuitively understand the difficult acoustics of our enormous opera house, and we have cultivated a state of artistic flexibility that allows us to smoothly adjust to the sometimes nail-biting moments of live theater. We are highly attuned to the ever-changing needs and choices of singers, and we enjoy collaborating with them to meld the artistry on stage with that in the pit. In this way, we offer our audience a fresh artistic perspective night after night. In short, we are not bored but, rather, exhilarated. And we take immense pride in our ability to both support the world’s greatest opera stars and be one of the world’s greatest orchestras.




  • Esther Cavett says:

    What was she thinking saying this ? A foolish comment which will do her no good

    • drummerman says:


    • Janet H says:

      I think that this issue is, yet again, another case of French people showing how insensitive and lacking in ’emotional intelligence’ they are. Any person who has lived in France or has worked with French people or any person who follows French politics, particularly their current President Emmanuel Macron, will quickly realise how often these insulting, degrading types of remarks and comments come out of their mouths. It is a constant and daily occurrence in their culture.
      In my entire professional life, I have never encountered a culture and society so lacking in emotional intelligence and the ability to gauge the impact of their words, even saying things that hurt themselves directly and cause them professional and personal problems afterwards.
      If Nathalie Stutzmann would have emotional intelligence, even at the most basic level, she would never make a statement like that, especially just before the premiere of a new production that she is leading! I have experienced these stupid and insensitive types of French comments and remarks on dozens of occasions. I have also noticed that when you confront the French person about their thoughtless, rude and insensitive remarks, they NEVER will apologise or show any form of regret and will often insult you or others yet again!
      It is not by accident that they have such a bad reputation for being impolite, arrogant and rude. It is so much a part of their character, but seen as loathsome by most of the rest of the world.

      • guest says:

        I lived in France for 15 years and I absolutely disagree. No one was ever rude to me – and I should add that I worked mainly as a waiter, in constant contact with people. The French are just fine.

        • Horace Billings says:

          What hallucinogenic mushroom did you take during all of those years??!!
          How anyone could live in France for 15 years and say that nobody was ever rude, is the least believable piece of propaganda that I have ever read.
          Even Helen Keller wouldn’t have said that!

          • guest says:

            Myths and legends about how awful the French are. They have their own peculiar way of being, somewhat nonchalant. Some people are apparently bothered by the fact that they behave differently than the people in his/her country. But as people they are really okay, the better you know them, the more you like them. With most other people the opposite is true.

          • Jory Vinikour says:

            And of course, I’ve never met anybody who was treated rudely in New York, London, or other major cities (except, perhaps, Tokyo)…

        • Paul Carlile says:

          1) The French need to eat.
          2) The waiters are even ruder than the customers!

          • Gianni Morelenbaum Gualberto says:

            It depends on the customers. If you just speak English in life and do not make any effort to understand other people’s traditions, what do you expect? I’ve seen much worse in New York, but who cares… Do you value the world according to service in restaurants?

        • Stephan says:

          Of course!………French people do not enjoy ‘spit’ in their cuisine.

        • Gianni Morelenbaum Gualberto says:

          Yep, I do agree. There is much racism going on in the comments, and I feel that in MET Orchestra’s response there’s some more than it seems. It’s not a matter of nationalities, it’s probably a matter of relationship between Mrs. Stutzmann and the orchestra. France, French nationalism, French chauvinism, French wines and cheese have nothing to do with it.

      • msc says:

        You mean a North American or English standard of emotional intelligence. Clearly the French view it differently (as, for example, do the Dutch).

        • Madeleine Richardson says:

          I speak fluent French and Dutch and I can honestly say the Dutch take the accolade for plain speaking. But nobody seems to mind.

        • Martin says:

          I think that the comment was just a more generalised notion of emotional intelligence.
          You mention the Dutch, who can also be very direct to the point of offensive, but at least in my experience, they have a sense of warmth and true interest in the other person. I never find that warmth or empathy in French people and I can see why people find so many of them obnoxious and extremely irritating.
          It reminds of one time, long ago when I was in Paris at a upper level restaurant with a relative of mine who happened to be quite overweight. When she ordered profiteroles for desert, the waiter coldly said to her, “you are already too fat, you don’t need to get even bigger!” I saw how embarrassed my aunt was and I said to the waiter, “that was not very kind and I think that you hurt her feelings.” His answer, “then she should lose weight.” and he walked away!
          I know of no other place in the world where a stranger would say that to another person, especially from a man to a woman. They can be real savages.

