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Peter and the Woolfe

peterandthewolfThe arts journalist La Cieca would like be when she grows up, Zachary Woolfe, continues his analysis of Peter Gelb‘s Met tenure — now all the more interesting since Joe Volpe has returned to the fold. [Observer]


  • 1
    Krunoslav says:


  • 2
    squirrel says:

    oh snap

  • 3

    I have one question: does Mr. Woolfe receive regular press passes at the Met? If he does, they are now in danger.

  • 4
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Woolfe: “Mr. Gelb’s move looks like a cry for help, an admission that he can’t do something that his predecessor could.”

    Au Diable tout ce bavardage!


  • 5
    NYCOQ says:

    Well let’s just wait to see the final spin of this. The p.r. juggernaut that is currently the Met is not to be underestimated. Mr. Gelb from the beginning always reminded me of every MBA manager, director, v.p. or whatever I have come into contact with in my many careers. Those savvy marketing types have an uncanny way of making sure that their s--t doesn’t end up stinking. If the negotiations go wrong…who’s fault is it? Volpe, not Gelb. He truly is a fucking genius whether it was his idea or the board’s to hire Volpe.

    • 5.1
      Quanto Painy Fakor says:

      I’m not so sure about the genius part, but if nothing elese,
      he’s really a phuquer!

  • 6
    Cassandra says:

    I pretty much agree with you NYCOQ. Gelb has found a way to remain above the fray and keep his hands soft and lily white while hiring someone who is feared in negotiation and carries a large stick and a lot of baggage at that company.

    Politically, I think it’s a pretty brilliant move, unless of course it gets really ugly and he has to get down in the dirt with the rest of them. But for now, he’ll have the best of both worlds by maintaining his distance and keeping his image while still having oversight of the full situation. Whether or not that will backfire is yet to be seen.

    • 6.1
      Cassandra says:

      In other news, the Observer is still publishing? Hasn’t that crook’s kid married to the robber baron’s daughter run out of stolen money yet?

      • 6.1.1
        La Cieca says:

        If you want to be technical about it, Cassandra, all money is stolen at one point or another. (Take a glance sometime at the backgrounds of the men who founded the Met.) What matters in the long view is how the money is put to use, and there are certainly worse ways to spend money than to invest it in journalism. (Particularly when the paper in question provides about the only thoughtful analysis of the business of opera production in New York.)

          Often admonished says:

          It’s a very well argued piece.

          Just like the ones we read here.

          Mrs Rance says:

          re: #6.1.1, I totally agree with what La C. says about the Observer. Woolfe’s article about the Met B.S. HOFFMANN was particularly apt and important to have.

          Cassandra says:

          I know, I was being facetious. New York’s culture (or New York itself) wouldn’t exist without robber barons.

    • 6.2
      mrmyster says:

      Cassie: DOES Volpe carry a big stick?
      It depends on whether he reports to Volpe
      or to the Board.
      Do you know?

  • 7
    sterlingkay says:

    I have a hard time taking Mr. Woolfe seriously when it comes to Gelb. He is NOT an arts “journalist”, he is a critic. He reviews performances and expresses his opinions freely. He is a very conservative (though young) soul who resists any attempt at anything new. He’s still bemoaning the fact that Aprile Millo is not still singing at the MET for god’s sake, though no one else will hire her either.

    He has an obvious agenda. His personal distaste for Gelb, in my opinion, colors everything he writes about the MET. He couldn’t bring himself to write a good review for even FROM THE HOUSE OF THE DEAD, which was a huge critical success. He says that all the new productions have been critical disasters. That, again, is not true. Certainly the TOSCA was but, to be fair, the HOFFMAN response was mixed and the CARMEN reviews were generally positive. He does not mention the fact that all the performances of those three productions have been completely sold out and popularly succesful. He never seems to mention the success of the HD transmissions but I notice he made a big deal out of the fact that Edo De Wart was flown on a private jet to and from his MET performances. Even though de Waart was a last-minute replacement for Levine and he obviously had commitments elsewhere!!! And if Gelb had just allowed the cover conductor to take over the ROSEKAVALIER run, Woolfe would have been bitching about a routinier conducting performances while MET patrons are paying top price.

    An article he wrote in the Fall was entitled “MET’s messy season limps into third week of boos”…and included the statement that these days at the MET “there’s booing right and left”. Again, a huge exaggeration. There was booing on opening night of TOSCA and some idiots booed Gatti at the first performance of AIDA….hardly an “epidemic” of booing. But when you have an agenda……

    • 7.1
      Cassandra says:

      Considering the sloppy blowjobs that most published entities like the Times are constantly giving the Met, I hardly think it’s outside the realm of reason that there remain one barely critical outlet.

    • 7.2
      OlivePratt says:

      so sterling, you work in the box office, universal love for Gelb, eh?

      Agenda? Gelb’a agenda…

      the “chairman mao” principle of making everything that came before “the big bad wrong and useless and horrible and only thru chairman mao’s gracious help can we save the +world+ (company)…this is an old time trick gelb plays. opera is dull, a museum piece, a ludicrus world of fat people, and bad theater. centuries it survives and now HE is the saviour. Hardly. The pendelum might just catch him in the arse, but hey, for you Gelb supporters, he has a little time left. Pop star meets Opera star comes to the Met, already has in a way.

