Cher Public

Séance on a partly cloudy afternoon

Your conduit to the spirit world, La Cieca, isn’t feeling quite as clairvoyante as usual today, cher public, so she’s going to ask your help in predicting what will happen in the course of the Met’s current labor negotiations.

Please select any of the following predictions you think will come true.

  • I think they will meet somewhere in the middle. Gelb has put forward an aggressive pay cut proposal to give himself negotiating room. But there will be a lockout and even more ugliness first, including some cancelled performances.

    • laddie

      Thank you, powers that be. I just bought a plane ticket to go and see Le Nozze.

  • javier

    to me this issue isn’t real until something significant like a lockout or a compromise happens. i really can’t speculate, but somehow i do want the full season to go forward.

    • Sempre liberal

      I haven’t lived through a lockout before. If some performances are cancelled, do ticket-holders get refunds? Or credit? I have 3 operas in September-October in my series.

      • Lohenfal

        Your guess is as good as mine. I didn’t have a subscription way back in 1980, so I really can’t say what happened then. I assume we would get refunds if performances are cancelled. In any case, I’m considering not renewing the subscription no matter what happens, since the Met is obviously an institution in disarray. I don’t blame Mr. Gelb or anyone else in particular, but the sense of a faltering institution is obvious. :-(

  • operacat

    The only thing I know for sure is that I will not be travelling to NYC to see anything at the Met this year because there is nothing happening that strikes me as worth the ticket price. I am also mystified by a Board that stands behind a CEO that says the product they produce is obsolete.

    • steveac10

      I see it more that the business model is obsolete rather than the art form itself. It’s not just expensive labor and inflexible, costly work rules: It’s a house that’s half again to big for much of the repertory that sells, a patron base with conservative tastes that are out of synch with potential new audiences, a music director who is no longer the dynamic leader he once was, marquee productions that are tired (and likely falling apart) that everyone is afraid to replace, a casting system that value expediency over quality and excitement (even in supporting roles -- the house has been using the same Tisbe in Cenerentola since January of 1998 and only rarely use her in other operas). Much else could be added to the list. Maybe a crisis is needed to shake things up.

    • jackoh

      I think that Gelb deserves some credit for publicly articulating some of the major challenges facing the art form, even if that is in service to bolstering a negotiating position with the unions. But all that you have to do is to look at any major newspaper or any major print magazine to find “a Board that stands behind a CEO that says the product they produce is obsolete.”

      • There is a difference between saying that the “product” is inherently obsolete and saying that the way the “product” is currently being produced and presented is antiquated. It seems to me that what Gelb is saying is a good deal closer to the latter than to the former.

        • jackoh

          Absolutely correct about what Gelb is saying, La Cieca. But what is even more important is that he has attempted to do something about it, in the way that the editors and CEOs of major print entities are trying to save the content that they value and produce (analytical reporting or long form journalism or fiction) by thinking about how their “product” is presented and delivered to those with a desire to consume it and not simply accepting that the old way is the only w

        • Uncle Kvetch

          There is a difference between saying that the “product” is inherently obsolete and saying that the way the “product” is currently being produced and presented is antiquated. It seems to me that what Gelb is saying is a good deal closer to the latter than to the former.

          That may well be true, but at this moment, what is Gelb proposing to change about the way opera is “produced and presented,” beyond paying less for labor? If the pay cuts were just one aspect of an overall rethinking of the way the Met does its business, that would be one thing, but that’s not what we’re hearing at the moment.

          • operaassport

            Because Gelb is smart. He knows that to change the business model and the way opera is presented you have to start with the contracts and labor costs. Until you do that, you can’t do any other thing. The MET is in a financial straitjacket because of those contracts. So it is not only the logical place to start, it’s the only place to start.

            Anyone who understands anything about economics and business in the 2
            21st century. Unfortunately, the union and its supporters think this is 1935 and George Meany is still alive.

            • jackoh

              I think that this is spot on.

            • armerjacquino

              The Met made a profit in 2011 and broke even in 2012, both right at the heart of the recession. Where was the ‘financial straitjacket’ then?

              The finances of opera are complex. To suggest, as you do, that there is one and only one reason for any financial shortfall (‘the only place to start’) is hella naive.

            • operaobserver

              Can a nonprofit make a profit? Can donations and outright gifts be considered revenue? If ticket sales only account for half of the expenses then the Met is losing 160 million and its the patrons who are bailing out the institution year after year.
              The real problem is what happens when those people start to jump ship. The unions are trying to treat this like a steel mill or coal mine. Its a complex institution that 90% of the world will not miss if it goes under as it does not produce anything of vital importance to survival. I however will and so will the union members when its gone.

            • Stendhal

              Your comment is a perfect example of ideological thinking that has become accepted as fact by certain sectors of the population. Your point is unfortunately simply an opinion that does not have any factual support or basis, much like a great deal of the commentary on the MET’s financial situation on this site.

              “The MET is in a financial straitjacket because of those contracts” -- this is far from true, it is an interpretation of the numbers. Gelb’s spending has gone up -- perhaps it is more accurate to say, the MET is in a financial straitjacket because of a combination of new expenses and labor contracts.

              I could go on, but I just want to make the following point: ideological inanities will get this situation nowhere and simply contribute to the clutter that surrounds this issue. The only way forward is intelligent compromise.

              And Operaasport: do you yourself a favor and read some real economic analysis. You could start with Piketty. It’s likely we will see increasing concentrations of wealth in the future, meaning that effective fundraising from private sources will still be the key to the non profit arts. If rich people want culture, they will have to pay up. No one else will.

            • jackoh

              Here is what bothers me about this situation, or model. If opera, at least in the US, can exist only with the financial support of well off donors, how can we insure the continued existence of the art form in any sense that would accord to it a vitality of its own or the ability to develop itself beyond what those donors expect. Has no one on this site lived an experience of being supported by someone of wealth and can report the definite downsides of that experience? Would you like the Met to be, even more than it already is, encumbered in that kind of a relationship and then defend the living arrangement as best for the supported partner?

        • olliedawg

          If opera were an obsolete product, why the hell do we all get so riled up about it on Parterre? La Cieca nails it yet again…

          • oedipe

            If opera were an obsolete product, why the hell do we all get so riled up about it on Parterre?

            Well, a number of people do seem to feel strongly about keeping it just like it was in the good old days…

            • Clita del Toro

              We don’t want to keep it like the good old days, Oedipe. We are riled up because we are simply riled up, cray-cray queens ( Now, don’t write, “Speak for yourself!”). Don’t fool yourself. ;)

        • Jamie01

          If Mr. Gelb feels the way the product is currently being produced and presented is obsolete, what’s he waiting for -- he’s been General Manager for eight years now.

          I may be guilty of biased reading, but much of what I see from him seems to be self-serving woe is me along the lines of ‘I’m stuck trying to market a musty old product whose consumers are all dead or well on their way there.’

          • jackoh

            I would cite two initiatives that Gelb has taken to advance the presentation of opera. One is the HD cinema broadcasts which seem to be acknowledged as a success. Two is the “Broadwayfication” of opera productions that, though those endeavors may be more mixed in terms of success, at least in their intent represent an attempt to break out of the old mold and into something that could (possibly) enhance the receptiveness of the art form.

            • steveac10

              But Bing did the same thing. Margaret Webster, Tyrone Guthrie, Cyril Ritchard….those were theatre names. And they played a part in reviving stagecraft at the Met. It is not contrary to common sense to engage established directors with a proven track record in musical theatre. The thing is those directors are used to being able to spend months with their casts in workshops and regional tryouts. Unless it’s a borrowed production that has been produced somewhere else first, those directors have to achieve marketable results in a matter of weeks. That’s why shared productions that have been rehearsed and premiered elsewhere have the best track record overall, because the bugs can be worked out before the time constraints the Met presents. To be sure for every Butterfly or From the House of the Dead there’s a DOA Faust or Tosca -- but it is very difficult for a machine like the Met to turn on a dime.

            • And it should be noted that Bing was criticized a LOT for using theater directors, for replacing “beloved” old productions, for casting younger, more promising singers over established favorites, There was even a skit in the Broadway revue Two on the Aisle about how Bing had transformed the Met into a vaudeville theater. (Bing also had his own white elephant Ring cycle that took seven years to produce, finally yielding only three complete cycles before it was junked — and only a few Rheingold and Walküre individual performances ended up directed and conducted by the project’s raison d’être, Herbert von Karajan.) There were also strike threats every three years, regular as clockwork, climaxing in the 1969 lockout.

            • steveac10

              “Bing also had his own white elephant Ring cycle that took seven years to produce”

              I was unfortunate enough to experience the swan song of that Ring on the Met tour. Anyone who wants to bash the LePage ring needs to spend four hours sitting through the Karajan Walkure. An entire stage filled with poorly lit gray swirls populated by principals wandering around a gray disc clad in gray cheesecloth with no hint of direction. Even the admirable Walsung twins of Jon Vickers and Johanna Meier could not even pretend to animate what was frankly a piece of shit.

            • Uncle Kvetch

              So we have one set of critics who complain he’s doing too much and another who complain he’s doing nothing at all.

              Well, I wasn’t complaining that he’s doing nothing, and I thank La Cieca for responding sincerely to my question, which wasn’t meant to be rhetorical. Clearly Gelb has done quite a lot to push things forward, albeit with varying degrees of success.

