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Kate Royal, Toby Spence ink 10-year Met deal

Robert Rattray, who has long experience in artist management, has been appointed the Met’s next assistant general manager for artistic affairs, replacing Sarah Billinghurst, who will retire at the end of this season after two decades at the Met, the company announced Tuesday.” [New York Times]

128 comments

  • grimoaldo says:

    The Lebrecht piece offers a strange reason for Brits being chosen for this post -- I am not saying I agree with it, not at all, I don’t know anything about it --

    http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2014/02/the-met-buys-british-again.html

    “Rattray succeeds Sarah Billinghurst, a New Zealander. Past incumbents of this vital role all the way back to Joan Ingpen have been hired in London. Jonathan Friend, the Met’s artistic administrator since 1984, is British.
    Why? Because Brits have one casting foot in Europe and the other in America. Very few US administrators manage that balancing act. It would be cheaper and more popular for the Met to hire locally, but this particular role is the company’s window on the world and Brits seem to do it best.”
    One casting foot in Europe and the other in America? I don’t even know what that is supposed to mean.
    It also says “Peter Gelb announced today through the New York Times that he has hired the London agent Robert Rattray as assistant general manager for artistic affairs.”
    So “assistant general manager for artistic affairs” really means casting, does it? And presumably not the star casting but supporting roles?
    If there had been Brits in charge of casting at the Met for all those years and there had been season after season of stunning, glorious performances one after the other one might say “well, look, this is getting great results!”
    Such however is not the case in my opinion.

    • manou says:

      “One casting foot in Europe and the other in America? I don’t even know what that is supposed to mean.”

      It means they are at risk of serious injury.

    • grimoaldo says:

      I guess Brits are in charge of casting at ROH and they don’t do such a great job there either, one foot in America and the other in Europe or not, and I am not talking about only recently but memories of the days of Elena Kelessidi and Gregory Yurisich, for instance.

      • MontyNostry says:

        The gentleman in charge of casting at the ROH is in fact a German.

        To tell the truth, I sort of agree that a job like that at the top US house should go to an American, and that small roles in US houses should logically go to Americans to, but I just can’t take all the blanket anti-Brit vitriol. So much for the much-vaunted special relationship bloody Tony Blair used to go on about. ;-)

        • Regina delle fate says:

          Grim -- GLYNDEBOURNE has a Danish casting director and until recently a Russian-born German music director. Covent Garden has an American music director, Welsh National Opera has a German in the post and Scottish Opera until recently had an Italian who was succeeded briefly by a Frenchman. It also has a New Zealand administrator with a penchant for Canadian production teams -- more evidence perhaps for the theory that Brits have joined forces with the Commoneealth in their nefarious push for world operatic domination! On the other hand, being Scottish seems a bar to getting any work with Scottish Opera. English National Opera has a huge number of Americans singing for them, including three in principal roles of the new Alden Rigoletto. One of them -- Quinn Kelsey -- would be welcome at Covent Garden. We recently had an ENO Fidelio with Americans as Florestan, Rocco and Pizarro and a Wozzeck with Americans -- one a UK resident -- as Marie, the Captain and the Doctor. My guess is that Rattray’s appointment won’t mean wall-to-wall Royal and Spence at the Met. But time will tell.

          • armerjacquino says:

            I agree with your general point, but before anyone else points it out, Pappano is British, not American.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Indeed, Monty.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Pappano was born in London, but when he was appointed as the RO’s MD he had an American passport. Since then he has acquired both British and Italian nationality, but he grew up in New York, and he sure sounds like an American. He falls Into all three categories:-

              some are born British, some achieve Britishness and some have Britishness thrust upon them!

          • MontyNostry says:

            Wasn’t the Drum Major also an American, Regina -- Bryan Register (the Florestan you mention)?

    • MontyNostry says:

      Lebrecht is just coming out with blah-blah there. He’s looking to keep his mates happy rather than formulating an informed and substantiated opinion.

  • Lalala says:

    I, too, lament that yet another Brit is being hired under the Met’s roof. There are, indeed, Americans and other nationalities with representative personnel who would have been good for the job. And, as someone else has said, The Met already has multiple paid “advisors” combing the world for talent. Is anyone combing the American houses? There is a lot of talent on our side of the Atlantic, too.

    Having said that--I also know Rattray to be extremely knowledgeable and well respected. I was a bit shocked when he left Askonas-Holt last year. It seemed so early (in his life) and he was basically “in charge” of the entire vocal division--a division with some of the most noted names in singing. He has worked with many fine singers, directors, and conductors over the past many decades and has been very successful. He certainly is a good catch for the company. I wonder if this has been in the works for quite some time and is the main reason he left Askonas-Holt in the first place.

