Cher Public

Scarred for life

“This, after all, is opera, opera in New York, not some dainty pastime like professional hockey, and the stage is crowded with grumbling members of the old guard who aren’t renewing subscriptions, disenchanted reviewers, vendors of vitriol on blogs like Parterre Box…” [New York Times]

  • sterlingkay

    I think you’re missing THE TEMPEST on that list…

    • Not sure how that slipped through the cracks. Also THE TEMPEST then.

  • Liz.S

    I still don’t know how to react to this, but the shocking news of Gelb era’s extension till 2022 resonates with the previous statement by LePage --

    “You’re stuck with me whether you like it or not”

    • oedipe

      What a COUPLE!

  • Cardillac

    I’m new to Opera, though not to classical music. I must say that reading this blog is quite enlightening. Personally, my very first opera ever attended was The Met’s ‘Gotterdammerung’ LePage production. It was awesome! Prior to attending, I watched a Barenboim DVD of the Ring from Bayreuth. I was previously familiar with Wagner’s music, as I’ve listened to classical music for more than 50 years.

    My observation to the comments posted about this article on Peter Gelb is, do people really think that stagnant productions will keep the Met a viable business? It seems that the long time supporters were not doing enough to support the institution’s financial health, so in order to encourage new people they’ve tried to innovate. Of course it won’t always be perfect but I believe they have to take some risks. Since attending Gotterdammerung in May 2012, I’ve purchased 7 additional shows in the 2012-2013 season. I travel in from Texas, and am looking forward to seeing some of the 2013-14 productions.

  • Feldmarschallin

    This evening at 20.15 (MEZ)3SAT is showing the Salzburg Parsifal with Botha (in a poison green suit), Schuster and Milling. Thielemann is conducting.

    • armerjacquino

      Botha (in a poison green suit)

      Someone must have had a spare snooker table knocking around.

    • manou
      • La Valkyrietta

        It seems to be a mixture of spring green, islam green and forest green.

      • oedipe

        Source: Intermezzo, also known under the name “Kaufmann y’a que ça qui compte”

        • manou

          Mélomane -- ou Kaufmannmane?

    • bluecabochon

      Will this be available for viewing/listening online? I can’t find a link anywhere.

  • La Valkyrietta

    A sample of the vilest, in my view.

    Madama Butterfly
    That “fior di giglio e di rosa” is a small child, not a group with a puppet!

    Lucia di Lammermoor
    Sextet is not “say cheese”.

    Walking on chairs and swinging lamps! Give me a Laphroaig!

    La Damnation de Faust
    How can you sing when your hair is on fire?

    La Sonnambula
    Amina in the big city, a witless hideous oxymoron.

    Scarpia a finger food person?

    Marge Simpson in the age of the Huns.

    If the crusaders only had Raid!

    Das Rheingold
    No Gods allowed in Valhalla, only mountain climbers with magnetic shoes.

    Die Walküre
    Bruni can’t take the upside down elevator.

    Tons of wasteful sets.

    Anges radieux, I’ll get to you after I’m done with the StairMaster.

    The Enchanted Island
    Opera fans, don’t starve, eat your pasticcio.

    Another ton of vitriol on Wagner.

  • redbear

    Does anyone believe that “Gelb’s” Parsifal was really his? You remember him seeming to suggest that the whole thing was his idea and that Lyon was the “out of town tryout?” That is one very large crock.
    Could anyone list the operas where he was involved in the entire process as co-creator? The “Enchanted Isle?”

    • Does anyone believe that “Gelb’s” Parsifal was really his?

      I do. Yes, it was a co-production and so Lyon’s administrators had some input. But the Met put up the lion’s share of the costs associated with developing the production, so it stands to reason that he who paid the piper called the tune.

      The “fiasco” Tosca is a co-production with two very important European theaters, La Scala and the Bayerische Staastoper. And yet, I’m not reading anyone here blaming Stéphane Lissner or Klaus Bachler, who between them have over 60 years’ experience as theater adminstrators.

      So: if a co-production is a failure, it’s Galb’s fault, and if a co-production is a success, that’s in spite of Gelb. Forgive me if I say this sounds very like what Republicans say about President Obama.

      • Pretty much sums it up!

      • oedipe

        Sorry La Cieca, but Tosca was a “fiasco” ONLY at the Met. At La Scala and Munich it was merely a dull non-event. Big difference! Simulated sex on stage DOES NOT make a big impression on Europeans. So Lissner and Bachler did not get anywhere near the blame that Gelb got in his own back yard.

        • oedipe

          BTW, that’s exactly why Americans consider themselves clean and consider Europeans “trash”.

