WFIU cancels Met Opera live broadcasts on Saturday – Peter Jacobi comments in Sunday HT

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music beat

Alarm, disappointment over loss of radio opera

By Peter Jacobi Special to The H-T
June 30, 2013
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In this 2011 photo, Luca Pisaroni performs as Caliban during the final dress rehearsal of “The Enchanted Island,” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. WFIU, Bloomington’s public radio station, has announced it will no longer broadcast Met performances Saturday afternoons. Associated Press

If you listened to yesterday afternoon’s performance on WFIU of Verdi’s “Rigoletto” from Lyric Opera of Chicago, be aware that it may well have been your last opportunity to hear such music, full length, via radio in Bloomington. Station management, without appropriate prior notice, decided to remove those Saturday afternoon performances from the schedule.

That means, my friends, no broadcasts from the Lyric, from Los Angeles, from Houston, and, yes, from the Met. A historic tradition is to be taken from us: this in a community that celebrates music and the arts, this by part of a university that specializes in music and the arts.

A troubling development it is. And it comes as a surprise not only to you, the loyal listeners, but to those of us on the WFIU Community Advisory Board, a body formed some years back after WFIU management created a ruckus by attempting to severely alter the musical face of the station. The ensuing debate led to formation of the board, consisting of 20-or-so devoted-to-the-station area residents called upon with regularity not to make policy decisions, of course, but to counsel management before dramatic decisions are made.

The current decision to remove the Met and other opera companies from Saturday afternoon (and to get rid of “Pipedreams” and “Hearts of Space,” too) was made without such prior consultation. We were simply told, via an email attachment, that, come July 1, there would be significant changes in the station’s weekend schedule.

The message, signed by Station Management Director Will Murphy, ended with these words: “I welcome your comments and feedback, and have no doubt we’ll have a lively discussion!”

That “lively discussion” has started via emails. It will continue tomorrow afternoon at 4, face to face, when the advisory folks gather for a quarterly meeting with Mr. Murphy. By law, I believe, it’s an open meeting, so be my guest. But recognize that a “lively discussion” following a decision already put into force is not the same as one before. And that’s worrisome.

Now, I know not all of you who read this column are opera buffs, and certainly not all who listen to WFIU are. But I trust all of you recognize that opera has been a significant part of the WFIU schedule, just as jazz, just as symphony and chamber music programs, just as news, just as talk. I argue it should continue to be and believe a two-hour Sunday evening replacement package titled “World of Opera” will not properly compensate for removed full-length performances.

This shouldn’t be happening in Bloomington, of all places. Make yourself heard, I urge you. A bunch of additional blab shows to fill the Saturday opera slot, in my view, betrays what WFIU is all about as a well-rounded community music service.

I’m flabbergasted by the way management has instituted the change. I’m disappointed by what I consider an unwise move. I’m sad to lose an availability that has been mine for much of a long life, mine everywhere I lived, even when residing in Junction City, Kansas, would you believe, while serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Riley. In Junction City! It’s in Bloomington that I now may lose contact with the Met and more.

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