Friday, 3 April 2015

Opera soap-operas

The Gelb fiasco at the Met continues to put the opera into "soap-opera". On a rather dreich Good Friday, I finally got round to the Levine Meistersinger DVD. The most notable feature of this very nice if conservative production is its lavish scale and astonishingly substantial street scene. Itillustrates wonderfully some of the issues in the current debates. 

This piece from James Stewart at the New Yorker, gives detailed perspective. What it also offers is a great glimpse inside the machinations of the the most political of opera companies. Those sitting in cinemas on the other side of the Atlantic at the great barn and the enormous productions and voices to fill it. The offstage drama matches.

According to Lebrecht, the New Yorker won't publish a response from some of the board, 'but its language belongs identifiably to Gelb'.
language belongs identifiably to Gelb.
language belongs identifiably to Gelb.
language belongs identifiably to Gelb.

Perhaps an opera about the Met is the obvious solution?

Those not interested in this soap-opera, might happily tune into the ENO, where discord seems as unrelated to the quality of the artistic output. It's the wrong shape, in the last place you would set up in competition (big house, poor accoustics, round corner from ROH). Something drastic may be needed: could it raise or save the £12m it presently gets from the Arts Council each year elsewhere? If ditched the Coliseum? If you only sell 75pc of the 2500 seats (source) -so bigger than ROH - then something isn't quite right. The cheap seats in the Coliseum are miserable in a way they aren't round the corner, and if stumping up top whack, I'd rather rather hear in the original thanks all the same.

What could be slashed without artistic consequence? On day one in that unenviable job, I'd probably give notice on the lease and stop pretending that singing in English is doing anything other than alienate purists and non-English listeners. As if the government would even notice a few quid more in ENO's direction.

Meanwhile, the ENO does daring things: like the 9/11 opera forthcoming, for which I can't wait, and great productions; the Met relays are terrific entertainment. Both institutions seem likely to weather the storm, but the ENO in particular seems more likely to have to radically change itself.

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