Cher Public

Cost disease rampant in city!

love nestIntrepid cub reporter Terry Teachout has scored the scoop of the century: the Met is selling well below capacity!

  • LT

    When does Gelb’s term expire?

    • Lohenfal

      At the time of the labor dispute of 2014, it was revealed that Gelb had been given an extension of his contract until 2022. Assuming that there’s been no change since then, it means 6 more years of the current regime, for better or worse.

    • KCB

      But more importantly, when does Terry Teachout’s term expire?

  • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

    Teachout make a major mistake in the size of Wiener Staatsoper stating, “Bayreuth, by contrast, seats 1,925; La Scala, 2,030; and the Vienna State Opera, 2,200.” The Bayreuth number is correct; I am not sure about La Scala, but the number sounds correct. But the number given for Wiener Staatsoper is its total capacity: there are only 1,709 seats, and 567 very cheap standing room places, bringing to total capacity to 2,276. This is how the company manages to sell to 98%-99% of capacity each season.

    Similarly, if one gave the same figures for the Met, its capacity is 4,077, with 3,800 seats and 277 standing room places (standing room is sold to the general public on the Orchestra and Family Circle levels, and for use by the company on the Grand Tier and Dress Circle levels). These figures come from the official guide book to the “new house” published in 1967.

    • Lohengrin

      2101 (seats + standing) in Bayerische Staatsoper.
      The problem for Met is, that they must earn their money by themself and the BSO and WSO are supported by the state.

      • Krunoslav

        Also, the Bayerische Staatsoper stage hosts Anja Harteros, “our ONLY soprano today” according to some local sources.

  • The Paris Opera runs its two houses (Bastille and Garnier) for the equivalent of about $225 million but the Met’s budget is over $300 million. That always surprises me -- but I’m no expert, far from it.

    • Show me where the Paris Opera pays for its orchestra, chorus and stagehands’ very expensive health insurance, or for their pensions. Also you could show me where these groups are guaranteed 52 weeks salary annually even though the season is only 32 weeks long.

      • You might also demonstrate how the Paris Opera has had no labor actions since 1980.

      • I’m just quoting from their published annual report. I said I was surprised.

      • tiger1

        Maybe I am being a bit slow here, La Cieca, but are you indicating that the Opera National de Paris is not paying the salaries of its chorus, orchestra and stage hands? Or what?

        • No, I am saying that the Met is working under different and significantly more expensive contracts with orchestra, chorus, etc. than the Paris Opera does. Also, as an employer, the Paris Opera has to pick up a much smaller fraction of its workers insurance costs than the Met does.

          Or, to put it another way, the Met’s budget is higher because the Met spends money on more and different things from what the Paris Opera spends money on. One of the things the Met spends money on, a lot of it, is paying for over 30 years of keeping peace with the unions, which was accomplished by essentially giving the unions everything they wanted, without negotiation. That kind of peace is extremely expensive, and the Met will be paying for that (past) peace for decades to come.

          • tiger1

            Thanks for the clarification. Just to keep the record straight, the Opera Nationale de Paris has also had strikes, a quick google search led me to which mentions a strike in 2007 costing the company more than EUR 2.2 million during one month. France is probably among the countries in Western Europe most prone to industrial action.

          • GaGa

            About 18 years ago I had a conversation with a Met orchestra member who was, for many years, involved in the contract negotiations. He reportedly told management that if they wanted a really fine orchestra (could it have been an ambition of James Levine’s?) that they would have to reduce the workload. I think the Met now has essentially enough musicians to staff two orchestras to cover 7 performances a week plus rehearsals.

            Well, they did get a really fine orchestra, didn’t they?

            Maybe the solution is to reduce the number of performances each week to three or four. That would not only reduce the musical staff but also reduce the stage crew and other backstage personnel.

            With fewer performances available the box office would have an easier time of filling the house. Revenue would decline but maybe operating costs would drop even more.

        • SilvestriWoman

          The Paris Opera doesn’t have to pick up the costs of benefits as they’re provided by the state.

  • Signor Bruschino

    Zachary Woolfe tweeted out “The word here in Aix is that the Herheim Meistersinger will *not* be coming to the Met, as planned”

    It is very depressing if the plan to bring in that production has fallen through…

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Maybe they think a one hour version of the opera would be good enough.

      • Signor Bruschino

        Weren’t there discussions about modernizing the Met stage by 2018 (I remember the articles from the NY Times but can’t find anything)- I wonder if money has caused that modernization to be cancelled & thus the larger european productions (like this meistersinger) is getting the boot?

      • Krunoslav

        There are competing proposals for the new Met MEISTERSINGER:

        1) John Doyle wants the Prelude played exclusively by onstage cast members.

        2) Bartlett Sher wants an Anvil to fall atop the Night Watchman, mimed endearingly by Rob Besserer. A platform in front of the orchestra pit will host the Fliedermonolog, Quintet and Preislied.

