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Petered out

Daniel Wakin reports that “WQXR pulled a blog posting critical of the Metropolitan Opera’s new Ring cycle last month after the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, personally complained to the radio station’s top executive…. The Met has a small sponsorship arrangement with WQXR, which for decades has broadcast live Met performances on Saturdays.”  

The blog post in question, by critic Olivia Giovetti, is in large part a rebuttal to Gelb’s interview with Anthony Tommasini, which in turn was transparently a response to the Alex Ross‘s harsh critique of Lepage’s production in The New Yorker.

Though, as Wakin notes, Giovetti’s post has been scrubbed from the WQXR site, a cached version can be viewed here as a PDF. La Cieca invites the cher public to decide for themselves whether the piece was inflammatory enough to provoke an act of what can only be called censorship.


  • brooklynpunk says:

    just in case one hasn’t had enough of Peter Gelb touting the current “Ring”—-

  • grimoaldo says:

    The censored piece was not just about the Ring production -- there is a whole section
    “2. Quality Takes a Back Seat to Quantity”
    and talks of Gelb vaunting the fact that “the Met will present 62 new productions, including 17 works totally new to the company…the company managed 45 new productions and 12 Met premieres under its previous
    GM, Joseph Volpe” but then wonders “. How many of those 62 new productions will be successful? And how does that compare with the success rate of the 45
    productions mounted between 1995 and 2006?”

    The success rate of new productions this season has not been high, it seems to me, judging from reviews and reactions here and I do not mean just the sets and costumes, but the shows as a whole including musical values.

    But for Gelb to pressure to have the article removed seems petty and an over reaction.

    • Flying Wotan says:

      And now Gelb’s sneaky act of cowardice goes viral, on Facebook, blogs, chat sites etc. This non-story, which by the way was extremely well written and factual, is now going to be well promoted.

  • parpignol says:

    PG sighted at Matthias Goerne recital at Carnegie Hall this evening. . .

    • Maury D says:

      I’d love it if Goerne showed up at the Met, but I get the feeling he doesn’t do that much opera. I suppose it’s not a huge voice. His aria recital disc is a masterpiece.

      • oedipe says:

        Goerne was an excellent Mathis in the Paris Opera Mathis der Maler in the 2010-2011 season.

        • Often admonished says:

          and was terrific as Wozzeck in one of Pappano’s first ROH new productions.

      • parpignol says:

        could he sing St. Francis?

        • operaguy says:

          What does it matter? That production never happens. An chorus of 150 and

          “Messiaen’s full orchestration requires a vast number of musicians (110), often placing costly demands on opera companies, as well as causing space problems in the orchestral pit.

          Woodwinds: three piccolos, three flutes, one flute in G, three oboes, one English horn, two E-flat clarinets, three clarinets, one bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, three bassoons and one contrabassoon.
          Brass: six horns in F, one small trumpet in D, three trumpets, four trombones, two tubas and one contrabass tuba.
          Strings: 16 first violins, 16 second violins (32 violins in total), 14 violas, 12 cellos and 10 double basses.
          The first percussionist plays the first set of bells, the first claves, one eoliphone and a snare drum.
          The second percussionist plays the first triangle, the second claves, six temple blocks, a very small cymbal, a small cymbal and a suspended cymbal.
          The third percussionist plays the second triangle, the third claves, one wood block, one whip, a pair of maracas, a reco reco or guiro, glass chimes, shell chimes, wood chimes, a tambourine and three gongs.
          The fourth percussionist plays the third triangle, the fourth claves, a set of crotales, a large suspended cymbal, a suspended cymbal, a medium tom-tom, a low tom-tom and three tam-tams.
          The fifth percussionist plays the second set of bells, one metal sheet, the fifth claves, a geophone, an eoliphone, and a bass drum.
          As well as the vast use of diverse percussion instruments, five keyboards are also used. These are: one xylophone, one xylorimba, one marimba, one glockenspiel and one vibraphone, as well as three Ondes Martenot.” (Wikipaedia)

          Once the board sees the budget for that one, it will be gone.

