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Met Opera 2014-2015 Season

86 posts in this topic

I understood you meant "false charges" were charges by the daughters that the piece is anti-Semitic, something with which many in the article you cited agreed. If you do mean this, then you misunderstand the ADL's position, which is that what they agree (with the daughters) is that the great misrepresentation in the opera, the false moral equivalency between Palestinian rights and the murder of a Jew, is what will incite acts of anti-Semitism. The ADL is not saying that because the work is anti-Semitic, it will cause acts of violence against Jews. There are plenty of anti-Semitic works that they don't feel will do so (or have the same danger of doing so), because they don't create a false moral equivalency, and they must pick their battles, not having unlimited time and resources. They have also not protested movies, plays, and books that express "the other side's point of view" in much more critical ways, but ways they don't think would incite violence.
No I wasn’t referring to the daughters, who are not threatening violence. “False charges” was poor wording, sorry – “I just meant the anti-Semitic/pro-Palestinian state/what-have-you passions the opera will supposedly stir, leading to violence. Noting the upcoming HD broadcast of Die Meistersinger, Anthony Tommasini asks
Should the Met cancel the “Meistersinger” simulcast if pressure comes from groups that combat intolerance?
I don’t think we're combating intolerance by giving in to threats. Tommasini also writes that
This “Klinghoffer” production could have been an invaluable teaching moment for the Met and its audiences. Mr. Gelb could have assembled Middle East historians, religious leaders and the “Klinghoffer” creative team to have a public dialogue, culminating in the simulcast.
I think that’s one way to handle intolerance.

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Gelb's very public betrayal of the artists whose work he is presenting is worse than craven. He's not going to be able to shake this off for awhile.

“I’m just afraid that most people will have a sort of Wikipedia opinion about this opera,” he said. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s the opera that’s been accused of anti-Semitism,’ and leave it at that. And that’s really very sad — it’s very hard when something’s been stained with an accusation like that, it’s almost impossible to wash it out.”

Obviously the ADL cannot say that the opera is anti-Semitic, since as kfw notes above, Foxman hasn't got around to seeing it. Nonetheless, the damage is done.

As a rights organization they were uniquely positioned to say to a large audience with an authority that would give it real rhetorical force – all the more so because they could say it while also stating their grievance with Adams and Goodman – that everyone’s exercising free speech is in everyone’s interest. They were in a position to lower the temperature of the debate, to promote real debate, leading to empathy and real understanding.

This, too

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Foxman isn't the only person at the ADL. When has the ADL been hesitant to call something anti-Semitic? The ADL's position is to constantly weigh content against potential violence. In this case, they have a specific issue with content that they think could result in violence. The Met could have respectfully disagreed or could have said that freedom of speech (content) or artistic freedom is a higher principle.

This doesn't sound like a Gelb move, but he has bosses. It's possible this is an issue that is setting him up for ouster, but freedom of speech is a North American right: artists who work in Europe know that there are all kinds of laws that suppress speech, particularly what is deemed to be anti-Semitic speech or hate speech. Many of the major artists are more likely to be upset at the pay cuts Gelb is proposing, particularly the artists who aren't as interested in regie theater and are happy that the Met tends to bypass its right to do with opera what it pleases.

There might not even be a Met season by then -- the last performance of the opera is scheduled for 15 November -- let alone an HD broadcast.

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There might not even be a Met season by then -- the last performance of the opera is scheduled for 15 November -- let alone an HD broadcast.

A tangent, I know, but I'm still asking -- do we really think that the company will fold, or is this politics?

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I think that if the leader of such an organization is going to speak publicly in this fashion about a work of art he has an obligation to see it. As the opera has already been seen on television and exposed to millions of viewers,in addition to being available for viewing in other formats, he surely has had ample opportunity. And Foxman and the ADL weren't just pushing for the opera not to be broadcast in cinemas or radio; they wanted it canceled altogether. In any case, Adams' point holds.

Gelb isn't going to lose his job for this, it's just a black mark on his record. If he wasn't prepared to stand by his programming, he ought never to have chosen the opera in the first place. And given that this isn't the first time the opera has aroused controversy, he has little excuse for having been caught flatfooted by the backlash. Worst of both worlds, etc.

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I disagree: almost all CEOs, presidents, Presidents, and leaders of organizations rely upon their subordinates to vet, analyze, and substantiate claims, even as they become spokespeople for them. Even had Foxman seen the work, there would be no reason for him to address whether it's an anti-Semitic work, because the organization is claiming that something more specific in the opera could lead to violence. He also has a Board with its own opinions and interests.