              I’m a huge fan of the HD screenings…they’re what turned me into a fan. I wish that they had had the desired effect of expanding the audience for live opera but at this point it looks like that isn’t happening, unfortunately. So I wonder what, if anything, the Met administration sees as the next step forward in that department.

              There’s also some advance, not enough, in marketing opera, which before his time was essentially not done at all: the message was “We’re the Met. Take it or leave it.”

              Too true. It was only during Gelb’s tenure that I even became aware of the existence of the Met’s marketing (bus ads, subway posters, etc.), despite having lived in NYC for years. And not only did I notice it, but I found it very well done overall. It wasn’t “Eat your greens, they’re good for you,” nor was it “It’s OK, don’t be frightened, we’re really just Broadway with fancier sets.” It was welcoming and inviting without being patronizing.

            • musesick man

              One place where Mr. Gelb has completely disappointed me is in the arena of co-productions. These represent a great way to try something out before it gets to The Met and sometimes it works well but usually only if the production is strong to begin with such as Butterfly or From The House Of The Dead. However, when you have something like FAUST which I don’t believe was well received at ENO, why does Gelb not demand changes in the production? He is the producer for all intents and purposes and as such should be insist that changes be made in the time between the two productions. I recently saw the Manon Lescaut that is due at The Met in a year or so and could give you pages of notes on what should be changed and yet I imagine we will see exactly what was on the stage in Germany this year.

          • See, the other argument is that Gelb is actively trying to destroy opera by changing everything that everyone loves about it. So we have one set of critics who complain he’s doing too much and another who complain he’s doing nothing at all.

            Gelb has doubled the number of new productions at the Met annually: that in itself is an enormous change in how the “product” is presented. The repertoire is somewhat broader and there is (or was, anyway) an attempt to put more emphasis on relatively recent works. (Some of these plans had to be put on the back burner for financial reasons.)

            There’s also some advance, not enough, in marketing opera, which before his time was essentially not done at all: the message was “We’re the Met. Take it or leave it.” Something as simple as having a video clip of an opera about to open is a type of marketing; so is the outreach of telecasting opening night in Times Square. I don’t credit Gelb for any particular creativity in doing this kind of marketing, because it’s basically the same sort of stuff that’s done for any sort of entertainment or performing art event in the US. But he’s the one who realized that you can’t just “do opera” and the people will automatically come: since everything is so aggressively marketed these days, you have to convince the audience that what they’re getting is something special and worthwhile. Promoting personalities, promoting new and potentially intriguing productions, promoting unusual repertoire: these are all ways of getting an audience into the theater, and Gelb is essentially the first Met GM to do this.

            He could be doing a lot more, and I don’t think the obvious fact that he has to spend a lot of time putting out fires is an excuse for what looks to be a pretty dull season coming up.

            • operacat

              Thank you, Cieca. I agree with all you say here and it captures why I am so torn about Mr. Gelb. I feel that the main problem is that he has the right marketing ideas, but NOT the artistic vision and unfortunately he seems to be in control of the MET’s artistic vision.

            • Your argument would make sense if you could point to a Met GM (since Bing) who actually did have an active artistic vision. Since the mid 1970s, the Met has essentially been a venue for James Levine’s conducting, and the various GMs have accepted the hard fact that their job was primarily to facilitate Levine’s path to the podium each night. Even if that (sort of) counts as a “vision,” it’s not viable now that Levine is in the twilight of his career, and, worse, seems to have lost his box office mojo.

              Who running a major opera company in the US has a “vision?” They’re mostly fundraisers and networkers, people who are good at the business of opera. If you’re looking to replace Gelb, I would be fascinated to hear which candidates both have strong artistic visions and can be trusted to shake down the blue haired ladies for nine figures a year.

            • actfive

              Bang on about pre-Gelb marketing. Back in the early 80’s, I worked for the Met Ticket Service. I had a caller complaining about the operas on his subscription. I was told to respond: “Perhaps you’d like the phone number of (with disdain)City Opera?”

            • steveac10

              “Who running a major opera company in the US has a “vision?”

              Not many -- and especially none that would be acceptable to the Met board. There are a couple of companies who seem to thrive without providing an endless diet of the ABCs and picturesque rarities bit they are few and far between. Minnesota in particular seems to have hot the sweet spot with a program of fairly accessible world premieres (one every season!), well cast bel canto and fairly stripped down productions of the big guns repertoire with a combinations of minor stars and talented up and comers. Sadly, the formula probably lacks the glamour that NYC demands -- plus they only have to sell 3 dozen or so performances in a theatre not much more than half the size of the Met. Their powers that be would likely be more suitable to run the now defunct NYCO than the Met.