      • louannd says:

        Didn’t he cancel his appearances as Wozzeck for which Alan Held was engaged?

    • Liz.S says:

      Good thing I didn’t spot him.
      It was just a perfect evening for me -- Goerne and Andsnes were perfect -- it was mentally, emotionally, spiritually stimulating…

      • Krunoslav says:

        I found Andsnes wonderful. Goerne has made almost no effort to master Russian phonetics and so the Shostakovich songs were inadequate; some of them also lay low for him. There was much beautiful tenorish singing in the Mahler, and then the other, barkier voice would show up.

        He seemed to me to wish the audience were elsewhere; hands trailed all over the place, eyes rarely accessing us-- as if he were reheasring in his garage, slightly stoned. A very weird affect.

        Not thrilled with him tonight in short though I have heard some great Goerne performances , of course…

        • louannd says:

          Wasn’t there something about him having problems with crippling stage fright?

        • Loge says:

          I had a similar impression of a recital he gave in Atlanta. He walked in. Never looked at the audience, sang his songs, bowed and left. No encore. No repeat bows. A friend who worked at the hall said he was offended that he did not get a standing ovation when he first entered. He was also mad because they had delayed the beginning of the concert 10 minutes as there had been a wreck near the entrance to the hall and much of the audience was having trouble getting there. But I felt that I was beneath his attention.

        • peter says:

          I love Goerne’s voice but stopped attending his recitals years ago because it was just too uncomfortable watching him. He looks so out of place on a recital stage that it’s hard to concentrate on his singing. I often wondered how he fared in opera productions where he has a costume, a character and some direction.

          • ducadiposa says:

            Agreed. Attended a recital of his in Toronto two summers ago, and it’s a gorgeous sound, but not very engaging as a performer. Yes, he seems cut-off from the audience. I doubt I’d run to hear him live again…it was almost like listening to a CD I suppose except he was kind of, sort of there…

          • Liz.S says:

            Ah I could be just lucky then. I got the ticket pretty at the last minute and just grabbed a seat fairly upfront. From there, he seemed to be gazing at us with that big eye balls very often -- it was really intense and I couldn’t take mine off (well, ok, only when it’s Mahler -- My Russian is null and I had to look down to read ;-) His Shostakovitch was better in the second half really -- I felt the anger he rendered sounded not from one man but from millions of people who suffered -- but I can see some find it barky.

            Last night’s program ( was really gripping. After that second half -- I felt a bit upset and powerless about the government and brutal war, etc. -- and then that encore of Beethoven… I thought it was brilliant -- Hoffnung might be the only thing that may keep us survive -- just because… despite of… That very last “Hoffnung” in sotto voce… sigh…

      • MontyNostry says:

        Goerne always sounds like he has a hot potato in his mouth.

        • Baltsamic Vinaigrette says:

          Peter, Loge -- this from a Belfast Telegraph review of a Goerne recital in 2005:

          “Matthias Goerne and the members of the Belfast Music Society will not forget each other for some time to come. The great baritone’s recital on Saturday night stuttered into motion beset with gremlins; a problem with the tuning of the piano caused a considerable delay at the outset and Goerne, mean and menacing, interrupted the first song of Beethoven’s Op.98 to demand the complete attention of the door staff.”

          For the record, once things settled down he was mesmerising.

          I cannot agree, Monty -- the velvety sound of Goerne’s early lieder discs appeals greatly to me, even if the gulping for air is a tad up-front. In particular I love his first Winterreise with Graham Johnson on Hyperion. The ROH Wozzeck mentioned above is something I really wish I had got to see; and yes, I heard excellent reports of the Paris Mathis. Has the Met only heard him in mainstream work e.g. Papageno?

          • Krunoslav says:

            Goerne skipped out on his Met Wozzeck, so yes-- two runs of Papageno. But he did sing Bartok’s Bluebeard (impressively) with the NY Phil in 2006-- w/ ASvO and von Dohnanyi.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            Speaking of skipping out on scheduled Met shows, Kruno, la Dessay is reporting herself “ill” today, so the audience will hear some really good singing from Hei-Kyung Hong and have to imagine the gamine grimacing and overacting for themselves.

