Almost as quickly as it arrived, the ban on reviews of the Metropolitan Opera in Opera News has vanished. Chalk this up as a victory for free speech. Peter Gelb’s recent attempted censorship of negative reviews both at WQXR and at Opera News prompted vicious, nearly unanimous backlash from critics and bloggers around the world who weighed in, lambasting Gelb. Some, like Norman Lebrecht, called for a Met review blackout. A @FakePeterGelb has even sprung up on Twitter. Here’s a sample of some of the reaction around the web:
–Parterre Box: “The threat is now implicit: publish negative criticism of the Met, and the Met will silence you.”
–Philip Kennicott: “The decision makes another fine artistic institution look simply corporate, more concerned with message and brand control than the free play of art and creativity.”
–Anne Midgette, Washington Post: “Trying to quash negative statements about a bad production doesn’t change anything about the production, or even about the way people feel about the production.”
–Out West Arts: “Given the Met’s recent track record, one wonders how the company, and its advertising supplement is in a position to tell anyone what kind of job they are doing.”
–Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun: “If, as it appears, Mr. Gelb has difficulty with encountering any discouraging words in the press, what is it like during a staff meeting at the Met? How easy is it for anyone inside the institution to question a decision or make an alternative suggestion?”
Peter Gelb has gambled before and won big. Metropolitan Opera productions filmed in HD and beamed live to movie theaters around the world have unquestionably been smash hits. But this ban and quick reversal could be the biggest blunder of his tenure as the Met’s General Manager. What a strange move for the supposedly media savvy son of a former Managing Editor of the New York Times.
As the recent internet backlash against the Congressional legislation known as SOPA and PIPA demonstrated on a larger scale…and as @ClassicalKUSC succinctly put it, “Nothing quite like a global