Saudi orchestra plays at the Met

Saudi orchestra plays at the Met


norman lebrecht

September 18, 2023

The Saudi National Orchestra and Choir gave a performance yesterday at New York’s vaunted Metropolitan Opera.

It was a co-promotion between the Saudi Theatre and Performing Arts Commission, the Saudi Music Commission, the Metropolitan Opera and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture.

In his opening remarks, Met general manager Peter Gelb said: ‘Art has the possibility of triumphing over adversity.’

Irony, RIP.


  • Alan says:

    And they got rid of Netrebko

    The hypocrisy is stinking

  • Rudy says:

    Wonderful !!
    Best wishes !!

  • Tiredofitall says:

    It was doubtless a rental, but Peter, Peter, Peter, the optics are not worth the money. At least the Met received a good deal of money as well as employment for countless union members. I get it, the Met is rather desperate, but there are limits.

    For someone who seems to be politically involved (Ukraine), you and–the board– should have been more aware of the stench. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that your remarks at the concert must have part of the rental negotiation.

    Everything has a price. The Met paid too much.

  • ParallelFifths says:

    National Weenie Orchestra, you mean. How can that be a “national” orchestra when half the population is barred?

  • MMcGrath says:

    Apparently, chopping up US journalists and shipping the parts around in Rimowa suitcases, and playing a part in the World Trade Tower attacks, among other things, aren’t reasons to not fascilitate this desert kingdom’s whitewashing their horrors on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. Hypocrisy generates disgust – and that, Mr Gelb, will empty your music hall even more quickly than crap productions. How does the Board let him get away with this?

    Oh, yeah. Money. I’m sure the Saudis paid a triple royal ransom to showcase themselves. They may even buy the place before they leave town. All hail insightful Friedrich Duerenmatt for his story of townspeople who would sell their souls and lives for money in “Der Besuch der alten Dame.”

    How far the pitiful fall.

  • Just sayin says:

    Biden just warmly greeted the Saudi leader aka MBS at the G20, so it’s fair to say no-one can stay mad for long at those cute Saudis! And I mean no-one.

    Feels good to claim you’d never stoop that low until it’s time to start the car and heat the house. Oh, and classical music biz wouldn’t be feasible without cheap and effective civilian aviation, running on, that’s right, petroleum.

    A genius move for Peter would be to cooperate with the Saudis on opera, as they’re desperate to classy up the place and are, good heavens, even allowing live music! What’s next, not getting killed for bringing a Bible into the kingdom? Oh You never know….

  • Just sayin says:

    Optics of what? At the recent G20 summit, MBS straight-up met with leaders of USA, Japan, Brazil,, Argentina, and the European Council. All warm handshakes and smile.

    But a little context feels unnecessary when we can raise our fists in the air and proclaim how WE would never ever stoop so low for a fistful of Saudi investment dollars, badly needed in the age of rising interest rates and thus expensive credit, and oil, oil, oil…. Realpolitik is for suckers, isn’t it?

  • Just sayin says:

    And by the way, time to brush up on Saudi current events. Women are allowed to drive, work, be seen in public with face uncovered, with any male they want to socialize with.

    And all this without Western feminists ever making as much as a peep about it previously, ever!

  • Howard says:

    Time to CANCEL the Met and FIRE the Chief Diversity Officer!!!!!

    How utterly OFFENSIVE to display overt hatred and suppression of women and the LGBTQ+ community!

    How could Gelb have allowed his most vulnerable to be exposed to their nemesis. Peter just made Trump and the MAGAs palatable. Netrebko’s lawsuit against the Met certainly established merit.

  • Phoebe says:

    Bet someone is having a handsome bonus ….

  • Sam's Hot Car Lot says:

    Goes to show that the Saudis can buy whatever they like.

    They have bought professional golf and they are in the process of buying European football. Now, apparently, they’re going to buy the Met too.

    It’s MBS’s world. We just live in it.

  • DanP says:

    This is bizarre and shameful – as other people have expressed. But, a little more information would have been nice. What did they play?

  • Mayflower says:

    How much did the Saudis pay for this PR coup? Thirty pieces of silver?

  • Zandonai says:

    9/11, Never Forget

  • Scheherazad says:

    I believe in the power of music and art. Cultural exchange is always good, money is great, but lest we forget about the *dissolved* atrocities!

  • Sammy says:

    That is absolutely disgusting. Gelb loves money, no doubt , but he’s been trying to do the right thing with Ukrain, diversity etc.
    what I’m wondering is what Yannick thinks of this? And how come this co-production was such a secret.

  • Been there says:

    Most of the players are Egyptian as Saudi never allowed for a full development of Saudi talent until recently. The govt has opened music and arts schools so a new generation is being grown from scratch. And yes women and girls are now in the mix. Progress. Actually a Great Leap Forward. Families now have to allow their female members to join in these new opportunities. What I saw there in early 2020 was encouraging in terms of a great mix of ages genders and backgrounds studying the performing arts for the first time. I support this opening of the arts in Saudi. I am not supportive of this ‘arts washing’ of a regime’s human rights record.

  • SAM says:

    Was this a private performance? I heard nothing of this and there is no performance listed of the Saudis playing at the Met on the Met’s website. The Hypocricy indeed! Disgraceful.