          • Feldmarschallin

            The Tosca was actually a non-event. Most people were indifferent towards it since for me it is neither fish nor fowl. It certainly was not a success but neither was it a huge disaster either. The press and the public kind of just shrugged their shoulders and thought it was rather dull and boring and if anything trivial. For example the Rigoletto Premiere was a huge disaster and there was massive booing for that but not because it was too modern but because it was basically a concert version with everyone singing on the prompters box and no interaction between the characters. Yet there were ovations for Calleja.

        • That’s why I put quotation marks around “fiasco.”

      • redbear

        A long time ago in San Diego they were doing a world premiere of a Menotti opera -- not in NY. Some painfully pompous New Yorker piped up with the comment, “Oh we sometime like to have an out of town tryout.” Was that you? Why would you assume that it was Gelb’s “artistic vision” that created Parsifal? Serge Dorny at Lyon has transformed that opera company into one of Europe’s most respected companies and his “artistic vision” is well-known and widely respected. Gelb flies around looking for something edgy mais pas trop. Name one “artistic vision” he has had that wasn’t borrowed from somebody more talented. I will grant “Isle.”
        How do you know that the Parsifal was his idea and the Met provided most of the money that Gelb’s slaves in Lyon spent on assembling such a complex production? Sounds like a “New Yorker” talkin’.

        • Get back to me when you have facts instead of insults.

          • mirywi

            I’m borrowing the facts/insults line. It’s irresistible.

          • redbear

            Here’s a fact. Yesterday’s — yesterday’s!-- newspaper reports on a study which says that the dramatic separation of the rich and poor in the US is not only increasing, it is permanent.
            Kids cannot work for Occupy or Greenpeace when they graduate because they have a six figure debt. Bradley Manning, who exposed lies and war crimes, is being prosecuted for that by a system without the slightest hint of justice. The government has concluded it is OK to kill American citizens whenever they want without trial and listen to any phone and email anytime they want. Banks and their friends run the government and, for example, one of the people responsible for the financial collapse of 2008 -- devastating uncounted lives and causing thousands of sucidies -- was made Secretary of the Treasury by the current president who considers free speech optional. America is in moral and social crisis.
            If you cared for a second about the art of opera, you would know that that same Lyon Opera (Gelb’s lapdog, you say) is doing a Fidelio which opens next Thursday. It is part of Lyon’s three opera festival named “Justice-Injustice.” (Opera at the Heart of the Debate). You would know that California video artist Gary Hill is looking again at Fidelio and its relevance for today. What’s the probability of this kind of production being seen in America. Zero. What’s the probability that the two other opera’s also opening -- a new production of the important French composer Thierry Eschaich, “Claude” (Wednesday) and a double bill of “Il Prisonnier” and “Erwartung” Friday -- being in any American opera house. Zero. What is the possibility of a having in America a series of debates to go along with this series: “Solidarity” “Victor Hugo and Justice,” “Europe -- a Need to Reinvent” “Insurgence and Intervention, Just War, Unjust War” “The Penal System and Incarceration -- a System to Reevaluate.” Again, Zero.
            This is doing what art is supposed to do. Opera in America is locked on the tit of America’s one percent and any middle class support is unlikely because they are all now working at Walmart.
            We can see who now is “Gelb’s lapdog.”

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

          Who says Gelb doesn’t know voices!

          • Quanto Painy Fakor

            But he sure does not know Momus!

      • antikitschychick

        “So: if a co-production is a failure, it’s Galb’s fault, and if a co-production is a success, that’s in spite of Gelb. Forgive me if I say this sounds very like what Republicans say about President Obama.”

        Brilliant analogy and I could not agree more. Brava Cieca.

      • justanothertenor

        Well, hold on… Weren’t there significant changes that were made to the Tosca when it got to Europe? I seem to recall reading an article about Bondy in which he stated that he made big changes for Munich but the Met would nor incorporate them for revivals.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

  • Vergin Vezzosa

    OK, in response to blansac’s big homework assignment and the list conveniently provided by LaC, here is what I am turning in. This reflects my thoughts on production values and the overall success of the shows, not on individual casts or like/dislike of the operas. (Example: Enchanted Island gets a “very good” in my book even though D. DiNiese was annoying and the piece did not appeal to me).

    GREAT: Butterfly, Trittico, Satyagraha*, House of the Dead and Traviata.

    VERY GOOD: Barbiere, First Emperor (only saw first act, hated the piece), Orfeo, Hansel & Gretel, Fille du Regiment, Berlioz Faust, Rondine, Trovatore, Carmen, Nixon in China, Enchanted Island, Tempest, Maria Stuarda, Parsifal and the Juilliard Bartered Bride.

