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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

  • 1
    Dawn Fatale says:

    Long ago, Lincoln Center used to have a vocal recital series called Art of the Song. The choices of singers were, shall we say a mixed bag. Amanda Roocroft’s NYC recital debut, anyone?

    Eventually, after it became clear that it would be the same dreary mix of singers year after year, I cancelled my subscription. Lincoln Center called me to find out why I hadn’t renewed. I told them that it was because I was unhappy with the choice of singers. The cheerful person on the phone told me “Oh, you can’t hold that against us; there’s an agency in London that chooses all the singers for us!”

    And there we have the Met’s marketing slogan for the next ten years.

    Three guesses what the agency was.

  • 2
    Camille says:

    They are dumping tea in Boston Bay at the moment, I hear.

  • 3
    ianw2 says:

    Well with all the cries of ‘WHERE IS LATONIA MOORE? AND WHERE AILYN PEREZ?!’, noted Brits both, why not just hire someone from their management company?

    • 3.1
      oedipe says:

      Mr. Rattray comes from Askonas Holt. Both Latonia Moore and Ailyn Perez are Askonas Holt artists.

      • 3.1.1
        ianw2 says:

        I know… not for the first time, I lament the absence of a universal sarcasm font.

      • 3.1.2
        pobrediablo says:

        I suppose we’ll be hearing a lot from Oksana Volkova then. And I use “hearing” very loosely.

      • 3.1.3
        Regina delle fate says:

        Indeed, the Ailyn Perez currently triumphing as Liu at Covent Garden. One of three roles she’s singing there this season. Rattray’s appointment is probably better news for Latonia Moore at the Met than it is for Kate Royal. But don’t let anti-British prejudice get in the way of comforting conspiracy theories….

  • 4
    operaassport says:

    Seriously? Happy April Fool’s Day!
    Another fucking Brit. Unbelievable.

  • 5
    Howling in Tune says:

    I’m not at all sure about Kate Royal, but I’m happy to see more of Toby Spence. Can they get him to take off his clothes?

    • 5.1
      Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

      He did, in Martin Kusej’s production of “The Rake’s Progress” at Theater an der Wien in September -- down to his undies: believe me, be careful of what you wish for!

    • 5.2
      ML says:

      Toby is in trouble, alas.

      He has been a fine musician but everything is now a strain for him, judging from Taminos in November and reading Feldmarschallin’s unsurprising observation the other day about the new Tito: “threadbare.”

      This listener can’t sit in a theater for that.

      • 5.2.1
        Howling in Tune says:

        Oh dear … he used to have such a lovely little voice …

        • 5.2.1.1
          Gualtier M says:

          First Giuseppe Filianoti and now Toby Spence -- someone upstairs doesn’t like handsome lyric tenors. No wonder people get very worried whenever Jonas Kaufmann gets a cold… Both Spence and Filianoti had cancer in places where the tumors or the radiation impacted their instruments. I keep hoping Filianoti will bounce back to 100% Ditto Toby.

        • 5.2.1.2
          ML says:

          He sure did. And superbly trained!

  • 6
    Flora del Rio Grande says:

    So the Commonwealth (Billinghurst) departs, and
    the Kingdom arrives.
    Somehow I am reminded of a comment by Sir Thomas
    Beecham: “Why are they hiring (for Covent Garden)
    so many second rate artists from the Continent, when
    we have so many of them available here?”
    Shame on the Met Board and Gelb. This appointment
    most certainly should have gone to an American.
    One is not optimistic.
    But, then, really, who cares any more?
    Now, when does NYC get a good first rate second
    company and a new 2000-seat opera house? THAT
    is the question of the hour, and some second rate
    new hack at Met casting is of little import.
    MrM
    Disgusted in Santa Fe

    • 6.1
      grimoaldo says:

      I think that Beecham quote goes “Why do we hire so many third rate musicians from abroad when we have so many second rate musicians of our own?”

