Peter Gelb, the new general manager of Lincoln Center's Metropolitan Opera, poses in the lobby of the opera house in New York February 13, 2006. The Metropolitan Opera is cutting the price of its cheapest seats to $15 and planning a 90-minute family version of Mozart's classic "The Magic Flute" as part of wide-ranging plans to attract new fans. (Photo : REUTERS/Keith Bedford)
On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Opera reversed a controversial policy to forbid Opera News Magazine to review its productions.
The Met had announced their decision after fans wrote in to protest the Met's decision on Sunday. "From their postings on the internet, it is abundantly clear that opera fans would miss reading reviews about the Met in Opera News," the Met wrote in a press release. "Ultimately, the Met is here to serve the opera-loving public and has changed its decision because of the passionate response of the fans."
The notable opera company added that its original decision to censor the 76 year old publication from reviewing its productions was due to the fact that the magazine is supported financially by the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Met General Manager Peter Gelb felt that it made no sense that the criticism was coming "from an institution that its parent is supposed to help."
Much of controversy comes after Opera News critic Fred Cohn published a review in the April issue criticizing the Met's new Ring Production, calling the staging "haphazard," and the ambitions "puny." Cohn is just one of many critics who have blasted the production for its lack of imagination in execution. The production, with a price tag of $15 million, is the most expensive project that the distinguished company has ever taken on. The production consists of 24 planks that weigh 90,000 pounds, rotate into different formations, and project visual effects. During interviews with the New York Times, Gelb stated that the production was "revolutionary" despite the fact that most critics saw it as a traditional production that focused on its technology rather than on the substance of the characters and the story.
In the May Issue, Brian Kellow, the features editor wrote in regards to the Met that, "The public is becoming more dispirited each season by the pretentious and woefully misguided, misdirected productions foisted on them."
Opera News has a circulation of 100,000, the largest for a classical music magazine in the country. It provides information on Met casts and broadcasts in addition to features on other opera houses, performers of past eras and festivals. The magazine also publishes critiques of performances around the world by knowledgeable and respected reviewers. They have included work by professional musicians, academics and local newspaper critics.
This is the second time in weeks that Gelb takes action to censor critics, leading many to believe that the Met has become overly protective and sensitive under his management. A few weeks ago, Gelb made New York's classical station WQXR remove a blog post questioning not only his leadership, but also the Ring production.
Last year, Gelb asked blogger Brad Wilbur to discontinue his website which revealed programming choices for future Met seasons. Wilbur's website had been circulating for years before Gelb took over in 2006.