I don't think Gelb would have pulled this had there not been pressure from his bosses. He's not stupid or uninformed about the controversy over the opera since it premiered in 1991. I suspect the Met was ready to capitalize on it, and it would have been a great tie-in to other organizations and presentations about Middle Eastern politics and by academics and many other opportunities to grab that elusive "new audience" that won't be drawn in by the Zefferelli "La Boheme."

Where he was caught flatfooted was is not anticipating that he'd be pressed to backtrack. He couldn't have anticipated the recent killings at a Kansas City synagogue, making the Kansas City-based AMC Theaters willing to play hardball. (Were he to go forward with alternate theaters, the Met in HD that he worked so hard to build might collapse.)

There are a lot of cumulative financial and labor-related reasons for the Met Board to be ready to scapegoat him over "Death of Klinghoffer," including a likely labor action. I don't think the Met will collapse and close, but I do think there's a good chance, based on current posturing, that this could take a while to resolve, and that December holiday/tourist season will be a target for the negotiations.

There's no more NYCO: maybe people will go to NYCB's and ABT's fall seasons instead.

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Not having seen something is indeed a nice way of evading an issue.

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Not having seen something is indeed a nice way of evading an issue.

Indeed, could Mr. Gelb not have required that anyone who wanted a work to be canceled to have actually seen that work? This is art.

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He didn't have to evade the issue, because it's not the primary issue. He brought up the issue he felt would incite violence: what the ADL and the daughters believe is a false moral equivalency. Anti-Semitism alone isn't necessarily a reason: the ADL passes up putting its energy against many things they consider anti-Semitic.

Indeed, could Mr. Gelb not have required that anyone who wanted a work to be canceled to have actually seen that work? This is art.

Foxman did not speak as an individual: he was the spokesman for his organization, which, as an organization, made the decision to choose this as an issue on which to spend its money and energy and to decide which underlying issue was the rationale for their actions.

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I've been eager to read what The New Yorker's Alex Ross has to say about the "Klinghoffer" cancellation, and here it is:

The Met’s “Klinghoffer” Problem.

This is what I found most interesting:

Gelb has revealed that seventy-five per cent of the Live in HD audience is sixty-five or older. “Those are people who are so old that they can’t go the Met, to the theatre, anymore,” he has said. This, apparently, is the same audience that would have become bloodthirsty after a viewing of “The Death of Klinghoffer.”

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If the Met's HD audience is largely people who cannot actually get to the Met anymore, then the argument that the HD broadcasts are the cause for the drop in in-house attendance and ticket sales makes no sense. By the way, not sure if this was posted, but the Met's administrative offices were vandalized yesterday AM. Didn't realize this until I looked at the newspaper late last night, but I did think it strange that a cop was in the elevator at the Met after the matinee of SL. Now I understand why the police were at the Met yesterday.

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By the way, not sure if this was posted, but the Met's administrative offices were vandalized yesterday AM. Didn't realize this until I looked at the newspaper late last night, but I did think it strange that a cop was in the elevator at the Met after the matinee of SL. Now I understand why the police were at the Met yesterday.

I read that as well. Apparently there is no sign that the break-in was related to the Klonghoffer controversy or the union negotiations.

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Aside from the general audience demographics for opera being quite different in Europe -- and the Ross article made it clear that the concerns were about Europe, not NYC or the rest of North America -- when broadcast live, the earliest start time is 5pm (GMT) for a long opera like "Parsifal" or 8pm in Moscow. The "Orpheus ed Eurydice" I saw in Helsinki starred at 8 or 8:30pm. The morning or matinee schedule that appeals to an older and less mobile audience that is more heavily dependent on public transportation and/or daytime driving does not apply in Europe.

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I wonder how detailed to Met's data is. The shorter travel times (15 minutes instead of 8 hours for example) and the much lower prices (cheaper tickets and no need for a hotel room) are likely more of a factor in why elderly people go to HD broadcasts when they no longer go to the Met itself.

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The people who are renting hotel rooms to attend are the out of town tourists.

There are many elderly people who live within one or two hours drive to the Met but can't come into the city anymore. As an anecdotal example, I know someone who subscribed to the Met for decades. Now she is approaching 70 and she does not feel that she can drive from her home in Connecticut anymore into Manhattan due to medical issues.As a result, she dropped her subscription and only attends the HD broadcasts in her community. It is not a matter of price. It is a matter of declining health preventing trips to the City. (She also regularly attended NY City Ballet, but since she cannot drive to the city she has not seen the Company for a few years.)