    PASSABLE/BLAH: Iphigenie en Tauride, Dr. Atomic, Hamlet, Boris, Don Carlo, Anna Bolena, Manon, Ballo.

    REPLACE/FAILED: Lucia, Macbeth, Peter Grimes, Thais, Tosca, Rheingold*, Siegfried*, Comte Ory, Don Giovanni and Elisir.

    DISASTERS/FIASCOS: Sonnambula (odious, the worst to me), Hoffmann, Attila, Armida, Walkure *, Götterdämmerung* and Gounod Faust*.

    DIDN’T SEE/HAVEN’T SEEN: Agyptische Helena, Rigoletto and The Nose (looking forward to the last next fall).

    * = not seen live in the house.

    VV (does not stand for Vendor of Vitriol)

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Enchanting -- Korngold plays Korngold (recorded in one take)

    “He also mentions [at 02:37] a planned film of his opera Die tote Stadt starring Charles Boyer and Michele Morgan which sadly was never made.”

    Korngold’s uncredited sequence from the 1936 Paramount film ROSE OF THE RANCHO, starring Gladys Swarthout.Based on a play by David Belasco, the story is a kind of female version of ‘The Mark of Zorro’. The march “Fight for the Right” and the song “Without Freedom” were composed by Korngold as a favour to Ms Swarthout and Korngold refused any screen credit. This comes directly from the soundtrack of this rare film which is never shown today. Korngold conducts.”

    and Wagner

    • Henry Holland

      “Embedding disabled by request, watch on YouTube” on 5 of the 7 clips, nice.

  • Vergin Vezzosa

    For those who may be interested in future plans and rumors, The Opera Tattler site has updated for the first time in eons info on the ’14-’15 and beyond San Francisco Opera seasons.

  • redbear

    About the “Lyon” Parsifal… This is the opening paragraph of John Allison’s review of the Lyon production;
    “Since his operatic debut with the Canadian Opera Company in 1997 (Symphony of Psalms and Oedipus Rex) and subsequent Siegfried there, the director François Girard has made Opéra de Lyon something of a second musical home. His new Parsifal unites both houses, adding in the Met for good measure in a co-production that travels to New York next, in February. There are distant echoes of that 2005 Siegfried in his second engagement with Wagner, and though his style has perhaps become simpler he still uses human bodies en masse to create sculptured pictures on stage.”

  • wonneweibchen: Good call!

    No Gelb doesn’t talk about singing, but I’m not sure I want to hear what he has to say about it. I don’t think he really notices.

    That’s a big difference between him and Bing. Bing wasn’t always right (by a LONG chalk), but he did love the art and knew something about it. And was interested in getting hold of hot new numbers who could do it.

    ALSO: When Bing sought directors from the theater, he found directors who knew opera and cared about it. Margaret Webster, Alfred Lunt, Tyrone Guthrie. And he had a regular house team in O’Hearn & Merrill who knew the pieces they were doing. No Bart Shers or Mary Zimmermanns here — or who was that oaf who did the Peter Grimes?

  • La Cieca’s List:

    1. Madama Butterfly

    Haven’t seen it. Waiting for a soprano who can sing it.

    2. Il Barbiere di Siviglia


    3. The First Emperor

    Didn’t see it. Found a tape of the Chinese film it’s based on. Hot!

    4. Die Ägyptische Helena

    Passable. Damrau was great.

    5. Il Trittico

    Overblown. Worst staging of Tabarro EVER.

    6. Orfeo ed Euridice

    Lousy. Hate the chorus setup.
    The whole production is about the Mizrahi costumes.

    7. Lucia di Lammermoor

    Replace, please! Unmusical, undramatic.
    Hate it more every time I see it.

    8. Macbeth

    Passable. If they ever get a decent Lady M, I might to back, but I’d prefer a new production when I do.

    9. Iphigénie en Tauride

    Acceptable. Except why is Clytemnestra’s ghost (not a character in the script) consoling her murderer? And why is the altar facing the goddess’s buttocks? And why is nothing in the production distracting me from those things?

    10. Hänsel und Gretel

    Lousy. I’m told it scares children.
    The old one was so good I couldn’t believe it.

    11. Peter Grimes

    Awful. They don’t dare bring it back and they can’t afford another. This production has killed a favorite opera, with me and much of the audience.

    12. Satyagraha

    Knocked me out. Loved it!
    Didn’t expect it.

