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Friday, January 16, 2009

Met Swings Economic Ax

Cuts four productions, revives Elektra

Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb announced today that the company will be forced to make cuts in order to survive the current economic crisis. The crisis is caused by the disappearance of $100 million of the Met's endowment fund, lost in the current financial mess on Wall Street.

Ticket prices at the big house will remain stable, although an 8% increase was considered. Additionally, Met senior staff will receive a 10% pay cut and singers will be asked to negotiate lower fees. Also, it is possible, according to an anonymous source cited by Daniel J. Wakin in today's New York Times, that the company may ask its three big unions for 10% "giveback" cuts.

However, according to Gelb, the company instead chose to cut four high-end productions for the 2009-2010 season and replace them with less expensive ones. The four operas being cancelled are:

  • The company's elaborate, gorgeous Die Frau Ohne Schatten by Richard Strauss. It will be replaced by the equally gorgeous (but shorter) Ariadne auf Naxos in the Elijah Moshinksy staging. Yes, they are taking away one of my favorite Met productions but at least they are replacing it with another one that I really like!

  • Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District--another elaborate modern opera, this is a powerful drama by Shostakovich and not exactly a box-office champ. Will be replaced by a much-needed revival of Elektra.

  • A long-awaited reviva of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles is the last opera scrapped. It will be replaced by yet another revival of the Zefirelli staging of La Traviata.

  • Benvenuto Cellini by Berlioz. This opera is something of a James Levine favorite. No word yet on a replacement, but I would love to see a concert performance of Beatrice et Benedict!

The last time the Met cancelled a production it was for the singer Marcelo Alvarez. He was supposed to sing the title role in Les Contes d'Hoffmann but the production was yanked in favor of the company's not-so-classic Carmen.

In more positive news, the City Opera, still operating without a home theater and struggling to survive the chaos caused by the sudden departure of Belgian theater director Gerad Mortier, hired a new general manager today. His name is George Steel (not to be confused with retired professional wrestler George "The Animal" Steele) and he used to be the director of the Dallas Opera. Steel takes over a company in chaos and crisis, but he is smart and experienced with a good reputation.

He plans to present a somewhat truncated schedule and will guide the City Opera as it returns to its newly renovated Lincoln Center digs.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.