        3) Katie Mitchell plans a nearly all-female cast, with Sarah Connolly as Sachs and Hillary Summers as Pogner. Walther (Sony artist Vittorio Grigolo), the lone genital male, will be ripped to shreds by Bacchantes (led by Eva) after he disses the Meisters in the final scene. (That’s the one *I* want to see,)

        • amg

          Surely one or all of these will be presented in an version “Englished” by Jeremy Sams, with interpolations of selections from West End musicals.

          • Krunoslav

            “Don’t cry for me, Mittelfranken”

            • luvtennis1


              But the whole ripped to shreds by drunk broads is sooooo 900 B.C. I think he should be shot while trying to use a men’s bathroom after the radical lesbian Meistersingers force him to wear Rupaul drag. Yes. I would pay to see Jonas do that. Ha! Except the Meistersingers must be costumed as famous divas of the past. The usual sacred monsters. Would Sachs be Callas?

  • Chenier631

    I think Mr. Teachout’s article is seriously misguided.
    He seems to be completely ignorant of the fact that the Met’s operating budget is funded mainly by private and corporate donations, not by box office revenue. Sure, it would help the Met if the box office receipts were high, but low ticket sales won’t destroy the Met as Mr. Teachout implies. They don’t rely that heavily on the box office revenue.
    Besides, why is a drama “critic” writing about finances at an opera company in the first place?


  • Porgy Amor

    I should know better than to read the comments below any “Met financial trouble” article. Sure enough, all of the usual. Bring back Zeffirelli…”Euro-trash”…things were so much better in the 1994-95 season…more of “the familiar” (all but two operas from the 2015-16 season could have been in the 1915-16 season, but somehow that wasn’t enough of the familiar)…not The Death of Klinghoffer, the The Murder of Klinghoffer…if someone shows up and starts arguing for the return of faded dreck that fell out of the repertory 50 or 75 years ago, they’ll have the whole compendium.

    • la vociaccia

      if someone shows up and starts arguing for the return of faded dreck that fell out of the repertory 50 or 75 years ago, they’ll have the whole compendium

      “I bet those idiots currently running the Met have never even *heard* of L’arlesiana…”

      • Krunoslav

        My proposed new productions (2017-18):


        • la vociaccia

          Don’t forget a long-overdue revival of SLY…

        • le cerf agile

          Perhaps it’s time for a revival of THE PIPE OF DESIRE as well?

          • Not in French, I hope!

            • le cerf agile

              Ceci n’est-pas une pipe!

        • Camille

          You forgot my favorite ” IN THE PASHA’S GARDEN”

          And for sure, I’m rooting for LA NOTTE DI ZORAIMA *starring* Rosa Ponselle.

          Seriously though, I just don’t know why Lucrezia Borgia (Pacem, RF et al.) has never managed to wend her way back to the MET from Venezia or Ferrara, as it is a really pretty opera, at least to me, and I prefer it many times over the much touted Anna Bolena

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

            And how about Walter Damrosch’s “The Man Without a Country,” the 1937 broadcast of which which I listened to at the blessed Lincoln Center Library when in junior high school and studying the Edward Everett Hale (contrary to rumors, I did not attend the world premiere)? It served as the debut for one Helen Traubel, which reminds me that Rudolf Bing once said he almost called his autobiography “Nobody Knows the Traubels I’ve Seen.” (Ouch.)

            • Camille

              The scarcity of The Man Without a Country is likely due to (in the words of Igor Stravinsky) “the unfortunate fermata” on the penultimate syllable of the last word in its title, and as sung by one of its main characters, if not the titular one. I

              Listened to it once on youtube and found it pleasant if not very memorable. I’ve looked in vain in the library for the score but have yet to turn it up.

            • armerjacquino

              Speaking of Stravinsky, I saw a naked photograph of him today, which was unexpected.

            • Camille

              Was it that picture of him standing by the old watering hole, as seen on Daniel Stephen Johnson’s blog?

              No less than Our Own m. croche showed up to make a funny.

              Uncle Igor got around. Ever see that movie about him and COCO?

            • manou
            • Camille

              Always worth another quote:

              “In 1937 the Met could have been doing WOZZECK. What it did do was Damrosch’s THE MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY, the indigenous opera in an acceptably bland style by a composer with the connections to get it performed. I did not hear it, but being in New York for my JEU DE CARTES at the time of the rehearsals, I heard some tattle about it. (There was said to be an unfortunate fermata on the first syllable of the last word of the title aria: ‘The Man without a count . . . ry.’) Judging by its traces, the performance did little for the Met, the composer, or the future of opera, which in fact seems more and more to be in the past.”

              Themes and Conclusions, p. 151

              University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles
              First California Paperback Printing 1982

              by Igor Stravinsky
              (and Robert Craft as intermediary intervening amanuensis extraordinaire)

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              Uh, Cami, you must mean either “Retrospectives and Conclusions” (The quote is on pages 96-97; hardcover first edition, Knopf 1969). Not to be confused with “Themes and Episodes” (hardcover first edition, Knopf 1966). I have first editions (with dust jackets) of all of the Stravinsky/Craft collaborations. There is no title “Themes and Conclusions.”

            • Camille

              No ma’am, Jungfer Marianne, and I DAST not fudge it to you, meine Duenna!

