Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mortier Firestorm! Again! (God, I love that guy!)

Thanks once more to Brian Dickie's blog for bringing my attention to debate over Gerard Mortier's recent bid to take over the Bayreuth Festival with Nike Wagner, and the scathing blog by Andrew Patner...which I must say is typical conservative American non-sense. The most important thing to know about Gerard Mortier, is that one never knows Gerard Mortier. You can't predict what we will do, and only time will tell if we will take over City Opera or not - for the sake of opera in America I certainly hope he does!

It seems that what Mortier really likes is a challenge. What could be more of a challenge than breathing life into opera in America? Well, perhaps the ONE thing would be bringing life into Bayreuth I will admit, but I think he is atleast sincere in his desire to force change at City Opera and to make a company that actually produces interesting work. Mortier's comments on the subject are convincing, particularly about Peter Gelb. Patner says some pretty ridiculous things, but one of the most ludicrous is that Mortier would not want to take over City Opera because of Gelb...as if he feels threatened by Gelb? If anything I think Mortier is turned on by the challenge of getting in the ring with Gelb. And good for him.

Personality aside, though Gelb can hold his own when it comes to "beyond self-assurred"!, Mortier has changed and continues to change the face of opera. He is passionate about contemporary opera and education. Already leaps ahead of the Met. And he widely admits the problems with a largely state funded system. If Mr Patner is suggesting that Mortier would rather produce in a bubble where he does not have to actually sell tickets, one should look at the sales of the Paris Opera under Mortier's leadership and at the decrease in average age of opera goers. Mr Mortier has just realized that creative programming CAN reach new audiences. There is no evidence that Mortier only has passion for working in the European system.

Who can say if Mortier will stay at City Opera for a full term or come at all. We should count our blessings to have him interested at all. The arts scene in American will be better off for having him.

(Incidentally there was some atrociously ugly commentator to Brian's blog! Tsk tsk! COT is one of the few companies doing interesting work...and Paterre Box is HARDLY the place for intelligent conversation!)


Andrew Patner said...

Dear Yugen,

You miss my point. I've been an admirer of Gérard Mortier's for many years and I am *not* a "conservative" on opera questions.

I've known Mortier since 1995 and spent four summers -- 1995, 1996, 1999, and 2001 -- at the Salzburg Festival when he was in charge. I was and remain a huge fan of what he and Hans Landesmann did at Salzburg. (I stopped going to Salzburg when Mortier and Landesmann were leaving; I had no interest in the direction of their successor. I have been going back since Jürgen Flimm and Markus Hinterhäuser took over -- 2007 and 2008 and the spring mini-festival in 2008 thus far.)

Of course City Opera needs to be and should be shaken up! -- where on earth did I say otherwise? It just needs to be done so by someone with an actual *interest* in City Opera, New York, the U.S., and ideas that others have as well as his own ideas -- which, by the way, are unchanged since Salzburg and before and are part of the reason that GM's Ruhr Triennale and Paris Opéra years have not been -- from my view -- on the same level of excitement, innovation, or success as his Salzburg decade.

I am no big fan of Peter Gelb or the MET -- my point was and is only that he is also a combatant, and an egomaniac who was not a part of the original equation when NYCO was thinking of shaking itself up. Of course Mortier loves to fight -- even when it's unnecessary -- he can't help himself. But Mortier loves *European* cultural politics which he could play from a European base but are irrelevant (thank goodness) in or from the U.S.

I am a huge supporter of European and other non-American artists and spend three months a year overseas seeing and hearing work and writing and broadcasting about it. The same with the work I see in this country. The issue is not pedigree or birthplace -- it's interest and focus and empathy. I don't see GM as having these characteristics vis-à-vis New York City Opera. That's all. If he does come to City Opera, I wish him all the best and I'll be there to see and hear his productions.

And of course Brian Dickie and Chicago Opera Theater are beacons for the way that things should and can be done. Now help them find some money!

Thanks again for reading The View from Here!

Andrew Patner
98.7WFMT Radio Chicago and wfmt.com
Chicago Sun-Times and suntimes.com

Timothy Nelson said...

Indeed Andrew! My apologies. Taken out of context of the entire blog, it sounded much like you were not a big fan of Mortier. Lets hope for everyones sake that he does come and stay at City Opera, and perhaps we really is capable of doing them both. Bayreuth and City Opera under the same management! How great!

Andrew Patner said...

Thanks, Timothy!

All best,

Andrew P.

Andrew Patner said...

For those interested, my follow-up post on Mortier/NYCO/Bayreuth/etc., inspired in part by Timothy Nelson's concerns, is at:


It contains some news updates as well.