Cher Public

The Way We Were

UPDATE: The New York Times has published a followup story, with some select sheepish comments from Peter Gelb.  

EARLIER TODAY: Well, slap my face and call me Vox Populi, but “[i]n view of the outpouring of reaction from opera fans about the recent decision to discontinue Met performance reviews in Opera News, the Met has decided to reverse this new editorial policy. From their postings on the internet, it is abundantly clear that opera fans would miss reading reviews about the Met in Opera News. Ultimately, the Met is here to serve the opera-loving public and has changed its decision because of the passionate response of the fans.”

This in a press release from the Met less than 18 hours after the New York Times reported that “Opera News, 76 years old and one of the leading classical music magazines in the country, said on Monday that it would stop reviewing the Metropolitan Opera, a policy prompted by the Met’s dissatisfaction over negative critiques.”

Or is this a sort of double-reverse version of the Streisand Effect?

MONDAY NIGHT: The situation at Opera News recalls similar friction in San Francisco in 1975 when critic Stephanie von Buchau “was ‘banned’ from the War Memorial by San Francisco Opera General Manager Kurt Herbert Adler. Adler, at least as prickly a personality as Buchau, took offense at one of her reviews, and ordered the publicity department not to make press tickets available to her.”

This latest move of suppression of healthy discussion of events at the Met is extremely discouraging; in fact, I don’t think it’s too much of an exaggeration to call the situation “horrifying.” As doesn’t enjoy press credentials at the Met, your doyenne doesn’t see herself in any immediate danger; and, at the other end of the scale, first-tier media like the New York Times, the New Yorker and the Associated Press are unlikely to be shut out.

In between, though, there are dozens of more vulnerable small magazine and web reviewers who are right now feeling the chilling effect of this very high-profile move to quash dissent. The threat is now implicit: publish negative criticism of the Met, and the Met will silence you.

What action journalists and the opera public in general should take is hard to define precisely at the moment, but one thing is clear: this is not just about Opera News.

Bloggers weigh in:

The Classical Beat

Iron Tongue of Midnight

Alex Ross

Out West Arts

  • ilpenedelmiocor

    “Mr. Gelb has also been a tireless promoter of theatrically innovative productions….” (NYT)

    Dass ich nicht lache.

    Right, everyone is on his case because he’s so forward-thinking.

    In such instances, I always remember the fact that Gelb was quoted in the infamous 1994 Time magazine tell-all “Battle Fatigue” article in defense of the lady in question (I can no longer access the article to pull the quote because I am not a Time magazine subscriber). Of course, then he was in arts management.

    My point: once a PR spinner, always a PR spinner — and what seems obviously questionable is apparently certainly not.

    • ilpenedelmiocor

      Come to think of it, I remember well the issue of Opera News featuring the upcoming Saturday radio broadcast of The Daughter of the Regiment that came out immediately after the announcement of Battle’s firing: there was a full-page color ad of a CD by Harolyn Blackwell (whom I had never heard of prior to that), and an odd but obviously calculated historical biographical piece (which was a regular feature at the time) laying out in damning detail what a bitch, racist, and overall horrible person Jenny Lind was in real life. I remember thinking at the time, wow, these guys had to pull off some major changes at the last minute in order to get this particular issue off the presses in time.

    • Andie Musique

      Here is another blogger who has tracked Gelb’s spin from the getgo.

  • arepo

    I too have been a strong Gelb supporter from day 1, championing his delivering the wonderful HD’s, approving his ideas of filling previously empty seats, until the day that he removed the innocent and informative Brad Wilbur’s site of Opera Futures. Something was very wrong with that move. It smelled of Big Brother and I started to feel irate at what I considered censorship, a thing I so detest.
    Then came the NY Times article on the Ring where, try as he may to paint grape jam on a Met corporate error, the banning of criticism over the airwaves came back to shoot him in the foot, as the outrageous news magnified to worldwide proportions.
    And now the bossman is up to his old tricks again with his heavy hand of power coming down on Opera News this time.
    OR IS HE??
    Is this nothing more than an attempt at free publicity so that the word MET is on everyone’s lips for good or bad?
    Whatever is going on in his power hungry brain, I hope that his reign is near its end.
    All the wonderful and creative ideas he brought to the Met have suddenly gotten the better of him and he has lost his strength and become instead a petulant child wielding his weight for naught.
    He did well and I thank him for his past endeavors but he is starting to look like a deer in headlights.
    Time for someone new.

    • WallStreetStinks

      I don’t think this isn’t the type of publicity the Board wants. If anything hopefully more people will pull their financial support from the Met until this guy is out. Otherwise, this whole discussion is meaningless. I gave up my center orchestra seat this year, and i have a feeling that I’ll be able to get a similar seat later. Doesn’t seem to me as though the subscriber base is on the rise. In fact for a couple perfs last year, prime orchestra seats next to mine which were formerly held by a subscriber were given to an assistant conductor’s family. No revenue there.

  • Midgette doesn’t pull any punches:

    The New York Times has reported (on Page One) that he’s set his sights on Opera News, the leading opera magazine in America and a publication of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, and is forcing them to stop writing reviews of the Met. You could say that this is still a story about arts journalism, and/or the way people respond to criticism; but the takeaway now seems to me to be that Gelb is losing his mind.