              It is just as I have typed — BUT this IS a small paperback version which I have in several volumes: Themes and Conclusions WAS originally published in 1966, but mine is the 1982 paperback. Perhaps therein lies the rub?

              Memories and Commentaries, was first published by UC Press in 1959 and the paperback version was first printed in 1981. Now, Expositions and Developments, has the same publishing dates, 1959 and 1981 as the previous one And Dialogues, originally published in 1961 as Dialogus and a Diary, had its title abridged in its subsequent republication iin 1982 in paperback.

              AHA! Eureka! I think I found what is going on here—-

              In the “Author’s Foreword” on page 15 of Themes and Conclusions, Uncle Igor also ‘splains us all this much important matter:

              This one-volume edition of THEMES AND EPISODES (1966) and RETROSPECTIVES AND CONCLUSIONS (1969) differs from the separately issued American originals in which I have revised—corrected, cut, expanded—the contents of the earlier book and added to those of the later one. Hence the present text of THEMES supersedes that of the American edition, which will not be reprinted in its original form. And the new text of RETROSPECTIVES includes the increment of a year and my final work of words.”

              Now that’s the best job I can do to clear up this mystery but I do assure you “I’m not making this UP, you know!”

              Also of note is the fact Robert Craft’s name is included as part of “By Igor Stravinsky & Robert Craft” on the cover for all these paperbacks mentioned with the exception of Themes and Conclusions. Mr Craft is credited by the publishers in Acknowledgements for conducting the interviews represented in Part Two: Interviews. Whatever; whomever it may be that has authored these volumes, I am ever grateful for their collective wit and wisdom.

              Mehr kann ich nicht sagen!

      • Camille

        Come to think of it and qualifying as ‘century-old dreck’ will be the Cyrano de Bergerac to be given this coming season, and of which I am really anticipating a delightful few repetitions based solely upon Alagna’s just fame in this role. Hope he won’t have shouted himself out about his Rachel tsuris by that time.

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

          Cami, thanks for the clarification on the Stravinsky/Craft books. I just have the American hardcover first editions of the whole lot.

          All this talk about operatic rarities makes me realize just how much I take for granted the programming at the opera house (literally) around the corner, the glorious 1,000-seat Theater an der Wien. Here’s the rundown for next season:

          Main Stage –
          Hamlet – Anno Schreier (world premiere)
          Falstaff – Antonio Salieri
          Macbeth – Giuseppe Verdi (alternating 1847 and 1865 versions)
          Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
          The Fairy Queen – Henry Purcell
          Peer Gynt – Werner Egk
          Elisabetta, regina d´Inghilterra – Gioachino Rossini
          Elegy for Young Lovers – Hans Werner Henze
          Die Schöpfung – Josef Haydn

          Opera in Concert:
          Il delirio amoroso – Georg Friedrich Händel
          Les Horaces – Antonio Salieri
          Zoroastre – Jean-Philippe Rameau
          Adriano in Siria – Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
          Juditha Triumphans – Antonio Vivaldi
          Piramo e Tisbe – Johann Adolph Hasse
          Il ritorno d´Ulisse in patria – Claudio Monteverdi
          Germanico in Germania – Nicola Antonio Porpora
          Ariodante – Georg Friedrich Händel

          Kammeroper (second stage):
          La traviata – Giuseppe Verdi
          Hybris – Simon Vosecek
          Nemesis – Hannes Löschel
          Soma – Christof Dienz
          Der Kaiser von Atlantis oder Die Tod-Verweigerung – Viktor Ullmann
          Oreste – Georg Friedrich Händel
          La scuola de´gelosi – Antonio Salieri

          Meanwhile Staatsoper gives us the Verdi “Falstaff,” “Il trovatore, “”Pelléas et Mélisande,” and “Armide.”

  • YigeLi

    Not denying the difficulties MET is experiencing, but I’m always confused when this issue is talked. Yes, MET needs some change. But what outcome is expected?

    I mean, the easiest way I can think about to fill the seats is to cut the season to about 10 productions (yes, I mean the HD season). Artistically, it’s presenting (with a few exceptions) the best of MET, at least on paper. And it’s much easier to fill the fewer than half seats of the current season (plus, those HDed productions are usually the better sales).

    But I guess no one wants this result, right?

  • Camille

    The answer is obvious: since the MET sells 66%, and everyone agrees there is a necessity for a “piccolo MET” for staging of new works, pre 19th c. works, Mozart et Cie, etc., just lop off one third of the theatre to create a new smaller one, and that will leave the 66% magically transformed into a fully sold house, presto change-O! Hooray for Majickal Thinking!

    All you need is another David Geffen and the world’s largest guillotine to sever that third of the house and our troubles are over. Right? Oh no, you remonstrate? Then have you a more logical solution or is there a solution anywhere out there under the sun?

    I have this imaginative schematic that someday only the HD performances will be the actual dates of any perfomances in the house--therefore driving the tickets to absolute oligarchical astronomical sums. The rest of the time the MET will be rented out to MTV for one night only, as it once was during the Volpe era--late nineties, remember that?