          • Madeleine Richardson says:

            I have never had that problem in France not even in Paris. Quite the reverse. Frenchmen generally like women.

          • Tiredofitall says:

            Perhaps, but are you overweight?

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          As, indeed, does the rest of the world!! The American version of emotional intelligence is hand-wringing, pearl-clutching, and virtue-signalling. With the added bonus of all those extra syllables. Fragile – in a vicious kind of a way.

      • GG says:

        By writing this kind of remark against the French people, as whole “culture”, you just demonstrated you are even lower in terms of insensivity and lack of emotional intelligence than the people you criticize. Every country has its share of jerks, and its share of great people… “thanks” for counterbalancing it on your side.

      • Nardo says:

        Painting with a rather broad brush, are we? I know and have worked with plenty of French people and I have found them to be exceptionally warm people. Occasionally opinionated? Sure, but it’s not a purely French phenomenon.

      • Drumdiva says:

        Wow – bigoted much?

      • Bookman says:

        Isn’t Stutzmann a singer? She probably has no idea what it’s like to be an orchestral musician,

        • Gianni Morelenbaum Gualberto says:

          She’s a bassoonist. And she’s not a bad conductor at all. Ask to Atlanta or Philadelphia.

      • Opera lover says:

        How basically xenophobic and “emotionally insensitive” this comment is… wondering if you are French yourself, by the way you describe them lol???? You should ask for your passport!!!

      • Judy says:

        Uh, you’re tarring with a pretty wide brush there. I’ve travelled quite extensively in France, and count some of those I’ve met as my dearest friends to this day.
        Btw, using a phrase like “impolite, arrogant and rude” WILL get you attitude. The French value language, and are careful in its use.

      • Gianni Morelenbaum Gualberto says:

        I’m scared when we come into the matter of nationalities or ethnicities or whatsoever. French “tradition” certainly may be unpleasant in commenting about other nations: it’s part of a national pride that borders with nationalism and chauvinism, that’s something we all know. I’d stop there, all other considerations about French sound strongly racist. Mrs. Stutzmann expressed her own professional and personal opinion, not a French opinion. And she’s entitled to express it, as long as she takes responsability. She did not say that French orchestras wew any better in the pit, she made some very general considerations that in Europe would not be considered outrageous at all. I can understand the orchestra reply, I simply think it is a matter of communication gap, of a cultural divide. As far as I am concerned, both the parties showed the lack of a grain of salt. Taking everything seriously sometimes gives bith to farcical dramas. Mrs. Stutzmann does not know American society quite well, it seems, and the MET Orchestra should buy some Wodehouse: there are far more serious issues in life and in culture.

  • Player says:

    Not coming back soon, then?

    • Ben says:

      Nathalie Stutzmann doesn’t do herself any favours, but I don’t think she will want to go back after the way that orchestra has treated her. Releasing a statement of that nature just hours before the premiere of Zauberflote is very unpleasant. And it was obviously all a mis-understanding. The Met Orchestra need to get over themselves. I have seen plenty occasions where members of the orchestra walk out of the pit during performances.

      • AufderBuhne says:

        Saying what she said in the NY Times was very unpleasant, actually, which came after two rehearsal periods in which she was extremely and obviously unprepared and was arrogant and condescending. On top of that her conducting technique is horrible, causing many ensemble problems that only get better through the sheer will of the musicians and singers to forge on ignoring her arm waving. She has also made abundantly clear since this all happened that she meant exactly what she said in the NY Times, so the idea that it was a misunderstanding is incorrect. There is a point where such poor treatment needs to be called out, and we had reached that point. Bravo to the volunteer Met Orchestra members for their clear and thoughtful statement.

        • The View from America says:

          Along those lines, Stutzmann hasn’t been very impressive in Atlanta so far. I think it’s becoming more obvious to more people that she’s overrated as a conducting talent.

        • Tuula says:

          Oh, please. Nathalie Stutzmann will do fine without the Met.

        • Madeleine Richardson says:

          Of course it’s OK for New York critics to trash a fine singer like Sonya Yoncheva. Europeans don’t need to kowtow to the MET. We have great opera houses of our own and the MET is not doing so well by all accounts. Have they managed to fill the theatre on a regular basis yet?

        • ika says:

          you guys never sounded better this season so whatever she is doing seems to be working

      • AufderBuhne says:

        *volunteer Met Orchestra Committee members.

