Michael Volpe, founder and manager of Opera Holland Park in London, shares the public and professional outrage at the critical body-weight assault on a beautiful young singer at Glyndebourne. But, in an article for Slippedisc.com, Michael (pictured right) argues that the opera industry needs to look closely at its practices. It has been guilty, he says, of ‘sexing up’ productions in pursuit of an elusive mass audience.

‘We have sought out audiences who come from a world where looks ARE everything and to some degree we have pandered to them.’

You can read his full article below. Discuss.

james-clutton-and-michael-vople-300x205

I ought to tread carefully amid the body shaming sturm und drang of Glyndebourne’s Rosenkavalier . Everybody has a hair trigger, the web is alight with not just this issue but associated matters of misogyny. But I do think we need to step back one pace and examine our own industry, our practices and our attitudes. First, so that I can try to discuss the matter unfettered, a qualification; I do not believe it was, or is, appropriate to mention the singer’s body shape. I have never thought it appropriate. There. Hope that suffices.

But let us look at how things ARE, as opposed to how they should be. Over the past twenty five years, I have been deeply involved in selling the concept of opera to the masses and the overwhelming emphasis has been the elevation in the public’s mind of opera to a theatrical and “relevant” art form. The entire industry, moreover, has been at it and I have lost count of the number of articles and interviews I have read (or written) on how opera is way beyond the stereotype image of the “fat lady with a horned helmet”.  As an industry, we have been trying to sex it up for ages, acquiescing to the media demand that we prove opera isn’t anachronistic. Singers – male and female – get their kit off on stage,  in photo shoots they gaze sexily at the viewer, we salivate at the mesmerising concept of an immensely talented singer who also happens to be hot, trumpeting that “opera isn’t what you think!” We advertise operas with husband and wife leads as “opera’s hottest couple”, present productions with nudity (like this Rosenkavalier in fact), we try to be bold, challenging and above all produce shows that amplify the sexual angst and bodice-ripping of opera and the literature upon which it is often based. In opera, we are indeed obsessed with sex and sexuality and have been objectifying singers for years. OHP’s productions are far from straight-laced, but these are the facts and it is indisputable that opera has chosen to cavort with the devil; people judge us by the standards of other art forms. 

Lelisir-damore-

Of course, the problem that opera has is that it is an extraordinarily specialist craft, requiring unrivalled training and ability. We demand, or we at least should demand, the finest voices. But we also tell audiences, many of them raised on popular culture, that the operatic stage offers unrivalled dramatic purpose, it is believable, it is a coruscating, emotional roller-coaster. Yet so many of those new audiences that we have tried to appeal to don’t yet realise and understand what opera demands of its exponents and we have been busy trying to tell them they can relate to it in the same way they can relate to their favourite soap.  We have sought out audiences who come from a world where looks ARE everything and to some degree we have pandered to them.

 

And what of the critics and our own industry? Are any of us unfamiliar with stories of directors who cast physically, have we not forced critics to accept the wider view that opera needs to change and  be given more room to evolve and flourish in the new (digital) world order? Are we blameless?

You see, I think we are right to be angry about the reviews in question (several critics will confirm past opprobrium from me on this matter) because they are rude and unpleasant for the singer.

What I have had trouble with are the consequent arguments positing the theory of what opera is (i.e “all about the singing, we don’t do sexy”) when it has become something else entirely. The opera industry is now fulminating over the incident and whilst all of the comment I have read seems immensely heartfelt (and the solidarity with the singer is terrific) I do find the claims that opera has nothing whatever to do with theatricality and is instead entirely about the singing a little hard to swallow.  Yes, companies should cast blind, because audiences will rarely accept an attractive but poor singer; on this we can all agree. And singers do not have to be svelte or handsome to effect believability, something that is at the heart of the matter, but we must also take umbrage when reviewers make a meal of the attractiveness of singers, we must stop chasing column inches and retweets with controversies and provocative headlines and above all, we should stop trying to dance unendingly with the digital devil and those whose entire world it is and for whom live performance experiences, let alone by good-looking performers, hardly ever features. Media will demand more of the kind of thing we saw yesterday because we have had a hand in teaching them how to behave.

 

Opera should be what opera is, what we know it can be; if we keep shifting the emphasis, if we maintain our insistence that we are relevant by aping the worst excesses of theatre, West End, youth culture and the “it” crowd,  then it won’t be people like Rupert Christiansen we have to worry about, it will be the entire audience in the theatre. If there is one, of course.