      For New York there was an epidemic of booing,starting with the “silly little opera by bellini” the Tosca, and the much deserved Gatti booing was a lot for New York. they don’t boo here. haven’t in a long while. he wasn’t the only one screaming, the post, the new yorker, THE TIMES, the New York Magazine, Opera London, Opera Now, try every paper in the world discussed it.Do they all have an agenda? No, they are reproting what went on as opposed to what Gelb wants us to see.

      He isn’t really questioned as much as he should be.

      • 7.2.1
        sterlingkay says:

        Wow…now Gelb is Chairman Mao…yup I can see you’re open to a reasonable discussion about this. God forbid anyone should dare suggest that opera should be good theater. Bring back the Golden Age of Volpe!!

          BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

          There are worse people to be compared to than Chairman Mao, I assure you, but I’m pretty sure that post was not meant as a compliment. Be that as it may, your reaction brings up a core issue — the casual acceptance of the attitude that not only was there no adequate opera-as-good-theatre during the Volpe era, (watch my hands carefully, folks, see how they never leave my arms) there never had been.

  • 8
    sterlingkay says:

    So you’re saying that becomes the TIMES has a pro-Gelb agenda then it’s ok for someone else to be so anti-Gelb that it colors everything they write.

    How about someone being FAIR & BALANCED around here??

    • 8.1
      La Cieca says:

      There is a difference between an opinion and a bias. And, though you didn’t ask, La Cieca thinks that one of the most important functions of the media in a free society is the questioning of powerful institutions. The Met is indeed a powerful institution, and somebody needs to ask, “Are they using this power wisely and well?”

      That is absolutely not something the Times is ever going to do, no matter if the company were taken over by a triumvirate of Gerard Mortier, Lady Gaga and Glenn Beck. The Times is about preserving the status quo in artistic organizations (at least so far as opera companies are concerned) especially if the artistic organization can hew to the paper’s “art is good for you, make sure you eat up all your art so you’ll grow up big and strong” ethos.

      • 8.1.1
        CruzSF says:

        a triumvirate of Gerard Mortier, Lady Gaga and Glenn Beck

        Sounds like a crossover episode of Big Love and Lost.

      • 8.1.2
        sterlingkay says:

        I agree with you about the TIMES (though Lorin Maazel and the NY Philharmonic might disagree with your statement that the TIMES is about preserving the status quo….they couldn’t buy a good review during Maazel’s tenure and the TIMES did everything it could to speed up his exit). No one is saying the questions should not be asked…but they should be asked by honest, impartial journalists who deal with FACTS rather than someone who from day one has had nothing good to say about GELB. To me any criticism from a tainted source can be too easily discounted and so it serves no purpose whatsoever.

          La Cieca says:

          I don’t agree that questions can be asked impartially, unless you’re talking about, “What was the date of your Bayreuth debut?” All questions come with some built-in assumption about what the answer is going to be. A good journalist, of course, like a good critic, should always be ready and eager to be surprised.

          It would be different if Mr. Woolfe’s lesbian life partner had been snubbed by the Met board and he took his revenge by assigning interchangeable proxies to grind his axes for him. But, thank goodness, that’s not the case at the Observer.

          Regina delle fate says:

          Is Alan Gilbert getting good reviews in the NYT? His London concerts with the NYPO got a bix of shrugs and thumbs-down in the press here.

          MontyNostry says:

          Cara Regina, does anybody on this board apart from you, me, armerjaquino and CerquettiFarrell care what people think on this side of the Atlantic?

          Nerva Nelli says:

          Well, Our Vicar does!

          As for Gilbert, Tony T and some other peddlers of Youth = Hip = The Future keep trying to make him cool-- multicultural background, “young” (hardly by conductor standards), open to contemporary rep.

          In truth he’s a clear improvement on the dreadful glitzy Maazel but a bit of a Kapellmeister yawn.

      • 8.1.3
        mrmyster says:

        Cieca, all you say is true and wise — but there is ONE MORE very very important element lying behind the Times position you did not mention, and maybe it is the predominant one: ‘ We want everyone to know how really wonderful the Met is, the NY Phil, Carnegie Hall -- and all the rest -- so you will come from Dubuque to NYC and go shopping while you are here. Our advertisers deserve your patronage, dear public, and the Met Opera is a huge magnet to draw you here -- come to the wonderful Met!
        Why, Mr Tommassini will tell you how wonderful again and again and over and over. Read, believe, come, buy -- and go home and tell everybody about it.’
        And, thank you New York Times.

          sterlingkay says:

          And how would that explain the constant critical drubbing Maazel and the NY Philharmonic took from Tony and the Times for five years??
          Or the constant NY Times criticism Peter Martins has gotten at NY CITY BALLET??

  • 9
    sterlingkay says:

    I don’t think the bias has to be of a personal nature. It’s clear Mr. Woolfe’s bias is based on the fact that he sees opera very differently than Gelb does. The most telling article Woolfe has written about the MET was a piece before this season started, in which he basically said it’s too early to tell what kind of General Manager Peter Gelb will be and then proceeded to attack everything he’d done until now…including the HD broadcasts…which, horror of horrors, Woolfe believes encourages “realistic acting” in opera and he thinks that’s a bad thing.

    • 9.1

      Since this dialogue began, I’ve been trying to think of one journalistic voice in ANY field at ANY time that was not “tainted.” The best were not overtly adversarial but not one could be judged free of bias. Would you care to make a nomination, SK?