      • JB says:

        When players have extended rests, they are perfectly entitled to leave the pit, use the restroom, etc., It is alas not a cave and they are not slaves in it.

        • Tiredofitall says:

          Met Orchestra members a definitely not slaves and are highly respected in the house and by the Met audience. They repay that respect with superb playing.

          • Anon says:

            Sure, their playing is great. But the idea that they have all studied either the score or any more than a cursory synopsis, or know what is happening at any moment dramatically, is for the fairies, as anyone who knows opera orchestral players will know. Most won’t even know the key characters names or an overview of the plot for most operas, far less any detail as purported.

      • Nardo says:

        I have to say that your post is remarkably clueless. One has to ask what you’re referring to when you say the orchestra has treated her badly. Perhaps you can elaborate. As a player in the orchestra, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Your ignorance shows when you mention players leaving the pit during performances. They (the brass players in particular) often have long stretches in which they don’t play, and they leave the pit for the duration of that period of time and come back in when they are about to continue playing. Also, some players leave the pit when they have to play in the backstage band. They come back in when they’re done (principal viola in Tosca, wind players in any number of operas). It’s a normal part of the job. I fear it’s you who needs to get over yourself.

      • Maestro guru says:

        When you are a guest. You don’t treat your hosts disrespectfully do you. This is what she has done a few times already with this orchestra vedette the times article.
        People leave the pit to do various other things like play offstage, on stage or else where in the house. People have to leave the pit.
        It is crucial as a musician you know the opera and what is going on upstage… Especially Wagner as he writes leitmotifs in his music.
        Please make sisters you understand how things operate before making comments about this great orchestra. Thank you:)

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Yes, they sometimes behave like a herd of bullies and they project that onto some conductors they dislike, whining about their bullying!!!

      • Opera lover says:

        You are speaking of one of the best opera orchestra in the world!
        And I don’t know which opera houses you have been to but it’s common practice for orchestra musicians that have extended rest periods to leave the pit inbetween their interventions, it’s one of the perks of not being on stage. If it disturbs you, stick to symphonic concerts or concert versions of operas…

  • Maria says:

    If they never get bored at the back of the cave, then they’re all superhuman. I bet not many of the orchestra saw the actual production of Don Giovanni with Natalie conducting, rather than know the story! Boasting of studying the libretto and knowing what is going on, supporting singers, blah, blah, hardly cuts the mustard. Brass always walking in and out of many opera orchestras during a performance!

    • Fabio Luisi says:

      Dear Maria, apparently you don’t know much about orchestras. Not your fault, but then avoid judgment. Opera orchestra’s musicians know operas better than many singers or conductors. I had one of them, during a rehearsal for a Verdi Opera, after I corrected something for the third time, begging me with “Basta, Roberti!” (curious if you know this quote)

      • John says:

        Thank you Maestro!
        Often times, musicians will leave in order to warm up for a solo or quartet passage coming up, and, rather than sit cold for 10 minutes, they leave to do this.

      • John Kelly says:

        Boy do I miss you so much at the Met Maestro……..and your Nielsen Cycle is outstanding. Thank you!.

    • Fabio Luisi says:

      Dear Maria, apparently you don’t know much about orchestras. Not your fault, but then avoid judgment. Opera orchestra’s musicians know operas better than many singers or conductors. I had one of them, during a reharsal for a Verdi Opera, after I corrected something for the third time, begging me with “Basta, Roberti!” (curious if you know this quote)

  • LadyoftheNight says:

    There’s nothing more boring than watching the back of a mediocre conductor’s head, knowing they have absolutely no influence on the actual sound coming to your ears. Maybe the reason why everyone in front of you seems bored Nathalie is because nobody is paying any attention to you.

  • samach says:

    Stutzmann’s comments don’t reflect her views as a conductor, they reflect her views as a singer!

    That’s her as diva on stage singing and thinking, all those faceless Nibelungens toiling away under my feet while I do the real artistic work.

    I always thought her debut at the Met pit was premature (with TWO new productions back-to-back no less), she hadn’t proven herself. And now she won’t be invited back.

  • Fabio Luisi says:

    Excellent reaction from the Met Opera Orchestra; well written and calmly explained. Bravo. Maybe just some singers don’t know what is happening in the music the orchestra is playing?

