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Peter Gelb - Censorship of Opera News


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#1 abatt

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 06:59 AM

Here is an article from today's NY Times. I thought it might be of interest to people on this board. Opera News will no longer review productions of the Met Opera because Peter Gelb does not like the negative reviews that the publication has given to certain productions. The publication is affiliated with the Met Opera, as the article explains. As the article also explains, this is only the latest, but most egregious and outrageous, of Gelb's effort to quash criticism of the Met. It's a very disturbing development.

http://www.nytimes.c...a.html?ref=arts

#2 Helene

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 07:21 AM

Very few companies -- not just non-for-profits -- keep people on the staff that (appear to) undermine their position. The publication could have replaced its critics with those who would write essentially PR reviews. Instead they decided not to review the Met.

#3 SandyMcKean

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 08:13 AM

I'm with Gelb on this one. Just as Helene points out, no organization would tolerate a subordinate group within the organization that continually undermines the goals of the organization. There are plenty of independent entities out there that can either praise or condemn The Met. This is not censorship, it is merely sensible.

I thought it particularly ludicrous that Professor Levin would say:

“It’s inconceivable to me that the Met wouldn’t welcome nuanced and challenging criticism."

Here's a line from Opera News:

“The public is becoming more dispirited each season by the pretentious and woefully misguided, misdirected productions foisted on them.”

Nuanced?......are you kidding me!!

P.S. Frankly, the criticism from within strikes me more in the vein of "....I've loved opera for 50 years.....why can't they just do operas the way I like them, the way they've always been done, the way I like them." The establishment always resists change.

#4 abatt

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 09:47 AM

Censorship becomes a very slippery slope. If the magazine now criticizes a Luc Bondy production in Europe, will Gelb mandate that the review not be published because Luc Bondy directed the Met's Tosca? If an Opera News critic gives a negative review to Natalie Dessay in a production in Los Angeles, does Gelb pull the review because Dessay will be opening at the Met a few weeks later to perform the same role, and a negative review might affect ticket sales at the Met? Open debate and discussion is always the better solution. This is not some propaganda newsletter. Opera News is heavily supported by extensive advertising in the magazine by luxury goods and services sellers, as well as a wide subscriber base and news stand circulation. I'm not even clear as to whether the employees of Opera News are considered employees of the Metropolitan Opera. If Gelb didn't like the reviews, he could have written a rebuttal. Silencing your critics is not the answer. .

#5 kfw

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 09:50 AM

donors solicited by the Met receive a subscription to the magazine as a perquisite. Slightly fewer than half the subscribers receive it that way.


So I wonder if that will change or if the magazine's readership has just been cut in half. Surely some of those donors will subscribe on their own if need be, but I would imagine that Met coverage is the main reason a lot of other people subscribe, so this has to hurt the magazine a lot. I don't support Gelb's move, but I can understand him not wanting his donors reading bad reviews.

#6 dirac

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 09:52 AM

Met management has not always been happy with the reviews of the company by Opera News. It's not Pravda, after all, and never has been. No doubt you can argue that Gelb is within his rights but clubbing critics for delivering news you don't want to hear seems mistaken from pretty much any standpoint. It makes him look like a thin-skinned petty tyrant and could well alienate people who would otherwise support him. He's done some good things. He's done some not so good things. If you can't stand the heat, etc.

#7 rg

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 12:11 PM

the following release has just arrived in email, i assume it's legitimate:

May 22, 2012

Opera News Will Continue to Review Metropolitan Opera Productions

In view of the outpouring of reaction from opera fans about the recent decision to discontinue Met performance reviews in Opera News, the Met has decided to reverse this new editorial policy. From their postings on the internet, it is abundantly clear that opera fans would miss reading reviews about the Met in Opera News. Ultimately, the Met is here to serve the opera-loving public and has changed its decision because of the passionate response of the fans.