    • 9.2
      messa di voce says:

      Woolfe criticizes Gelb for not being a “man of the theater;” would he say the same about Bondy, Sher, and Eyre, the actual directors of the productions he so dislikes?

      • 9.2.1
        CruzSF says:

        I thought that Sher and Eyre were “men of the theater,” just not men of opera.

          CruzSF says:

          Oh, I see your point.

          Zerbinetta says:

          I think you and Wolfe and messa all have a point here. Opera has theatrical elements, and Gelb wants to pay more attention to them, but directing opera is not the same as directing theater. Sher, Eyre, Doyle, and Zimmerman are all directors who work primarily in theater with limited prior experience in opera, and I think their lack of knowledge of opera was very apparent in their productions. But Gelb, not being a “man of the theater” (in the broad sense) isn’t sensitive to this.

          Zerbinetta says:

          Sorry, I mean “Woolfe.”

      • 9.2.2
        Gianni B says:

        Gelb is “a man of the theater” ……..perhaps you should ask Maestro Muti that.

          iltenoredigrazia says:

          Binging theatre directors to work in the opera world can be a good thing if done right. Rather than contracting a director to direct opera X, of which he may know nothing, I would go to the director and say: we like what you do in the theatre; is there an opera that you’ve thought about directing, an opera you’ve seen and thought you could make more effective, an opera with a plot or music that inspires you?
          I believe Bondy has been quoted as saying that he had never even heard Tosca before he took the Met assignment. Crazy. He should have been asked to do some homework; find an opera that attracted him for whatever reason; develop a concept for this work; and then, and only then, given the job.

          Nerva Nelli says:

          “Binging theatre directors to work in the opera world can be a good thing”

          Doesn’t it depend on the nature (and duration) of the binge?

  • 10

    The Hell with “Opera as Good Theatre.” I want “Opera as Good Opera.”

    • 10.1
      sterlingkay says:

      Unfortunately there aren’t enough of you….and there are fewer every year….

      • 10.1.1
        OlivePratt says:

        there are plenty that aren’t dead but who choose not to go and see opera light. this is change for change sake. why dump a fabulous boheme for a new one? why?
        there isn’t that much money to burn.

    • 10.2
      Mrs Rance says:

      EXACTLY, #10.
      Opera is not theater, it’s OPERA.

      • 10.2.1
        VivaVivaldi says:

        Opera, but not concert either. If all you are interested in is the “voice” buy a CD and stay home.

      • 10.2.2
        Indiana Loiterer III says:

        I keep hearing this used to bash every attempt to bring theater directors into opera, and I wonder--what’s the difference between theater and opera? And are there any directors who understand that difference, apart from I suppose the inevitable Zeffirelli? (I’m not so sure about him, even, but that remains to be discussed.)

          Zerbinetta says:

          Spoken theater works very differently from opera. A score dictates mood and timing in a very different way from a spoken text. There are no equivalents to arias, recits, ensembles, and such--opera direction requires an ear for music that spoken theater does not. Spoken theater rarely involves large groups of people (choruses). The Met is MUCH bigger than most theaters, and directors seem to have trouble knowing what to do with all that space.

          Some theater directors are also successful opera directors. But being good in one genre is no guarantee of competence in the other.

    • 10.3
      armerjacquino says:

      Surely, at its best, it’s both. They’re certainly not mutually exclusive.

      • 10.3.1
        BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

        One would think, AJ; one would hope, but after this little excursion, and the discovery that Mrmyster and I are at wide variance, I’m not at all sure of myself. The Aristotelian definition of drama used to be enough for me. The constituent elements were plot, passsion, and spectacle. Fear and pity led to catharsis. But now we have non-linear theatre — there goes plot. Passion is out of date in this ironic age of the ultra-cool. (Keanu Reeves as Parsifal? I’m not ready for it.) Spectacle has given way to meaningless extravaganza. Then to add that it must be “good” theatre which by the very use of the terms whips the whole pudding into the subjective realm. At least we can agree that opera must include all of the above with the added element that music — the organization of time into sonic elements — must propel the lot. Weh ist mir ! I think I’d be better off watching porn; at least I can understand that.

  • 11

    Yes, I appreciate that, and I also appreciate your use of the word “you” instead of “us,” which indicates there might be some truth to the accusation that you are in management. Okay, then. If the institution is dying, then we must face that fact. Can the inevitable be forestalled? Yes, and I say that Mr,. Gelb has made a most excellent start and should be given credit for it. But because he is a manager and not an opera lover, he has assigned credit for that success wrongly and seems to be actively pursuing style over substance, appearance over essence. I suggest that even opera-going neophytes will accept the legendary “fat lady singing” if said “fat lady” is singing better than a more photogenic skinny lady. Above that, both fat lady and skinny lady should be singing things that they can sing well, and that means cutting back on the rep. Unlike La Cieca I do not advocate innovation for innovation’s sake. The old warhorses do not need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th Century (yes, I meant to type 20th Century.) If there is a marvelous regieschlepenkunsteranisraibackenfuss director from Hamburg who wants to try her hand at opera, give her “Love for Three Oranges,” not “La Boheme.” And if a sudden plague suddenly wipes out every tenor on earth capabl;e of singing Rodolfo, then for cryin’ out loud it looks like you ain’t gonna be doin’ La Boheme, doesn’t it, because better that than throwing a beret on a stagehand and shoving him on-stage. Gelb has some really tough decisions to make and he’s not going to make them wisely unless he stares death right in the eye and says, “If I’m going down, I’m going down straight and tall. Better good opera than so-so vaudeville.”