    • Kevin Purcell says:

      Without a doubt. It’s like saying that a stagehand or LX person at the MET has nodded off on the job because no-one is paying direct attention to what they contribute to each and every performance – but if anyone in the backstage crew misses a cue – whoa – everyone in the house knows. It takes a village to make each and every performance work seamlessly. At any rate, the MET orchestra is second to none.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Longtime Met stagehands not only know their cues, they know the operas, albeit with a different perspective than those in the orchestra, and many have strong opinions about what they hear on stage. They are professional and committed.

    • Walter Prossnitz says:

      A sassy, witty but also (often enough?) accurate response, Maestro.

    • Nardo says:

      By the way, Maestro, it was always such a pleasure to work with you and we all miss you terribly at the Met.

    • NotToneDeaf says:

      It’s extremely distasteful to see a conductor disrespect one of his colleagues in a public forum.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    Well, open mouth and insert foot! However, to cut her some slack, she was speaking hypothetically – she doesn’t directly refer to the Met musicians as bored cave dwellers.

  • Nosema says:

    Brass and Timp/Perc have been walking out of opera pits for centuries.
    And So What.
    If you are that distracted by it you can’t be terribly involved with what’s going on on stage…

  • MMcGrath says:

    Without reading the full interview, it’s hard to tell what she said or meant. From the excerpt, she was describing a certain kind of opera pit musician. Did it necessarily refer to the opera of the Metropolitan Opera? Or was it a generic worst-case description of someone so disengaged as to endanger the quality of the orchestra’s music-making?

    There must have been more to her comments that is mentioned in this blurb. Or else the orchestra wouldn’t have gone balistic.

    Still, a bit stupid for her to speak about pit musicians this way in the local rag while in town conducting an opera orchestra. But perhaps not untypical of the arrogant, pseudo-intellectual rot we get from lots of people these days. Especially from some spots on the map.

  • Ben G. says:

    Having played in the pit for many years, I can agree to a certain extent with the pros and cons of this argument.

    Even if the musicians study the libretto and know what’s going on above their heads, they can be compared to the captains of an airliner who travel to any city in the world, but rarely get a chance to visit them.

    It’s a bit frustrating in the end, but we all have our jobs to do.

    • Nardo says:

      The vast majority of us in this pit DO get to see quite a lot during the performances. You can see us craning our necks while not playing (we ARE interested in what’s going on on stage) and if you care to observe at the end of each performance, you’ll notice us applauding enthusiastically and yelling bravo to the singers.

  • Tuula says:

    Nathalie Stutzmann is bigger than the Met.

  • Sammy says:

    The maestro has been rude and snappy to the orchestra from day one. Singling out musicians and speaking to them in a rude manner. Something that made Gelb get involved.
    This particular incident with The NY Times quote was so bad even Yannick had to get involved.
    Nothing new with the maestro. Apparently she is acting similarly with other orchestras and if she continues this way will find herself conducting a mirror at home. It’s too bad.

    • Ryan says:

      There were four conversations behind the scenes before this episode. Unprecedented.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      It was written to be funny, but it is nonetheless entertaining and rewarding to read and re-read Berlioz’s Evenings in the Orchestra about what (he claims) goes on in the pit during opera performances. And perhaps significantly it had quite a bit to do with the quality of the opera being performed (so clearly “Flute” passes that test) and the quality of the conductor waving the stick (ahem!). If this conductor read and understood Berlioz, she would not comment adversely about the boredom of the musicians. But it is not given to all to look into mirrors objectively ….

      In terms of not knowing what is going on onstage, I am not sure what that has to do with her perceptions of “boredom” since any Mozart opera keeps you plenty busy, but I do recall playing in the pit (shallow enough that we could ALMOST see what was going on onstage) for a string of performances of Guys and Dolls (ok yes not opera) and everything going fairly well except for the barroom fight in Havana scene which culminates in a bottle being smashed over someone’s head, all to some very vivid music by Loesser. We were trying our darndest to play accurately while also wanting to see what the heck was going on, not very successfully at either, so at one rehearsal the conductor said “orchestra we will do this once — put down your instruments and we’ll run the scene with the rehearsal pianist.” We watched the scene, got that out of our systems, and went back to normal rehearsal. It at least explained to us why we were suddenly getting showered with bits of “stage bottle” glass.

  • Singeril says:

    From what I’m hearing, the entire production period of Flute hasn’t been a love fest between many at the Met. The singers (most of them non-German) had learned the dialogue in English as they were told to do for the first day of rehearsals. Three days in, it was all changed to German. That’s not an easy thing to pull off for many. There were complaints as well with HR and the union due to the working conditions during the rehearsal process. I’m sure this disgruntlement wasn’t just amongst the singers.

