Cher Public

Who else?

As we all agree, Robert Rattray (pictured) is eminently qualified for his new position as the Met’s assistant general manager for artistic affairs, as much for his long experience in artist management as for the lucky accident of geography which places Great Britain roughly equidistant between North America and Europe. But La Cieca wonders who else might have  been up for the job, but fell by the wayside for reasons of weak résumé or unfashionable address.

Your doyenne asks you, cher public and/or casual reader: do you know of anyone else who was interviewed for this job? Was it offered to anyone else before Rattray was approached? Does anyone know if administrators currently employed in other opera houses in similar capacities were approached? Does anyone know of someone who turned down the job? Do you have any details on how was the search conducted?

In short, what exactly was the process that led to Rattray’s hiring?

All responses will of course be handled with complete discretion. Please email with any details, however seemingly small or trivial.

  • Camille

    I have no idea, but I AM already looking forward in glee at the many, many puns and fun La Cieca will be getting out of his rather unfortunate cognomen, in years to come.

    • sterlingkay

      Wow this site has become a haven for some pretty offensive UGLY AMERICAN sentiment. Change some of the particulars and this discussion would fit right in with some of the TEA PARTY crazies who don’t immigrants “taking our jobs”.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    It just does not bode well.

  • Upper lip wasn’t so stiff for Friends of Jonathan?

  • phoenix

    Did you expect anything to change simply because Billinghurst is ‘retiring’ from the Met? The same cartel that put her in there is respsonsible for the appointment of ratray -- and gelb -- and the rest of them.

  • Uninvolved Bystander

    Good lord, the lot of you could give the birthers a run for the money.

    • manou

      UnBy -- is it wise to use the word “Lord”, which could have unpleasant undertones of the despicable aristocratic system still in place in the backward United Kingdom?

      • Krunoslav

        Gents, beware hate speech! Armer will have ye up at the next Assizes!

        • armerjacquino

          Beg pardon?

          You dropped your strawman.

          • armerjacquino

            The fact that you refer to my expressing my opinion as an ‘Assizes’ is interesting, no?

            (You’ll say it was a joke. You also know it wasn’t)

            • Krunoslav

              You have TOTALLY lost me, pal. What straw man? You may have some long term narrative idea that you’re working through here, but it eludes me. I said nothing about you not expressing your opinion.

              My reference is to PETER GRIMES, what Auntie says in the pub scene.

            • armerjacquino

              Yeah, I know where it’s from. And it wasn’t MY ‘long term narrative’ you were working through when you posted it. Or did you think ‘I know, I’ll attach a poster’s name to a random GRIMES quote?’

              You were making a point, I called you on it.

            • Krunoslav

              Sorry to get all meta and boring, but really I don’t understand what point you think I was making and you think you were calling me on. I don’t understand what you mean by straw man here. You had essentially threatened to vanish for a day or so because of “all the hate around here”. This struck me as silly rhetoric and a willful or otherwise mischaracterization of the whole discussion, te again, as being about xenophobia. It is not.

            • armerjacquino

              I didn’t threaten anything- I’m not arrogant enough to think my presence or absence matters a damn to anyone. I did mean to disappear but got sucked in again, which was dumb of me.

              The reason I keep insisting this debate is about xenophobia is because it is.

              Your strawman- with talk of hate speech and the Assizes quote- was the suggestion that I try to police discussion. I don’t. I just say what I think like anyone else.

              Clear enough?

            • Krunoslav

              “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.
              on February 19, 2014 at 4:18 PM”


              That sounds like a threat to leave ( do not twist the meaning of ‘threat’ here from (statement of intention’) to me.

              Armer, maybe you are confusing me with whoever was accusing you of trying to police discussion the other day (was it oedipe?) but I have *never* leveled such a charge against you-- or against anybody else here AFAIR. Not my way of thinking at all.

            • oedipe

              Just to clarify things here:

              1. I have no dog in this family feud among Anglo-Saxon first cousins.

              2. I did feel that somebody was stalking and trying to police me personally. I solved the problem by ignoring it.

              3. An idea: ganging together against an outsider could be a dandy way to channel and appease this internecine dispute.

    • Could someone explain to me how Billinghurst became “British”? I seem to have lost my Parterre decoder ring.

      • steveac10

        Obviously Brit has become shorthand here for “from a largely English speaking member of the Commonwealth (or Ireland)”. Understandable, since the boards of American opera companies are in their thrall and there are so many of them it’s hard to keep track.