    • 11.1
      Indiana Loiterer III says:

      Above that, both fat lady and skinny lady should be singing things that they can sing well, and that means cutting back on the rep.
      Not necessarily. There is plenty of good and even great opera out there that doesn’t get done enough that will fit a lady fat or skinny. If that means more Handel and Rossini and less Verdi and Puccini, so be it. Unfortunately, Gelb’s audience might not necessarily be content with the results.

      The old warhorses do not need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th Century…
      …a noble sentiment, but operas aren’t pictures; they don’t remain the same for 300 years while we change all around them. Operas (like plays!) have to be performed anew every time; and it’s all too easy for then to become encrusted with routine. And we’ve been dragging them kicking and screaming into the 20th century throughout the 20th century; it’s inevitable. The sheer inertia of so much theatrical routine is what makes new productions necessary. Even a period-dress production of Rigoletto, say, isn’t the same in style nowadays as the original 1851 production in Venice. Maybe it should be--but to recapture the style of Venice in 1851 would require a lot more work that is possible within the confines of a repertory theater revival like the Met presents.

    • 11.2
      La Cieca says:

      La Cieca would appreciate your not putting words into her mouth. If you think I espouse “innovation for innovation’s sake” then either I have been expressing myself very poorly or else what you are hearing is distorted by your bias. I have said I think it is vital to re-examine how we perform familiar works. That is because “tradition” is a type of interpretation, a reaction to the text. But the traditional way of doing a given opera is only one way of looking at that work, and so by presenting only the “traditional,” the theater is in fact the work at a remove: not the opera itself, but rather what a number of conductors, singers and coaches used to think the opera ought to be.

      Now, that “ought to be” is not necessarily invalid; I never suggested that. But what I do say is that the “ought to be” is the work seen from only one angle; a great opera (and most of the standard operas are great) deserves to be seen from many different angles.

      So that’s not at all “innovation for innovation’s sake” — rather it’s “innovation for the sake of seeing work more clearly.”

      (And I should clarify, I suppose, that when I say “see” I’m speaking metaphorically about the experiencing opera performance. A conductor who returns to the autograph score, restores cuts, and tries to find a compromise between “what the composer would have expected to hear” and “what is effective for the specific audience for which the piece is now being performed” is doing exactly the same sort of “looking at the work from a different angle.”

      • 11.2.1
        BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

        I did you an injustice and ask your pardon. But can we look more closely at what I take to be the core of your statement, “innovation for the sake of seeing work more clearly.” I agree with you whole-heartedly on that but for me it pre-supposes an integrity which may or may not be predominant in the opera (or theatre) production field. It is a competitive field, maybe even highly competitive as there is relatively little work to go around. If there were dozens of Rigolettos being produced weekly, mere competence would be highly valued. But as things are, there is a carrot at the end of the stick to come up with a way of “seeing the work more clearly” that also attracts attention, and sometimes the easier way to attract attention is not excellence but controversy. I contend that putting a premium on innovation makes it regrettably easy for “seeing the work more clearly” to morph into “for innovation’s sake.”
        A second extraneous issue is the huge ego that is almost necessary to succeed in the afore-mentioned competitive field. The artist — well, I won’t say ‘invariably, but I want to -- the artist is led to believe that what he is saying has merit just because he is saying it. I refer to the sad spectacle of Mr. Zeffirelli in his current state. I quote C.S. Lewis in “The Great Divorce,” not only because it is profound but because it is cogent. “The Artist is no longer interested in art but only in what he has to say about it.”
        I’m suggesting that maybe enough has already been said about Aida or Lucia for a while, and if a new production is deemed necessary, then perhaps the best solution is not to do it a new way but do it an old way better. Returning to a well-beaten dead horse, “La Sonnambula” is not a profound work — even its most fervent defenders admit that. No innovation is necessary if you merely accept it on its merits. Oh sure, if an innovative production comes up that truly reveals, I’d be interested but I don’t think there’s a lot of that going around. Most of them obscure the work, hiding the scabby crust of tradition under a new scabby crust of egotistical irrelevance masquerading as “innovation.”
        In short, for me bring back competence.

  • 12
    sterlingkay says:

    My use of the word “YOU” was presumptious…it was meant to denote an older generation of opera-goer. I have often felt frustrated by the very few people of my generation I see at the opera house. I’m most certainly not in management, but for the most part have been thrilled by what Gelb has done. Has it all worked? Nope. But shaking up a dying art form is a challenge. And it is dying (well the audience for it is dying).

    There was zero interest in opera among many of my friends until Gelb’s initiatives. Now they at least are SOMEWHAT interested. These are younger people who love the arts, go to the theater, museums, film festivals, ballet…but find opera un-theatrical and operatic “acting” ridiculous.

