Taking a break from the Britney Spears album, I dropped by the Met yesterday to catch Verdi's Macbeth. It was a fitting choice for Halloween, even if the tensest moment came from watching Maria Ghouleghina…sorry, Guleghina roll down the raked stage in a nightgown, raising the fear that her ample bosom might pop out. Adrian Noble's production was a little short on the spooky stuff—okay, so maybe he didn't want to stoop to cheap thrills—but also on the overall drama. The ginormous columns that delimited the set moved more than the leads: I was surprised to see so much of the "park and bark" approach that the Met's Peter Gelb mocked in his recent New Yorker profile, especially from a guy known from his theater work.
Speaking of that article: The thing I found most telling is that at no point did Gelb suggest any particular love for the art form. No mention of favorite performers or operas. No quirky memories of hearing an obscure singer in a weird setting. Nothing that remotely involved actually enjoying opera. Most of Gelb's talk was of brokering deals, flying all over the world to wine and dine potential stars; he only seemed to come alive when describing his visit to Zeffirelli's estate.
This business-minded approach may have little impact on the Met's artistic future—there are certainly plenty of encouraging signs when it comes to the hiring of interesting directors. It just felt a little sad to me.