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Turd polished

The lovably garrulous jailer Frosch, as portrayed by Broadway’s Danny Burstein in the Met’s production of Die Fledermaus, has revised his opinion of the art of opera, at least temporarily. In Saturday afternoon’s broadcast of the Strauss operetta, instead of calling opera “shit,” he will call it “crap.”

A string of official-looking emails follows the jump.

From: Hveem, Lee Ellen [email address redacted]
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2014 12:48 PM
To: Hveem, Lee Ellen; Bongiovanni, Mia
Cc: Svokos, Elizabeth
Subject: UPDATE: Met Opera Language Alert: January 11 Die Fledermaus

Dear Partners,

We’d like to thank everyone for the helpful communication in response to the language advisory that we distributed for this Saturday’s Die Fledermaus.  Understanding that the scripted warnings we planned to incorporate into the broadcast would not be sufficient to address your concerns, we will revise the spoken dialogue for this Saturday’s performance so it does not include the expletive and will replace the word “shit” with the word “crap.”  We will remove the verbal warning in connection with this.

We appreciate the prompt feedback as we prepare for the week’s broadcast.  Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Best regards,

Mia Bongiovanni
Assistant General Manager, Media

Lee Ellen Hveem
Associate Radio Producer

From: Hveem, Lee Ellen
Sent: Tuesday, January 07, 2014 6:48 PM
To: Hveem, Lee Ellen; Bongiovanni, Mia
Cc: Svokos, Elizabeth
Subject: Met Opera Language Alert: January 11 Die Fledermaus

Dear Network Partners,

We want to alert you to an expletive in the English language version of Die Fledermaus being broadcast this Saturday, January 11.  Die Fledermaus is performed in 3 acts, with 2 intermissions.  A description is below:

At approximately 7:30 (seven and a half minutes) into Act 3, an off-stage tenor (the character, Alfred, from his jail cell) sings a long, high note.  It’s followed by this dialogue from Frosch, the jailer:

“No opera!  That stuff won’t last.  Nobody’s gonna pay good money to hear that shit!” [laughter from the audience.]

Our broadcast host, Margaret Juntwait, will announce to the radio audience at the top of the broadcast the inclusion of adult language in Act 3 and she will give a warning before the start of Act 3 with this language:

“We want to alert you that there is one swearword in this act.  It’s just a single word spoken by Frosch in his opening monologue.”

Please let us know if you have any questions or if there is any further information we can provide.

Best regards,

Mia Bongiovanni
Assistant General Manager, Media

Lee Ellen Hveem
Associate Radio Producer

Image based on a photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.


  • 1
    dcrazmo says:

    How are they going to explain the actual shit that’s onstage?

  • 2
    grimoaldo says:

    How ridiculous. Hey Danny, it’s a live broadcast, just “forget” the revised script and say “shit” instead.

  • 3
    La Valkyrietta says:

    People just don’t learn from Shakespeare anymore. To paraphrase the Bard from Stratford-upon-Avon,

    “What is in a word? that which we call a turd
    By any other name would smell as vile…”

  • 4
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    The correspeondants and recipients see to be the same in both emails, giving the impression of the pot calling the kettlle black. “Dear Partners” sounds all so brokeback cowgirl, soo.

  • 5
    FragendeFrau82 says:

    Many email programs used to send messages to email lists show the recipients’ names as the senders’ names to protect confidentiality. I frequently receive email blasts that have the “to” listed as the name of the sender.

  • 6
    tannengrin says:

    they’re batshit crazy! I guess those are the audience members who also want their operatic rapes, murders and warfare tastefully done.

    I’ve never seen the Fledermaus (in German, English or any other language) -- does Frosch usually go for a hearty ‘Scheiss’ or is the German version uncharacteristically mild in its word choice?

  • 7
    willym says:

    A piece of crap by any other name -- and from what I have been given to understand the “updated” libretto qualifies as doo-doo of the lowest order!

  • 8
    papopera says:

    It would be more elegant and clinical to say ” feces “

    • 8.1
      PushedUpMezzo says:

      And more Classical Latin to say “faeces”. Have often wondered whether those shows called “New Faces of…” were more like “New Faeces of…”.
      To call this swearing is really laughable -- better than many of the jokes in Fledermaus.

  • 9
    Avantialouie says:

    “Feces” bespeaks the Metropolitan Opera’s historical refinement and propriety, even as the the Met’s new “Fledermaus” continues to hit the opera fan.

  • 10
    m. croche says:

    Not sure whether this has been discussed here yet, but the Lincoln Center Festival will this year feature the Tsar’s Bride (Bolshoi), The Passenger (Houston), and the Heisei Nakamura-za kabuki theater.

  • 11
    LittleMasterMiles says:

    What did they do with the swearing in Nixon in China? (Pat: “I’d like to give his goddamn whip a crack,” and Madame Mao: “Let’s show these motherfuckers how to dance.”)

    I don’t think they were cut for broadcasts, but I don’t know whether they were pre-apologized for on the radio (I was at the HD at the time).

  • 12
    m. croche says:

    On board for next season:

    “You don’t give a shit,
    Excuse me, about
    Your grandfather’ s hut,
    His sheep and his goat,
    The land he wore out.”

    • 12.1
      Princess de Bouillon says:

      no swearing in my childhood did not hinder me from becoming a Vamp and so on !.

  • 13
    Ilka Saro says:

    “Swear word”? How very hoity toity! I believe the proper term is “cuss word”, or “cussing”. As in “at approximately 7 minutes into Act III, Frosch is gonna cuss.” At least, that is how honest-to-gosh Americans from my region would say it.

    It’s interesting that taboo words become all blurred with the idea that one shouldn’t swear in vain.

    “At approx 7 minutes, Frosch will utter an oath in vain, by obliquely invoking a scatological sub-deity”

  • 14
    jrance says:

    Reminds me of Jessye Norman doing her clean-up job on the translation when she sang Emilia Marty at The Met. Where Maralin Niska (NYCO)had always yelled “Bitch!” Jessye intoned a very lady-like “Hussy!”

  • 15
    stignanispawn says:

    Whether Danny says “shit” or “crap” is the least of the problems with this Fledermaus production.

  • 16
    zinka says:

    FLASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just called my friend Peter Gelb and I convinced him to change the word “crap” that was substituted for “shit” on the Fledermaus broadcast to DOODY! Also…since the opera is really too short….they will have three sopranos to come in and sing three die arias….. Glad the Met finally sees the light@@!!!

    • 16.1
      Batty Masetto says:

      Good idea, Zinka. Everybody can also sing “doody-do, doody-do, lalalala…” in Act II.

  • 17
    zinka says:

    OH…I found out who will do those Fledermaus DIE ARIAS:

    “Sola perduta” Magda Olivero

    “Tu che di gel” Licia Albanese

    ” Morte di Cecilia” Renata Scotto

    Ricciarelli MAY come in and sing the Liebestod, if her agent (Dennis Rodman) permits.