 

 (c) Michael Volpe/slippedisc.com

The mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, who sings leading roles at the Met, Covent Garden and major concert halls and festivals, was outraged like many others at the slew of body insults hurled by British critics today at a young singer appearing at Glyndebourne.

On a train to her next engagement, she wrote this open letter for publication on Slippedisc:

Coote-Alice-04

 

We need to talk.
Its gotten really serious now.
We ALL need to talk.
Arts administrators, Directors and Conductors, Audience members, Conservatoires, teachers, Families, Friends, Singers and Press and Critics and Opera Companies… EVERYONE.

All you of you who have known and love Opera..and still do. All of you who know it to be the Art form that is about celebrating the human voice, the human voice at its most Olympian heights of expression. The art form when done right, meaning at its essentials – sung by a truly great singer- takes the breath away, moves the human heart soul and spirit, and creates excitement like no other.

This magic happens when a voice, maybe of recognisable or greatness of tone, that has been trained for decades as an athlete and musician, launches its instrument – part of the human body and identity- upon the greatest and most challenging music that has been written for the human singing voice.

It is not about lights, it is not about costumes, it’s not about sets, it’s not even about sex or stature… It is ALL about the human voice. This is the Olympics of the human larynx attached to a heart and mind that wants to communicate to other hearts and minds. It is something that is done without amplification and without barriers.. It is one human singing to another. LIVE.

All the visual messages that a production and costume brings to an opera does not alter ( even though they can try very hard) the fact that it’s true success in moving and making an audience love the Art form lies in the voice that sails across the pit to the audience and into their ears.
They are not moved by seeing a conventionally beautiful or attractive person walking around in a lovely or impressive costume or lights or environ. This they can get in the theatre (although I doubt that moves them much either) or in film or in daily life. Opera is NOT about that.. It is about and really ONLY about communication through great singing.

If you go back not too far in our operatic times, Pavarotti stood on stages and sang audiences into near hysteria. He became the most famous classical singer of our time.

pavarotti

I attended two performances of Bellini’s Norma at the Metropolitan Opera in New York last season in John Copley and John Conklin’s production. One cast was perhaps perceived in simplistic terms as more conventional looking and in today’s values “starry”. The performance was a success but I didn’t witness any big audience reaction or atmosphere of excitement.

The second performance was by a “second cast” by two of the ” greatest ” younger singers of our day, they perhaps were not physically slight as in a Grazia magazine cover , but boy could they SING. These were great voices that filled the theatre and hit the solar plexus. The audience were immediately gripped by what hit their senses and ears and a huge standing ovation occurred at the end.

I am a singer. And born of painters as parents – I am also hugely visually aware.  The physical shapes that a Fonteyn and a Nureyev whom I saw as a child (and still watch) moved and move me, and excite me beyond description. I have always been fascinated by physical embodiment as a form of communication. But more than two decades as a singer watching other singers and witnessing too many performances to remember.. I know one thing for sure; (to steal Oprah’s catchphrase) OPERA is ALL about the voice.

Many of those who think they know me and may be surprised by this.. But it’s not an opinion, it’s a FACT.

Before it’s too late we need to REMEMBER THIS FACT.  If a voice is right for a role and can sing it better than anyone else.. It’s more important to have that VOICE singing on a stage than any other.. Despite whether you like the way they look or not. We cannot people our operatic stages with singers that above all are believable visually or sexually attractive to our critics… That way lies the death of opera. This is not in any case a BELIEVABLE art form .. WHO are we KIDDING?  But it is one that can move humans in ways that they cannot explain. And in ways that make them fall in love with great voices singing GREAT music. That is Opera in a state of health.

Opera WILL die if audiences have only average looking, average singing humans walking around in interesting ( or average) looking productions.. This will make them wonder ” WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT OPERA?  Do I NEED this?

Our current Culture mistakenly thinks the reverse. They think that if a singer doesn’t look like a model or a “celebrity” then the audience won’t be excited.

Audiences aren’t idiots.. They can sense when they are being duped. They can sense when they are witnessing something OK and when there is something happening that is EXTRAORDINARY.