            • warmke

              Why is it neccesary to find a vision in the United States? Isn’t the idea that that the monolithic position of business director/artistic director in as complicated an economic climate we find here impossible to fill from the human perspective? Clearly, the delegating of so much artistic power to secondary administrators has drained the theater of its quality and imagination, as Gelb certainly hasn’t the time, nor has Levine’s decline provided any leadership. The European model of a business head and an artistic leader would surely appeal to a Salzburg, Berlin or Munich leader who would thrill to have the artistic capacity of the Met ensembles to fulfill an ideal. It’s not 1965, every European artist is aware of the cultural challenges here.

  • leonora3

    I have already bought a round trip plane ticket for the first week of the season from Prague as I wanted to see the opening and performances with AN “Trebsy” as Lady Macbeth (as I missed her in Munich). In case the season doesn’t start as it was annouced I won’t travel at all, as it was the only reason why I wanted to go and will lose more $1000. It will be the end of my interest in this house. Believe me, it will have very devastating effect and it will take Met ages to repair it. I thought it might happen only in Italy (it did to my good friend in Milan), but in MET, the house that we considered as the Stage #1 in the World?

    • damekenneth

      There have been past delays -- or at least one? -- in opening the Met season, owing to labor disputes. It’s not as if this has never happened before.

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      With all due respect to Anna Netrebko, there is more to New York in September besides her.

  • DeepSouthSenior

    The chances are between 0% and 100% that either Gelb or the unions, or both, will make significant concessions. Other than that, everything is still pretty much up for grabs.

  • La marquise de Merteuil

    Well usually I add a cup of bleach…

  • La Valkyrietta

    From the voting results one can conclude people are optimistic. Maybe they want to see something. I love both Macbeth and Nozze so that first week sounds like fun, but what can one do. If the Met is still with troubles in October, there is a Tom Stoppard play. To sing or not to sing, that is the thing.

  • operacat

    I guess I am confused about how the way the product is being presented is antiquated. I have been very excited recent productions that struck me as unique such as the Met’s SATYAGRAHA, PARSIFAL, PRINCE Igor and THE NOSE or the recently well traveled MOBY DICK.
    I am still excited by the Met’s “antiquated” stagings of BILLY BUDD, LULU and DIALOGUE OF THE CARMELITES.
    Opera is about storytelling and music. The MET has always guaranteed for me that the music end would be well served by having a great orchestra and chorus so I have been willing to plan trips to the MET.
    Sometimes the storytelling has been exciting; more often lately it has been muddled. And now it seems to me that Gelb wants to take away the guarantee of music.
    It is the reason that I will no longer bother to go to NyC to see the Met.
    This is one ticketbuyers’s opinion. I am not belittling your opinions. I have seen many more “crap” old fashioned performances than crap “modern” productions. I appreciate any production where I feel the director has thought about the whole work rather than imposed something for the sake of different, like a Washington FALSTAFF where the director decided to turn the sets around “Just to be different”, or felt like he was just traffic directing.
    Don’t worry . . .no more from me.

    • steveac10

      The thing is those “antiquated” productions you love (as do I) are precisely the productions the Met has trouble selling for even 3 or 4 performances. I for one wold love to see those classic Dexter productions of 20th century opera in a house the size of La Scala, Vienna or Munich…but it’s not going to happen. Sadly the Upper East Side and Westchester crowds that attend and fund the Met would rather see indifferently cast and directed revivals of Boheme, Turandot and Aida that they’ve attended 15 or 20 times before.

  • philomel

    My prediction is it will be a combination of these, with the lockout being certain. We are being told by those in negotiations that concessions will be offered, but the lockout will occur regardless. Lockout is considered a done deal by union leaders, since Gelb wants it for many reason, not least of which is he is out of cash and cannot make full payroll next week. We are also told we should expect to be out until at least October. It is of course in the interest of the leaders of both sides to have the troops in a state of near panic. Again, the first victim of warfare is truth.

    Many Bothans died to bring us this information.

    • steveac10

      On what authority can you confirm the Met is “out of cash”? There is a couple of hundred million in the endowment that could likely be accessed in an emergency. Plus, even if there is a lockout -- the accrued union payroll, not to mention the non-union payroll would still have to be made. Is this more Gordon propagated doom and gloom?

      • philomel

        Not to sound snippy, but I chose my words carefully in my original post. Did you read them carefully? I said where my information came from AND made it clear that you might not want to believe it as gospel.

        Authority? I have no authority, this is the internet. Even if I were foolish enough to claim (and reveal) authority, why should you believe me?

        As far as “millions” in the endowment, we are told that is hardly the case, and even if it is, that is not “cash”.

        In addition, I’m not sure what you mean by “accrued union payroll” having to be made. If one is locked out, one is not paid. No insurance coverage is paid. No annuity payments are made. It represents a huge savings to not pay that money out. In fact, there is a grievance filed because the Met is has announced it’s intention to not pay *accrued* vacation time used after Aug 1. To be clear, this is vacation pay already earned in previous years, and by right the employees to use when they wish.