    • Nardo says:

      I’m not aware about your claim that the singers had no idea it would be in German. The only times English is used in this opera at the Met is when a shortened version is done for families to bring their young children to the performance. In that case, the opera is billed as The Magic Flute. When it’s billed as Die Zauberflöte, it’s the full three-hour version, always sung in German.

      • Eugene Tzigane says:

        I recall a Fledermaus at the Met in the late 00s that had dialogue in English. It was the famous Otto Schenck production if my memory serves.

      • Singeril says:

        Nardo…I know from personal experience that the library sent out only English dialogue this winter (it is always different from production to production). When this was inquired upon, singers were told that English had been decided upon (which is different than what contracts said). So, the English was learned. Then, three days in, it was all changed to German. This caused much angst to many in the cast. Not a good way to get things rolling in rehearsals. And thank you for the great professionalism of all in the Met Orchestra. I truly admire your work and have greatly enjoyed your camaraderie and friendship.

      • OperaGhost7 says:

        Singeril is correct, Nardo. The dialogues were originally going to be in English for this production but it changed in the first week of rehearsals.

  • Alasdair Munro says:

    Dennis Forman’s book described brass players slipping out of the pit and returning “wiping their lips” to resume playing. Was this just in London?

    • Peter San Diego says:

      In 1980, I attended a Covent Garden performance of Tristan und Isolde, led by Colin Davis, with Jon Vickers and Berit Lindholm. In the final cadence of the opera, one of the French horns had an absolutely horrendous clam, never reaching the proper pitch, to end the work on a complete discord. OK, that sort of thing can happen.

      On the tube back to the hotel, I saw two of the French horn players guffawing about the clam as though it were the best joke in the world. I said nothing, but their attitude was disappointing, to say the least.

      • Nardo says:

        Such “clams” are not unusual for players of the French Horn. It’s a notoriously difficult instrument to play and such things will happen now and then. Hell, other instruments have their share of such moments in performance. And there’s nothing wrong with laughing about it. You seem to regard it as a most serious event. We all laugh at ourselves when such things happen. It’s called self-deprecating humo(u)r.

      • Gary Sudder says:

        I was there too. The hornists were laughing their a–ses off. Real nice. That’s that ‘orchestra’. She’s correct and the Americans, as usual are getting triggered over certain realities.

    • John Kelly says:

      Probably not just in London. There is the longest running poker game in the world backstage at the Met but I don’t believe anyone plays during performances…………..

  • Couperin says:

    Hey Met, defensive much? What blatant sexism. They certainly PLAY like they’re bored much of the time, and that’s when the regular even bother showing up instead of sending subs. Just wait for Dudamel to really get going across the way… The Met will be even bored-er! As for Stutzmann not coming back to the Met… As if she cares!!!!!

    • Tiredofitall says:

      I take it you don’t attend the Met that often.

    • John Kelly says:

      With respect, the comment about the Met orchestra is absolutely ridiculous. I go a lot – do you?

    • Operapro says:

      If the orchestra’s statement seems defensive in your opinion, it’s because they (and much of the rest of the company) find her to be offensive. Her remarks paint all opera musicians with a broad brush: bored and uneducated about the music they play. If I have to spell it out to you why this is offensive to opera musicians everywhere, then you, like Natalie, obviously lack the compassion and intellect to understand the importance of respecting others—in her case the people responsible for delivering the music as SHE envisions it! She obviously has a lot to learn: one never elevates oneself by demeaning the people around you.

      • John says:

        Well said!
        It’s not that hard to garner the respect of any orchestra: know the score, and be respectful.
        That’s it!

        If Nathalie doesn’t understand why she is getting this treatment, it is long overdue for her to take a hard look in the mirror.

        Otherwise, she will risk losing future engagements not just at the Met, but countless orchestras around the world will grow wise to her ridiculous behaviors.

    • NYMike says:

      Your statement clearly indicates that you know nothing about the Met orchestra’s roster and scheduled rotations. There’s no such thing as not showing up and sending subs.

    • Nardo says:

      Nice try, Couperin. Sexism has nothing to do with this thread. Also, I would beg to differ with you regarding your comment about us sounding bored. That’s not my experience playing there. The players there will always play their hearts out. That’s one of the reasons I have loved playing there for so many years .

    • Gary Sudder says:

      Lot of Americans are getting triggered. One catches flak when they’re over truth and reality.
      She;s correct.

