The unhealthy opera climate in the Netherlands

In the Dutch opera climate, The Dutch National Opera counteracts critical opera sites as much as possible and has little interest in independent journalism. An unhealthy situation. As Winston Churchill said:  Men Occasionally Stumble Over the Truth, But They Pick Themselves Up and Hurry Off.”

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In its day, the Dutch opera site Place de l’Opera was a great initiative. The site presents itself as “Independent Magazine for Opera Lovers”, and combines this independence with advertisements for the “Edesche Concert Hall” (“Bert van den Brink – Christmas hits on request”) and a page with advertisements for daily outings for the entire family (“Clambin and cannon shooting in KidZcity”)

Place de l’Opera has developed over the years into an attractive-looking website, containing highly relevant information for opera lovers. The magazine was somewhat dull (and sometimes soporific), but this was more than compensated by the “comments section”, where readers could share interesting information and have sometimes heated discussions with each other.

Suddenly, and with a painful lack of solid substantiation, the comments section was scrapped. Readers were outraged. The suspicion was expressed that a journalistic concession was being made to a powerful Dutch opera institute, the Dutch National Opera, which is notorious for its inability to deal with criticism. The editor in chief silenced his readers, wrapped himself in all sorts of sophism-like twists and turns to justify his mistake, which all made it even more painful. A historical faux pas.

In the meantime, a site that is 100% independent was robbed of its press facilities by that same powerful opera institute, as had happened before with the site Opera Nederland. that was also  placed on the penalty bench by The Dutch National Opera, DNO. Both media, Opera Gazet and Opera Nederland, wrote in a way the DNO Opera Presidium didn’t like, and then DNO took its measures…

Since Place de l’Opera deleted the “indecent” reader comments and stayed in line, so it had nothing to fear from DNO, also known as “Kremlin on (the Amsteram river) Amstel”…

For the opening performance of DNO’s 2019-2020 season, Opera Gazet was unable to attend. We made a collegial agreement with one of Place de l’Opera editors to write a guest review. His ticket was paid for, a finely tuned, solid agreement. That is to say, we, at Opera Gazet, thought so. As soon as everything was ready for publication, the reviewer in question reported “that he was giving up anyway”. During the visit to The Amsterdam Music Theatre and the inescapable encounters that followed, something or someone must have made the spineless journo decide to wipe his ass with our agreement. Pardon my French.

The arm of the mighty opera institute seems to reach even further. Place de l’Opera organises an Opera of the Year election every year. Opera Gazet was also asked to make a list, a request we were happy to comply with for collegial reasons. But as soon as Opera Gazet was at odds with DNO, this invitation was declined. Politely asked for the reasons, we received an arrogant note back.

Is this deadly serious? No, of course not. But the pattern unfolding at the largest opera website in the Netherlands is questionable.  And the long arm of The Dutch National Opera has not only wiped out traditional audiences, but also takes up an unprecedented position of repression and authoritarianism amidst European opera houses.

Olivier Keegel

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Olivier Keegel


Chief Editor since 2019. Does not need much more than Verdi, Bellini and Donizetti. Wishes to resuscitate Tito Schipa and Fritz Wunderlich. Certified unmasker of directors' humbug.

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John Lok
John Lok
1 year ago

Having been a paid opera reviewer for fifteen years I threw it in when the local opera smashed my toy by “enhancing the sound” (i.e. miking). Also. although I thought some of my colleagues were frauds, for a few years I had felt I too was an imposter and had no right to review others. Decades later I put myself forward to review for an online magazine. It was impossible to please my editor because the companies seemed to have a right to read the copy. As long as I liked a show, and so praised it, everything went well.… Read more »