        It is hard for me not to come to the conclusion that cash flow is a major factor in management’s actions.

        • steveac10

          So you want us to believe the Met is out of cash and can’t meet payroll despite the fact you can’t name a credible source. If it’s not true and you can’t prove it -- why state it? And by accrued, I was assuming some sort of ay cycle, as in work weeks 1 and 2 and I’ll pay you week 3. Your statement made it seem there are no funds to do so. If you can’t prove it, don’t fan the flames by saying it!

          • philomel

            Predictions were asked for, I gave mine with self described anecdotal evidence for my opinions. I’m sorry if it puts your knickers in a twist, but I suspect I am far more likely to be burned in those fanned flames than you. Your stamping your foot and demanding concrete evidence or my silence is pretty silly, especially considering it’s common knowledge Met staff roam these pages freely in semi-cognito. For all I know, you ARE Peter Gelb. Or for that matter, maybe I am…

            • philomel

              Only La Cieca knows for sure ;-).

  • mozartFreak

    This blogger was almost always spot on during the lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra. Here’s what he has to say today:

    • Lohenfal

      Thanks for these comments. It was the interview that Gelb had with Paula Zahn 2 weeks ago that really convinced me of how bad the situation is. As I said above, I don’t blame Gelb for all the problems, but the way he’s handling them indicates his incapacity for dealing with them. The manner in which he evaded answering Zahn’s questions directly was disturbing, to say the least. Seeing him doing this on TV was much worse than reading his words in a newspaper.

      • musesick man

        Everyone is very quick to blame Peter Gelb for everything that is going on, for having gotten The Met into this jam through mismanagement, etc.What is missing in all of this is any discussion of how this all started. Some people feel that the unionized employees at The Met have contracts that make doing business almost impossible. Well who negotiated these contracts? The Met Board and Joe Volpe have most of the blame (if there is any) in this issue. Volpe negotiated with the Unions and the board approved the contracts. If these contracts are indeed too “rich”, they did not get that way over night. I am not defending Gelb’s stewardship but I do think that he is only part of the picture.

        • Lohenfal

          I agree with you that Gelb is only part of the picture. The union contracts negotiated by Volpe are an example. I would also add that the Volpe administration, by focusing on the super-spectacles of Zeffirelli and his ilk, made Gelb’s job more difficult. Any new manager would have had to introduce new approaches to staging opera, approaches which would have alienated a substantial part of the audience. Still, Gelb is in the position of manager at this point. It’s up to him to deal with these errors of the past, as well as with his own errors, and proceed forward. If he does have other plans to save the Met in addition to dealing with the labor costs, he hasn’t shared them with his employees or with us. Maybe these plans do exist and he’s keeping them secret for the moment, but those of us who have some stake in this institution, like me and other subscribers, would like to know what we have to look forward to. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

          • musesick man

            I don’t know that there are plans other than “we don’t know what to do so let’s save money where we can.” Trying to please the audience at The Met seems to be an impossible task -- some the people want nothing more than to see everything Zeffirelli and refuse to go to anything new while at the same time there is an audience out there, like me, who don’t care if they ever see The Zeffirelli Turandot again. I don’t love every new production -- hated the Traviata -- yet would rather hate something new than be bored by yet another mindless spectacle.I don’t know that Mr. Gelb has a real plan but I don’t know that anyone else would have one either

  • Satisfied

    Dare we play a little nihilistic game? I propose: “what we will miss most following cancelation if the season?” (LC: quite the poll, wouldn’t you say?)

    My first choice: The Death of Klinghoffer as it is unlikely that, of all the programming this season, this opera will be reprogrammed into a future season.

    My second choice: …..

    The reality is, aside from Klinghoffer, I’m bored to tears about pretty much everything this year. Perhaps, if there is a shut-out this year, it’s the “best” season in which to have a shut- out.

    • Satisfied

      Got to add to my own list of operas I would miss seeing this season: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Like Klinghoffer, another opera that will be difficult to reprogram into a future season.

      • Cocky Kurwenal

        Why would Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk be difficult to re-programme into a future season? I can understand they might just avoid the hassle that attended Kinghoffer and strike it off the list, but I don’t see the difficulty with Lady Macbeth.

        • The leading roles are sort of specialist material: there are only a couple of star sopranos in the world who sing Katerina, for example, and they are in demand for other parts as well. If LMM were canceled this season, it would likely take four or five seasons to pull together the show again. (It’s also a heavy chorus show, so time has to be scheduled for rehearsals of the music and staging.)

          • Satisfied

            Yes to everything LC said (I hadn’t even thought of the chorus).

            I would add that, if reprogram of this season were necessary, LMM would take lower priority for rescheduling purposes than, say, a revivial of Meistersinger or Hoffmann.

    • DonCarloFanatic

      I would miss Iolanta.