  • HB says:

    She didn’t say anything terrible, such reactions on social media are childish. Maybe the cooperation of the conductor and members of the orchestra did not go well, but this was not heard. On the contrary, the leadership of the orchestra was excellent both in Don Giovanni (with a superb cast) and in Die Zauberflöte (where most of the singers were disappointing).
    So what’s the row about?
    It’s just a guest appearance, the orchestra doesn’t have to like her.

    • Anne says:

      It was not heard because the Met Orchestra are a highly talented group of professionals who can make even the worst conductors “sound great”. Her behavior has been the worst seen at the Met in decades, and she will never return.

      • HB says:

        So why hire conductors at all if they can play fantastically by themselves? much money will be saved, and saving money should be MET’s priority, considering the revenues. Already they saved money by getting rid of star singers. Kaufmann, Netrebko, Garanca, Florez don’t sing at MET anymore (for various reasons) and Yoncheva probably won’t be back.

      • Drumdiva says:

        What, exactly, was that “behaviour”?

  • Jane says:

    I love your reply as an orchestra. How dare she make such comments!

  • Max Raimi says:

    It certainly did not leave me eager to play under the baton of Ms Stutzmann.

  • Bill says:

    As a pit musician who can’t see the the stage 90% of the time, she’s not completely wrong, but it depends what her intentions were with this statement. Are the musicians bad, or are they just overworked with the same rep? In any full-time opera house, let alone the MET, the orchestras can and do play operas like Magic Flute in their sleep, and they get next to no credit for routinely saving the asses of whoever gets jetted in to conduct or sing. No surprise they wouldn’t be enthusiastic about working with this conductor if the info about her here is accurate.

  • Bestguest321 says:

    Sometimes it’s difficult for musicians to hear the truth. Good for her. Now everybody calm your tits.

  • RMK says:

    I think you are not giving maestra Stutzmann enough credit.

    After all, it takes a certain kind of talent to make the Philadelphia Orchestra sound like a junior high school band.

    And who knew that Schubert’s 9th was really a trombone concerto?

  • Peter San Diego says:

    Perhaps she was just channeling Berlioz in his “Evenings with the Orchestra”…

  • samach says:

    Who’s the unlucky one, the audience who has to sit through 5 hours of Eurotrash regietheater production just to boo it, or the orchestra blissfully undistracted inside the music?

    Stutzmann is so dismissive and insecure of the music she is conducting, she really thinks it can’t hold one’s attention, or maybe that’s what she realizes of her own conducting.

  • Experienced says:

    Having played at least 155 different opera productions, I will fully admit it’s more fun when I can see the stage. (That said, some productions are so atrocious, better to just enjoy the singing and music!) To a certain extent once you’ve played your 10th performance of say, Lucia, well your mind CAN wander a bit. And all orchestral experience is entirely different depending on if you’re leading a group, are a solo wind, or are last chair 2nd violins. That’s simply a fact. However, bury me in a cave any day to play Mozart opera! This kinda sounds like a conductor-orchestra match made in hell.

  • Uz says:

    She is totally overrated and over respected for no good reason.

  • Not a good look for the orchestra says:

    What a bunch of thin-skinned children these musicians are. Attacking a non-native English speaker whose intent I read as being positive (about how great it is that the orchestra gets to see and be seen) makes me think these players are a real chore to work with.

    How about finding common ground and being positive rather than lashing out for something so silly? This is not the type of attention the orchestra should be seeking. Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face.

    • Ryan says:

      According to people with first hand experience, this statement comes after weeks of disrespectful and aggressive behavior towards not only the orchestra, but the entire house. I would not categorize an orchestra that recently went unpaid for a year as “thin-skinned”.

    • Drumdiva says:

      Well said!

    • Nardo says:

      First of all, we have plenty of conductors whose first language is not English. How could it be otherwise? That’s never an issue, and Natalie’s English is quite good. As for being a chore to work with, I would say to you that this is one of the easiest orchestras to work with. As you’re not here to experience it in person, all I can say is that you’re speaking out from the wrong orifice.

  • Dante Santiago Anzolini says:

    I do not know Mrs Stutzmann, thus I may not be able to fully interpret the context in which she asserted such a definition. Perhaps it is a misunderstanding due to transliterating her text through a fallible set of translation tools…. She is known to be a good leader.

    To my knowledge, and based on my experience with the MET orchestra, I must strongly affirm that the orchestra members are impressively gifted, conspicuously attentive, with the addition of being a tremendous support at all times one leads them on the pit -every second they are with you, and they help you at all times, always with a wonderful smile.