    And so far as Gelb’s bella scusa of these times being unreceptive to opera, well, it’s not just whinging as there always has been a small percentage but there have been drastic changes in the last thirty years or so whereby that crucial middle-brow upwardly-aspiring element most certainly has diminished down to a nil, and the disappearance of that element is crucial.

    Also, note to MET: most students consider the student ticket prices too damn high to take the plunge, @$37.50 a pop. $20 or under might encourage the young’uns, but frankly, even that is not a solution.

    Where does the answer lie and is there any solution for this many headed hydra of a problem? Many have come up with answers, even Our Own Dawn Fatale has gone to extreme lengths to suggest a path through the wilderness but can anything really be done, even if one million kajillion $$$ is spent? I don’t know, but then, no one ever tells me nothin’. Like the husband in the three-way — I’m always the last to know.

    • Will

      You clearly haven’t the slightest idea of the architectural and, in particular, structural complexity of a building like the MET. You don’t just divide it, let alone “lop off” a third of it and voila! there are automatically two perfectly sized theaters, stages, sets of public facilities, etc., etc. ready to go in under about two years, probably longer. And during that time you’d lose your entire audience as neither facility could function while under total reconstruction.

      • Camille

        Clearly you have no idea that this is said in jest. Could you seriously have believed this was suggested otherwise? Certainly, I am no architect but even I would know such a thing is wholly impossible.

        Just to draw attention to the fact there is no easy way out and the many, many suggestions all lead nowhere. It is the same problem thrashed out over and over again and I fear there is no real answer. Clearly.

        • Camille

          Next time I’ll make sure to have the sarcasm font ON!

          I was under the impression that font was automatically ON here on parterre but somewhere in all the intervening years it’s been switched resolutely to OFF.

        • So long as they don’t go for a plastic tent on the plaza.

        • Lohenfal

          Camille, you’re absolutely correct. There is no real answer to the Met crisis. I’ve been looking at their website since the box office opened last week. It’s shocking how many seats are available. At one time, many of those seats would have been held by subscribers, but that’s no longer the case. And that isn’t an exclusively Met problem. Subscriptions have been going down elsewhere too. Until these arts institutions figure out a substitute for the old subscription model, the problems will continue.

          • Well, whether you’re shocked depends on what you expect. Alternatively one might argue that in NYC in 2016 it’s not shocking at all that people are holding off on buying expensive tickets for events that are happening anything from three to nine months from now. Is anything but “Hamilton” selling strongly that far in advance?

            Again, comparing opera with Broadway or football or anything else is not particularly useful, but then neither is comparing box office activity in 2016 with what went on 30 years ago. The market has changed and the only important debate I think is how well the Met is adapting to that change. (Part of the question surely is how the Met’s projected/budgeted box office expectations compare to the actual returns. Any other figures thrown around about the butt to seat ratio are essentially meaningless.)

            • Signor Bruschino

              Quite right- Even the 2nd most successful new broadway show of this season ‘Waitress’, with its million dollar weekly grosses, does not sell out until day of- People don’t buy advance tickets any longer.

          • GaGa

            When I opened the envelope with my Met tickets yesterday something suggested to me that they are having difficulty selling subscriptions. I requested exchanges from three performances out of my 8-opera subscription. In one exchange our seats were simply one seat over to the left and in another they were one seat over to the right. Presumably they couldn’t sell either seat to another subscriber.

            Come to think of it, many of the old subscribers (I’m 72) that I used to see regularly in our vicinity haven’t been around lately. My theory is that the audience for opera is dying and isn’t being replaced. I have no data to support this hunch, however. It also seems that the subscription model is no longer viable.

  • Nelly della Vittoria

    Oh, if we’re playing that game of Pet Obscurities whose Revivals will Save the Met in a Trice, can I make a plug for bringing back the not-even-obscure Loreley and for the zombie resuscitation of Frances Alda to sing in it post-haste because obviously that’ll bring the kids into the hall in droves?

    I mean, when they hear this:

    Basically I wanted an excuse to post that truly astonishing recording, the more because no one noted Frances’ birthday this year (I say it sans blame; there are lots of dead people, even among the Great Ones, and we can’t be reciting their names all day every day).

    • antikitschychick

      That was lovely and something I had not heard before I don’t think. Grazie Nelly della V :-).

    • Nelly della Vittoria

      In “Men, Women and Tenors” Alda writes about how she saw Loreley for the first time when she went to Parma to sing Gilda, and how the soprano singing Anna broke on one note in this aria, and she claims the audience hissed and booed and sang the aria back at the soprano from the top. Which is a terrifying story I shouldn’t believe, except it’s so terrifying I can’t help it.

      • antikitschychick

        Damn! That IS terrifying. Povera soprano.

        • Camille

          Here is the inimitable Zia Magda, doing that thang she does so well: MAGIC!

          No trill, but whata thrill that high C and the connection back down is.

