Slow Listening: We Are Family

Once agan I’ve let my Saturday deadline slip by. This time it’s because of heavy reading and correspondence over the weekend centered around the labor strife at the Metropolitan Opera. Negotiations there are contentious and there’s talk of locking out the unions and delaying the season. I was part of the MET family for ten years, and was proud to belong to that music staff, still the greatest collection of coaches and colleagues I know. I have a lot of friends who are facing tough, uncertain weeks ahead.

The classical arts are in the middle of some turbulent times. I don’t want to get into the MET situation on this page, because I’m sure I don’t know enough about it to be helpful. I could only restate what others have written. But here’s what I do know. One of the reasons the MET is so valuable ┬áto artistic life in the USA is that it’s our only year-round repertory company. Only at that house do we see what opera can be like in that situation, where there is a year-round orchestra, chorus, and core company of singers (not to mention backstage and technical staff) who are performing ALL THE TIME. No one does the sheer number of operas that the MET does. This has an effect on their workers. There’s a level of expertise that can be reached only when people are working and performing together at that capacity, at that level. The MET has been our guiding standard in that regard since its inception.

Each challenging, frustrating, inspiring day I was there, I knew I was in the middle of an artistic family. We kept each other going, and we kept each other sharp. And in that theater, I was able to be part of repertoire that other American houses almost never do, because they can’t risk a less popular opera in their shorter season, or because their musicians don’t have the experience to take it on. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve worked a lot of places, and excellent work gets done all over the country. In fact, regional opera probable bats higher on average than the MET in a lot of respects. But the majority of the truly great nights of opera I’ve ever experienced in my home country were at that house.

Here for your Slow Listening pleasure is a clip from a night very dear to me. It’s awfully Teutonic, but this morning when I listen I am absorbed in the dear faces on the screen, and in the memories of rehearsing a beloved work with beloved people. I could explain the plot of Meistersinger, or talk about why I love Wagner, but meh, that’s really not so interesting. This is a piece you can only get near if you have a real artistic family in your house, if you know each other well enough.

Listen Slow, Share the Slow…and if you read about the MET and the wonderful artists there, try to listen slow as well.

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