    I know as a fact that they are conscientiously aware of the stage’s directions , they care about the regie, which shows in their comments when you rehearse, they are aware of the lighting, the know and understand the singers’ phrasing. They breath with them!, wich is a blessing that few conductors have experienced. They pay attention to the smallest gesture you communicate, and they are proud to have the highest standards of playing.

    I just hope the misunderstanding is solved, as the ensemble of great musicians totally deserve.

  • Midwest Branch says:

    How would Stutzmann know this? She’s a singer. Has she ever played in an opera-house orchestra pit?

  • Orchestra player says:

    As an orchestra player myself, both on stage and in pit, I simply see this as back stabbing Nathalie Stutzmann. She doesn’t deserve this at all. First of all she didn’t say anything offensive about the orchestra’s playing or musicality. Secondly, what I truly believe she meant was that it is nice that the orchestra is recognized, during an opera. In my opinion, interaction between musicians and the cast on stage during an opera is what makes a whole incredible experience, both to all performers and also to the public. When musicians cannot hear properly or see a thing because of being right deep in the ‘cave’, especially when something interesting is going on stage – that is most of the time (!), yes, it can make it frustrating and boring. So, it was all in supporting the musicians and not the other way round! And also in my opinion, I’m pretty sure she didn’t want to offend the pit by saying it’s a cave. Come on people. Grow up!

    • Thornhill says:


      There were many ways the orchestra could have let her know that the remark didn’t sit well with them, such as meeting with her behind closed doors or issuing a much more playful.

      But this massive statement was the orchestra clearly saying “We don’t like you. Don’t come back.”

      It’s petty and feeds the narrative that the Met is in disarray.

  • Paul Sekhri says:

    How about it’s just a misunderstanding blown completely out of proportion by the media? Not that unusual sorry to say.

    • Nardo says:

      Paul – of course this is distinctly a possibility. I have seen from personal experience that the press can and does change the meaning of what has been said, perhaps to create controversy.

  • Daniel G says:

    Troubling statement from someone who is new on the scene at the Met Opera. Maybe her last visit given this attitude. In any case, I have French family, worked in a French company, and lived several times in France. Unfortunately, arrogance is a common characteristic for a certain French populace. Not sure why.

  • Thornhill says:

    The musicians, and this website, have taken the comment out of context.

    Stutzmann was talking about the new staging where the musicians can see the stage and are clearly watching the action during scenes with only spoken dialogue.

    Stutzmann could have better articulated her point, but putting out a public statement rebuking her seems excessive.

  • David Calhoun says:

    Ms. Stutzman led the Philadelphia Orchestra at a highly anticipated concert here on tour in Orlando. I will say that in that case of that concert there certainly was “nothing more boring”, and the great Philadelphia musicians under her direction certainly seemed to “have no idea of what was happening on stage”. A pity that such fine orchestras, and their admiring audiences, are subjected to this charlatan.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    But she’s right!

  • Larry W says:

    The Met must be high tech if they hired a semi-conductor.

  • LOL says:

    Everything has to turn into a fight with this orchestra… except for when it comes to higher wages! How much of a cut is Gelb planning now while the orchestra spins its wheels over some perceived slight?

    • Nardo says:

      Everything turns into a fight? Interesting. I’d like to know from where you get this information. As I mentioned before, this is one of the easiest orchestras with which to work.

    • Singeril says:

      Unwise comment…and not truthful. The orchestra has put up with a LOT over the last several years and is still one of the finest in the world. Their professionalism is exemplary.

  • Melissa says:

    They’re « highly attuned » to their paychecks and union dues.

  • Don G van ee says:

    The statement of the orchestra came after several different offensive situations where the conductor used words to insult and degrade the orchestra. She’s done similarly in Philly and I hope her time there will be ending soon as well.
    She’s been unpleasant to the singers and all people around her. The GM and MD are furious and I’m surprised she hasn’t been let go yet or made to apologize in public.

    There were many unpleasant and disrespectful conductors in the old days. But they had such talent that the musicians put up with their behavior out of admiration and immense respect.
    This conductor is both mean and terrible.

  • Graham says:

    The orchestra doth protest too much

  • Sopranosoulxyz says:

    So many old queens in the comments clutching their pearls in horror. Haha! So entertaining really.