Singers and teachers know that being underweight is far more damaging to a singer’s wellbeing and performance than being overweight. Similarly I can tell you that if our stomachs are toned anywhere near a six-pack our sound will suffer. The relaxation needed for low breathing is not aided in any sense by an over worked out body.  I know from my own journey that I began to sing with far more physical authority when I got beyond a certain physical weight.. Below that I just wasn’t a strong enough vehicle to launch sound from freely into large theatres and concert halls.

alice coote

If young singers are pressurised into accepting a bigger emphasis on physical shape over sound and this becomes any more pressured onto them than it already is today.. then we are robbing ourselves of the great singers of the future. We are robbing ourselves of the singers that will hit our solar plexus. And we are robbing our entire human culture of the HUMAN VOICE. The Olympic Great Human Voice. And you may as well hammer that nail into the coffin of Opera right now. And not carry on with the sham of loving it.

Critics.. I beg you.
Be kind to young singers -you may change the trajectory of their lives and career if you wound them with your words. Be kind to middle aged singers. Be kind to old singers. Be kind to all singers. But above all.. If you hear a singer with a great voice listen. Look too.. But above all LISTEN.  Without us it’s OVER.

PLEASE SAVE THE HUMAN VOICE

tara erraught3

This open email was written to Norman Lebrecht as a result of personal horror and shared horror in the singing community over reviews of Der Rosenkavalier at Glyndeboune in the British Press.

(c) Alice Coote/www.slippedisc.com

UPDATE: What newspapers should do next. Click here.

The Opéra National de Paris has released its plans for 2011/12, giving me the great satisfaction of reading that Emmanuelle Haim has been invited to conduct a new production.

Ms Haim, you may remember, was cruelly treated by the opera house orchestra last year when she attempted to direct the musicians in Luc Bondy’s staging of Mozart’s Idomeneo with ‘a different aesthetic’ of her baroque style. The musicians denounced her as ‘incompetent’ and a divorce was announced in Le Monde that seemed to end her career at the Paris Opéra.
Ms Haim is one of the most intelligent, enterprising and hard-working orchestral directors of recent times. Don’t take  my word for it: ask Simon Rattle, Natalie Dessay, Rolando Villazon and dozens of others with whom she has created outstanding opera productions. She is also, in my personal experience, charming, cheeky and not easily derailed by male opposition.
So my heart leaped to see that Nicolas Joel, the new boss of the Opéra, has booked her to take charge of Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie, in a new production by Ivan Alexandre, with a cast headed by Sarah Connolly, Anne-Catherine Gillet and Topi Lehtipuu, opening June 2012.
The only disappointment is that she won’t be conducting the rude and rebellious house orchestra. With her in the pit will be her own band, Le Concert d’Astrée. Paris still has some way to go before its musicians accept stylistic plurality.

                                 Natalie with Emmanuelle photo: Lexpress.fr. all rights reserved
Emmanuelle with NL at the BBC. all rights reserved

Local councils around London have announced their budget reductions for the coming year and several of the city’s most ambitious and successful venues are in the firing line.

Worst hit, at first glance, is the Young Vic which has been told that Lambeth Council is cutting its arts allocation by 19%. How much of a hit the Vic will take is not yet known but the theatre is one that combines intense community work with bringing in directors of the calibre of Luc Bondy and Patrice Chereau, as well as operas by Birtwistle, Henze and Jonathan Dove. I will be first in line to rally for its survival.

The Barbican has got off relatively lightly with a seven percent trim from the City of London, while the relentlessly left-political Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn will lose ten percent from Brent.
Sir Peter Hall’s Shakespeare-styled Rose Theatre in Kingston has lost a quarter of its funding.

Arts Council England will announce national grants at the end of the month. Nails are being bitten to the quick.
Footnote on the Young Vic: Its grant from Lambeth is just £15,000. The cut won’t kill.
It so happens that the Young Vic pay Lambeth in rent exactly what Lambeth gives them in subsidy. I guess they could just ask for a rent rebate. 

Local councils around London have announced their budget reductions for the coming year and several of the city’s most ambitious and successful venues are in the firing line.

Worst hit, at first glance, is the Young Vic which has been told that Lambeth Council is cutting its arts allocation by 19%. How much of a hit the Vic will take is not yet known but the theatre is one that combines intense community work with bringing in directors of the calibre of Luc Bondy and Patrice Chereau, as well as operas by Birtwistle, Henze and Jonathan Dove. I will be first in line to rally for its survival.

The Barbican has got off relatively lightly with a seven percent trim from the City of London, while the relentlessly left-political Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn will lose ten percent from Brent.
Sir Peter Hall’s Shakespeare-styled Rose Theatre in Kingston has lost a quarter of its funding.

Arts Council England will announce national grants at the end of the month. Nails are being bitten to the quick.
Footnote on the Young Vic: Its grant from Lambeth is just £15,000. The cut won’t kill.
It so happens that the Young Vic pay Lambeth in rent exactly what Lambeth gives them in subsidy. I guess they could just ask for a rent rebate. 