          As well, someone whom I’ve not thought of for years now but who was once a Very Big Deal, la gentilissima Signora Chiara:

          Now, I’m rather sorry never to have heard Maria Chiara when she was making the rounds as, standing next to some of the current Italian sopranos, she sounds awfully damned good. I don’t know what became of her but she was once “The” Aïda in Italy.

          Too bad the titular character kind of gets dog poo to sing in comparison to Anna’s aria herein. I’ve tried to love Loreley, and kinda really do, but it’s for collectors only, I feel, because of Catalani’s always kind of funky and disjunct manner of orchestration. Elena Suliotis sings the role very well and there is a really fun youtuber of Ghena the Great going at the role like a Mack truck, too. I’m too lazy to go retrieve it at the moment but there is an excellent duetto finale from two old greats from sometime in the twenties, can’t recall their names at the moment.

          Yes, I guess I do like this old hambone.

          • Camille

            So wonderfully sung, both technically and stylistically, that it gives a great deal of merit to Catalani’s writing. Bianca Scacciati and Francesco Merli are the two distinguished singers whom I had forgotten. This is the finale of the entire work and is sorta like the end of Rusalka--you love someone bad enough--you die:

            Yeah, capsule version: it’s sort of a combo platter of Rusalka plus Tannhäuser, minus the orgy, I guess.

            • Nelly della Vittoria

              Oh God, see, I actually love Loreley, without being very sure whether it merits it or not. I know the Olivero recording, and it’s exciting (and certainly in better Italian), but I have to say the Alda performance seems a peerless one to me nonetheless, even cut and shortened as it is. I remember hearing it for the first time and listening open-mouthed while she sailed through its difficulties as if they were mere nothings. And having a singer so fluently articulate the ornaments in this late-Romantic 1890s fare seems like a real vindication of Marchesi’s studio, too, and a thumbed nose in the direction of all the not-after-mere-mechanical-proficiency Geraldine Farrar-isms.

              As for the titular character, I dunno, isn’t Scacciati’s singing of the Act I aria pretty thrilling?
              Subtle it isn’t, but she has that flash and cut at the top that makes Turandot sound easy in her voice, and a real sense of how to time and make drama from the scales and pauses — not just the FF markings — in this music.

            • Camille

              Well, Nell, you are a girl after my own heart, you forge on ahead unafraid and don’t consider matters of “taste” and “dreck” and “old-fashioned”. Fact is, it’s a lot better work than it has been given credit but it takes optimal singing and understanding of this type of verismo. These recordings were made in 1929, only about forty years after the fact and the connection had not been lost and the fervent feeling and sincere belief in the material was still there, whereas today, tutt’altra cosa!

              Yes, Scacciati does make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear with this excerpt but because she really knows what she’s doing and the style. In any case, the revival of Loreley at th Met, outside of it possibly catching the fancy of Anna Netrebko--and she could sing it!--is so remote as to be nigh hnto impossible. One never knows what may catch the fancy of the diva du jour, though.

              And yes, I certainly do think L’Alda sings this much better than Olivero so far as what has been written on the page but then there is that magical indefinable quality she has.

          • Porgy Amor

            Thanks for that, Camille. “The other Maria C.” was damn good. At least, she was often enough. The earliest of her, I believe, three filmed Aïdas (the Verona 1981 with a good all-Italian cast, Cossotto and Martinucci being the other headliners) is special. There have been bigger and more beautiful voices in that music, but there is honesty about what she does: good style, personality, charisma, artistic phrasing, haunting colors in the tone, and the sense that it all means something. Whenever I run across a clip of an opera or a concert with Chiara in it (even if she is singing music I cannot stand, by one of Puccini’s lesser contemporaries), I make it to the end. She could tell a story.

            As for what became of her, I think the career outline was pretty standard. She debuted in 1965, sang leading roles until around the early/mid-1990s, and then transitioned to teaching and judging competitions, which she may still be doing. She was at it as recently as 2011.

            • Camille

              Oh thank you very kindly, PA, for the further information and I had not known she made as many as three separate Aïdas!

              She has come to mind in the last month as I had been remembering her Iris selections from that first album I had. In considering whether or not to go up to Bard Summerscape her voice as Iris has come back to me—
              And I am not entirely certain a light lyric voice will work in the role, for the girl advertised in the part I last heard as Jemmy in the TELL at Caramoor. Unless she’s had a voice implant in the intervening years, I’m afraid it will be too dainty dollyish for my taste. I’ll wait and see whT someone intelligent has to say anout the production. Kind of sorry to miss it but I am afraid of what mischief may be done to the score in other respects as well.

            • Camille

          • Krunoslav

            I heard Chiara as Aida at Vernoa in 1984, with Martinucci, Cossottoo, Vinco and the not-to-be-believed crude barnstormer Mastromei. She was very good indeed, if not the most spontaneous of interpreters.

      • Camille

        Haha! I just Lurve that little story and it was brought to mind last night when I read your comment so am happy to see you repeat it here.

        I have the feeling it is probably more or less — knowing Alda’s propensities — the truth as that audience of parmitani have the reputation they deserve.

        Later on I’ll put on the Olivero version, which first introduced me to the aria and made an indelible impression upon young and vulnerable moi. Even without the trills, which Madame Alda carefully inserts, it is just sublime, and well worth knowing.