      • 6.1.1
        La Cieca says:

        The variant in this case is “Why do we hire anyone from any place on Earth if a Brit can be found who is willing to accept the job?”

    • 6.2
      Edward George says:

      This appointment
      most certainly should have gone to an American.

      Why?

      Shouldn’t the appointment have gone to the best person for the job regardless of where they were born?

      • 6.2.1
        98rsd says:

        Yes, it should go to the best. But many of us (I gather) are really, really tired of the preponderance of mediocre British “artists” in Met casting. And it’s not surprisingly felt that London-based agents are keen to force on us some of the singers they have not been successful in marketing elsewhere.

        As a long-time patron (as in the donating kind) I’m sick of this.

    • 6.3
      laddie says:

      MrM -- I thought you were gone forever. I am rather happy you are back. Looking forward to reports from Santa Fe.

      • 6.3.1
        Flora del Rio Grande says:

        Grimbo, I think you are right, and thank you
        for that. M.
        And, Laddie, I am rather happy to see you
        and, in fact, I’ve never been gone. Just quiet.
        I have learnt a few lessons.
        And Cieca — no one can say it better than you,
        not even Sir Thomas. *smooch*

        Uncle Flora

    • 6.4
      ML says:

      Flora, they need the connection to Europe, home to the artform, and London is as close as America can comfortably get.

      The problem of course is that the Brits are off on their own tangents (as everyone here is noting) and themselves behind by 1 or 2 years (which is still an improvement over the 3 to 5 year lag of the Met).

      Salvation lies in empirical spotting and nurturing of talent by Met staff — a job they are consistently worse at than the next-largest U.S. companies, even when deliveries arrive on a silver platter — and star-building supported by television and other media, as in the 50s and 60s.

      • 6.4.1
        pobrediablo says:

        London is hardly home of the artform.

      • 6.4.2
        grimoaldo says:

        “they need the connection to Europe, home to the artform, and London is as close as America can comfortably get”

        I don’t understand that, that’s more or less what Lebrecht said, they can read parterre, subscribe to the opera critic, read foreign language reviews online and translate them with google translate, watch stuff on youtube, why do they need someone from London to do that? It is all very strange, and when the result of this whole process is that it winds up with Popsy opening the new season as the Countess something is very very wrong.
        Jonas was great in Werther just now btw and so was Lisette .

        • 6.4.2.1
          ML says:

          Glad to hear the Werther opener went well.

          I believe that to stay on top of developments you need people actually in the houses — Palermo, Toulouse, Hannover, and three dozen other cities, places where a new someone may suddenly hit but not actually get due media attention right away.

          The Brits get around more over here.

          Yes, of course there are other sources now, as you list them. But can you really envisage Met staff monitoring on a systematic basis?

          So you hire London-based go-betweens.

          I think talent-scouting in New York is abysmal, and not just in regard to voices.

        • 6.4.2.2
          ML says:

          The other screwy thing hurting the Met, of course, is what seems to be an administrative need to plan 5 years in advance.

          Netrebko is in Rome now with Muti, having signed up in Sept. (urged on by Domingo, I’m guessing) for a run in Feb./Mar. That’s six months.

          Kaufmann in NY just got thru telling the Met he won’t/can’t play the 5-year game any more — a central point missed, not incidentally, by the NYT’s junior Zach Woolfe in his report.

          Why is the Met set up this way?

    • 6.5
      ML says:

      Is Santa Fe on the Rio Grande?

