Sorry, No Swearing in Met's Fledermaus Broadcast

Wednesday, January 08, 2014 - 01:00 PM

Danny Burstein as Frosch in Act 3 of Johann Strauss, Jr.'s 'Die Fledermaus' Danny Burstein as Frosch in Johann Strauss, Jr.'s 'Die Fledermaus' (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

Opera fans hoping to hear the salty language in the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Die Fledermaus will have to come to the Met in person. Saturday’s broadcast will omit a four-letter word that found its way into the revised English-language libretto by Jeremy Sams and playwright Douglas Carter Beane, the company said in an e-mail on Wednesday.

The new production has received much attention for its efforts to modernize what some view as a stodgy operetta.

The passage occurs in Act III, where the character Frosch, played by Danny Burstein, says “No opera! That stuff won’t last. Nobody’s gonna pay good money to hear that ---.”

Originally, the Met had planned to warn radio audiences of the swear word as part of host Margaret Juntwait's introduction to Act Three, where it occurs. But after radio stations voiced their concerns, the Met changed course and said that the expletive will be changed to "crap."

The Met has broadcast a profanity in the past, during John Adams’s Nixon in China, and it issued a warning to listeners beforehand. That said, current Federal Communications Commission policy holds public broadcasters liable for fines and other punishments for airing profanity before 10 pm. In recent years, broadcasters have been fined for brief, accidental nudity and curse words uttered on a live awards show.

The Met series is broadcast on over 300 stations in the United States, and stations in 40 countries. WQXR will carry Die Fledermaus this Saturday at 1 pm.


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Comments [29]

Dear kayk:

With something like 'Fledermaus', the "original" is sketchy, at best. The current version, in English, has a "revised libretto."

At any rate, the word in question was (and probably is) in the current production, just not in the recent Saturday broadcast. 'Fledermaus' has probably been through so many iterations (and Frosch has probably been providing ad libs through the years) that "original" doesn't really enter into the equation.


Jan. 16 2014 12:59 AM
kayk from Morristown, NJ

Did the swear word appear in the original? I am guessing not. Apparently I am one of a small minority who never said, "That performance (opera, film, TV show, etc.) would be better if it had more profanity in it."

Jan. 14 2014 07:13 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner M

To view my critique expressed earlier regarding the January 11th broadcast of DIE FLEDERMAUS properly it may be wise to mention my background. I am an opera composer ["Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare"] and the director at the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute of Boonton, NJ. where I teach voice and train artists in all the Wagner and Shakespeare roles. One may hear my singing LIVE from the main hall, the Isaac Stern Auditorium of CARNEGIE HALL, four solo concerts by downloading, FREE, 37 out of the nearly 100 selections that I have sung there by going to RECORDED SELECTIONS on my websites, and

Jan. 13 2014 09:46 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

DIE FLEDERMAUS and ZAUBERFLOTE, operas that over many many years have been used to celebrate festive occasions with translations into the language of the country where the vernacular would be understood, especially so to enjoy the comedy values. The radio broadcast offers sufficient audio representation to make judicious critiques. In their own roles each sang well and the conducting improved as the performance continued. For the jaded opera fan, there were, perhaps, from their own experience, nostalgically remembered better sung performances. In a more serious vein, there are composers whose contribution to music is equally solid and deserving of hearings. ARNOLD SCHOENBERG was born in Vienna on September 13, 1874. Surely he deserves mention, even if this occasion, this year, marks ONLY his 140th birthday year. I will be singing the tenor music from his "DAS LIED VON DER ERDE." I am a Wagnerian romantischer heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute. I will sing the four song cycles that are most often performed in their orchestral garb: Wagner's "Wesendonck Lieder," Mahler's "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen," Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" and Schoenberg's "Gurre-Lieder" at the New Life Expo at the Hotel Pennsylvania in NYC on Saturday March 22nd at 6 PM. I have sung four three-hour-long solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall including programming the Wagner and the first named Mahler song cycle.

Jan. 13 2014 09:42 AM
LJK from Old Bridge, New Jersey

I agree, the topic herein is The Metropolitan Opera censoring to meet FCC requirements. The broadcast of hip hop I think is relevant but calling someone, anyone even a Southern Conservative a racist is unfounded, you do not know this man.

Jan. 10 2014 02:15 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

The topic here is the "censorship of one word from a pending Metropolitan Opera broadcast.
bey/ since I must be civil here and I do not usually curse nor write personal attacks, I will simply say you are quite misguided, now you speak about slave owners, please consider medication, your so called slippery slope is quickly becoming a cliff. As far as any further remarks from you it is best I don't respond and give any further credence to your rants. I will however continue to continue to pray that you find the ability to deal with people you do not agree without resorting to personal attacks and strange tangents. I believe it was Kris Kristofferson(sp) who wrote, "don't waste your time talking to people who won't listen." Enough said, to you at least.
The Metropolitan Opera has every right to alter libretto to meet specific standards of broadcast networks that carry their Opera's. While I am far from a fan of Mr. Gelb, he has the right and obligation to adhere to the law. Charles Fischbein

Jan. 10 2014 02:10 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Do not know if QXR's admonition was meant for my comments but I believe I was on topic since it was about salty language. Yes, I did launch a torpedo at Hillary Clinton. But what the hell, she is on Mount Olympus.
Sorry if I offended anyone but these comments are sent with a sense of fun.
Best wishes

Jan. 10 2014 11:47 AM

A reminder of our comments guidelines: Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief. Comments in violation of these will be removed. Thank you.