    Your thoughts about “fat lady” singers seem a bit like wishful thinking to me. I’ll give a recent example: I went to 2 performances of Garanca’s CARMEN in the house and then the HD broadcast and each time was mesmerized by her…a complete performance…voice, acting and, YES, looks. I also went to Borodina’s CARMEN this week. Vocally she was far superior to Garanca— it’s a Golden Age voice, no doubt and yet she has ZERO charisma. She makes absolutely no attempt to act, seems totally disinterested and, YES, she looks “dumpy” onstage. The performance, while beautifully sung, held absolutely no interest for me and had no DRAMATIC impact. That really is the gist of Gelb’s challenge:…which was the better performance? Garanca’s by a mile as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure others would be able to ignore the drawbacks and enjoy Borodina’s beautiful singing. I can’t. Maybe it’s generational.

    • 12.1

      Very nice reply, SK. I’d include some balderdash about “Thanks for letting an old man ramble,” but I don’t know how to type so it looks like there’s a quiver in my voice. I admit being somewhat hampered in forming a cogent opinion since my last in-house experience was “The Great Gatsby.” Garanca I saw in the HDTV “Cenerentola” and my reaction to her was identical to your reaction to Borodina (without the “frumpy.”) I suspect the production of “The Nose” will give greater credence to either your opinion or mine and I hope you’ll be around to share your thoughts on it.

    • 12.2
      OlivePratt says:

      not generational, educational.

      Gelb belittles the art form. everything is awful, boring cliche’.

      He gave those who are bored or never really interested in opera something to use. Brilliant.
      The movie theater audiences are the same blue haired ladies and slightly younger contingents that have been coming anyway. No big difference, except for the POPULAR operas and that is IF we beleive the numbers coming out of that house, that refuses to open it’s books to a union that wanted to see them.

      Sterling,makes sweeping generalizations to match the best in here, he seems to know EVERY single young person, THEY were not interested so that alone is why the world was crumbling around opera’s shoulders.
      I know plenty young people brought in that would argue the point that this isn’t really opera, it is a hybrid with no respect. Bells and whistles.

      He has no real love for it, has said as much. during his tenure at SONY he was responsible for giving no real opera but instead FOUGHT to have Alvarez and Licitra release their tribute to bland crap Bocelli, his version is a hybrid, and it failed miserably. His claim to fame was the soundtrack of the Titantic, which for obvious reasons, sold millions upon millions. Celine Dion helps. So opera without any real stars needed PR and pretty people, enter Gelb.

      Just wish he loved it, didn’t talk down about it, and didn’t keep hiring people from the supposed “theater” world who know nothing about it. Bing did this all earlier and chose really educated men of theater who understood opera, or at the least respected it’s challenge.

      Garanca, was a cool dull ordinary carmen. perfect for today’s techno idea of acting. Borodina was a disinterested world weary carmen from the bolshoi, a very theater respecting country who loves and thrives on acting. That was her choice. Vocally, she sang rings around her “little” competition. I would like to have seen Borodina with Alagna. This other young tenor isn’t all there as an actor.

      Perhaps it will come down to Garanca, all blue eyed and wrong, but definitely pretty, lip syncing while Borodina gives the right voice to Carmen.

      • 12.2.1
        sterlingkay says:


        I guess I’ll have to educate myself a bit more before I deign to express an opinion here. I see that YOUR generalizations about the HD blue-hairs are ok but mine are unacceptable…even though it seems we’re both saying the same thing:young people are not interested in or attending opera.

        The fact that you could in any way think that what BORODINA did as CARMEN was a “world-weary” interpretation tells me all I need to know about your theatrical acumen. I guess it’s the same “world-weary” interpretation she decided was appropriate for DELILAH, EBOLI, ISABELLA, AMNERIS, LAURA (Gioconda) and MARGUERITE as well as every other role she has ung at the MET….because she seemed equally bored and dramatically inert in those performances. The bar is set so low for operatic “acting” that people like you actually believe what she did was a “choice”. At least have the courage of your convictions and admit that she’s a great singer and you don’t care that she can’t act a lick.

        You might “educate” yourself a bit about Borodina, by the way..her training was not at the Bolshoi but at the Marinsky. But I guess your GENERALIZATION stands that all singers from Russia-- a “very theater respecting country”-- are by definition good actors.

          sterlingkay says:


          I would also urge you to read carefully before shooting your mouth off about other people’s posts. I know your hatred for GELB blinds you to reason but at least attempt to understand what people are saying instead of characterizing it to fit your strange theories. (I’m still trying to figure out your apologia for Chairman Mao…)

          In my post I did not claim that EVERY single young person feels this way or that…I said every young person I KNOW feels that way. I stand by that statement. It is not a generalization…it is a FACT. They are my friends. I have discussed this with them. They all think that the “acting” in opera is laughable. That’s what I said. I did not extrapolate beyond that.

          OlivePratt says:

          Sterling, not so,key, er Kay.

          I think Ms. Borodina chooses what she does, you can account for your “actors studio” cred somewhere else,and I meant what I said, her early press spoke of her love for ballet and evenings spent at the Bolshoi watching the ballet. I do not find her world weary in all her roles, but then you would have to understand the language, and I do, speak french and German and Italian. She has a better understanding of this Carmen than your choice, and that remains my take on it. Bully someone else, silly.

          Besides it seems recently that a lot of young snobs buy into the theory that opera is stupid and only acceptable if it is acted.

          I know what great OPERA acting is, and you and your friends think the bar is set low, already makes me smile and makes me think you poor soul, you came, late to the dinner and think this modern crap suffices.