          • operadunce says:

            Or they can catch the HD Traviata encore tonight and not miss a single grimace.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    What a pinim!

  • oedipe says:

    It looks to me like Gelb’s goal has been to find a compromise approach that would please everybody, by replacing dusty, outmoded “traditional” productions with new ones that eschew “eurotrash” and can be acceptable to conservative audiences. The result? He has managed to displease everybody.

  • archie says:

    Censorship is a very nasty tool. What’s next? No press? Where does this stop? Freedom of the press alert: who will Gelb squelch next??? Is this what the Metropolitan Opera wants? A dictator? Is this what an artistic institution stands for? Wake up time. This is very dangerous.

    • havfruen says:

      Remember the comments here about letting the Guild give up control of Opera News and turn it over to the Met? Opera News is flawed, but there are critical articles. Those would presumably disappear should the Guild lose control. The WQXR affair came out because the NYTimes picked it up. As long as no-one can control all the media outlets,the word will get out.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    WQXR Retaliates (but who reads the WQXR anyway?)!/blogs/operavore/2012/may/01/ringside-your-reviews-mets-ring-cycle/

  • arepo says:

    I will likely always be a supporter of Peter Gelb because to me he revolutionized the state of opera with his brilliant HD promotion idea. That he did that will go down in history to his benefit … and the Met’s.
    BUT … having said that, I must admit that my once hero is being petulant and childish once again about the small stuff like this QXR pulling, clearly a censorship move — an act I very much abhor.
    The other one was the closing down of the very informative (maybe too much so)Brad Wilbur’s Future Opera predictions. That one was really a mean-spirited thing to do to a “little guy” only out to generate more excitement for opera and sell more tickets to a thing he was passionate about. Too bad that Gelb’s myopia kicked in at a very wrong time then and once again now.
    So it looks like my knight has tarnished some of his shining armor.
    Wishing that he would stop sweating the “smalls”, I will still remain in his corner because he is doing many things right, and no one can claim that they are perfect all of the time. (sit in his seat and try it!)

  • JRZGRL1 says:

    Gelb should be ashamed of himself.

  • LR says:

    I’m an editor at a magazine that publishes critical writing. We would never have published this piece in a million years. There are at least two assertions that absolutely must be qualified (with a “seems like” or something like that) because they are blatantly representations of the author’s own suppositions. The ending, where she implies, baselessly, that Gelb doesn’t care about the safety of the performers and crew, is the definition of ad hominem and completely inappropriate. She could get away with it if she said something like “One wonders if…,” but even then, it would just be slimy. Meanwhile, the Santa thing is totally incoherent. To say that editors who choose pull reviews that include ad hominem attacks, dreadful writing, and baseless assertions are practicing censorship is absurd, and is also an insult to people who struggle under real conditions of censorship. Writers have responsibilities; editors have prerogatives. If the review was pulled only because of pressure from Gelb, that’s obviously a big problem. But the point is, the piece should never have been published in the first place (without edits, at least), and whoever chose to pull it did the right thing.

  • Clita del Toro says:

    OT: Sirius has apparently made some changes of late. I tuned into the 1945 Gioconda with Milanov, which started at 8:00AM here in Chicago. To my surprise the opera started at the beginning with Juntwait’s announcement.
    I then clicked on the “listen live” et voila, the opera was in the last act as I had expected. Sirius’ format on the computer is totally different from what it was last week. Btw, Milanov sounds great; Tucker, the same old blustery singing.

    • Clita del Toro says:

      PS Warren is not chopped liver either.

      • MontyNostry says:

        Does Zinka get a special round of applause for her “Ah, come t’amo”? That’s a highlight of the live version I have.

  • Clita del Toro says:

    OT: TRAVIATA TONIGHT form opera-l

    Hei-Kyung Hong will sing the role of Violetta Valéry in this evening’s
    performance of Verdi’s La Traviata, the final performance of the opera this
    season. Hong replaces Natalie Dessay, who is ill. Hong most recently sang
    Violetta at the Met on April 6, the opening night of the current revival;
    she also sang a portion of the performance on April 21.