  • Krunoslav

    Maybe from beyond the grave-- via a medium??-- Menotti will reveal the whereabouts of a complete orchestral score of THE ISLAND GOD.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Recently I was wondering if any of the singers in THE ISLAND GOD kept a copy of the piano-vocal score they must have used to learn the music. The Finding Aid for the Leonard Warren collection did not list it. Other possibilities my be in the personal collections of scores owned by Astrid Varnay, Raoul Jobin, John Carter, and the conductor Ettore Panizza. The Italian title was “Ilo e Zeus,” in case one happens to spot that some day.

      • Camille

        How very interesting, and I had not realised Astrid Varnay went back as far as 1942. It must have been a real turkey for the composer himself to have renounced it as he did.

        Well, how about instead another round of pith helmets and The Last Savage? Wasn’t it done in Santa Fe a few years ago?

        • Krunoslav

          Varnay grew up with an opera singer mother and stepfather and knew much rep early on. Word was Flagstad had babysat her in her mother’s dressing room! She gave the Met an amazing rep list when she auditioned and made her debut jumping in as Sieglinde in 1941 at age 23-- with a jump-in as the WALKUERE Bruennhilde the very next week! Three Elsas and an Elisabeth the month after that…

          • la vociaccia

            I believe Varnay said in her bio that when she gave the Met her rep list word got around and most of the staff went to the hall to laugh at this silly 22 year old who claimed to be able to sing over a dozen dramatic soprano roles in their entirety.

            Needless to say they ate their words fairly quickly.

            • Krunoslav

              Teresa Stratas said once that Bing and all his henchmen laughed pissily when she, a tiny girlish woman auditioning, said she was going to sing “Pace, pace” ; “But I sang it and they didn’t laugh any more”.

            • la vociaccia

              And then to cap it all off Stratas sang ‘Sola, perduta abbandonata’ (with orchestra) at the Council auditions concert.


            • Camille

              She DIN’T!

              Wow, did THAT take BALDANZA!!
              Didn’t know that little Lulu package had it in her.
              Sort of like hearing of Dessay going out on stage and singing Ho-jo-to-ho or something of the sort.

          • Camille

            Righto! I read her book, too, or at least he first half anyway, (that reminds me I need to finish it). There was an exceedingly interesting article in OPERA QUARTERLY about the lives and careers of Birgit Nilsson and Astid Varnay, around fifteen to twenty years back. Amazing, as they are both born in Sweden within a few weeks of one another; and yet, and YET, their respective careers were on a very different chronological track. Varnay, essaying the roles she did at the age she did, may have(?) overtaxed herself so her eventual mezzoid era came on much wooner than it could or should have. I don’t know. I thought the story went on that she was kept in Flagstad’s dressing room lodged in one of the drawers, when her mother was singing? I should check. Just found the book again the other day so maybe I’ll finish it. Anyways, Feldmarschallin says she was a regular in München and a good neighbor, and all that.

            I often have wondred anout Astrid Varnay, in her representations of both Elektra, Salome and Herodias, if her homelife with primadonna mommy and singing stepdaddy may have given her exceptional insight into those roles. A great artist and probably my favourite sung Ho-jo-to-ho is by her on those Testament recordings. I really should try to listen to any extant recording of her Elektra from Carnegie Hall in 1949 which is exemplary, but I forget, and I just can’t do Elektra anymore, she’s just too exhausting, and as Monsieur Chéreau just showed us all this past spring--what happens to all that revenge when you’ve done it all? You just end up a stump.

            • PCally

              Camille, Varnay’s professional operatic debut is commercially available as it was a broadcast performance. If you are a fan you really HAVE to track it down. The fact that someone that young and completely inexperienced could give such a complete performance is staggering. By any standards her performance is excellent and her voice actually was quite beautiful then. I know you are a fan also of Helen Traubel and this was her first Brunnhilde ever and it’s possibly her finest performance. Melchior and Schorr are a bit past it but still formidable and the underrated Kerstin Thorborg is one of my favorite Frickas.

            • Krunoslav

              Camille, I’d say that Thorborg’s reputation is consistently honored, but in fact her singing is too little known. Just a week ago I was listening to her in DAS LIED and other Mahler songs and it struck mw that, though know she is thought of as being one of the great mezzos of the century, I had neglected to listen to her for years and years and didn’t have a ‘voiceprint” in my ear the way I do with, say Stignani or Klose or OF COURSE the true greats like Brunskill and Kirkby-Lunn.

              You are right- Varnay’s performance is quite amazing for a debutante on the opera stage.