          Ever see Jon Vickers in anything? Olivero, Stratas, Rysanek, Varnay, and the list goes on?

          No, I would hazard to say you haven’t. Good acting today is what? Looking the part. ANGRY in every part she does, even comedy is your Ms. Garanca and please, she is no one’s idea of a convincing actress. At least my group of young friends laugh more now at the supposed new breed more than they ever did at the “older” singers.

          If I go to the theater and someone tells me, “That actors voice is so wonderful and communicative” and yet he stinks as an actor, I say, well he should sing. Same for opera, I go to the opera to hear the opera for the singing, if they act the hell out of it, I might say, I appreciate the risk and the choice was to act it and not sing it…but I want the singing.
          if they act better than they sing, I say do theater.

          IF we get both, which a lot of us have seen in the big bad old days before Gelb, it is fantastic. I do not hate gelb, he is very intelligent snob who I admire and hope he does pull through, but I have a lot of qualms and I am not alone in thinking that what survives won’t be worth HEARING as much as seeing and that would really be a loss.

          Hans Lick says:

          World-weary or not, Borodina is the only dramatically convincing Carmen I have ever seen in forty years of opera-going.

          “Bored” and “world-weary” certainly don’t describe her Laura or Isabella or Dalila either.

          CruzSF says:

          Ever see Jon Vickers in anything? Olivero, Stratas, Rysanek, Varnay, and the list goes on?

          In a way, this does support Sterling’s feeling that the difference in viewpoint is generational (and not “educational”). Surely the population that saw those singers live and in the house is getting smaller by the day.

          Why not educate with specific qualities instead of just saying that if you weren’t there in the 60’s then you’re stupid? Doesn’t encouragement grow the opera audience more than denigration?

          CruzSF says:

          Hans, when did you see her Delilah? When I saw her perform the role a couple of years ago, “world-weary” would have been an accurate description. BUT, she made it work for the character, and of course her voice was beautiful and strong that night. Glorious singing, no question.

      • 12.2.2
        CruzSF says:

        Sterling explicitly said that he was talking about the young people he knew, not ALL young people.

          OlivePratt says:

          NO one said if you weren’t there in the 60’s you are stupid, but you are deprived of a certain knowledge.
          I do not confront Sterlingkay with anything other than another viewpoint. We are force fed this crap from a mono-istic vision of opera today being dead.People have sounded the death knell when ever it suited them, and numbers for everything are falling, everyone is complaining. NO more record companies either.They don’t sell either, does that mean rap is dead? Susan Boyle sold, why? To send a message for us, or her, or what? Any thoughts on that phenom? The people rooted for an underdog that people laughed at, derided, and then shut up quick when she opened her mouth and could actually sing.Some parallel exists, I fear.

          The medium is drenched with choice.

          Opera is Dead only because the shows make people laugh, and the singers, according to Miss barely park and yet barks everything, Dessay says it is a stupid unreal world that she just fell into by mistake, she wanted to be an actress. Yet I argue, heatedly, but stressing only it is my opinion shared by a lot of my friends who are STAYING away, that that may not be the only reason opera seems unpopular.

          Anyone see any grammy nods for a classical voice except seeing Placido hand out best rap duo album to JC. Where is the exposure? In London now the exposure is to a muppet faced and haired Rolando Villazon coaching a bunch of pop singers to sing opera or some form of it as the only chance to gimmick an exposure to opera. The musical evenings at the white house had some limited exposure to opera and I do mean limited. Every other musicale so far after has been quite varied. They call Josh Groban an opera singer??? Can we all say embarrassing? Or at least my friends will call it that.

          We get nothing but hope that at least in the theater you go to to hear the real thing, it doesn’t sell out and cop out just as it has been doing.

          CruzSF says:

          Olive P, you didn’t say “if you weren’t there in the 60’s you are stupid,” and I apologize for linking you to this sentiment. But other commenters have made statements (and recently) like “if you weren’t there in the 60’s (or ’50’s/’40’s/earlier decade of choice), then you know nothing.”

    • 12.3
      NYCOQ says:

      We are all forgetting that Gelb’s major triumphs have been ushering in HD (which was not created by him of course), bringing “modern” stagings of opera productions that were a success elsewhere before coming to the Met (Butterfly, Fille and House Of The Dead), attaching his name to productions that were well in the works before he arrived (First Emperor), flogging said productions as concepts of his genius and distancing himself away from said productions (Peter Grimes) when they don’t work. As for his first full season I would say that it is not an artistic success (Tosca, Carmen & Hoffman). Yes, he is a master marketer, but his vision beyond the slick surface has escaped me.

      Would that more people read the Observer so that there can be a “fair-and-balanced” dialogue in the city concerning The Met. Every critic has an ax to grind. since the Met has gotten a pass at The Times why not have an adversary elsewhere. BTW those critisms of NY Phil and NYCB were well deserved. If only there were someone at NYT to cast a spot light on the “smoke-and-mirrors” shenanigans going on at The Met.

      • 12.3.1
        sterlingkay says:

        So now you’re not going to give Gelb credit because he didn’t invent HD?? You Gelb-haters are something else..

