Met’s Gelb at war (and not just with Putin)

Peter Gelb, general manager of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, was interviewed recently by Jeffrey Arlo Brown for Van Magazine. The most widely remarked-upon portion of their conversation was Gelb’s acknowledgment that the Met is “indirectly” at war with Vladimir Putin’s Russia and with Putin-friendly or -adjacent Russian artists, most notably Anna Netrebko, the Russian soprano who had been a Met mainstay for two decades.

“We may not say we’re at war with them, but we are at war with them,” Gelb said, calling Russia’s invasion “an action to annihilate a civilization, the whole people of Ukraine.”

Three less geopolitical points of interest from the interview:

– About his decision to furlough the company’s orchestra, chorus and stagehands during the pandemic shutdown, causing financial and professional hardship for many: “I know that it was very controversial what I did. My goal was to keep the Met alive. ”

– Gelb’s advocacy of more diverse programming, especially contemporary operas and works by composers of color: “[M]ore assertive action needed to be taken to emphasize new and diverse work. . . . Clearly, it’s right, but it’s also a question of opera’s survival. If we don’t open the world of opera up to a broader audience, it will not survive. We must do this.”

– His aversion to Regieoper (directors’ opera), in which stagings depart from or conflict with composers’ and librettists’ intentions: “[P]art of my responsibility is hiring directors who honor the narratives of the operas that they’re producing. . . . The story has to be clearly told.”

The full interview:

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