      • 6.5.1
        Flora del Rio Grande says:

        ML: FYI (tho’ this is available on Google), yes Santa Fe is considered to be “on” the Rio Grande, tho’ the river is six or seven miles west of the city. It’s a spawning ground for Rheinmadchens,
        and we raise good healthy ones with high glittery
        voices and for the most part ship them frozen to Bayreuth and when fresh ones are need, they just thaw them out. So handy. No special representation
        needed!
        You know Gatti Casazza kept a European rep. who hunted talent for him, in fact that is how Kirsten
        Flagstad happened to come to the Met in the 1930s,
        via Gatti’s scouting; and Mr Bing of Glyndebourne knew European casting opportunities cold, one of his great strengths. Nowadays, this is one of the problems coming from having a business man run the Met, or any, opera company. They have to rely in many ways upon others’ artistic judgment. It can be a problem.
        I still regret the appointment of an Englishman,
        or any auslander, to such a position at the Met. It’s an important and influential job, and considering the outflow of fine talent from various US universities and conservatories (and regional opera companies), and the fact that we have to depend so much on funds-raising from various American sources, Buy America should prevail. English managers in America are very often like a Jaguar motor car in a hot climate.
        If you don’t know what I mean, well you don’t need
        to. I’ll say no more.

        • 6.5.1.1
          ML says:

          It’s a long river! I thought it began in Judge Roy Bean country. You learn something new every day on Parterre.

          Did you happen to know Philip Eisenberg?

  • 7
    steveac10 says:

    I’m certainly not a xenophobe, but it truly astounds me that American opera companies routinely ignore their own when looking for people to run them. It’s not just the big guns, even Pittsburgh is run by a subject of the commonwealth.

    The Met also routinely ignores American directors (except for a few Broadway regulars). Watching the director’s vids for next season I was once again reminded that the way to get a directing gig at the met is to be born in the British isles. More Wyre, McVicker and the like. It’s not that they’re hacks, but when is the Met going to hire the likes of James Robinson who has a huge body of successful stagings around the country? The guy is an expert at updating without offending the blue haired donors. You would think that’s exactly what the Met needs.

    • 7.1
      ianw2 says:

      The six major symphonic orchestras of Australia- all of which receive generous & indestructible public funding from both national & state governments- have not had an Australian Music Director/Chief Conductor since the death of Stuart Challender in 1991.

      The current 6 are American, Israeli, German, Estonian, Slovenian and English. Of the senior management, we have 2 Canadians and a Brit. Our two biggest orchestras have a Brit and an American heading up artistic planning (which is probably why we hear more contemporary American and British work than Australian in those orchestra’s programs). The comparatively better news is that the four subsidised opera companies seem capable of appointing Australians to senior roles.

      Even taking aside the extra layer of whether a taxpayer subsidised organisation should automatically recruit from overseas, this postcolonial cringe about hiring Europeans (and in our case, North Americans) isn’t unique to the US.

      • 7.1.1
        justanothertenor says:

        However, Australia does have a cap in place as to how many foreign nationals can take part in an opera production in Australia (cast and production team combined). Which explains why so many few foreigners ever get to perform there.

      • 7.1.2
        Howling in Tune says:

        On the other hand, there are plenty of Australians doing similar high-level work in Britain and elsewhere (and doing it rather well).

    • 7.2
      laddie says:

      Just sayin’ but even Santa Fe has a rather prominent Brit connection -- though for awhile there with the appointment and dismissal for such a short time of the dubious French man, maybe Santa Fe learned their lesson. Now a Brit has that position.

  • 8
    David says:

    So, just to check. Are we saying that because he is a Brit (if, in fact he is) he is unqualified for the job? Or is it just remotely possible that the Met had an international search and, rather than an international house fill some type of national quota system, they selected the person that they felt would do the best job?

    • 8.1
      La Cieca says:

      Thank you for checking. No one said anything of the kind. It does seem strange, though, that at the largest opera house in one of the richest and largest nations on earth, the job of artistic administration, i.e., of casting singers, has not been in the hands of an American citizen since early in the Jimmy Carter administration.

      Now, repeat that back to me and make it sound like I am saying it should be illegal to hire British citizens for any job anywhere in the world.

      • 8.1.1
        David says:

        Silly me. I have no idea where I could have picked up the impression that the significant fact wasn’t that he was from outside the US, but that he was British.