      I probably would not have liked Klinghoffer much, but I had intended to see it in HD, so I am already missing it.

  • parpignol

    not a very exciting season, but still plenty to enjoy; in addition to the productions mentioned above: La Donna del Lago; Die Meistersinger; The Rake’s Progress; a nice cast for Ballo; Netrebko in Macbeth; Don Carlo even with an uneven cast; and two performances of Carmen that bring together Kaufmann and Garanca; yeah, I’d be sorry if the Met 2014-2015 season did not happen. . .

    • oedipe

      Yeah, but isn’t it a shame that one has to put up, yet again, with that fuckin’frog -who has no business singing here- in 6 of the 8 Carmens next season, instead of having Kaufmann for all 8 performances?

      (Who needs ALL these irrelevant frogs at the Met? They unfairly take away jobs, not only from Kaufmann, but also from numerous, far superior American singers!)

      • Lohengrin

        We need Kaufmann in Europa!! To expensice to travel to NY all the time ;-)

        • Lohengrin

          sorry: expensive…
          Met should breadcast one of the Carmens with Garanca and Kaufmann instead of that with Anita Rachvelishvili
          Aleksandrs Antonenko .

          • Lohenfal

            The Met is broadcasting the March 7 performance with Kaufmann and Garanca over the radio. Since Garanca was already on a Carmen HD (with Alagna), the November 1 HD will be with Rachvelishvili and Antonenko. That’s assuming that the season isn’t completely lost.

      • oedipe

        Indeed. We need Alagna in (Continental) Europe. Why waste his time on long stays in NY, for second and third revivals of same old, same old roles, especially if people here are so unhappy to see his name on the roster? He’d better concentrate all his efforts on the many exciting projects he has lined up in Continental Europe (including Germany!) in the next 2-3 years.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Yes I agree Oedipe. There are other singers who seem to be content with singing in Europe without the hassles of having to travel across the Atlantic. He has said he wishes to stay closer to home before because of his children but now things might look different. Still I would think there are enough European houses to sing in. He can check off the Met from his list and save on the comute. I hear he will be doing Andrea Chenier here with Maria Agresta. I have him tonight in the Forza.

          • grimoaldo


            LE CID (Opéra GARNIER) run begins 27 March 2015

            LE ROI ARTHUS (Opéra BASTILLE) beginning 16 May

            L’AFRICAINE (Deutsche Oper Berlin) beginning 4 October

            There’s not the chance of a snowball in hell that the current Met regime would put on any of those operas with or without Alagna. Two of them are French grand operas, people in the English speaking world, if they have any idea what “French grand opera” even is, generally abominate it as meretricious trash and have an idea that surely it was, quite rightly, stamped out years ago, why on earth would anyone be so lunatic as to try to reanimate that corpse?
            And when Alagna sings some operas that are performed in the US:
            OTELLO (Choregies d’Orange) beginning 2 August

            AIDA (Hamburgische Staatsoper) beginning 7 October

            IL TROVATORE (Chorégies d’Orange) beginning 1 August next year

            the reaction here is “What, is he out of his mind? why is he singing that, who does he think he is, Mario del Monaco?”

            Yes,why does he need to travel across the world for that, stay where he can do interesting rep and audiences appreciate him.

            • oedipe

              Pencil in also the role of Eléazar in La Juive at the Munich Opera Festival in 2016.

              And it is worth noting that he sang Enée for the first time in a staged production this past April at the Deutsche Oper, to rave reviews.

            • turings

              Alagna was wonderful as Énee. I hadn’t realised it was his first staged production.

              He was very warmly received, though the performance I went to wasn’t very well attended – but that may have been that it started at 5pm on a Wednesday. Most of the audience seemed to be either retired people or school kids.

      • Cicciabella

        Fie, Oedipe! Garanca and Alagna in Carmen is a dream reunion. The Met should plan an extra HD Redux with the two older stars. Eyre could slightly alter the production, restaging it as Don Jos?’s second chance with Carmen, the last act from the last time having been a nightmare. HD audiences can then vote for one of two endings by texting. Ending A: Don Josè’s enforced anger management training fails and he kills her all over again, this time for real. Ending B: Carmen survives, but how?: Don José can stab his anger management lifesize doll instead, earning therapy brownie points, or Carmen can send Mercedes in disguise, to die in her place. Or she can wear a protective padded corset and rise and slap José in the face at the end. Real-time Interactive HD: why not?

        Kaufmann will most probably cancel those two Carmens, unless he’s Peter Gelb’s secret weapon for the Cavalleria the following month, in case Álvarez comes a cropper.

        • Camille

          Hey! I like your idea of the interactive audience texting! Shades of HD Futures!

          Vote B, and urge Carmencita to cover up that cleavage with something cast iron!

