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: