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Subject: Taking Measure of Today's Met
From: "G. Paul Padillo" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:G. Paul Padillo
Date:Wed, 3 Jan 2018 12:16:13 -0500
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In the world of opera, and the Met (and this list) in particular, there always has been, and 
always shall be, much clutching of pearls and wringing of hands and predictions of "this is 
the end."  It did not begin under Gelb, and I think, all things considered his batting average 
has been . . . average and there have been, despite the naysayers, some improvements 
under his watch.

One thing that has definitely improved have been the conducting assignments.  Under Gelb 
we’ve been able to hear many leaders who previously had never worked, or in some 
instances simply hadn’t been heard from in many years.  Among these are Sir Simon Rattle, 
Harry Bicket, Seiji Ozawa, Lorin Maazel, Fabio Luisi, William Christie, Riccardo Muti, Jiri 
Belohlávek, Kirill Petrenko, Daniel Barenboim, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Andris Nelsons and, of 
course, Yannick Nézet-Séguin.  Not too shabby, I'd say.

Let’s also not forget the live broadcasts so many enjoy from the beginning of the season 
through the end, over Sirius began under Gelb’s watch, and not just the opera repertoire, 
but galas, recitals by the likes of Jonas Kaufmann and Rene Pape, as well as the Met 
Orchestra concerts broadcast from Carnegie Hall.  Then there are the archival performances 
– many complaints that some of their favorite performances have not yet been put into 
circulation, but for goodness’ sake, look how many gems we’ve been able to enjoy for the 
first time in 70 years, and in some cases – ever before attracting audiences to performances 
that occurred before many were even born!

Gelb lifted the ban on Met season artists from appearing during the Richard Tucker Galas – 
a ban that was both ridiculous and counterintuitive to its own interests.  

The repertory has increased with more commissions in the last 20 years than in the 
previous half century.  Additionally, more works such as Strauss’ “Die Ägyptische Helena”; 
Tchaikovsky’s  “Mazeppa” (which needs to come back), and “Iolanta”; Glass’ “Satyagraha”  
Adams’ “Doctor Atomic,” “Nixon in China” and “The Death of Klinghoffer”; Janacek’s “From 
the House of the Dead”; Rossini’s “Armida” and “Comte d’Ory”; Donizetti’s Three Queen 
operas; Shostakovich’s “The Nose”; Verdi’s “Attila”; Puccini’s “La Rondine” (not seen since 
1936); Picker’s “An American Tragedy”; Ades “The Tempest” and “The Exterminating Angel”; 
Muhly’s “Two Boys” . . . and the list goes on.

While a number of productions were Dead on Arrival (e.g., “Attila”), there have been a 
decent number of hits (some previously mentioned above); including . . . Prince Igor;  
Penny Woolcock’s “Les Pêcheurs de Perles”; William Kentridge’s “Lulu”; Patrice Chéreau’s 
“Elektra”;  Bartlett Sher’s “Romeo et Juliette”; David McVickar’s “Giulio Cesare” and most 
notable for me, François Girard’s production of “Parsifal,” my favorite opera and in what’s 
become one of my favorite staging.

All this being said, Gelb has made any number of bone-headed, uninformed decisions, but 
that’s part and parcel of the job.  Does any of this sound familiar to anyone?  

"The opera always loses money.  That's as it should be.  Opera has no business making 
money."   - Sir Rudolf Bing

“We are currently projecting the box office to achieve 76 percent of capacity versus a 
budget of 80 percent (capacity), resulting in a shortfall of $4,303,000.”  -  Joseph Volpe 

". . . during the Centennial year (1983), while the Met garnered international attention, it 
was faced with a deficit of $4 million.  None of the new productions that year - Handel's 
‘Rinaldo’, Verdi's ‘Ernani’, and Zandonai's ‘Francesca di Rimini’ - were received with much 
enthusiasm by the public . . . box office income dropped as expenses increased.  Another 
financial crisis loomed.  Another problem was the Centennial Endowment itself.   Donors . . . 
did not increase or in some cases (only) maintained their usual annual contributions, so 
annual giving dropped off . . . what the Board always feared would happen . . . "   Johanna 
Fiedler "Molto Agitato."  

So, while the company is still around, it's still making many of us happy more than it is not, 
and I, for one, shall try to keep my complaints to a minimum and enjoy The Met as much, 
and as frequently as I can.

p.

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