        It’s really not a new phenom. It’s like they consider the classical music world the last vestiges of the empire worth holding on to. Ironically, they have some of the most stringent regulations regarding importing artists. Many a Broadway star has been replaced when a show transfers to London.

        It’ not even just the classical world. Mainstream TV is teaming with residents of the commonwealth disguising their native accents. Take True Blood for instance. The 4 arguable leads are all from outside the US. One is Swedish, which is understandable since his character is a centuries old Norseman. The 3 “native Louisianans” consist of a Kiwi, a Brit and an Aussie. I challenge you to find a British or Aussie TV show, where Americans are playing “natives”. If their on the air at all they’re playing stereotypically gauche Americans.

        • manou

          …orthographically challenged “stereotypically gauche Americans” ?

        • David

          Gillian Anderson immediately springs to mind -- although she ‘cheated’ as she lived in London between the ages of 2 and 11

          • armerjacquino

            Andrew Garfield, Jennifer Ehle (although dual citizenship probably doesn’t count: I’m not up to date on the arbitrary rules).

            There are 60 million people in the UK and 300 million in the US. If there’s going to be a flow from one to the other, guess which way it’s going to go? Is it from the smaller towards the bigger country, do you think? With vastly more TV and theatres and opera houses?

            No. That’s too obvious. It’s all a BIG CONSPIRACY.

            • steveac10

              The math is backwards. By those calcs half of the Commonwealth companies should be run by Yanks because there’s so many more of us.

              And let’s step back and imagine what the outcry would amount to if the Royal Opera or the ENO were to announce that Joe Volpe, or Matthew Epstein had been named to run run the companies artistic affairs. The Isle would sink under the indignation and hostility.

              It would not bother me if there were some semblance of a two way street. But except for a few A-list movie and music superstars it’s strictly a one way express train to the US.

            • manou

              Now I understand why we had such severe floods here -- it must be because of Michael Kaiser’s tenure as chief executive of Covent garden.

            • armerjacquino

              Well, as already announced, casting at the ROH is run by a German. I know that’s not ‘running the company’s artistic affairs’ but then that doesn’t happen at the Met either, does it? Unless Gelb is from Barnsley and Levine from Chipping Sodbury and I hadn’t noticed. So already you’re making strawman statements.

              As for the ‘backwards maths’: you’re ignoring the simplest economics. People go towards the places where the jobs are. There are TWO major opera houses in the UK. Now, that may not be desirable to frothing xenophobes, but the fact remains there will always be more Brits seeking work in the US than vice versa.

            • David

              Matthew Epstein? Any relation to the Matthew Epstein who ran Welsh National Opera in the early 90s?

            • armerjacquino

              By the way, in the 68 year history of the musical directorship of CG, 41 of those years have been under the stewardship of non-Brits. So maybe ‘the Isle’ is a little less insular than you ignorantly suggest.

            • armerjacquino

              Oh, and the AD is Danish.

            • havfruen

              Shhhh, why did you have to tell everyone he’s Danish?

            • armerjacquino

              Haha! I should have preserved The Enigma Of Kaspar Holten…

            • Regina delle fate

              Um -- Matthew Epstein has already run one British company -- Welsh National Opera and he put on some jolly good stuff during his very short tenure (he resigned because he didn’t think the budget was sufficient for his ambitious plans. But while we was there we got a wonderful Rosenkavalier with Sheri Greenawald making her UK debut as the FM, Susan Graham, Franz Hawlata and Rebecca Evans making their role debuts as Oktavian, and a beautiful production of Beatrice in Benedict, in which the Benedict was a young American tenor. There was no outcry.

            • manou

              Back to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time? After the comprehensive debunking of the “indignation and hostility” brigade is there nothing more forthcoming from the insular camp?

            • armerjacquino

              Well, manou, it was established that British people would sink under indignation and hostility if non-Brits were appointed to run their opera houses.

              Apart from all the times when they were and they didn’t.

        • Obviously Brit has become shorthand here for “from a largely English speaking member of the Commonwealth (or Ireland)

          All look same?

          • armerjacquino

            There has been a load of figleaffed anti-UK (and, ignorantly, by proxy ‘Commonwealth’) sentiment for as long as I’ve posted here. This latest appointment seems to have tipped it over into open, unrepentant xenophobia.