    • ianw2

      Apart from calling Kellow’s bitter rant ‘thoughtful’, I really love her.

  • gingerromatica

    Gelb = Yellow

    • Regina delle fate

      Haha! Well spotted, Ginger!

  • Lily Bart

    And Lo, there came a Humbling…

  • Camille

    “Ultimately, the Met is here to serve the opera-loving public and has changed its decision because of the passionate response of the fans.”  

    Hell to the yes!

    • Camille

      It would be very well for some to remember, in the inner circles of supreme power, that there is a vox populi and indeed, its support of and goodwill toward the MET is not to be discounted.

  • Lily Bart

    It’s odd that they left out the most important part of their policy reversal: “And from now on all reviews of Met productions will be postive reviews!”

  • Will

    Marvelous the power and speed of the internet to transmit the public’s voice and affect events! Mr. Gelb’s statements to the Times reporter covering the recantation will be amusing to read.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      He’s such a creep ! Apology not accepted.

  • derschatzgabber

    To show the sincerity of his repentance, Mr. Gelb should apologize to Brad Wilbur and ask him to restart the Met Futures page.

    • That may not be possible: the thread of the rope of destiny was severed by a descending metal plank.

      • derschatzgabber

        Es riss!! Hinab zur Mutter.

  • Clita del Toro


    • manou

      Come on Clita -- there was also cheese talk…

      • Clita del Toro

        I guess I missed the “cheese talk.” Does Gelb like cheese?

        • operaguy

          He must, given the number of “cheesy” productions he has put on …

        • manou

          This thread, Page 3, towards the end of the page.

        • Camille

          Yes, the YELLOW kind only, though. Velveeta, and the like, etc.

        • manou
  • PushedUpMezzo

    Did Barbra really have a finger double for this album cover?

    • Talk of the Town

      Aside from Yentl (in which they would have given the game away) did Barbra ever play a role in which she DIDN’T wear those frightening nails? They were particularly inappropriate for her character in The Way We Were.

      • OpinionatedNeophyte


  • mrmyster

    AND NOW . . . comes a press release from the Met that Opera News WILL carry reviews of the Met (written by Gelb?) (:), due to the excitement they cause among web and other areas of the public.
    My goodness, how responsive Mr Gelb has become.
    I can’t wait to see who will do the reviewing.

    • Finally! Little Petey Gelb got his tit caught in the “ring”er.

      • Flying Wotan

        His shiny head slapped by a Managing Director from above, after the titty twist.

    • calaf47

      The reviewers will be Margaret Junwaith and William Berger…with their gushing over-the-top comments

  • whatever

    hmmmmmmmm … not sure what to think of herr gelb at this point.

    “I made a mistake” is a pretty menschy thing to say (especially for one as thin-skinned as reported) — more public figures should try it.

    so props for that, undeniably.

    but, then, he goes on to describe the nature of that mistake somewhat, er, superficially. the groundswell appears to me — from reading not only the posts here, but also the criticism leveled across the mainstream media (brava, m midgette!) — not so much a sentimental FOR the reviews as a visceral reaction against gelb’s heavy hand.

    having gone so far as to own the mistake — which, again, is a rarity these days — it would have been more reassuring to see him maintain the candor all the way through to the completion of the thought.

    • bluecabochon

      He said “I THINK I made a mistake”. He’s not owning it fully.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      bluecabochon is right -- there is a qualitative difference between saying ‘I think I made a mistake’ and ‘I made a mistake’.

      • whatever

        imho that’s speculative — without context, we don’t know whether he was speaking colloquially (as in “i think THAT i made a mistake”) or equivocating (as in “i think MAYBE i made a mistake”). the difference *can* be qualitative, but it doesn’t *have* to be.

        and in either case it’s still more of an admission than one generally gets out of a public figure.

        as i i said, i think the acknowledgement falls short in (mis)identifying the nature of the mistake — which might even be more telling than attempts at parsing an oral statement none of us actually heard.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Ah, duh…. the Met press release states: “In view of the outpouring of reaction from opera fans about the recent decision to discontinue Met performance reviews in Opera News, the Met has decided to reverse this new editorial policy.”

    “The Met has decided to reverse this new editorial policy”???? How does the MET have an editorial policy over the publication “Opera News”?

    Written in haste? Written without noticing the subtext? Soon to be retracted? Redacted?

  • phoenix

    Poor journalists! Censorship becomes prevalent in hard times.
    -BTW, did anyone hear the Adriana Lecoureur today from the Liceu? It came thorugh in very good sound today for RNE. Gr

    • phoenix

      Grandma Zajic phoned it in -- Barb was better.

      • Clita del Toro

        Kojack always phones it in.

    • DonCarloFanatic

      I heard about half, and not the best half. Pretty good, though Alagna had me worried at one point.

  • phoenix

    Did you ever wonder what happened to Shelly Winters and Ruth Roman? Check out the upper left-hand corner:

    • Clita del Toro

      I know. Shelly Winters drowned, and Ruth Roman and Farley Granger lived happily ever after.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Soon The Food Network will be sending a crew to Lincoln Center to cover the situation at the MET for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    For a preview of Google’s tribute to Robert Moog’s 78th birthday already online in Europe, see (for example) = sooo kewl.