  • oedipe says:

    Could it be that the Met and other American opera house managements (and Boards) feel that by appointing a European they will look cosmopolitan and urbane, but are ill at ease with Continental Europeans and thus end up making the safer, more familiar British bets every time? Just a thought…

    • Lalala says:

      I think there is truth in this. Look at our commercials or announcers for various events. Whenever we want to sound serious or educated, we put a Brit on. Even my bank ATM machine was using a British voice. It was ridiculous. It’s a small, local, US bank. Thankfully, they finally changed the voice. It was obnoxious to sit in your car at the bank and be spoken to by the King.

  • Lalala says:

    One also has to just wonder if there are any Americans who would truly want the job at this time.

  • Rowna says:

    Trying to reply to SteveAC10 who mentioned that Pittsburgh is run by a Brit. Prior to Mr. Hahn (a Brit) we had Mark Weinstein, an American, and prior to that there was Tito Capobianco. Mr. Hahn was chosen by the board after an extensive worldwide search after Weinstein left for the ill fated DC Opera. He is the general manager and has done a really fantastic job. No one here cares where he comes from. Next year we get Otello with Carl Tanner, Daughter of the you-know-what with Brownlee and Oropesa plus Carmen with Rinat Shaham. Just sayin’

    • steveac10 says:

      I’m not saying “Brit” equals lousy, the casting in the Burgh is quite admirable for a second tier house (and I certainly do not object to multiple Oropesa sightings). Hahn has proved himself to be very reticent to work the Commonwealth crony network that infects other companies in the US. If anything, he and his team are TOO loyal to graduates of the company’s apprentice artist program to the exclusion of other more interesting young artists out there.

    • sklave says:

      Christopher Hahn is South African.

    • Flora del Rio Grande says:

      Rowna, and let’s recall the controversial UK manager of the Minnesota Opera, Henson or Hanson or such, is cited as one of the main causes of the 18-months of unpleasantness now (slowly) resolving in Mpls. In fact Maestro Vanska is wanted by most to return and reassume his position as music director, but he has declined until that manager has resigned and departed.
      I don’t blame him. Never mind the details, but I’ve
      known that orchestra for a long time and there was never such trouble as they have lately had — except for the manager by all reports. I don’t make a generalization here, but Henson seems simply not to understand American management style, etc.
      These lessons seem to have to be re-learned every passing generation or so.
      And, Rowna, have you heard Tanner sing Otello?
      Don’t count your chickens.

      • Rowna says:

        Thanks for your take on the Minnesota drama, Fiora. While I have followed it a bit, I was very torn by the reporting as to what was truth and what was left out. Re Tanner -- he sang Radames here recently. Pittsburgh has put on a lot of big operas such as Aida, and so far, Tanner was the only male who could muscle his way through the dramatic tenor repertoire. Other tenors have been less than mediocre, and since this type of opera is popular, I appreciated the performance he gave. Young singers (from my personal experience) just can’t do roles such as Otello out of conservatories, so we have to have mature voices. The ones who have proven themselves are probably priced out of Pittsburgh’s opera budget. So, yes, I am awaiting a good Otello from Tanner. I am not expecting to be blown away, either. My ideal sound would be Corelli. I know he never sang the entire opera live -- but to me his voice was so made for that role.

    • Regina delle fate says:

      Christopher Hahn is South African. He might not even be descended from Brits with a name like Hahn.

  • m. croche says:

    It’s obvious that George Steel wuz robbed.

  • fletcher says:

    Not to get all Left Coast / Jezebel on everyone, but isn’t it a little more worrying that Peter Gelb, Anthony Freud, David Gockley, Perryn Leech, Christopher Koelsch, Charles McKay, Speight Jenkins, Ian Campbell, Keith Cerny, &c, are all white men? With Billinghurst gone, there’s Rita Shapiro at Washington National Opera and Kelly Tweeddale at Seattle -- am I missing anyone?

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    But what IS the US immigration Dept. stance on this sort of hiring when there is absolutely no doubt that qualified Americans exist to fill the position?

    • Howling in Tune says:

      I expect that USCIS is willing to defer to the Met’s judgment as to who is best qualified for a senior position like that one.

      Why USCIS gives work visas to Brits to sing so many standard-rep comprimario roles for which boatloads of qualified Americans exist is another question.

      The UK Border Agency isn’t exactly known for being similarly lenient to foreign musicians.

      • Regina delle fate says:

        Name a single non-EU musician of international repute who has been barred by the UK Border Agency. The only one case I know of was the Iranian director of ENO’s Cosi who refused to fill in a visa application form. But didn’t the same happen to Peter Stein and his Boris at the Met?

        • armerjacquino says:

          Oh, no reply. There’s a surprise. I think I might make myself scarce for a while until this particular bout of 24-hr hate is over.

    • Flora del Rio Grande says:

      Quanto: Answer to your question about Immigration stance is, highly flexible depending on political
      connections of the opera’s board.