            • Camille

              Ach ja, I have indeed heard that debut performance over Sirius and, frankly, was not that enthused or impressed by it to tell the absolute truth, but I figure she must have been hella nervous and cut if at that. For someone who grew up in a musical family it is not as gobsmackingly amazing she was able to do this at the age she did for music was all she knew, after all. I WILL give this another listen, whenever I can, and do recall Traubel being on point. She rarely disappoints excepting some funky high notes and I cut her slack for those because of the unusual beauty of the timbre of the voice, coupled with its warmth. Melchior famiusly compared Flagstad to a diamond, and Traubel to a ruby. Think about it! I have, and I think he is about right excepting I would compare Flagstad to an Aurora Borealis.
              Far more interesting to me is the broadcast of Simon Boccanegra, about ten years later! I thought Varnay sang it very well and gave the lie to the fact it’s the province of “the lovely lyric” Fach, as I am wont to call it. In fact, Amelia/Maria has quite a bit of really high-riding carrying on to do, as almost all Verdi sopranos--and is really neither fish nor fowl but combines a couple voices. I remember Mme Mattila doing a good job of it, back in the day.

              If that performance of Walküre comes up again on Sirius, I’ll give it another spin. This week I am looking forward to hearing Flagstad in a 1951 Fidelio, and am hoping she won’t sound too soggy and old, not that it happens often but I’ve still not made peace sith her Alceste.

              Thorborg is great. I have a problem getting her confused with Karin Branzell, however, and need to do more homework.

            • PCally

              Camille I need to listen to it again. Perhaps my love for the performance stems from the fact that as a major fan of Varnays I’ve never thought of her voice as classically beautiful and was amazed at how youthful and light the tone sounded which struck me as ideal for the role. By 1943 that youthfulness is already beginning to fade. And I still think it’s pretty impressive how interpretivley detailed she is in a way that points to the future. Traubel and Thorborg are certainly expressive but it’s in a broader, grander style.

              Mattila was the finest Amelia I’ve ever seen though they’re have been many fine ones. Varnay manages a pretty great trill and she can trick you into thinking she’s right for the role but I miss lyricism and youth (whatever one says about Mattila is Italian rep, in 1999 the voice was gorgeous) and I think that some of her mannerisms are really on display in Verdi in a way they are not in Wagner and Strauss.

        • Krunoslav

          THE LAST SAVAGE was as ghastly as THE FIRST EMPEROR ( fine production values and strong casts aside).

        • Flora del Rio Grande

          Yes, TLS was done in SFE in 2011. Remarkably, while most critics and
          musical cognoscenti disdained the piece, the audiences roared with
          laughter and applauded mightily. Why? Maybe because of a reasonably
          good production and not-bad cast, and the holiday spirit that seems
          to pervade the Santa Fe al fresco setting. Well, I guess it was better than
          the umpteenth performance of Salome with inadequate casts, which
          seems long to have been a SFE specialty.
          xoxo Your Flora del Rio Grande

          • Krunoslav

            Saccharine and/or pretentious and certainly derivative, worthless music, the social and artistic ‘satire’ ( sic) on a very low, broad level; that laughter did not speak well for the SF audiences…

      • Camille

        Besides looking in NYPAL, which you probably have, could a copy have floated into the Juilliard Library, by chance, or maybe even Columbia? The damndest stuff shows up in the oddest places now and then.

  • antikitschychick

    I really dislike these articles that do nothing but rehash gloom and doom figures without proposing any viable solutions to the problem, or pointing out important facts to put things in perspective, like the fact that the Met largely relies on private donations rather than box office sales for their budget as Chenier pointed out and then size of certain theaters is inaccurate to boot as was pointed out by Jungfer. Nothing but wasted words imho.

    Camille, thanks for pointing out that the student ticket prices are high. For me though, as I think may be the case for other students as well, the problem, or the challenge rather lies in the limited number of student tickets they allow per person/student and that they announce/list the performances which will have student tickets available kind of last minute. So for those that don’t live in the area, it makes it hard to plan ahead.

    I said this in another thread and I’ll reiterate here that I think they should allow at least 4 student tickets per person as this will encourage ppl to attend in larger groups, which in turn might build a younger fan base. I get they don’t want to give a way a lot of tickets in the orchestra level for 37 dollars but they don’t have to be just in that section OR under an overhang! Why not have tickets available in the Balcony or Dress Circle or Grand Tier for discounted prices? Why can’t we get free standing room tickets?

    One of the friends that went with me to see Tosca last season asked me about the upcoming season and I already have a general idea of which operas I’m going to suggest to my group of friends, but getting the number of tickets we’ll need will be difficult if we want orchestra-level seats for the discounted price, especially since they don’t list the performances which will have student discounts until like a week or two before or sometimes even just days before the performance. This is what kept more friends from going this past season. I couldn’t get tickets for everyone and then w couldn’t decide on a day/time because I didn’t know which performances would have the dt, even though I was diligent and kept checking the website and calling. And I’ll sit anywhere except under an overhang but the impact of the performance won’t be as arresting or captivating to someone who has ever been to the opera if we are sitting all the way up in BFE/Family Circle. They need to be able to see what is going on in order to understand.

    I guess I can call the Met and ask to see what can be worked out for a group but truthfully tickets are cost prohibitive for us in those other areas without the student discount. I just looked right now and to give an example, a ticket in row F in the Balcony for a sat matinee performance of Il Barbiere di Siviglia is 95 dollars. That is too expensive. We could get a seat with a partial view but we’d be under an overhang or box so the sud would be underwhelming as well.

