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High Art Tyranny

I’m not an opera buff, but as a nerdy arts blogger, the New York Metropolitan Opera should be ashamed of bullying an opera blogger who reported on possible upcoming productions into shutting down his site and giving him some CDs in return. Per the New York Observer:

Since 1996 Brad Wilber, a reference librarian and crossword puzzle enthusiast, has published Met Futures, an online list of repertory and casting for upcoming seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. Drawing on information in the public domain and tips from sources, it’s a valuable, dependable, much-loved resource, providing a wide-angle view of the Met’s artistic direction and singers’ choices. […] He received a phone call from Sharon Grubin, the company’s general counsel, who asked Mr. Wilber to take down Met Futures. […] “She said their uppermost reason was that the site contains errors,” he said in a phone interview last week from his office at Houghton College, a small liberal arts school about 60 miles southeast of Buffalo, “and those errors, whatever percentage, create mistaken expectations on the part of the public, even with my disclaimer. And that it also sometimes muddied negotiations with artists. They said that that created difficulty for them.”

Others would disagree with the Met’s assessment of the list’s accuracy. “The accuracy of Brad’s site was quite spectacular one to two seasons in advance,” said James Jorden, the publisher of the opera gossip and discussion blog Parterre.com. “For example, six months before the Met announced their 2011–12 season in February 2011, Brad had the entire repertory and all major casting in place and, as it turned out, it was 100% correct.”

There is no legal justification for this: folks publish casting and production rumors based on reporting all the time and there’s nothing libelous or deceptive about it. And no artistic institution has a right not to be blogged about. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes opera and other high art forms seem elitist and distant from the people who love the work, much less the people who are trying to find their way in. Brad Wilber was just trying to get other people excited about opera, and says he plans to keep going to show his support for the institution that’s bullying him. The Met should be apologize to him — and maybe offer him free season tickets as thanks for his work promoting their art and bringing it to new audiences.

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