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The people who are renting hotel rooms to attend are the out of town tourists.

Yes, and no doubt some of the HD subscribers were formerly among them, but can no longer handle the travel time, or afford the hotels.

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I've been reading all your comments with interest. I've always loved the opera. My family had a subscription in the 70s and 80s. We went often. When I was in college, I attended a fair share (although most of my ticket buying in general went towards the ballet!). I've always watched the PBS telecasts. Now that I've moved from the center of the NY Metro area, to the edge, I've really been enjoying the HD broadcasts (and the movie theater showings of other cultural events like the ballet, Royal Opera/Ballet, National Theatre Live etc...). When "Klinghoffer" was announced for the screening, I (Jewish, BTW) was intrigued and interested to see the opera. I'm afraid seeing too many Peter Martins ballets set to Adams' music had temporarily put me off his music, but I had always appreciated his operas. I remember the Klinghoffer incident from my youth and did some reading. I was aware of the controversy that has sometimes followed this opera. I think Gelb just didn't think it through. He seems to do that often. He makes a decision without weighing all possibilities. He also seems to be making a hash of the labor negotiations.

I'm not sure how HD broadcasts effect ticket sales. The Met is in the same boat as all the other arts or, frankly, many forms of entertainment. Attendance is down at sporting events. There's a couple of reasons for this but one of the biggest, in my opinion, are ticket prices. Just too high. I buy tickets at many events in different cities. The prices are just crazy.

Another thing I've noticed (and I'd love for opera experts to weight in, please!), the Met has a lot of these drab quasy modern-looking productions. Does the Met have any "traditional" productions left? I love the Ring but seeing the new one live after watching it on the screen carries zero interest from me, as Alex Ross pointed out. While I admired the technical stagecraft involved, I don't think it enriched my appreciation for the score and it was an obstacle course the singers had to deal with. And I keep hearing that the HD filming effects casting, productions.

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I get so exasperated at the argument from assorted company directors that making their work available in HD theaters or DVDs will hurt their theater attendance. I don't know what kind of serious research they have on this, but look anecdotally at the situation here. We have available oodles of great DVDs from Royal, Bolshoi, Mariinsky, yet their performances in the US seem to sell very, very well. But we have precious little (at least from the last decade) of ABT or NYCB, yet they hardly ever sell out.

(And that doesn't even take into account the fact that both ABT and NYCB receive a fair amount of taxpayer subsidies and grants -- although we wish it were more -- which would argue in favor of making their work more available to taxpayers who can't get to their theaters for whatever reason.)

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Gelb's London counterparts also reject the cannibalization argument.

[Gleb's] warning could not be more stark, but his analysis is flatly rejected by Alex Beard, chief executive at the Royal Opera. "I don't want to get into a slagging match with the Met, but that is just so far from our experience. Opera is on a roll. As long as love, death, longing and despair are part of the life experience, and people want to hear great stories told through music, opera has a vibrant future," he said.

Beard says productions are selling out, with shows in the cinema season often selling fastest. He says the composition of ticket buyers at Covent Garden is visibly changing, and he is convinced that the live cinema screenings, for which student standby tickets will be introduced at many venues next season, are helping to build a new audience, along with initiatives such as student ambassadors in universities, and its "young friends" scheme, which has gone from "zero to a thousand members in months".

...

John Berry, artistic director at ENO, also rejected the glum analysis: "We are having a tremendous season here, and our audiences are not dying – they are getting steadily younger."

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/jun/06/new-york-met-opera-house-edge-precipice

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Thank you, VolcanoHunter and Mr. Beard! I couldn't agree more. After you've seen a DVD (or an HD theater show) of a great production, doesn't it make you more likely to want to see it in the theater, if at all possible? Many will find a way eventually. And for those who can't afford it, they wouldn't have gotten to the theater anyway!

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I knew lots of people living in the suburbs who made the Met a "date night" and got a hotel room in the city. It was very convenient when at least one of them worked in the city. Weekend rates made it affordable, as many business customers check out on Friday morning.