This just in from Carnival City:


Aos músicos, amigos, assinantes e ao público da OSB, colegas de todas as orquestras do Rio de Janeiro,

 

Assunto: mesa redonda no MTE

 

 

Convidamos os FaceBLACKs e todos aqueles que apóiam os músicos da OSB neste difícil momento.

 

Dia 10 de março, a partir das 11h estaremos juntos no endereço abaixo concentrando forças!!!

 

Sua presença é importante!!

 

Compartilhe…

 

 

Um abraço,

 

Ubiratã Rodrigues

 

 

No dia 10 de março de 2011, às 12h, será realizada mesa redonda perante o Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego, na Avenida Presidente Antônio Carlos, 251, Centro.

 

Today at 11:00 all orchestral musicians in Rio are being called to join forces in support to their OSB colleagues. They will gather in front of the Labour Court, where a first round of negotiations between the orchestra comitee and the OSB’s management will take place. The perspectives for this first round is that no result at all will be achieved. The musician’s union is suing the orchestra for harassement, because the musicians should have had a voice on all hiring/dismissal matters, which makes this re-auditioning illegal, and because the musicians had their vacations interrupted on the 6th day, that was the day when they received “the letter”. 


After confirming that musicians would be fired as a consequence of bad audition, they are denying they said it (only in public). But the simple fact that some audition will take place without the participation of the musicians in its conception breaks their work agreement. Colleagues of the Opera orchestra will ask their conductor to finish the rehearsal two hours earlier, in order for them to be there. (This is 3 min. by foot) 

Colleagues of the National Symphony, that is in Niterói, a city the other side of the Guanabara Bay, have no rehearsal today, because their theater is being renovated, but they said they will come. Their Association even wrote a manifest in support of the OSB colleagues yesterday. By the way, Roberto Minczuk is the artistic director of the Opera in Rio too. 

This just in from Carnival City:


Aos músicos, amigos, assinantes e ao público da OSB, colegas de todas as orquestras do Rio de Janeiro,

 

Assunto: mesa redonda no MTE

 

 

Convidamos os FaceBLACKs e todos aqueles que apóiam os músicos da OSB neste difícil momento.

 

Dia 10 de março, a partir das 11h estaremos juntos no endereço abaixo concentrando forças!!!

 

Sua presença é importante!!

 

Compartilhe…

 

 

Um abraço,

 

Ubiratã Rodrigues

 

 

No dia 10 de março de 2011, às 12h, será realizada mesa redonda perante o Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego, na Avenida Presidente Antônio Carlos, 251, Centro.

 

Today at 11:00 all orchestral musicians in Rio are being called to join forces in support to their OSB colleagues. They will gather in front of the Labour Court, where a first round of negotiations between the orchestra comitee and the OSB’s management will take place. The perspectives for this first round is that no result at all will be achieved. The musician’s union is suing the orchestra for harassement, because the musicians should have had a voice on all hiring/dismissal matters, which makes this re-auditioning illegal, and because the musicians had their vacations interrupted on the 6th day, that was the day when they received “the letter”. 


After confirming that musicians would be fired as a consequence of bad audition, they are denying they said it (only in public). But the simple fact that some audition will take place without the participation of the musicians in its conception breaks their work agreement. Colleagues of the Opera orchestra will ask their conductor to finish the rehearsal two hours earlier, in order for them to be there. (This is 3 min. by foot) 

Colleagues of the National Symphony, that is in Niterói, a city the other side of the Guanabara Bay, have no rehearsal today, because their theater is being renovated, but they said they will come. Their Association even wrote a manifest in support of the OSB colleagues yesterday. By the way, Roberto Minczuk is the artistic director of the Opera in Rio too. 

The money has run out at Barcelona’s beautifully restored opera house. 

Next season will start a month late, in October. The staff are being sent on unpaid leave. State funding is down to Euro 48 million – still twice as much as English National Opera – and there is talk of doing more pops, fewer adventurous operas. This could be a harbinger for the art form right across Europe Spanish report here.

An awful lot of junk communication crosses my screen each day, but nothing made me scream at the insensitivity of the PR industry as much as the following mailshot, in support of a brand of disability aids. The release somehow combines celebrity, personal misfortune (divorce), personal tragedy (fall from a window), medical drama and high art (opera) in a bizarre bid to get more coverage for small scooters. You couldn’t make this up, I thought on first sight. But someone did, and here it is.