          NYCOQ says:

          I am not a Gelb hater, but his “I am reinventing this moribund institution” attitude just grates me. Hi p.r. campaign is a huge success. I cannot tell you how many of “my friends” became interested in opera because of his early p.r. campaigns. I am talking about the 20’s to 30’s something crowd. Most of them went a season or two and haven’t been back since. There is just something that is so insincere about him. I certainly wasn’t around in the Dexter age and certainly not the Bing age, but I feel that outside of slick marketing he isn’t building a generation of “opera lovers”.

    • 12.4
      iltenoredigrazia says:

      Sterlinkay, Your point is well taken,but could it also be that you’re allowing the visual overwhelm the aural? That you have to see to believe? Part of the magic of theatre is “make believe.” Try letting your imagination take over. After all, the sets are not real places, are they? People don’t sing to each other in real life, do they? They don’t kill and die and then take curtain calls, do they? Try letting the aural be the dominant factor in opera. Let the sound create the characters inside your mind; guide you into interpreting what you’re actually seeing. Then Carmens will “look” seductive to you, Violettas young and dying, Salomes voluptuous, and Turandots worth risking life for. When you listen to an opera you have not seen, don’t you imagine the action? Don’t you imagine what the characters look like? Let the what you see onstage guide you but not necessarily obscure the images that the music creates inside your brain. Just a thought.

      • 12.4.1
        Batty Masetto says:

        Well, I’m with Sterlinkay. I *did* see Stratas, Vickers, Varnay, Rysanek in her prime, Crespin, Mödl, Borkh, etc. etc., and they were thrilling. I also well remember many nights when I would go to the opera and see some large diva toddle out center, sing beautifully while doing some kind of perfunctory semaphore, then toddle stage left and do some more beautiful singing-plus-semaphore, and so on. Any drama was strictly do it yourself for the audience. But no matter how hard I “created the characters inside my mind,” they did not “look” any more seductive to me, they just gave me a headache.

        I’m not talking physique du role here. I’d be happy to see a plump Salome any day, if she was really committed as an actress and could handle the notes. And my guess is that Sterlinkay would agree.

      • 12.4.2
        sterlingkay says:


        I very much appreciate your point of view…your comment that part of theater is make-believe brings up a running argument I have with some older, more conservative opera-goers. They pretty much argue your point…what does it matter if a singer doesn’t really look the part or he/she doesn’t act convincingly…use your imagination…don’t be so literal. Yet these same folks are the first to scream and yell if a set design is not realistic or representational. They can’t suspend their disbelief about that. They can’t use their imaginations. The set and costumes need to look EXACTLY the way the libretto suggests. There’s an inconsistency there, no??

        I remember having an argument with an older gentleman about the Minghella BUTTERFLY. He could not abide the puppet used instead of the child. He claimed it was ridiculous… that you could not believe it. He could not use his imagination in that case. But he would have no trouble believing in a Butterfly who weighed 250lbs!

  • 13

    Am I the only one who things SterlingKay is a female?

    • 13.1
      CruzSF says:

      Hmmm. That never crossed my mind. I’m so literal minded that I thought — for the longest time — that you were a woman and that kashania was a woman, too.

      • 13.1.1
        sterlingkay says:

        I’m no female!!!!

      • 13.1.2
        BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

        I could be wrong but I figured her name was Kay Sterling, although there was this guy in college named Kay, not the least friendly with Dorothy. Ahhhh dear. I think I must have a lie down.

          BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

          You mean we’re all male? How vile.

          CruzSF says:

          Oh no, Betsy Ann. From time to time, the women speak up to correct that erroneous assumption. But now I’m wondering … Liana is a woman, right? Oh, I don’t know and I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to see so many creative names that reference, in some way, favorite singers and characters.

          BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK says:

          Oh, you know Betsy Ann, the Butte Bobolink? So few people do. Her records sold in the single digits, but such purity, such strength. Her Shadow Song would melt your heart. “soooo-EEEE! soooo-EEEEE!” Callas wanted to study with her, but unfortunately she had already by that time entered the convent.

          CruzSF says:

          Callas or Betsy Ann?

      • 13.1.3
        kashania says:

        Ah yes, the feminine ending of my moniker always leaves that impression. However, I am of the male persuasion.

        I thought that Sterlingkay was a woman, too.

  • 14
    sterlingkay says:


    Time to take your medication. Your posts are becoming increasingly incoherent as the evening wears on. I tried to decipher your last one to no avail. Your Susan Boyle reference baffled me. Same as your admiration for Chairman Mao.

    I believe your argument is basically: I am right. I am old. I saw everything. You know nothing. You are wrong. You are uneducated. I have lots of friends. I have young friends who laugh at the singers today and they never laughed at the older singers (which of course begs the question: how “young” could these friends be?? Maybe you’re 80 and they’re 60??). I have friends…I know people…they all agree with me.

    You seem a bit insecure to always have to buck up your arguments by telling us how many people agree with you.

    • 14.1
      OlivePratt says:

      you referenced ALL your young friends who were’nt interested in music until it became an acting event.You obviously needed their “support” to back up your idolization of Gelb.

      as for the meds, you are just being rude,and you should maybe lay off them a bit. any one will catch the reference I made to a woman who didn’t look the part and wasn’t “camera pretty”; came out was laughed at, much like your supposed young friends you claim don’t like opera.
      And she “sang”, and that made all the difference.
      The world bought her record enough to make it a best seller…get it now? People actually want the goods, a voice for a singer, does that work better for you now that I slowed it down for you? Hope you got it now.

      and if not, move on you don’t want a discussion. You want to manifest at the altar of Gelb and that is that.
      No, my friends who don’t laugh actually took time to KNOW the field, and didn’t wait for it to be acted well before they gave it a side ways glance and I think them much smarter than you.