  • Gualtier M says:

    Actually Sarah Billingshurst was way better than Jonathan Friend. Friend I believe is responsible for the secondary role casting -- for example Commonwealth artist Jonathan Summers as the Bailli rather than Julien Robbins (the cover) or John Cheek (or Alain Vernhes or Gaetan LaPerriere). Mr. Friend also was responsible for all those Alan Oke assignments or Ann Murray’s Marcellina (and David Soar’s Masetto and upcoming Colline). Billingshurst seemed conservative but balanced -- not outrageously catering to any relative’s or former cronies in the U.K. like Friend. Mrs. John Claggart has intimated that Friend has a special “in” with Levine, hence his longevity.

    The real blind spots are very good singers in the regional U.S. companies. Why we get terrible third-rate baritones like Lucio Gallo at the Met when Stephen Powell, Gordon Hawkins or Grant Youngblood are ignored always astounds me. Also, Italian artists and quite a few Germans and Hungarians are ignored until they are hired by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Then the Met gets them two or three seasons later. Why we get Marina Poplavskaya’s Contessa Almaviva when Layla Claire or even Susanna Phillips are out there astounds me. Also why hasn’t the Met ever looked at the elegant, lovely Malin Hartelius? She should have been at the Met years ago.

    • sklave says:

      “Friend I believe is responsible for the secondary role casting…”

      Yeah, that’s wrong.

      • Gualtier M says:

        Wrong as in Friend casts the principal roles or wrong in what he is doing casting the secondary roles? Am I wrong or is he? (Maybe both?)

    • Rackon says:

      It’s also a mystery to me why the Met has never booked Hartelius.

      • Feldmarschallin says:

        I read in an interview once that Hartelius who is Swedish lives in Zürich with her family and has several children. She said how happy she was there for many years in the ensemble and perhaps she like others doesn’t like to travel. I have no idea if the Met has ever shown any interest in her or not but not always is it the Met’s fault if artists there do not appear there. Also many years ago when she was still singing the lighter rep she was a delight but now she has ventured into some heavier things and the sheen is off a bit. But Pieczonka is another matter yet since she said years ago that when she moved back to Canada from Europe she was hoping to be able to sing more at the Met. That never happened.

        • ML says:

          FM: Do we know why Anja Harteros cancelled Barcelona and now the Künstlerhaus?

          • Feldmarschallin says:

            Die Sopranistin Anja Harteros muss das Konzert diesen Sonntag, 23. Februar, im Münchner Künstlerhaus krankheitsbedingt leider absagen. Ein Nachhol-Termin wird demnächst bekannt gegeben, die Karten behalten ihre Gültigkeit. Weitere Informationen folgen in Kürze.

            Perhaps she is too busy with diapers on that date.

            • ML says:

              That’s what I got too. It is a long while since she cancelled (postponed) in Munich. I hope the situation is not serious.

              Separately, we must remember that we all age and will need care. Diapers don’t make for galant commentary.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Has she had a baby, FM?

            • Feldmarschallin says:

              One only needs to check the archives a few weeks back and see what comments were written about her and diapers. Of course from that person who wrote them there is not much to expect. The concert is also not cancelled but postponed. The tickets remain valid and there will be a notification of a new date.

            • ML says:

              I think FM means her elderly husband’s diapers, the (repeated) reference to which sort of overlooks the fact that she loves him.

        • Rackon says:

          Thank you FM. That may explain it. Family no doubt makes a big difference, especially when kids are young. If one dislikes travel as well… I don’t blame the Met but would have thought there’d be interest from them.

        • Flora del Rio Grande says:

          Mme Marschallin: All you say is correct, but also look at the size of the Zurich house (and most other European ones), then consider the Met’s
          capacity of 4000 — and you’ve pretty much the
          story. Many European singers are averse to the
          Met’s size and they are right to be so.

    • PetertheModest says:

      Popsy’s Countess ?!

      Here’s Fleming’s Countess:

    • MontyNostry says:

      Lucio Gallo seems to get cast everywhere: he hasn’t much voice, but he looks good and is perceived as “an intelligent singer” (ie does something with little).

      • Cocky Kurwenal says:

        I find Gallo very enjoyable. I agree the voice is no great shakes and he is a bit of a ham, but he is also very engaging and effective, IMO.

        • Regina delle fate says:

          He was a more than acceptable IAGO at the ROH, and it’s not easy to think of loads of alternatives. Hampson? Dima? Finley? I’d rather have Gallo than Vratogna, who seems to be the rising Italian baritone -- or was a few years ago. Pity Bryn doesn’t sing it.

  • Edward George says:

    According to her CV, Sarah Billinghurst was born in New Zealand, went to university in New Zealand, took her first job in arts admin in San Francisco in 1972, before moving to the Met.

    A New Zealander, educated in her home country, moves to the USA and works there for over 40 years.

    But she is still a fucking Brit?