    I know they have the Fridays under 40 thing but idk if we can all agree to go on a Friday night instead of a sat Matinee. Matinees are more convenient for us given the travel.

    If anyone has any suggestions please free to comment or email me directly at jgdm337 at Thanks in advance!

    As a positive side note whoever is running the Met’s Snapchat is doing a good job. Last week they did a hilarious and pretty ingenious promotion for Aida using the lyrics to “Royals” by Lorde. Props to whoever came up with that. It’s a bit of an older song now but everyone knows it still.

    • DonCarloFanatic

      It’s worth underlining that you’re saying young people like to go places in small groups, not as couples. It’s a thing.

      The Met needs to recognize this modern way of doing social outings and amend their student ticket policy. It’s not as if we haven’t been seeing these groups of three to five young ones elsewhere; they’re all over.

  • antikitschychick

    Precisely DCF! Social Media has made it very easy for ppl, esp of my generation and those who are younger to congregate and socialize in larger groups. What we do is create events on Facebook, or look for events around our area we’re interested in and then share/send invitations or create private groups and share events or plan outings within that group. It’s like a community. My friends and I have one and we’re always doing fun stuff together.

    The Met needs to catch onto this trend and create a group of “Met opera lovers under 40” or something like that and promote events catered to that group, or create events pages for certain performances they want to promote. It would bring a lot of ppl of a certain demographic together and would be a great way to encourage younger ppl to attend performances more frequently I think. They also need to find a way to start trending on twitter. They’re pretty good with Instagram, Snapchat they’re getting better at but their use of Twitter and Facebook could be better. All they ever do on Facebook is share videos or pictures. They never have “live now” feeds or live chats or events pages. And they need to get a deal with Netflix. The documentary about the 2006-7 Met council Auditions for instance should be on Netflix, with a short segment on “where are they now”. Since many of those who won or were finalists are having great careers that is a great opportunity to promote the art form and The Met. It shouldn’t be on Itunes. Newsflash: No one in their twenties or teens rents or watches movies or documentaries on Itunes. We watch things on Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Tidal for certain music videos and of course Youtube. The Met should take a hint from other opera houses like the ROH and start streaming live performances on Youtube for a limited time. There’s lots they can and should do but aren’t doing.

    Anyway I’ve said enough for one night. Looking forward to finishing ML tomorrow. GN!

    • Camille


      On the METOpera website —--

      There is something called “FRIDAYS UNDER FORTY” which you’ve got to check out — go to SEASON and do a SEARCH under that title, where all will be revealed. It says the tickets are either in the Orchestra or Grand Tier and $60 or $100, still not cheap but if a group convenes perhaps you can somehow defray the costs.

      As well, and even better for the cash-strapped student set — look under TICKETS page under ‘SPECIAL OFFERS” and choose ‘GROUPS’. It states there are “exclusive offers for Student Groups starting at $20”!!! YEAY!!! Eureka! BINGO!

      They had damn well better start giving kids a break if they want anyone to show up there 20 years from now on when most of parterre will be listening to opera in one of Dante’s three realms.

      Hope this helps and keep up the good work proselytizing! More of your kind are needed!

      • antikitschychick

        Camille, I didn’t know about the special offers for student groups so thank you. I did know about Fridays under 40 and mentioned it in my prior comment but it’seems long so I don’t blame you for missing it lol. The thing is Saturday Matinees are much more convenient because of the travel. But regardless I’ll look into it. The Eugene Onegin with AN and Dima are selling out fast so I need to snatch a pair of those quick!

        • Camille

          Yes, I did not note your first post, but no matter, perhaps someone else may see it and will it will be of benefit.

          I can certainly understand why you all need to catch things on the weekend--getting back home on a week night with school to face the next morning kind of puts a damper on one’s enjoyment. Well, just try to catch what you can can in any case and there are always the HDs when all else fails. It’s really a nice thing that you all like to go in groups as it helps thr other one to pick up a lot of unintelligible bits which can be missed the first time around. I was always alone and had to figure it out for myself and that entailed a great deal of time-consuming reading.

          Cheers, Chica! You are most of the way through law school and you survived it all!

          • antikitschychick

            Thanks Camille. Yes this coming year will be my last one and then I have to pass two bar exams. GULP. I hate standardized tests. Always have. The running joke is that the bar exam is the only test that really counts in law school. Seems accurate.

            • Camille

              Well, I’m afraid that it IS the only exam which counts, but you may take it a few times--three; I think?

              Whatever you do, start CRAMMING NOW!

              You’ll make it, akchica, you got the right stuff. I have no fear for you.

            • antikitschychick

              Ha, I wish I could start cramming now Camille but alas I don’t have time and I haven’t even signed up for bar prep yet. I need to worry about actually graduating first lol. Bummer that the 125th Anniversary Gala is on May 7th, which is right around the time I’ll be graduating so idk if I can go. Hopefully they’ll be a radio broadcast since it’s a star studded lineup. I was disappointed that a couple of perfomers I really like are not on that list but it should still be a night to remember.