Hey…ey…ey..ey…What’s goin’ on?

Franco Zeffirelli’s productions have been staples at the Met and worldwide

The new year has opened with a number of well-loved favourites at various opera houses around North America and overseas.  Tickets continue to sell, but not without controversy, perhaps the most bothersome at the Metropolitan Opera.  As of late, Mr. Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met has been dealing with some much deserved flack for the failed production of Puccini’s “Tosca,” a failure that was secured by the modern and inauthentic direction of Luc Bondy, but also by the continued problem of inappropriately casting non-Italianante voices in Italian repertoire and vice-versa in the Germanic repertoire.  Many patrons have been bothered by Gelb’s failure to admit that the Bondy production failed.  He has only publicly stated that beloved Franco Zeffirelli’s production of “Tosca” would be remounted.  In what seems like a bit of retaliation, Gelb has now decided to withdraw Zeffirelli’s “Boheme” production for a new one.

At a time when podcasts, internet streaming, and digital cable are at an all-time peak of interest, the artistic genres that have maintained verisimilitude seem to be suffering. Why now, after a century of excellence, is it necessary to “modernize” even those things that do not need to be modernized?  I’m all for new ideas, but when those new ideas interfere with the composer’s indications or with aesthetic truths, then I raise my hand in defiance.  We are in a crucial period where the maintenance of opera as a valuable art-form relies heavily on authenticity, but in these times the authentic voice of opera is facing the possibility of becoming mute, a prospect I will fight tirelessly to prevent.  It is why the value of the productions are lesser and why the wrong voice types are constantly being cast in repertoire that not only affects the singers’ vocal health, but mars the essential quality that these styles are meant to promote.

What’s goin’ on?


Peter Gelb

Of course there are those who think this is fine and dandy, and that opera needs to be multimedia-ized in order to retain a voice.  Certainly, it is great to promote it to the younger generation who really have no means of knowing it otherwise, but do we need to inject every production with an alternative antibiotic, usually some blatant and unnecessary sexuality that was not intended by the composer?  Might I be so bold as to say that Opera is sexy on its own and so are its characters, so is the music.  Is it possible that most operas, if presented authentically, are expressive enough solely in the combination of their text and music to deliver the same punch that directors are trying so hard to achieve?  It’s already there, in the mix, so why add more ingredients?  Overlooking what is innate in the art for the sake of making opera suit the times seems like a waste of time to me.

Food for thought at the dawn of a new decade.

“What’s Goin’On?”

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