            • grimoaldo

              What I find shocking, aj, is not so much the anti-Brit sentiment but, as you say, the ignorance, I never imagined there were people who didn’t know the difference between Australia and Britain and didn’t care either.

            • armerjacquino

              grim: the latest, as you can see above, is that British people would ‘sink under the indignation and hostility’ if someone like Matthew Epstein ran one of our opera companies.

              Couldn’t make it up.

            • So this business of conflating New Zealanders with “Brits” -- is it a New York thing? Or do people outside the Big Apple believe it as well?

            • armerjacquino

              JJ proclaimed on Facebook that the role Rattray has been appointed to has been filled by Brits since 1977. Someone else referred to the ‘brit laydee’ who had done the job in San Francisco.

              So Billinghurst is British on both coasts, at least. How’s she doing in between?

            • Eh, I had hoped that the Left Coasters would have been a bit less insular.

            • rapt

              I just noticed, by clicking on the link in JJ’s post above, that the source of the interesting definition of “Brits” on this occasion seems to be Norman Lebrecht. Can there be any more reliable authority…..?

            • rapt

              Oops! Meant to say LaC, not JJ.

            • I misspoke when I specified that the precise post Rattray will fill has been filled by Brits since 1977. Starting in 1977, incumbent in the equivalent of that job was Joan Ingpen, a Brit. In 1981 another Brit, Jonathan Friend, came to the Met to work in the rehearsal department and he succeeded Ingpen as Artistic Administrator in 1984. Thirty years later Friend is still in that position at the Met. In 1994, a new position was created, that of Assistant Manager, and assigned to Sarah Billinghurst, born in New Zealand. The duties of casting are currently shared between Billinghurst and Friend. It is Billinghurst’s position to which Rattray, a Brit, will succeed. Over the course of the past 37 years, then, the Met’s casting has been in the hands of a Brit, a Brit, a New Zealander and a Brit. and now, as we approach the fifth decade, a Brit and a Brit.

              My excuse for momentarily characterizing Billinghurst as a Brit is that in certain important ways she seems to think like a Brit, that is, in believing that loyalty, friendship and collegiality are such important values that they are allowed to trump artistic excellence. These values of “loyalty, friendship and collegiality” are of course not exclusively “British” — James Levine, born in Cincinnati, regards them as his lodestars, which is perhaps why he seems to have taken such pleasure in having Brits run the Met for him practically since he first arrived there.

            • Regina delle fate

              So what you’re saying is that the blame for all these Fucking Brits at the Met belongs to, er, an American. Or maybe two Americans, as Gelb presumably had a say in Rattray’s appointment. As I have posted before: Brits don’t all think in the same way, any more than Jews or black people do. I’m sure there are lots of Brits who don’t give a toss about loyalty, friendship, and collegiality. Are you saying that Americans who care about such things are “closet” Brits now, as well? By your logic, then, James Levine must be a Brit, in spirit, at least.

            • David

              I do love that the definition of ‘Brit’ has now been extended to anybody ‘who thinks like a Brit’.

              Anyway, one thing that strikes me about Friend and Billinghurst is that they both got their current positions after working in US opera administration. Friend, as we have been reminded, was an internal candidate -- possibly promoted on account of his performance at the Met. Billinghurst came from SF Opera. It does rather give the lie to the notion promoted by Lebrecht in his piece that the Met is constantly looking to London to fill these posts.

              (I don’t know much about either Friend or Billinghurt -- but did Billinghurt work at all in the UKl?)

            • ML

              James Levine is British in his tact.

              If we are going to reduce Briton to Brit, can we not reduce New Zealander to a certain hairy green fruit?

          • Regina delle fate


            • Regina delle fate

              On a slightly tangential note, Christine Brewer, from Illinois, who sings a lot in the UK -- and we are delighted to have her -- sang a Verdi Requiem in Boston a few years ago and she was surprised that the members of the chorus she spoke all thought she was a Brit. Of course, she sang at Covent Garden -- Donna Anna and Johannes Schaaf’s alcoholic Countess Almaviva -- long before she appeared in a principal role at the Met. That was before the Debbie Voigt little-black-cocktail-dress debacle, of course, when Peter Katona was less bothered about supersized sopranos than he appears to be today. But then Covent Garden offered Leontyne Price a contract as Aida at least two years before she sang at the Met, and I guess Latonia did too. Both her Liu and Aida were much appreciated, even though she was a complete unknown at the time. She’s recording Verdi’s Lady M in English for Chandos, with Keenlyside. She’ll eat him for breakfast. :)

            • But then Covent Garden offered Leontyne Price a contract as Aida at least two years before she sang at the Met

              Your counterexample from more than half a century ago is a singularly convincing one: Since Leontyne Price, an international star, was invited to sing a leading role at Covent Garden in 1959, then it must necessarily follow that in 2012 there was no finer interpreter in the world of Monastatos and Vitek than Alan Oke.

