As I’ve mentioned before, opera has had color-blind and more or less age-blind and size-blind casting for generations: e.g., in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, the young Celtic beauty Isolde might be sung by a 50 year old 250 pounder of any ancestry as long as she can really, really sing. Wagner, in particular, wrote such demanding roles for his leading ladies that only really robust sopranos can deliver the performance without their voices giving out.
So opera has had superstar singers of various races, including black and Maori, for generations.
But that’s not good enough.
Why? Because the New York Metropolitan Opera has really deep pockets to extract from in the sacred name of Diversity. For example, the Met’s streaming channel has been showing one free opera per day for most of the last year. Tonight’s is Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The sets and costumes for most Met productions are staggeringly lavish. Similarly, minor arts that sometimes assist in the productions, such as puppetry, are at a best-in-the-U.S. level.
Next month is Black History Month, so the Met will stream Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess on February 1. (Strikingly, Porgy & Bess had been unfashionable during the Civil Rights Era for DuBose Heyward’s sociologically accurate look at violence among poor blacks: Samuel Goldwyn’s 1959 film version barely got made after much groaning from black stars like Harry Belafonte. Today, it’s considered a fine opera and a standard of the repertoire.) That pretty much exhausts the Met’s repertoire of African-American themed operas, so for the rest of the month they’ll show productions in which blacks starred, of which they have many in their archives.
But that’s not good enough. I don’t know what the Met Opera’s budget is, but it’s obviously enormous, so it’s massively attractive to the Diversity-Inclusion-Equity industry:
From the New York Times news section:
Marcia Sells has been brought on to rethink equity and inclusion at the largest performing arts institution in the United States.
By Joshua Barone
Jan. 25, 2021
Marcia Sells — a former dancer who became an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and the dean of students at Harvard Law School — has been hired as the first chief diversity officer of the Metropolitan Opera, the largest performing arts institution in the United States.
Her appointment, which the Met announced on Monday, is something of a corrective to the company’s nearly 140-year history and a response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that followed the killing of George Floyd in 2020.
Bold mine. In reality, it’s more honest to say that Mr. Floyd died in police custody while abusing the often deadly drug fentanyl.
It’s also a conscious step toward inclusivity by a major player in an industry in which some Black singers, including Leontyne Price and Jessye Norman, have found stardom, but diversity has lagged in orchestras, staff and leadership.
Since last summer, cultural institutions across the country have made changes as the Black Lives Matter movement drew scrutiny to racial inequities in virtually every corner of the arts world. The Met was no exception: The company announced plans to open next season with Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,”
Oh, boy, the composer who furnishes those depressing scores for all those terrible Spike Lee movies of the last quarter century teaming up with NY Times opinion columnist and venerable iSteve Content Generator Charles Blow!
its first opera by a Black composer, directed by James Robinson and Camille A. Brown, who will become the first Black director to lead a production on the Met’s main stage. It also named three composers of color — Valerie Coleman, Jessie Montgomery and Joel Thompson — to its commissioning program.
But to make broader changes at the Met, an institution with a long payroll and a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the Met is turning to Ms. Sells. As a member of the senior management team, she will report to Peter Gelb, the general manager. The human resources department will be brought under her direction, and her purview will be broad: the Met in its entirety, including the board.
“Sometimes horrible events like the killing of George Floyd catalyze people, and they realize this is something we need to do — at the Met and across the arts,” Ms. Sells said in an interview about her plans to make the Met a more inclusive company that values the diversity of its staff and the audiences it serves.
In other New York Times news coverage:
An inquiry’s finding that Leon Black, the billionaire boss of Apollo Global Management, paid the convicted sex offender $158 million touched off an attempt to remove him.
Black was junk bond king Michael Milken’s right-hand man at Drexel Burnham Lambert during the 1980s.
By Matthew Goldstein and Katherine Rosman
Jan. 25, 2021
The founders of Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s biggest private equity firms, engaged in a brief power struggle this weekend over control of the firm, a rift that opened up after an inquiry revealed that one founder — Apollo’s chief executive and chairman, Leon Black — had paid more than $150 million to the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
On Monday, Mr. Black announced his plan to step down as chief executive this year. …
He had also lent Mr. Epstein more than $30 million, only $10 million of which was paid back, the report found.
Mr. Black’s payments effectively bankrolled the lifestyle of Mr. Epstein — whom Mr. Black viewed as a “confirmed bachelor with eclectic tastes,” according to the report — in the years after his 2008 guilty plea in Florida to a prostitution charge involving a teenage girl.
Also, Mr. Black believed that Mr. Epstein had “served his time” for that case and deserved a second chance, the report said. It found there was no evidence that Mr. Black had participated in any of Mr. Epstein’s criminal activities, or that Mr. Epstein had ever introduced Mr. Black to any underage girl.
The details of their financial dealings — Mr. Epstein’s advice was worth perhaps $2 billion in tax savings to Mr. Black, according to the report — created friction between Mr. Black and one of Apollo’s other founders, Joshua Harris, according to three people briefed on the discussions. In recent months, Apollo investors had begun openly questioning the financial ties between Mr. Black and Mr. Epstein, who died in 2019.
Oh, yeah, Jeffrey Epstein passed away recently. He wasn’t killed like George Floyd, he just died. The circumstances of his death were really boring, I guess.
By the way, exactly what super-special tax advice did Epstein give Black that was worth $158 million?
I know a guy who knew Epstein and he says Epstein had more time on his hands than any rich guy he ever met. Epstein would pull up a chair and shoot the breeze with my source, who was a complete nobody at the time, for a half-hour. That doesn’t sound like somebody whose tax advice was worth $158 million. My impression is that if your tax advice is really worth $158 million, you have to work really hard at mastering the most arcane questions of the ever-changing tax code.