Cher Public

Off the beat

billyLa Cieca has just heard that Leonard Slatkin has been removed from further performances of Traviata at the Met.

The critical reaction to Slatkin’s Monday night performance is unanimously negative:

“For a conductor to use the opportunity of a Met production to learn “La Traviata” doesn’t seem the best idea…. I have seldom heard such faulty coordination between a conductor and a cast at the Met.” [NYT]

“…the tentative, clumsy conducting of Leonard Slatkin. He also derailed both experienced baritone Thomas Hampson (Germont) and debuting tenor James Valenti as Violetta’s lover, Alfredo.” [NYP]

“So with all this vocal wonderment, why wasn’t the evening a huge success? Sadly, the answer first and foremost was conductor Leonard Slatkin…. There were huge pacing problems throughout and all the leads were often left in the dust as Slatkin seemed indifferent not only to their preferences, but even to letting them know what was going on. Several times I noted looks of fear in the vocalists’ faces as they glanced over at Slatkin wailing away at a pace faster than necessary in several key moments.” [Out West Arts]

  • Lucky Pierre



    i was there (the sat. matinee) and while he was not heroic or beautiful in tone, he got through the part. i wouldn’t have booed him, because he showed up and he sang it — it was an honest day’s work.

    gruber’s last aidas at the met, however (and one of them was b’cast, if you can believe it), now those were not just worth of boos, someone should have prevented her from getting on stage. she was voiceless. i cannot believe levine didn’t stop the performance and get the cover ready.

    i think slatink compounded his own problems by bloggin about it.

  • Lucky Pierre

    that was really stupid. whatever happened to discretion? (oh yes, it’s the age of blogs, facebook and twitter. nobody keeps their mouths shut anymore.)

  • horiampa

    I don’t know what went on backstage during the Traviata rehearsals, but I do think it’s a sad day for the Met when an artist can be driven away by a review from an agenda-driven hack such as Anthony Tommasini. I was at the dress rehearsal and not the premiere, and I fully agreed with JJ in the Post that it was one of the specially satisfying Traviatas I’ve heard in many years. This was, of course, primarily due to the the principal singers, but for most of the performance Slatkin’s conducting complemented and enhanced their work. Clearly there we problems in some of the ensembles, but this hardly detracted from a generally moving and beautiful performance. From my vantage point in the audience, Slatkin in now way deserved the abuse which he has received.

    I would observe also that Traviata is a particularly tough opera for the conductor. No less a genius than Carlos Kleiber conducted two performances at the Met without making much of an impression (unlike his definitive Boheme and his brilliant Otello) and then withdrew from the production. Not meaning to equate Slatkin with Kleiber, but Traviata can be cruel.

  • Nerva Nelli

    Rosario Andrade is not just one of operas most celebrated sopranos, but perhaps its most convincing actress. A consummate artist, her one and only role when she stands in the spotlight is to breathe so much life into the opera’s main character that audiences lose themselves in her unforgettable performances. That is the passion of Rosario Andrade.

  • casualoperafan

    I listened to the clips posted online.

    From the clips, if I didn’t know the background, I would have thought it was AG going around the flagpole and the conductor didn’t want to accommodate her.

    I still wonder if that was not really the case/

    But since she was the headliner, and he had written things on his blog that called his knowledge of the score into question, he is the one who got nailed for it.

    Maybe he posted the blog thnking it wold somehow protect him or maybe he was posting his thoughts about it with no agenda, but I think once the singers were ruffled, his own comments made it very easily to pressure him out.

    From the clips, I thought rythmic matters aside, AG did not sound particularly good -- flat a lot, sharp a lot, forced on the bottom and squally on top -- and that maybe Andrew Byrne’s review is the most likely, but I would not want to pass judgment on vocal tone just by what I heard online.

    Anyway, I think performers should take heed and be very, very careful what they post on their blogs!!

  • Tristan_und

    Personally, I just don’t think singers should ever be booed. It takes so much gonads just to step out on stage and open your mouth, even though you have no idea what will come out when you do, that booing is just pointless and cruel. Don’t applaud if the performance is bad, but there’s no need for booing. I agree with other commenters: it’s more about self-aggrandizement than critical judgment.


    Ah yes, Tristan, but the same argumentum ad misericordium could be used in reference to the conductor, the set designer, the director, etc. Each requires gonads to say “What you see and hear is what and who I am and think.” At what point do we as an audience have the right to say, “What and who I am thinks what and who you are stinks.”

  • Santa di Patria

    I’m just reading Slatkin’s own words on his website (at least I am assuming they are his own words although they could quite easily have been penned in a hurry by some passing four year old) and have come across this astounding comment --

    “Tom and James Valenti, the Alfredo, did a great job, and as we progressed I started to take more of a leadership role. Everyone went with it.”

    Um. Forgive me, Maestro Slatkin, but what exact profession do you consider yourself to have. The conductor started to take more of a leadership role?? In the dress rehearsal? How in the name of all that is holy did this guy ever make it past the first stutterings of an abortive conducting career? It just makes one weep…

    Anyway, it looks like we get Marco Armiliato, Yves Abel and some guy who happens to be Elizabeth Futral’s husband sharing the rest of the run…

  • CruzSF

    Interesting that Slatkin praises Hampson when TT’s review suggested that that the singer struggled to follow the conductor during the performance.

  • quoth the maven

    horiampa@63—Kleiber’s Traviata did in fact make “an impression”—at least on me. A huge one. I never hope to hear it performed again with the same combination of muscularity and delicacy.

    He did cancel most of his scheduled appearances that run, but I don’t think it was because Traviata was “cruel” to him. He had, after all, conducted it quite a lot in Europe, and made a celebrated DG recording. I remember that Gruberova canceled the same performances, and at the time (when we didn’t have opera blogs to chew over every bit of casting news), I guessed that Kleiber simply didn’t want to do it with her cover (Karen Huffstodt--fairly undistinguished).

  • quoth the maven

    italics mishap. Sorry about that.

  • poisonivy

    Well y’all can judge for yourself:

  • mj

    #66, I am SO with you! I have experienced booing a few times in the theater and I think it sucks.

    I don’t think there are any singers, conductors, set-designers or directors who purposefully set out to create shit/a shitty performance. Part of being a human being means that one will fail. It’s just mean-spirited to rub that in an artist’s face like that when it happens in the theater.

  • mj

    Oops, I meant to say that one will fail *sometimes*

  • CruzSF

    mj@ 73 AND 74: perfect illustration of your point about failure! :-)

  • Harry

    mj73: Yes I agree that artists can realize quickly that they have ‘stuffed up’ but do they or managements move to quickly fix the problems? If not, they stand ‘ as knowingly selling faulty merchandise to the public ‘after the fact’. Booing….is therefore just a simple reflex ‘class action’

    Surely ripped off aggrieved audiences have a right to some recompense. If so justified :to the ones that objected to the booing, perhaps they do not like being shown up as cultural morons who will clap and accept anything. A performance is only as good as the natural response of the audience watching it !!!!

  • Regina delle fate

    Doesn’t Mrs Gelb have La traviata in her repertoire? And, if I’m not mistaken, she was the maestra at last year’s performances in Munich starring La Gheorghiu…..At least she knows it!