        “The variant in this case is “Why do we hire anyone from any place on Earth if a Brit can be found who is willing to accept the job?””

        • 8.1.1.1
          La Cieca says:

          Isn’t it enough that Brits get to run all the major opera houses in the US, where they can hire their old school chums (and the clients of those old school chums) for jobs that literally hundreds of Americans could do better? Do you have also have to whinge that we’re not quick enough to get down on our knees show proper appreciation for your condescension?

          • David says:

            It is all a matter of perspective, but I really don’t think I’m the one being condescending here.

            I’m anti-cronyism and patronage as well. And I admit it does appear that Brits are over-represented compared to what you might expect if this was a random effect. But this knee-jerk lashing out isn’t pretty. So let’s break it down:

            Should the senior positions at major cultural institutions be filled by citizens of host nation? I’d say no -- get the best people for the job

            Is there bias against local talent? Probably yes. ianw2 shows that in the case of Australia. It is not a unique American issue.

            Should cultural institutions do more to nurture local talent? Almost certainly yes. And I would say most certainly yes when those cultural institutions are heavily subsidised by the tax-payer. But again, not to the extend that it stops the best person getting the job.

            If you have evidence that this specific appointment is mired in cronyism, that there was something untoward about the appointment process and the Met has been landed with a sub-standard appointee then fair enough. But we haven’t seen that evidence.

            • La Cieca says:

              If you have evidence that this specific appointment is mired in cronyism

              35 years and counting of Brits doing casting for the largest opera company in the United States I think is pretty suggestive.

          • fletcher says:

            As far as I know David Gockley and Christopher Koelsch are Americans.

            • m. croche says:

              I’m waiting for the “Peter Gelb is a fucking Brit!” tag.

            • figaroindy says:

              I tend to agree with David -- it sounds like whiny sour grapes to me. Let’s face reality -- the arts world in the US is not high-paying, whereas, it’s at least marginally more appreciated (and state funded) in other countries….thus, people in the US may well not choose this career, as they fear the money will not be there to support themselves. Thus, those people who chose the career and have built up experience (not jumped off the boat for more money in a non-arts job) may often be non-Americans.

              And lest you jump on me for my statement -- I have a bachelor’s degree in Arts Administration, one in Vocal Performance and one in Accounting…it’s the 3rd I chose for my full-time employment! I’m a prime example. I did an internship with a large symphony orchestra in the 90s, realized how little career advancement or opportunity there was in the field, let alone the abysmal salaries, and moved right into the business world. I don’t regret it, either.

          • steveac10 says:

            I was actually kind of shocked when I saw somewhere that the Marcellina in the new Figaro opening the season was actually a former Met stalwart (Suzanne Mentzer) who came from this side of the Atlantic. How the hell did that happen after a decade of past their prime divas from across the Atlantic assuming what is considered a comprimario role.

            Importing a respected French character tenor like Michel Senechal to do the 4 servants in Hoffmann (which the Met did in the 80’s) I get, but assigning the roles to the likes of Alan Oke when the house has a superior artist like Mark Schowalter on the roster (and casts HIM in an even smaller role)is just plain silly.

            It the same for the admin Job. Let’s just take someone like Dale Johnson in Minnesota. He’s worked himself up the ranks from chorus master in the early 80’s and has lagely shepherded a successful and adventurous company for almost three decades. Maybe he doesn’t want to leave, but it seems the Met and other major American houses would rather cross oceans to fill the job with someone like that.

            • laddie says:

              Suzanne Mentzer was the BEST marcellina I have ever hard in a Figaro production here out west in the badlands. Good casting choice!

            • Sempre liberal says:

              I can’t think of Marcellina without thinking of Famous Quickly, may she rest in peace…

              March 31, 2008 --
              Famous Quickly says:
              Ah, finally someone is talking sense. Mine was the best known name in opera between Caruso and Sills, even if under Mr. Bing I would sing Carmen and Amneris at the Garden and all my RING parts during the Festwochen and then come home to face Marcellina!