          • Cicciabella

            She could take a fashion tip from Brünnhilde. This lovely cuirass only costs $525, peanuts for a smuggler chick:

            • grimoaldo

              “Cuirass” is not a word you hear very often, it brings to my mind

              “This tight fitting cuirass
              Is but a useless mass
              It’s made of steel
              And weighs a deal
              This tight fitting cuirass is but a useless mass!
              A man is but an ass
              Who fights in a cuirass
              So off goes that cuirass!”
              to a mock Handelian tune:

            • Camille

              Exactly what I had in mind!

              Now, let’s hope he doesn’t try to strangle her instead……

  • Constantine A. Papas

    It’s really silly to argue about words such a “obsolete” or “antiquated,” etc., referring to the present status of opera. As a plebian, I have better words that everyone understands. Let’s face it: Opera never was and never will be “bread and butter” entertainment. Period. It was conceived by the rich and paid by the rich. With no government subsidies, only the wealthy private sector can assure the Met’ future.

  • la vociaccia

    No. Voters are being hyperbolic for the sake of drama. When Dessay had trouble at the beginning of the Giulio Cesare run the highest number of votes predicted that she would cancel every performance except for the HD; as it turned out, she only cancelled the one at the beginning.

  • Will

    What I have not seen discussed here yet is that the MET has started spending down the endowment. Such behavior was a key element in the collapse of the New York City Opera; it was condemned here and is reportedly illegal without special request to some legal entity in the state.

  • Uncle Kvetch

    If he does have other plans to save the Met in addition to dealing with the labor costs, he hasn’t shared them with his employees or with us. Maybe these plans do exist and he’s keeping them secret for the moment, but those of us who have some stake in this institution, like me and other subscribers, would like to know what we have to look forward to. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

    This is what I was getting at in my previous comment. Gelb has been making the case for the inexorable decline of opera in the US, and he may very well be right about that. But if that’s so, then the cuts in labor costs are nothing more than kicking the can down the road, staving off the inevitable collapse of the institution for another 5 or 10 or 20 years. Not the sort of thing that’s likely to inspire great confidence in would-be patrons…

  • Alagna is an ideal Don José. I still have very fond memories of his performance opposite Borodina at the Met back in 1999. But Garanca’s Carmen is my least-favourite role assumption of hers. I found her musically on the bland side (though the voice is always splendid) and dramatically more vulgar than seductive. What a difference from her brilliant Sesto and Giovanna.

    I like Alagna in mid-weight Verdi roles (like Don Carlo(s)) but do not care for his Radames at all. It just doesn’t sit well in his voice (though he obviously loves the role cause he sings it all the time). I can’t imagine his Otello being to my liking either (though I’ll obviously give a listen if given the chance). I would be interested in his Manrico however.

    • Orion

      Kashaniar, I read your comment with great interest, because I know that many people have the same “first reaction” than you about the voice of Alagna and the question of whether it is suitable for this role or not. Grimoaldo summarized it well: “the reaction here is “What, is he out of his mind? why is he singing that, who does he think he is, Mario del Monaco?”

      PLEASE let me show you something. Perhaps it will make you evolve in your belief. It’s an interview where Alagna is explaining his view about the role, about the ‘appropriate’ voice, some stories about the first and key performers of the Moorish character and Verdi’s intention, the role’s difficulties and legendary part, and so on. It is subtitled in English. I found it really very interesting to hear. I learned many things in fact!

      I attended the first rehearsals of Alagna’s Otello in the Ancient Theatre of Orange. I will report about it and the performances later, if you or others are interested in. He is surprising. His vocal and dramatic commitment is impressing, even in these working sessions. So, I expect a true event! He will portray a brisk, clear, bright and noble Otello. As he says, looking for the sun in the darkness. Something new. Yet in full compliance with Verdi’s score and expectations. How not to be enthusiastic when a singer is embracing a role with such an engagement and a well ripened and deep vision of what he can bring to the role ? …

      PART 1:
      PART 2:
      (there will be a continuation apparently :) )
      Some pictures:

      • grimoaldo

        Yes we are interested Orion (some of us anyway) please report ( I hope manou will too)!

        • Orion

          Fine with pleasure Grimoaldo, and will read also Manou’s report too ;) I will give you my comments and feelings, the dress rehearsal is on 30th. Alagna is singing alongside Inva Mula who already sang Otello’s excerpts as Desdemona in a concert version in Paris late June, and the Korean baritone Seng-Hyoun Ko as Iago (I never heard him live before).

      • Orion: I don’t have time to watch those YouTube clips right now and I have no doubt that Alagna elegantly explains why a lighter approach to Otello will work. But having heard his Radames on more than one occasion, I found him overparted and having to oversing to fill out the big vocal lines.