Speight Jenkins has been very enthusiastic about HD's. He said that when records came out, people thought that was the end of live music. When CD's came out, people thought that was the end of live music. When bandwidth became big enough and streaming prevalent, rinse and repeat. The reason the Seattle Ring isn't on DVD is a combination of the cost of the production and the fear that any money targeted at special productions will be transferred from the general fund. Otherwise, Jenkins might have been on the side of a city bus advertising it, without fear that people would stop coming to Seattle to see it in person.

The Met still has many traditional productions. The classic is the Zefferelli "La Boheme" with at least 90 extras in the Cafe Momus scene; it was one of the HD's. As far as the way it was directed, the Lepage Ring, cludgy as The Machine is, is a traditional production. The HD's suggest that the Met is a lot more out there than the general rep. You won't see a string of toilets or giant rats at the Met.

I don't think Gelb didn't think out Klinghoffer. I think he was blindsided by AMC. (The labor issues are another matter.) Aside from "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk," which was bypassed, like the much-lauded "From the House of the Dead," Chereau's last production, "The Death of Klinghoffer" is the HD I most wanted to see, and now it's history mad.gif .

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The Met still has many traditional productions. The classic is the Zefferelli "La Boheme" with at least 90 extras in the Cafe Momus scene; it was one of the HD's.

I don't know about in the rest of the country, but last season's HD broadcast will be on PBS here this Sunday afternoon.

The Death of Klinghoffer is what I was most looking forward to as well.

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I get so exasperated at the argument from assorted company directors that making their work available in HD theaters or DVDs will hurt their theater attendance. I don't know what kind of serious research they have on this, but look anecdotally at the situation here. We have available oodles of great DVDs from Royal, Bolshoi, Mariinsky, yet their performances in the US seem to sell very, very well. But we have precious little (at least from the last decade) of ABT or NYCB, yet they hardly ever sell out.

(And that doesn't even take into account the fact that both ABT and NYCB receive a fair amount of taxpayer subsidies and grants -- although we wish it were more -- which would argue in favor of making their work more available to taxpayers who can't get to their theaters for whatever reason.)

Actually, ABT and NYCB's direct government funding constitutes a very, very modest proportion of their annual budgets. ABT's 2012 revenues totaled $40.3 million; its government grants totaled $406.7 thousand. That's about 1% of the company's total budget. NYCB's 2012 revenues totaled $66.5 million; its government grants totaled just shy of $1.5 million. (All amounts taken from the companies' respective 2012 IRS 990s, which you can find online at either Charity Navigator or Guidestar.)

Both organizations likely receive indirect public subsidies as well. For instance, Lincoln Center may subsidize their tenancy out of funds it receives from government sources. And of course there is an indirect public subsidy to the extent that they receive tax-deductible contributions.

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Direct grants (from places like NEA) are relatively small. But those numbers don't include the financial benefit of 501©(3) deductions for donors, which are not the norm in many countries (especially Europe, although some are looking to the American model on this). Those donations would be smaller without the charitable deduction on taxes. Private foundations which donate to the company also benefit from substantial tax advantages. I.e., the taxpayers are providing substantial subsidies to the companies via the tax deductions to donors. Typically, the performing spaces are also benefitting from a variety of taxpayer subsidies, including both direct grants and tax exemptions; if the companies performed in commercial spaces, the cost would be much higher. I don't know how the dollars add up in all these additional categories, but they are substantial.

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He didn't have to evade the issue, because it's not the primary issue. He brought up the issue he felt would incite violence: what the ADL and the daughters believe is a false moral equivalency. Anti-Semitism alone isn't necessarily a reason: the ADL passes up putting its energy against many things they consider anti-Semitic.

Indeed, could Mr. Gelb not have required that anyone who wanted a work to be canceled to have actually seen that work? This is art.

Foxman did not speak as an individual: he was the spokesman for his organization, which, as an organization, made the decision to choose this as an issue on which to spend its money and energy and to decide which underlying issue was the rationale for their actions.

Very little difference, it seems to me, but a convenient distinction behind which Foxman can take shelter.

Alex Ross, again (thanks for the link, kfw):

Having decided to stage the opera some years back, Gelb should have been better prepared for the inevitable explosion. His statement will likely satisfy no one: if, as he argues, the opera is prone to fanning anti-Semitism, critics will surely respond that it should not be performed at all. The episode is yet another example of maladroit public relations from a manager who, when hired, was supposed to have shown nimbleness in such matters.

I get so exasperated at the argument from assorted company directors that making their work available in HD theaters or DVDs will hurt their theater attendance.

Agreed. Maybe their research does show that, but has anyone seen it? As you say, California, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

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