              She’d return from conquering Bayreuth to the MET

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            Can we have specific examples of Brits hiring their ‘old school chums’ in US opera houses, please?

  • 9
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    It sickens me that another Brit was hired for this important job that should have gone to an American. The MET has plenty of paid consultants to advise them of interesting singers working around the world. Obviously the MET’s Board doesn’t give a damn what people think of this appointment to the highest ranks of the artistic administration of their company. Shame indeed and why should it even be permitted by the US Government?

    • 9.1
      pobrediablo says:

      They certainly send recruits over to Europe to listen to potential MET artists.

      • 9.1.1
        ML says:

        Pobre, do we know who these recruiters are?

        • 9.1.1.1
          Gualtier M says:

          Ioan Holender and Eva Wagner-Pasquier are listed as artistic advisors. Rudolf Bing used Roberto Bauer, an Italian as his European talent scout. A young tenor would make a sensation at La Scala, he would be at the Met 14 months later -- or less. Now we have to wait until the tenor succeeds in Vienna or the Royal Opera and wait another two to five years to hear him at the Met. Bad.

          • ML says:

            Very bad. And they should be catching them even before La Scala.

          • oedipe says:

            There is a definite cause-and-effect relationship between success at La Scala (and other Continental European houses) and being cast in Vienna; there is little relationship between success at La Scala (and other European houses) and being cast at the ROH. Few of the up-and-coming European singers whose names circulate these days in Continental Europe and who are present in Vienna have made it to the ROH. And the Met is much more reliant on the Brits and the ROH than on Vienna (though maybe this is changing).

            When push comes to shove, the Met would rather trust a British “cousin” than a dubious Continental European.

  • 10
    Liz.S says:

    Come to think of it, we already have a brit MD at Carnegie Hall -- Clive Gillinson (ex-London Symphony)
    I really don’t care about people’s nationalities, but it indeed feels like an interesting phenomena around here.

    • 10.1
      Howling in Tune says:

      At least Clive Gillinson seems to be doing a good job as executive director of Carnegie Hall. And the board that hired him had to find someone who was available, in an industry with notoriously long lead times, on relatively short notice, since Gillinson’s (American) predecessor, Robert Harth, basically keeled over dead one night with no warning.

      For what it’s worth, Carnegie Hall’s artistic administrator -- the Sarah Billinghurst/Robert Rattray job -- is a South African-American.

  • 11
    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.

    • 11.1
      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.

    • 11.2
      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.

      • 11.2.1
        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. ;-)

        • 11.2.1.1
          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)?

    • 11.3
      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.

  • 12
    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.

  • 13
    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…

    • 13.1
      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.

  • 14
    Lalala says:

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

  • 15
    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’

    • 15.1
      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.

    • 15.2
      sklave says:

      Christopher Hahn is South African.

    • 15.3
      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.

      • 15.3.1
        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.

    • 15.4
      Regina delle fate says:

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

  • 16
    m. croche says:

    It’s obvious that George Steel wuz robbed.

  • 17
    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?

  • 18
    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?

    • 18.1
      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.

      • 18.1.1
        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?

        • 18.1.1.1
          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.

    • 18.2
      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.

  • 19
    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.

    • 19.1
      sklave says:

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

      Yeah, that’s wrong.

      • 19.1.1
        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?)

    • 19.2
      Rackon says:

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

      • 19.2.1
        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.

        • 19.2.1.1
          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.

        • 19.2.1.2
          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.

        • 19.2.1.3
          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.

    • 19.3
      PetertheModest says:

      Popsy’s Countess ?!

      Here’s Fleming’s Countess:

    • 19.4
      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).

      • 19.4.1
        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.

        • 19.4.1.1
          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.

  • 20
    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?