If you have received a clunkier press release this year – or this century – do let me know.

                                                                                                                        

11.10.2010

PRESS RELEASE

FOR
IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Disabled Lady
Jill McIntyre retains independence
with TGA scooter despite divorcing
celebrated operatic bass-baritone Sir Donald
McIntyre OBE

 

 

Lady
Jill McIntyre is a remarkable lady who has managed to battle through severe
trauma following a high profile accident and subsequent disability, however is
now to divorce her husband of 48 years and will only remain independent thanks
to a mobility scooter from
TGA Electric.

 

Now
living on the family 107-acre farm in Kent, Lady Jill McIntyre has experienced
a life filled with both celebrity status and dramatic trauma. Lady Jill’s
husband, New Zealand born Sir Donald McIntyre OBE is renowned worldwide for his
operatic talent and debuted as
Zaccaria in Nabucco, at the Welsh National Opera, in 1959. His career went from strength-to-strength with
appearances across the globe performing alongside stars such as Dame
Kiri Te Kanawa and Dame Gwyneth Jones whilst always accompanied by his
beloved wife backstage.

 

However
their youngest daughter became seriously ill with meningitis in the early
nineties and with the combination of this and Jill’s Mother dying suddenly,
Jill became deeply depressed. This depression led to a horrendous tragedy when
in New Zealand, under heavy medication, she fell 65ft off a 6th floor window
and landed on a car park below. This left Jill in a coma for five weeks, with
severe life threatening injuries and a bleak prognosis. Covered in the National
Press, she was flown back to the UK and over the coming months managed to pull
through this ordeal even though undergoing amputation of her shattered right
leg 10 months after the accident. 18 months passed before Jill was well enough
to return home permanently and ever since has fought to regain her speech and
improve her well-being. This was made easier by the support of Sir Donald who
took a whole year off from performances to help his wife’s recovery however
with Jill’s recent decision to divorce her celebrity husband, she will now no
longer have assistance with daily living.

 

 

 

Soon
to be living with considerably less daily support, Jill will be even more
dependent on her Supersport mobility scooter from TGA. The extensive McIntyre
family farm is based in the rolling Kent countryside which could have posed a
challenge to remain mobile outdoors, however the rugged Supersport will
continue to allow Jill to negotiate farm tracks and off-road terrain. She has
to regularly travel up a one-mile steep hill to the village and often assists
at the local nursery school having been a qualified teacher. Being house bound
would have been a distinct possibility without the ownership of a mobility
scooter from TGA; especially now she is divorcing Sir Donald.

 

Jill
explains, ‘I read once that 90% of marriages break up when one person becomes
disabled and I can understand why – it puts a lot of strain on a relationship.
Over the past 15 years since my accident my husband has supported me closely
for which I am eternally grateful, however I feel the time has come for us to
go our separate ways. Obviously the prospect of more time alone makes me a
little apprehensive, however I intend to remain independent and continue my
outdoor activities such as swimming in the lake, gardening, teaching at Keston
County Primary School and tending the farm, all thanks to my robust TGA
Supersport. Before I purchased it, I thoroughly investigated the marketplace to
ensure I obtained a mobility scooter that had the power, performance and
manoeuvrability to cope in a rural environment. I can independently and with
peace of mind, travel into my local woods up to a range of 20 miles whilst
appreciating the surroundings I am lucky enough to live within. Only the
popular TGA Supersport met all my needs and without this marvellous machine I
would be lost I’m sure.’

 

Jill
continues to remain positive even though the next few months promise to be a
testing time for her and the McIntyre family. Her inspirational attitude to
life has recently been given a boost by her grandson, Luke Jackson-Clark. With
her connections in the world of theatre and the arts, Jill is currently
supporting him as he performs in Billy Elliot at The Palace Theatre Victoria,
London, following a recent role in Oliver Twist.

 

*
ENDS *

 

 

Follow TGA on Twitter:
tgaelectric

 

TGA Electric Leisure Limited

TGA is based in Sudbury, Suffolk and has been a respected
designer, manufacturer and provider of mobility products for 25 years with a
speciality in scooters. TGA is renowned for its high quality, diverse range
that includes the ever-popular Eclipse car boot scooter through to the

 

funky cutting edge Vita and market-leading wheelchair
Powerpack. As a family run business, TGA is dedicated to quality, innovation
and service with all of its products undergoing rigorous testing before
delivery ensuring peace of mind and trouble free ownership. 