            • sterlingkay

              I see… so Brits don’t value “artistic excellence” highly enough for you?? With all due respect, the amount of arrogance, generalizing and stereotyping going on here is amazing.

              Last time I checked, London still had two Opera Companies and an enormous amount of classical music activity that pretty much leaves NYC in the dust.

              I would be interested in finding out what brilliant American artistic administrator was prevented from taking his rightful place at the MET by Mr. Rattray. Just having quickly gone through the large American Opera Companies in my head, there really isn’t one where I would say, “wow, the casting there is amazing…why doesn’t the MET get that guy!”

              Still interested in hearing names….

            • I will be delighted to answer your question as soon as you offer a plausible rationale for the “artistic excellence” that led to the casting of John Graham-Hall, of all the character tenors in the world, as Monsieur Triquet for a gala new production of Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera.

            • Regina delle fate

              Well it’s arguable that Price was an international star in 1958. She had sung in San Francisco and Vienna the year before. I’d say she was an emerging talent rather than a star, but I wasn’t intending in any case to use Price’s RO Aida as an “excuse” for casting Alan Oke in comprimario roles. I’ve posted dozens of times on here that I think that not to use local artists for roles such as Vitek is madness, wherever it happens, but it happens increasingly, all over the world. What you see as nefarious British activity is practised by arts managers and agents of all nationalities -- it’s called the “package deal”. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had Jennifer Check as the Fifth maid in Elektra because her agent had one of the starring singers in the show (Christine Goerke, perhaps?). I gather she was also covering Chrysothemis, but there are several UK sopranos who could have done that, as well. What you are complaining of happens everywhere, often to the advantage of American singers who are not international stars. ENO hardly puts anything on these days without US singers. Some are excellent -- Corinne Winters, Quinn Kelsey -- but others might have struggled to have got a job with New York City Opera when it was up and running. Indeed, quite a few US agents seem to be using ENO to fill the gap in their artists’ schedules left by NYCO’s demise.

            • Let me get this absolutely clear: you say that the ENO are using American artists for roles like Schaunard, Masetto, Le Bailli, Adelaide in Arabella and Monsieur Triquet?

            • sterlingkay

              Your biggest casting complaint is about Triquet in EUGENE ONEGIN!!!???!!! Now I KNOW this discussion has gone off the rails into LA LA land.

              Listen, I agree he was not good… but that somehow indicates a secret British cabal?? And wouldn’t the American Lenore Rosenberg have been in charge of casting that role? It’s not really a Principal. She does do SOMETHING at the MET, no?

              I really am genuinely interested in what American you would have preferred to Rattray

            • Krunoslav

              ” Of course, she sang at Covent Garden — Donna Anna and Johannes Schaaf’s alcoholic Countess Almaviva — long before she appeared in a principal role at the Met”

              Christine Brewer starred through the 80s and 90s at Santa fe and St,Louis summer festivals, both awash in administrative Brits, and was singled out for years by Andrew Porter in THE NEW YORKER for praise. Since she was raising a daughter, she was no taking engagements at companies like the Met and SFO.

            • sterlingkay, you’re on moderation.

            • la vociaccia

              Regina, without wading into this whole discussion, Jennifer Check most certainly is not represented by the same manager -- or even the same agency -- as Christine Goerke.

            • David

              Matthew Trevino is singing Hobson in Peter Grimes at the moment for ENO.


              It really is an outrage that English National Opera is importing foreign singers for this most quintessentially English of all opera. Why are we in thrall to Yanks and those who think like Yanks? I am disgusted and will be writing forthwith to the Telegraph, etc. etc.

              (Alternatively -- good for him. Great that what looks like an up and coming performer is getting a range of experiences in international houses.)

        • grimoaldo

          Born in Texas, has appeared as Londoner Bridget Jones in several big budget movies.
          A word of advice -- Irish, Australians, New Zealanders, etc., if you ever meet any, will not take kindly to being called “British” and are likely to be insulted.

