05 October 2007

nothing of essence here

When I was being interviewed (for the Met general manager position), I explained to the board that if I was to take this position, we'd all have to recognize what was wrong with the Met. There was a reason the audience was declining. And it had to do not just with the marketing of the Met, but with the core artistic essence of the Met. It needed to go through a quiet revolution that would be exciting enough to engage a new audience.
Read that again: what's wrong with the Met, according to Peter Gelb, isn't just that they didn't think of advertising on the sides of buses or simulcasting performances in suburban multiplexes, but it's also in the "core artistic essence" of the opera company. However, nowhere else in the interview did he speak more about this supposed problem, which makes me think that by "core artistic essence" he meant things other than the Met's "core artistic essence". Basically, importing the Minghella Butterfly from ENO, kicking off a massive media campaign, and providing live video to Times Square on opening night are more of marketing initiatives than anything, inspired as they may have been. And streaming performances via satellite radio (in addition to the multiplex simulcasts) is more a creative repackaging of the same staid product than a serious realignment of any artistic essences. Moreover, bringing in new directors and launching new works aren't his innovations at all--Zeffirelli, after all, was once a new director (centuries ago), and there have been a number of world premieres of new works by youngish composers since the Volpe years. Which makes me wonder: did Gelb misspeak, is he looking to do a marketing job to recast his marketing accomplishments into something else, or is he really out to tinker with the real core artistic essence of the Met?