    13. La Fille du Régiment

    Passable. Gosh, Dessay is annoying.

    14. Doctor Atomic

    Production passable, orchestra score attractive, libretto atrocious. Why is this being given in an opera house? Why are singers involved?

    15. La Damnation de Faust

    Annoying, overactive, inhuman. (Lepage!)

    16. Thaïs


    17. La Rondine

    So lovely to look at you might think it was an opera.

    18. Il Trovatore

    Acceptable, especially after the last one.

    19. La Sonnambula

    Atrocious. They stomped all over this exquisite, delicate little antique. Next time, just don’t open the curtain. Perform in front of it in concert. Much better.

    20. Tosca

    So ugly I never want to see it again.
    And I didn’t like Zeffirelli’s much either.
    Schenk! THAT was a Tosca!

    21. From the House of the Dead

    Very good.

    22. Les Contes d’Hoffmann

    Passable, if you can forget the previous one.

    23. Carmen

    Passable. Interesting with good singers.
    (Kaufmann. Antonacci — oh wait, she’s not here.)

    24. Attila

    Ghastly. A barely passable opera performed atrociously by singers who sounded like they were the first four Gelb bumped into out on the Plaza. Worst sets, staging, costumes EVER.

    They won’t revive it, but the opera stinks, so who cares?

    25. The Nose

    Very good, but there’s hardly any singing in it, so why is it being given at the Met?

    26. Hamlet

    Hideous production and lousy casting killed what is, believe it or not, a fairly strong grand opera. The sets made me want to go back to Tosca. The edition, having the Ghost kill Claudius, made Hamlet’s presence in the opera pointless. Keenlyside didn’t sound very good anyway.

    27. Armida

    Zimmerman’s greatest Met success!
    Lousy production. Mediocre score.

    28. Das Rheingold


    29. Boris Godunov

    (If you can forget the old one.)

    30. Don Carlo

    (If you can forget the old one.)

    31. La Traviata

    Haven’t seen it yet. Want to, now it has a decent cast.

    32. Nixon in China


    33. Le Comte Ory


    34. Die Walküre

    Awful, the most criminally misdirected of the Ring.
    MTV opera staging: Something has to HAPPEN each bar, when in fact Wagner’s pace is deliberate and the music IS what’s happening. Too much high tech. (Lepage!)

    35. Anna Bolena

    Acceptable. Dull colors.

    36. Don Giovanni

    Didn’t see it. Do I have to?

    37. Siegfried

    Rather enjoyed this. Have the feeling someone told Lepage what Wagner was about, or he figured it out himself.

    38. Faust

    Passable. But pointless.
    Maybe they should sing this opera on a set of Las Vegas neon …

    39. The Enchanted Island

    Handsome production.
    Hope they never bring the opera back.
    That libretto! Gack!

    40. Götterdämmerung

    Rather enjoyed this. Have the feeling someone told Lepage what Wagner was about, or he figured it out himself.

    41. Manon

    A bed in the nave in case the priest wants to screw after confession?

    42. L’Elisir d’Amore

    Didn’t see it.

    43. Un Ballo in Maschera

    Interesting. More than passable. Maybe even good.
    Want to see it again.

    44. Maria Stuarda

    Slightly annoying in the insertion of ten years between two acts that (in the score) follow immediately.

    45. Rigoletto

    Haven’t seen it. In no rush.

    46. Parsifal

    Well, let me break that down:
    Production: Fabulous
    Sets, costumes, physical montage: Fabulous
    Casting: Fabulous
    Chorus: Fabulous
    Orchestra: Fabulous
    News that they’re not bringing it back because Levine wants to do Wozzeck instead: Deeply depressing

    General Trend: Improving, greatness still rare.

    And lord knows I remember Volpe mis-steps, usually due to hiring a director who was a nut.
    (Trovatore? The Serban Faust? Mazeppa? The Zambello Lucia? the Flimm Salome and Fidelio? the Tristan? the ugly Luisa Miller? Macbeth? the Del Monaco Fanciulla? Norma?)

    But I left the Met exhilarated more often than not, after things like Mefistofele, War & Peace, Billy Budd, Benvenuto Cellini, Frau ohne Schatten, Les Troyens, Forza, Lohengrin, La Juive, Lady M of Mtsensk, Capriccio, Jenufa, Rake’s Progress, Katya Kabanova, et al.

    Does he know why the Lepage Ring failed with so many people? He seems hurt when we don’t like it despite the fact that he spent so much money on it.

    Why has no interviewer asked Gelb how he feels about singing? Who he likes, personally? (Bocelli? Groban? Jenkins? Church?)