Cher Public

The elephant in the room

aida-greatAt 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.


  • Porgy Amor

    I encountered a version of this myself Saturday, online. “Thank God they’re still doing the Zeffirelli production. That’s opera!” I offered that it was a Sonja Frisell production, and that at no prior point had Zeffirelli ever created a production of this opera for the Met. Crickets.

    I suppose if people believe the Met Aïda is a Zeffirelli production, Ms. Frisell did her work well. I mean…for a theater where half the audience wants it to be 1985 and another quarter wants it to be 1955.

    As far as it goes though, this was a better production when it was new than it is now. Some of the good detail in it that one sees in the Millo/Zajick video has blurred away as advanced revival-itis has set in.

    • Nelly della Vittoria

      Real fans are more exacting, and want it to be precisely April 1822 or December 2031.

      Strangers at the Met haven’t talked at me about productions, but more than one rounded on me and demanded to know why Joyce or Sondra was “skipping” (desperately unwritten) high notes in last year’s Donizettis and Rossini--I feel like this is a related sort of encounter.

      • Krunoslav

        I have had to tell people that no they did not see Jan Peerce in a Met CARMEN. ( He apparently had to do the same thing-- whether that was from an interview or his autobio I don’t recall). And to tell someone on whom much depended professionally that no, he didn’t see Lily Pons as Butterfly ( surely he meant the nearly equally tiny Albanese). And that , no, they never saw BABY DOE at the Met.

        People ‘remember ” a lot of things.

    • almavivante

      I’d vote for 1955, but only if Maria were singing. (And yes, I know she debuted in 1956, but we’re discussing a parallel universe here.)

    • Rosina Leckermaul

      Actually the Met has a Frisell production because they rejected Zeffirelli’s expensive, elephantine designs. Given the Frisell, one can only imagine what Zeffirelli envisioned.

      • Rob NYNY

        Elephantine, but without the elephant.

    • Rosina Leckermaul

      I remember the third act set being more elaborate when the production was first done, but that involved another interminable intermission. Perhaps I imagined it.

    • The Met’s Aida was one of the direst experiences I ever had in an opera house. Worse even than Zeffirelli’s Tosca.

      • Just when you think it’s hit the nadir, the ballets come on…

        • redbear

          I was in a theater in Perigueux watching the previous broadcast. The audience was giggling throughout.

    • Rob NYNY

      The same way that you remember that Aida has a dierisis.

      • Porgy Amor

        Your comment makes no sense as a follow-up to me. It would only work if I had written “People ‘remember’ a lot of things,” which is the last line of Kruno’s post.

        That aside, please do continue to write pestering comments about the diaeresis I put in one opera’s title. This is now your third, and you may get additional opportunities before the month is out. It does not make you look trivial, obsessive, and snide in the least, and if you continue to make a thing of it, it is sure to go well for you.

        • Rob NYNY

          What? I’ve lost track of who is obsessive here.

  • Krunoslav

    For whom do his salivating fans imagine this site’s favorite young American tenor is voting today?

    • An interesting question. Isn’t Fabiano one of those “national security Republicans,” a big fan of McCain and bombing everything in sight? A lot of those people are “Never Trump,” so it’s hard to predict.

    • Michael Fabiano is NOT a Trump supporter:

      That’s a blog post he wrote for his website in which he calls Trump offensive and sexist.

      • Cameron Kelsall

        I’d bet dollars to donuts he voted for Gary Johnson.

      • That’s from last year, though, during the Republican primaries. A lot of Republicans have come to support Trump since then, as you know. But I’m with you in that I doubt he’s for Trump; he’s one of those guys who thinks that Trump is a disgrace to the party he loves, rather than a logical continuation of what the Republicans have been doing for decades.

      • LinGin

        But he was a huge fan of Rudy Giuliani and even touted him for President at one time. I did a quick run through of his website and FB page and it seems he may have scrubbed all that.

  • Here is the video evidence, and while you can’t see elephants, you can clearly see Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11:

  • DonCarloFanatic

    The elephants paraded through at the Connecticut Opera in Hartford in 1981. I still have the t-shirt.

  • NoelAnn

    great article!

  • ???????????? hilarious and well-put; A great article as per usual by Dawn Fatale.

    Spectacle or no spectacle, Aida can never be great without a great singer in the title role and this the Met doth have. Three cheers for that. #imwithher #nastywomen ????.

  • Speaking of Aida, Anna Netrebko has a line of porcelain tea sets coming out, with her own designs based on the opera. I’m not sure if everyone knows this, but she is a fairly talented amateur visual artist. Technically not an amateur anymore, it would appear. Story here:

    • Yeah I saw that on her Instagram. She takes really nice pictures on IG and shares lots of fun videos with fun captions. So yeah shes basically the ???? of social media now too ????. That porcelain set looks lovely and yes she is a multi-faceted and multi-talented artist. Im surprised no one shared the picture of that portrait she drew of what to me looked like two women in bed together.

      BeIng that she has talent and likes to have artistic control over projects, they should get her to design the set for her new production of Aida at the Met in a couple of seasons. I’m almost certain whatever she comes up with will be as good or better than what the set designer has in mind lol.

      • She does have a way of reminding one that the universe is cosmically unfair. Surely the gods play favorites, and she’s one of theirs. Also one of mine.

        • Oh absolutely, and I agree with your other comment re: MF. I cant imagine the grotesque events that have transpired and been brought to light since he wrote that blog entry have made him change his mind…and if he has, I don’t want to know just yet since I’m planning on seeing him in Boheme in January ????.

          In all seriousness though, in the unlikely event that he is/was a Trump supporter I’d have to draw the line for a plethora of (obvious) reasons. It would be incredibly depressing though since he really is like the only hope for the future in tenordom when it comes to the big roles.

        • P.S. Im totally stealing this from you fyi ????.

      • @Antikitschychick:disqus I assume you mean this painting?

        • Yes that’s the one! Doesn’t that look like two women to you? Perhaps it’s not meant to be sexual/erotic but it certainly looks it to me ????.

  • MeteorHitsEarth16

    Perfect post!