        Otello is an even bigger sing with heavier orchestration and multiple “outbursts” which can only be sung with clarion volume. I don’t want to be labelled a pearl-clutching where-is-Del-Monaco-when-you-need-him sort and I’m all for singers expanding their rep beyond what suits their voices ideally. But to me, Alagna singing Otello is a few steps beyond where his voice can comfortably be stretched.

        A role like Manrico has its heroic moments that only a spinto can really pull off to full effect, but the majority of the part can be sung lyrically, and a lighter-than-usual voice can still do great justice to the role on the whole. Otello has the “Esultate” and all of acts two and three, which require heroic, even dramatic tenor singing. IMO, there’s not getting around that, no matter what the justification. It’s just the way the music is written.

        Having said all that, Alagna certainly has the temperament for the part and he is a major singer so I will still take the opportunity to hear him in the role if it presents itself.

        • Lady Abbado

          Here’s Alagna in 1999, performing the act I love duet from Otello (with the love of his life, of course):

          • Beautiful! Man, I wish Gheorghiu would add Desdemona to her rep.

            • Lady Abbado

              She said this year that she wants to record the full role, provided her request to have Kaufmann as Otello is granted :)

              I don’t think she has recorded any role since Fedora (2010), so it would be about time for something new. If not, she should drop Warner Classics.

        • oedipe

          And this from a concert in Porto Rico (2003):

        • La marquise de Merteuil

          Kashania, I think we also need to remember that the first Otello, Tamagno (?) -- was likely not so heavy based on the bad recording.

          In a big house then an Alagna-sized instrument is not ideal. But in a smaller venue with helpful acoustics, why not?

          Alagna’s Manrico sounded very compromised in a live recording I heard. The bits of Aida I heard on broadcast was OK.

          Nilsson (and Vickers? and a few other heavy weights) have said that the secret to singing these types of roles is to sing them lightly like a lyric -- and not by pushing.

          In closing, as Eleanor says in The Lion in Winter: in a world where carpenters are resurrected, anything is possible.

  • Orion

    Not false Oedipe and Grimoaldo, when you are saying that European houses are proposing interesting and challenging roles to leading tenors such as Kaufmann and Alagna. Even if Alagna will certainly sing again in NY because I think he really appreciate this place. I heard about projects in 2016, Mma Butterfly and probably Cavalleria Rusticana. Anyway he has in Europe (France, Germany, Spain, Vienna …) very exciting projects, it’s right. After a contemporary stage creation (The last day of a condemned man, from Hugo’s work, created in Avignon), he sang Les Troyens in Berlin. It was a great success, role debut in a stage version for him. For the coming years, he has Le Cid and Le roi Arthus, but also La Juive, Il Trovatore and later Otello again and a new Turandot. You know, Alagna is currently in Orange in the South of France, getting ready for his role debut in Otello at the ‘Chorégies d’Orange’ Festival. He was responding interviews. And I heard him explaining that he has also a proposal for singing Lohengrin in Bayreuth! And also Tannhauser, in a French version. Here are genuine challenges and it changes from common productions you are talking about. I am looking forward to hearing him tackling all these amazing characters. Hopefully the MET will also think about it?

    • oedipe


      I realize that Alagna likes to sing in NY, but still, I think at this stage in his career it is not worth the time, the expense and the hassle to come over and sing Pinkerton, or Turridu, or the like, in some indifferent Met revival that no one will care about or even notice. I think his time would be better spent singing, say, a new production of Ballo in Vienna, or a new Troyens -followed by a DVD- somewhere in Europe.

      • When was the last time the Met offered Alagna a new production — one where he wasn’t stepping in for somoeone else (like Villazon in the new R & J with Netrebko)? Was he the originally-cast Don Carlo in the Hytner production?

        • The Don Carlo was planned for Rolando Villazon. Alagna took on the part at such short notice that he had to alternate with Yonghoun Lee — Alagna had a number of concert dates in Europe, as I recall, and the Met performances as well as a lot of travel back and forth had to be fitted into his existing schedule.

          Other than the Don Carlo Alagna has not had a new production since Carmen in 2009. He has done “Live in HD” six times, which is quite a lot (Netrebko and Fleming have appeared in nine each.)

          • That’s right. I forgot about Lee (whose voice I really liked). Thanks, La Cieca.

        • oedipe

          I seem to remember that the originally-cast Don Carlo was Giordani. If Alagna was ever offered a new production, it was only together with Gheorghiu, not by himself, I don’t think. It would seem that the Met has always considered him as less worthy than Alvarez, Giordani, Villazon, Kaufmann and others who were their first choices and for some of whom he ended up stepping in.

          What’s different now is that lately he has been having a lot more and better opportunities elsewhere: Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid (with the new GM). La Scala is also very eager to have him back. So he can (and should) be pickier these days. He should learn to Just.Say.No.

          • oedipe

            Sorry, I didn’t see La Cieca’s reply before hitting Enter.