Reacting to a mini-firestorm that erupted today with the news that the Metropolitan Opera would no longer allow Opera News to review its performances, the company reversed its decision early this afternoon.
"From their postings on the internet, it is abundantly clear that opera fans would miss reading reviews about the Met in Opera News," the Met wrote in a statement. "Ultimately, the Met is here to serve the opera-loving public and has changed its decision because of the passionate response of the fans."
The trouble began with Monday's news that the Met, stung by negative press in the 76-year-old classical music publication, would no longer allow reviews for its productions in the pages of Opera News, which is published by the Met's fundraising arm, the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, told the New York Times he "never liked the idea" that Opera News' criticism was coming from "an institution that its parent is supposed to help."
Coming after Opera News negatively reviewed the Met's production of Wagner's "Ring" cycle as well as a stinging recent editorial criticizing the Met's direction, the move was another indication that the institution seems to have acquired a thin skin under Gelb, who also took New York City's classical station WXQR to task after a blogger questioned his leadership (the post was removed).
Publishing work by musicians, scholars and critics (including Richard S. Ginell, who has written for the L.A. Times), Opera News covers classical and opera around the world with a circulation of 100,000. If the publication's ban on covering the Met would have held, it would have marked a glaring gap in its coverage as well as raising significant questions about arts criticism.
In a blog post that captured what became the prevailing opinion, The Washington Post critic Philip Kennicott wrote, "The Met, as one of the most important old-guard artistic institutions in the country, would be better served by actively supporting criticism, not limiting it."