        • operaassport

          Let’s not forget that it was American unions that prevented many a Brit star from recreating their role on Broadway. Which is why Elaine Paige didn’t get to play the roles she created when they transferred to Broadway. So it goes both ways.

          • grimoaldo

            I don’t know if the threading is confusing oas but I was replying to steveac10 asking for examples of American actors playing Brits, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that a Texan played Bridget Jones.

          • Yes, we poor bastards in New York had to make do with Patti LuPone, Glenn Close and Betty Buckley.

      • armerjacquino

        British= people from Britain, New Zealand, South Africa…

        NZers and SAers will be pulled into something called ‘Commonwealth artists’ because that’s as bad. NB: although Canada and Malta are in the Commonwealth, Pieczonka and Calleja are NOT Commonwealth Artists.

        JJ’s facebook contained a discussion of this new appointment where Billinghurst was routinely referred to as a Brit. Christopher Hahn has been referred to on these pages in the last couple of days as a Brit. The important thing is to hate first, and ask questions later.

        • operaassport

          Would all you charter members of the pc police be happier if one just said “foreigners?”

          • Cocky Kurwenal

            Well it would be more factually correct, clearer and simpler.

          • When American opera companies start to have a glut of Armenian artistic administrators who hire mediocre Armenian singers to perform Schaunard and Adelaide and M. Triquet, then we can start saying “foreigners.” At the moment, the problem is mostly with Brits and Brit wannabees.

            • armerjacquino

              The people of New Zealand and South Africa will be, at the very least, surprised to find that they are ‘Brit wannabees’.

            • Because I said clearly above that all people of New Zealand and South Africa are Brit wannabees.

              Christ, when you read history at Cambridge, don’t they teach you to read first?

            • armerjacquino

              I don’t know, I didn’t read history. Nice attempt at an ad hominem though. Classy.

              You don’t CARE that New Zealand and South Africa are different countries if the people from them ‘think’ like a Brit. You used the word ‘Brit’ to describe a New Zealander. You make up your own distinctions to fit your prejudices, then accuse people of not being able to read when they pick you up on them.

            • Great, not only do you not know what a straw man is, you don’t know what an ad hominem is either. (Hint: nothing that you mischaracterized my argument is not an ad hominem.)

              I’m going to close comments on this thread, for my sake as much as for anyone else’s. I’m sure we all have better things we could be doing.

            • armerjacquino

              Referring to where I studied, for the second time (yesterday on FB), is ad hominem.

              Happy to help.

          • David

            You’re quite right. Suggesting that Australians, New Zealanders, and South African aren’t Brits is nothing more than political correctness gone mad

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        She’s never been anything more than a glorified secretary.

  • phoenix

    aj is correct -- but it takes a long time (and sometimes impossible) to completely sever cultural identity from affiliation with any sort of kingdom or commonwealth

    Prysvyachuyet?sya zhertvam ploshchi Nezalezhnosti povstannya Kyyevi

  • One can always count on the the gentlemen of the British press!

    But, when the role of Ellen Orford in the recent Grimes is taken by a South African, there is bound to be some muttering: can’t we cast a role like that from the home team?

    • David

      What a fool -- doesn’t he realise that South Africans are Brits and therefore part of the home team?

    • armerjacquino

      Sorry, how is this different from complaining about, say, Emma Bell?

      Oh that’s right. It’s the same.

      Well done for finding the only review that doesn’t fall over raving about Van Der Heever, by the way. Rigorous and honest of you.

  • spiderman

    why do we talk about nationalities in a absolute non-national-art-form like opera AT ALL? horrible.

    • Because a misplaced sense of nationalism on the part of certain administrators leads to the expensive and cumbersome hiring of mediocre singers to perform roles that could be sung better and more cheaply by natives.

    • oedipe

      Because it seems that, in this “non-national-art-form”, some nationalities are more equal than others…

    • armerjacquino

      Amen, spiderman.

      I’ve never understood the mentality, from either side, of sitting watching an opera while simultaneously doing a mental check on where the singers were born.

      • The “mental check” consists of saying to yourself, “Christ, is this the best the Met could do, at these prices?”

  • Often admonished

    There is a case against Rattray, who is unpleasant, snobbish and short. So he’ll fit right in at the MET.

    But LaC/JJ’s scattershot allegations just don’t cut it; muddled thinking and messy journalism.

    In the meantime I’m putting myself on moderation.