"I was bankrupt," said director Robert Wilson, "I had no money, I said...'let's go for it!'"
Wilson described his thought process when the Met "allowed" him to rent the hall on a Sunday at triple-time wages, and to present at his own expense the opera he had developed with Philip Glass called "Einstein on the Beach" in 1975.
Today I am still thinking about an article in which Anne Midgette interviewed Peter Gelb about commissioning new operas. "Well, a lot of these composers are very busy," said Gelb, "and they’re also doing a lot of other projects. And our project is somewhat, in some of their minds perhaps, less definite because they know they have to go through various creative gates to get to the end result." This sounded familiar. Listen to the way Wilson described his process at [2:45]:
How did he get "Einstein" to the Met? As a "special event." And he paid. The concern expressed by the Met was that an opera like this wouldn't be for "their audience."
Gelb has taken strides toward making opera at the Met available to new audiences. The live broadcasts into movie theaters worldwide, as an example, is innovative thinking.
Midgette's article exposes the sad reality that the "commissioning program" seems to be on a back burner. Gelb says, "I have my hands full trying to run this place."
Wilson humanized his experience at [7:06]. "This is very impressive," said Wilson's father to him, "you must be making a lot of money."
"No dad," replied Wilson, "I'm not. You know I produced this work. It cost a million dollars to produce it. I raised $850,000, I'm $150,000 in debt."
"A hundred-and-fifty thousand dollars in debt?"
"Yes sir, I am."
"Son, I didn't know you were smart enough to lose a hundred-and-fifty thousand dollars!"
The Met needs to be smarter.