  • David Spence says:

    Nathalie, honey, a little of the boredom may have to do with you. The Don Giovanni, the way you conducted it on May 5th was boring, and the staging too, about which you made a few unnecessary concessions, it seems to me, though it might be hard to specify what, except I failed to be able to hear the structure to the quartet in Act One and the great sextet in Act Two. The comment from a musician about having studied the score may be something that should be sobering to you. Conducting at the Met is not about kissing Peter Gelb’s derriere, who got his wife sent down here to conduct Strauss’s Salome, and who may have never conducted it before, and with an orchestra incapable of playing it. I stayed at home, sensing that the casting and the whole set-up of it had more to do with social politics here than it did with music. Rehearsal standards at the Met, especially concerning the music, are not what they should be, according to what standards were like in the past.

  • BH says:

    So why MET invited her if she is so awful both as conductor and person (judging by these comments)? it’s a small world, after all, such things are known in the milieu. And why engage French at, if they are so terrible people? And Europeans in general, as they clearly don’t appreciate enough the honor of performing in the MET? (and all those “Eurotrash” productions !). You should hire Americans, russians – because in the current situation they can not demand too much, Asians, period. Yannick will conduct everything until he collapses, then he will be replaced by Maestro Luisi, who is clearly looking forward to it. For a provincial opera as it is rapidly becoming MET that will be enough.

  • Oh well says:

    As far as I can tell, I would suggest that rather than being disparaging her comments were trying to show solidarity with the average player out of the 1000s in the world who – more often than not, it has to be said – either don’t know or care what is happening on stage or in the production. Not every orchestra or house is the Met… and many musicians are indeed bored in the pit and feel a considerable disconnect with the stage – whether they know the opera or not. This is, whatever you may think, a fact. Unfortunate, however, was her poor way of phrasing and expressing this, and the fact that it was… well… the Met – where they obviously have immense pride and know operas more than extremely well. Nonetheless, I do not think they or anyone should be taking this is a ‘grave and harsh’ insult in the way they are – and are attacking her too much.

  • Stephan says:

    “In short, we are not bored but, rather, exhilarated. And we take immense pride in our ability to both support the world’s greatest opera stars and be one of the world’s greatest orchestras.” ……….. I totally agree a Viola Player

  • Musician says:

    In my humble opinion, I believe that her comment (knowing her), was totally misinterpreted considering the fact that English is not her first language. Mro Stutzmann is a leader with feverish love for music, orchestra sand musicians, she breaths and sleeps music. Yet again this could also be because of underlying issues?

  • Fiddleman says:

    Actually there are good reasons why Opera orchestras are in the pit. For one, being elevated brings on acoustic problems with the orchestra overpowering the singers and it is also can be distracting for the audience seeing the orchestral musicians in such a prominent position. Anybody who has ever enjoyed the fantastic acoustics at Bayreuth, knows that Wagner got it right with the covered pit. I am sure that the Met musicians whether they can see the stage or not are such professionals that the high quality of their artistry is unaffected by whether they can see the stage.

  • Back Row Truth says:

    As expected, Peter Gelb had unleashed his troll army in support of this over-rated stick waver. No surprise there!

  • Nardo says:

    Just within the last couple of hours we in the orchestra received a lovely letter via e mail from Ms. Stutzman. She explained that it was not her intention to suggest we were not engaged during performances. She regrets that it came across the way it did to the orchestra.

  • Anne says:

    This isn’t the pre-pandemic Met Orchestra. There are a lot of newbies with big egos, and the orchestra does not sound as polished as it used to.

    Perhaps the orchestra should untwist its panties and, rather than penning letters, learn how to be a better ensemble

  • NotToneDeaf says:

    The great American pastime: I need attention so I think I’ll be offended today and I’ll make sure everyone knows it. yawn

  • JSC says:

    Can you publish the whole of the NYT article?

    Taking odd quotes can be difficult to digest.
    And Judas went and hanged himself.
    Go and do thou likewise.

    Even in the extract you quote, I do not read that she criticised the Met musicians for looking bored, but made a generalisation, which contains truth.

    That ‘individual musicians’ call her arrogant and unprepared is an old trick – and not only in the music business. Accusations that demolish without having measured and reasoned justification.

    French orchestras find her benevolent, highly likeable, efficient, making new musical and emotional approaches and regularly stamp their feet (even in the pit) as sign of appreciation.

    Her tenure with the Atlanta Orchestra did not generate this sort of hateful remark.

  • Musicman says:

    This is what you get when you hire a Music Director with no operatic experience.