This post is dedicated to the hard working administrators who are often confronted with issues that they know they must address and correct; and to their credit, eventually do. We artists thank you!
Before we arrive to our first day of rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera, we receive a very polite and professional letter of welcome from the Administration. This letter, among other things, makes it very clear to us that we are expected to arrive for rehearsals on time, and with our music learned in “note perfect” fashion. In other words, we are expected to be reasonably “flawless on day one”. Matters of interpretation and style, of course, are subject to nuance when we begin working with the music staff and conductor. One cannot really delve into those areas unless the music is firmly in our brains, bodies, and voices. Therefore, the “flawless on day one” expectation does not seem at all unreasonable to me. I, for one, am usually petrified with respect to my own musical acumen and therefore often over-prepare the music. I have to make everyone believe that I have sung the particular music that is before us for years and years in order to feel comfortable. This stems from my late entry into the language and study of music. I did not begin formal study until I was almost in college, with a smattering of harmony and theory in High School. I progressed to become rather accomplished on the piano, trumpet, flute, and guitar, just because I had a thirst for knowledge. While I must admit that the active playing of the aforementioned instruments has waned over the decades due to my concentration on the voice, it was nevertheless incumbent upon my sense of accomplishment to learn, and do well, all that was put in front of me.
Now we will come to the downside of such an anal-retentive personality, where everything has a place, and must be there, in order for me to be satisfied: While I am a very kind and patient man, and give every benefit of doubt to others as a matter of course; I have simply run out of patience for those who do not dispatch their duties as they promise they will. If I am expected by any organization to be “flawless on day one”, shouldn’t I expect close to the same from every department of that same organization…whether it is the MET, or Paris Opera, or the Los Angeles Philharmonic, or whomever??? The reasonable answer would be YES, wouldn’t it??
Now it will get really stupid because of the nit picky nature of my grumbling; because in the big scheme of this great and glorious world that is filled with beauty and life challenges, this complaint will sound bratty, self-serving, petty, and every other self-flagellating adjective that I can muster–but I just cannot help myself: Is it too much to ask the greatest opera house on the planet to publish the correct photo of me in the Season Book that is sold in the gift shop (with complimentary copies given to all artists on the roster)??
Five years ago I submitted a new photo to replace the very old, very outdated head-shot that was taken in the early 1990’s. Somehow the media/publicity department, despite my repeated attempts to correct the issue still seems to somehow use the old photo. Last year I was assured that this error would not happen again, but ‘voila’, same mistake again this year! The Assistant Editor of Metropolitan Opera publications finally unraveled what keeps going wrong, and has instructed his Marketing Services Director to change certain office procedures to ensure that this does not happen again to me, or any other artist.
So what’s the big deal???: Two things. We artists spend literally thousands of dollars on photo shoots and digital photo services in an effort to keep current with respect to our “look”. Opera companies and symphony orchestras demand it, our agents and management offices stress it non-stop, and our followers/fans (even though for some of us they are admittedly small in number) make a big deal out of it. The Met Season Book is a cherished keepsake for many of us who never know when, or if, we will sing again at the Met; so the publishing of outdated photos as our current representation, when newer ones are readily available, becomes a source of real angst. It makes us look out of step, out of touch, and unprofessional to use a 20 year old head-shot. Plus, this book is a collectible for others, to be sure, so accuracy is important.
Secondly, if we artists were possibly ‘cut a break’ by management for missing a rehearsal, or (God-Forbid) a performance; or were told to prepare our music better next time, and we failed to do so the following year, after promising the problem would be fixed….we would be ushered out the door in a ‘New York Minute’. Now I am not advocating that anyone be fired over an administrative screw-up that involves a photo, for goodness sakes; but I can best sum up my feelings by quoting from an the email that I wrote to Assistant Editor:
I am no star, no big name; but I am expected to do my job almost flawlessly on “day one”. Therefore, I would expect to be treated with the same basic respect as all others. I am not asking for special treatment, just better attention to this type of administrative detail from those under your authority. I was assured last year that this would not happen again…and yet it has.
Finally, I would like to truly thank the Assistant Editor for taking more immediate and long lasting steps to see that even these SMALL, but so very important, issues that we (self-centered) artists complain about are dealt with. The MET is a big place with a fast tempo of operations, so to receive such a sincere apology as I did (from a number of people in the administration) makes things a lot better. There are always really great employees in any organization; and sometimes you just have to be persistent and find them, as they are the ones who usually solve the problems permanently!
Just don’t make fun of that old picture again this year folks. I answered enough emails about it last year!!!