The elephant in the room
At the election-eve Jenufa at the Met, Trumpism made an unexpected, if timely appearance. Before the show, a patron was holding court in the Lounge, bemoaning how Peter Gelb had ruined Aida by removing the elephants from the Triumphal Scene.
This was, he said, waving his hands for emphasis, an unconscionable thing to do to a “great Zeffirelli production.”
His companions tried to convince him there were never any elephants, but he was adamant that his cherished production had been violated. They never fact-checked his assertion that Zeffirelli directed the Met’s current production.
Since it’s Election Day, It’s obligatory for pundits to generalize from an anecdote. This gentleman seems to encapsulate the problems the Met faces with its patron base.
For them, any current performance will never match up to the one they fantasize that they actually saw; diversity of production approaches threatens what they’re sure represents the intentions of opera’s Founding Fathers.
Opera never was and can never be as great as it was in the 1950s and 60s. A successful opera company is one that best monetizes nostalgia.
We have to reject this vision for the future of our leading opera companies.
Let’s defeat Trumpism at the ballot box and at the opera house.