      I on the other hand only mentioned I had seen more than you will ever forget, as a way to share with you maybe you need to expand your knowledge a bit. Scary thought for you obviously.

    • 14.2
      Schicchi says:

      With a nick like SterlingKay, he’ll likely get the reference when I say I am
      “first-time, long-time” as far as Parterre is concerned ;-)
      Sterling and Kay are the Yankees’ broadcast team.
      But that is neither here nor there …

      I have been visiting this site at least twice a day for the past two years because,
      — despite the occasional Internet vitriol that caused me to stop posting about anything, anywhere, a number of years ago — you folks educate me daily about opera. Not a day goes by when I don’t learn something I didn’t know. And, believe me, there is a lot I don’t know.

      Although I live in New England, I actually found this site via operachic.
      And I quickly discovered that if one’s operatic focus, for better or worse, is the Met, this is where you need to be. This is where you find out what’s going on at Lincoln Center long before it hits the Grey Broadsheet …
      Often, it is where you hear about Met things you’ll hear nowhere else.

      I was not raised in a musical household. Musically self-educated, I listened to a lot
      of Springsteen …
      Then my wife kinda, sorta dragged me and our then-5-year-old daughter to the HD
      of The First Emperor.
      She’d seen a production of Vanessa in Chicago. I’d seen Pavarotti on TV.
      That’s about it.

      So, yeah, it’s not like we had much experience with opera.
      The Tan Dun? With Domingo?
      Well, I thought it was … interesting?
      But I agreed to go again.
      So, we went.
      Even though, at that point, living in Maine, it meant driving two hours roundtrip
      through the snow to a fairly distant, fairly awful multiplex.
      I kept going along, thinking some of the music was kind of, uh, nice? LOL.
      Although I did wonder what in the hell made Alagna ever agree to wear a power-blue suit …
      Understand, I am a former sportswriter, a shot-and-a-beer lapsed Irish Catholic.
      My mother had some Sinatra Christmas albums …
      Our idea of culture, growing up?
      Hmm …
      Yeah. Well.
      Anyway, I went to college. Took stagecraft. To meet chicks.
      If I knew then what I knew now, I would have taken those classes and productions a lot more seriously.
      Hell, I might’ve ended up a standhand instead of a writer.
      My wife was a theater major as an undergrad. But that really doesn’t enter into it, either.
      Part of what happened was, I went to India for a second time a few years ago and saw a
      production of Madame Butterfly in Mumbai.
      It wasn’t great.
      But it was fun.
      And it was Puccini.
      Then we came home and the next HD was Frengo’s Boheme …
      Hey, if you hate it, you hate it.
      But, for me, it was one of the most incredible things I’d ever seen or heard.
      From then on, that was it.
      Opera became my thing. I decided to educate myself and build a collection, because I found the whole experience — listening, going to the HDs, going to the Met, reading books about opera, reading Parterre and operachic — just .. so damn fun.
      A great escape.
      Yes, it helped that my wife also got into it — albeit more from the theaterical standpoint, whereas I am the one who studies up and listens to other versions before an HD or a live performance.
      And, yes, it also helped that my daughter got bitten by the bug early, from seeing/hearing Dessay and Florez in La Fille.
      I imagine there aren’t that many now-8-year-old’s with an iPod that’s loaded with opera. But I digress.

      I am 45. I don’t necessarily know that that qualifies as the “young” audience that has been referenced in this thread.
      On the other hand, I know that our small family of three is on the younger end of the demographic at the soldout little theater in Maine at which our family purchases an entire row of HD tickets by the season.
      (Thankfully, we don’t have to make that long drive to a multplex anymore. We’ve spent the past three seasons in a beautiful building that serves lunch, wine and where a prominent local restaurant opens early after the opera to serve free snacks with a cash bar. The HDs are quite an event.)

      I know our relative “youngness,” so to speak, doesn’t necessarily speak well for
      the long-term health of the art form.
      But we’re young, comparatively.
      That counts for something, right?
      And given the fact that without the HD broadcasts, we wouldn’t be here at all?
      That, to me, means that the HD broadcasts are doing what they’re supposed to do.
      They certainly hooked us.

      I am not prepared to say that Peter Gelb is an effing genius …
      But I wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be listening to opera, wouldn’t be buying recordings, wouldn’t be about to embark on our now-annual three-opera vacation to NYC in the not-cheap seats, if it weren’t for the HD broadcasts.
      And that is something that I have communicated to both Mr. Gelb and Mr. Woolfe in recent months.

      Thanks for listening.
      I’m happy to be here, learning.
      If nothing else, this thread got me to stop lurking.

      I just think it’s important that people here understand that SterlingKay is not a voice in the wilderness. I read the posts here everyday and can tell you for a fact that much of what he has posted rings true to me.
      And I think it’s not very nice to rip “young” opera fans for not having been born earlier.
      Not our fault.

  • 15
    sterlingkay says:


    By the way I love when people quote the witty things they say to other people. It’s certainly the sign of a healthy ego…