 

 

For further information please
contact:                Issued on behalf
of:

Jon Nock                                                                     Tim
Ross

Director                                                                       National Sales Manager

iDIS Creative
Marketing                                             
TGA Electric Leisure Limited

6-7 Treadaway Tech
Centre                                     
Woodhall Business Park

Email: jon@idiscreativemarketing.co.uk                    Email: timross@tga-electric.com

www.idiscreativemarketing.co.uk                               www.tga-electric.com

 Jillpress (1).jpg

The Grawemeyer award, the largest in contemporary music, has gone to the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen for his opera La Commedia, staged in 2008. 

The prize is worth $100,000, which was a life-changing amount when Witold Lustoslawski, Gyorgy Ligeti and Harrison Birtwistle won it in the mid-1980s but seems rather diminished today, not just in purchasing power so much as in the quality of its selections.

Based at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, the peer-given award rarely goes to world-changing works like John Corigliano’s first symphony (1991), Tan Dun’s Marco Polo (1998) or Peter Lieberson’s Neruda Songs (2008). A worthiness has crept in. Often as not it is given to eminent composers who are past ther best but have never won it before. What, we’ve never honoured Kurtag or Boulez? Let’s find a squib of theirs that justifies a prize.
No disrespect to Andriessen who is a jazz-inflected para-minimalist with a powerful, platonic view of human order that he expressed influentially in De Staat as far back as 1976. He is an excellent composer who should have won the Grawemeyer years ago. I doubt, however, that La Commedia is his finest work, or the best that has been heard anywhere in the past two years. Andriessen does not rank high among composers who will dominate the future. The Grawemeyer needs to take a stern, cold look at its short-term judgements.
Here’s the Grawemeyer announcement:
http://www.boosey.com/downloads/AndriessenGrawemeyer.pdf

A statement by Peter Gelb to the Economist has set alarm bells ringing.

At his former job, as head of Sony Classical, Gelb used to deliver hour-long harangues about how his genius would rescue the label and the recording industry as a whole. By the time he quit, Sony was a shambles and the industry near-dead. For the detail, see here.

Now read Gelb in The Economist: ‘When I took over, the Met was on a declining slope toward extermination…’ He does not finish the sentence, but the implication is that golden man has once more revived a dying goose.

This is pure fantasy. The Met, with an endowment running into hundreds of millions of dollars, was never at death’s door, let alone an emotive threat of ‘extermination’. It just needed a blast of fresh air after a decade of stagnation.

What Gelb has done – introducing new repertoire, new directors, opera at the movies and in the open air – has been highly effective and long overdue, but no more than the start of what needs to be a coherent strategy to make opera meaningful to a wider American public. Let’s hope the strategy is in place, because without it Gelb’s reforms will soon go stale and in a couple of years the Met will be right back in the state he found it.

I, for one, very much hope that there is depth and breadth to the Gelb plan because I like to see success in the arts more than I enjoy criticising failure. But this latest boast, echoing the hollow claims of his Sony years, has me worried. 

Hubris is a sign that a leader has peaked. What follows is nemesis. Peter Gelb needs to take care that he does not let himself believe a myth of his own making.

A statement by Peter Gelb to the Economist has set alarm bells ringing.

At his former job, as head of Sony Classical, Gelb used to deliver hour-long harangues about how his genius would rescue the label and the recording industry as a whole. By the time he quit, Sony was a shambles and the industry near-dead. For the detail, see here.

Now read Gelb in The Economist: ‘When I took over, the Met was on a declining slope toward extermination…’ He does not finish the sentence, but the implication is that golden man has once more revived a dying goose.

This is pure fantasy. The Met, with an endowment running into hundreds of millions of dollars, was never at death’s door, let alone an emotive threat of ‘extermination’. It just needed a blast of fresh air after a decade of stagnation.

What Gelb has done – introducing new repertoire, new directors, opera at the movies and in the open air – has been highly effective and long overdue, but no more than the start of what needs to be a coherent strategy to make opera meaningful to a wider American public. Let’s hope the strategy is in place, because without it Gelb’s reforms will soon go stale and in a couple of years the Met will be right back in the state he found it.

I, for one, very much hope that there is depth and breadth to the Gelb plan because I like to see success in the arts more than I enjoy criticising failure. But this latest boast, echoing the hollow claims of his Sony years, has me worried. 

Hubris is a sign that a leader has peaked. What follows is nemesis. Peter Gelb needs to take care that he does not let himself believe a myth of his own making.