What a puzzling (and entertaining) fuss at Opera News, the venerable classical music magazine, published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the fund raising affiliate of NY Metropolitan Opera. Feathers have been ruffled by the magazine’s decision to no longer review the productions of its parent, New York Metropolitan Opera.
Peter Gelb, the controversial head of Met Opera gave an interview to the NYTimes confirming the decision was made in collaboration with the Met’s Guild. The Editor of Opera News then gave perfunctory confirmation that the magazine is no longer reviewing Met Opera productions. He also added that no other opera company has been banished from its review pages.
Whispers suggest that the policy is prompted by the Met, annoyed with recent negative reviews of its own productions. Conspiracy theorists are claiming censorship. Whatever the case, negative reviews of costly Met Opera productions, published in an affiliate magazine, hardly enhance fund raising.
The PR Verdict: “D” for the Metropolitan Opera and Opera News. The diva in this case should have let the understudy do the talking.
PR Takeaway. Who explains an issue to the media is as important as what is said. To minimise the suggestion that there was undue influence from the Met, the ONLY person who should have spoken to the media was the editor of Opera News . The key message might have been that reviews would no longer be published to minimise conflicts of interest with current fundraising drives. This was one case where Peter Gelb, General Manager for Met Opera, would have been better advised to be unavailable for comment and let the editor of Opera News do all the talking.
UPDATE : Since publication of the NYTimes article, Metropolitan Opera has reversed its decision. The Met issued a statement late yesterday that it has changed its decision “because of the passionate response of the fans.”