The Met and the Met Opera Guild, the publisher of Opera News, have been in discussions about the role of the Guild and how its programs and activities can best fulfill its mission of supporting the Metropolitan Opera. These discussions have included the role of reviews in Opera News, and whether they served that mission. While the Met believed it did not make sense for a house organ that is published by the Guild and financed by the Met to continue to review Met productions, it has become clear that the reviews generate tremendous excitement and interest and will continue to have a place in Opera News.

#8 abatt

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 12:50 PM

That was a fast reversal. The number of comments on the NY Times website under the Comments section of the article was HUGE.

#9 dirac

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 02:33 PM

Yes, it's definite:

“I think I made a mistake,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager. “The Metropolitan Opera only exists with the good will of the public. Clearly the public would miss Opera News not being able to review the Met, and we are responding to that,” he added, referring to a “groundswell of disappointment.”



#10 sidwich

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 03:04 PM

Publicly silencing ostensibly objective critics is never a good idea in the U.S. You can only imagine what the public reaction would be if ABC announced that its news programming was no longer reviewing Disney films because it didn't like the negative criticism.

The concepts of free speech are so far embedded in American culture that any restrictions on criticism tend to lead to even more negative consequences as Mr. Gelb found out. As tempting as it is to silence the negative critics with one swipe, the backlash is usually ten times worse. Negative criticism doesn't go away. It just goes someplace else, and it only becomes stronger for the attempt to destroy it. In extreme cases, I've seen lawsuits ensue.

#11 kfw

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 06:39 PM

“I think I made a mistake,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager.


Well that's refreshingly honest and straightforward (from any public figure, I mean).

#12 aurora

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 07:01 PM

No doubt you can argue that Gelb is within his rights but clubbing critics for delivering news you don't want to hear seems mistaken from pretty much any standpoint.


As its been resolved maybe its too late, but there was something in the wording of this that I found interesting.
Above you called this "delivering news you don't want to hear." I would call reviews--both bad and good--opinion. not news. There is a difference and the fact that people don't seem to recognize that is maybe why the MET opera originally wanted to quash the unstintingly negative reviews...

#13 Birdsall

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 05:04 AM

If you have a good product and faith in the product you don't worry about negative reviews b/c the public still works via word of mouth and if something is fabulous , people will flock to it. Gelb's new productions since he took over have been touch and go. I think the new Ring is a big flop which cost millions. Yet he continues to claim it is wonderful. I was on Team Gelb when he started the HDs but now after several years of very mediocre productions and his new desire to censor Opera News, I am no longer on Team Gelb. Great works of art become greater when there is discussion about flaws, etc. When a leader feels the need to only have only puff pieces and no criticism that is a sign of a company in major trouble and an attempt to sweep any failings under the carpet. He must be catching hell from the board or something. But this is never a good sign.

#14 kfw

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 05:16 AM

If you have a good product and faith in the product you don't worry about negative reviews b/c the public still works via word of mouth and if something is fabulous , people will flock to it. Gelb's new productions since he took over have been touch and go. I think the new Ring is a big flop which cost millions. Yet he continues to claim it is wonderful.


Well, the reviews have been mixed although perhaps most often negative. We don't know what Gelb actually thinks of it, but I can't blame him, at least at this early date, for standing up for it. That's his job - it's not as if he can just fix the flaws by acknowledging them. I do agree that banning reviews in Opera News was wrong for a number of reasons.

#15 Helene

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 08:34 AM

Many critics and opera-goers thought the Chereau Ring in the mid-70's at Bayreuth was a disaster after it replaced the Wieland Wagner production. It since has become a shining example of directorial imagination. It will be interesting to see how the Lepage Ring is seen over time.

It's always been an interesting balance for "Opera News" to review the institution. Traditionally, it has many Guild members across North America and some in the rest of the world who feel connected to the Met, but in the age of instant, global reviews, I'm not sure how many people are waiting two months to read about performances in a print magazine.

What I found fascinating is that they could have replaced their reviewers with those who would have written, essentially, publicity in the form of reviews.


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