Jan. 10 2014 11:16 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Sometimes salty language can be fun. When the terrible earthquake occurred in Haiti, some nations responded by sending medical assistance. Among them the Italians with field hospitals, doctors, etc. Among all this chaos, who should arrive but the great humanitarian Hillary Clinton. Some of the media rushed to worship her. But not the Italians, one of whom remarked, What is she doing here "fra le palle". This translates to What is she doing here tangled up in our balls. Our media was upset and said that the Italians were being disrespectful. No American Media, Hillary was being disrespectful by trying to cash in on this tragedy. God I love the Italians.

Jan. 10 2014 09:01 AM

Charles Fischbein, many slave owners fathered black children and maintained relationships with blacks for years, they were still supremacists.

It's revealing that you decided to ignore my points about cursing and opera history to concentrate on the racism remark, not necessarily directed at you. Like they say, if the shoe fits, wear it.

Jan. 10 2014 07:23 AM

The broadcasters are concerned about FCC fines for a four-letter word, while the same FCC does nothing about TV violence and gore.

Jan. 09 2014 05:36 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Mr. St Onge, if I am not mistaken that was the same performance where the former Metropolitan Director, Mr. Volpe, kept a photographers camera after he took a photo of the performer (forgot name) who played Solome after she had totally disrobed during a dress rehearsal for a second before a sheet was put over her. It made quite a sir at the time. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 09 2014 03:26 PM
Robert St.Onge from Cochiti Lake,NM

Remember the HD broadcast of 'Salome' with Karita Mattila? The audience at the MET were considered adult enough to see the unveiling of the seventh veil whereas we in the HD audience were not considered "adult" enough to see what promised to be the extremely shapely breasts of Ms Mattila. Also we are talking here about the character Frosch who most likely is not the best educated person in Vienna, who most likely is on the tipsy side (it is New Year's Day after all), who just wants peace and quiet and is unable to appreciate the brilliance of Michael Fabiano. The word "shit" would naturally roll off the tongue of such a person and therefore is entirely truthful. Besides he is alone in the jail - the offending tenor being offstage - and doesn't need to worry about offending anyone! Context is all, folks.

Jan. 09 2014 02:01 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

The last bastion of the left, label anyone who you don't agree with as a racist. Forget about the fact that in 1975 I adopted, and raised and educated a black vietnamese orphan, and have a black grandchild from him. But of course Mitt Romney who also has an adopted black grandchild has been called a racist on liberal MSNBC. What a fool you are labeling someone racist whom you do know, go back to your mindless delusions., I should expect more from a cultured person, but perhaps you do not fit that category. I would assume from your responses you feel that calls for rape, beating of women, and killing of police fits the category of a "rich tradition" and high culture. It seems some people feel it is ok to be raised in and around trash, but some of us aspire to a higher moral level.
God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 09 2014 02:00 PM

Charles Fischbein you show your remarkable ignorance of both human behavior and opera history. I suggest the Time Magazine article on cursing, perhaps you'll have a less hypocritical/puritanical opinion of people who curse.

As for opera, swearing and inciting violence are not uncommon, in fact many operas in the 1830s and 1840s were banned in Italy, especially in Naples, exactly for inciting/portraying violence against the King and other officials. Poets and composers had to make extensive changes on the text and even the places where the stories took place in order to satisfy the censors. "Vil bastarda" and "meretrice" in Maria Stuarda were considered foul words and were cut, only being reinserted later. The opera was banned after the dress rehearsal.

Rap music is a rich cultural phenomenon of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Perhaps racism is the real reason behind dismissing it as "trash", but in my view there's a lot to appreciate and learn from this "trash".

Jan. 09 2014 01:32 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

A Bey Yes, it is man's deeds that make us. As the New Testament says, It is by your works that you will be known. True, some politicians have mastered deceitful speech and there are many slick people out there, but language, for most of us, still makes the man. And there are people out there who do not speak well and have a good heart and should be cherished. But when dealing with the world, a person should be able to speak clearly without the crudeness and ugliness thrown in. Too much of that.

Jan. 09 2014 01:16 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Araeth bey, you don't trust people who don't curse? That is one of the dumbest remarks I have ever heard. There are many people, both religious, atheist etc. who have set there own personal standards not to curse. There are millions of families in America who home school their children and grand children like I do with my grandchildren to shield them from the behavior so rampant in both public and many private schools.
So to say you don't trust anyone who does not curse means you do not trust many ethical people whose moral standards may be much higher than yours.
Regardless of what your religious beliefs may be it was said some 2000 years ago that a man is known not by what goes into his mouth, but what comes out of his mouth.
I may not personally always live up to the high standard of not cursing, but I most certainly look up to many men and women who would never allow a curse word to come out of their mouths.
I would hope at least you would watch your language around children, as I once got into a physical confrontation with a restaurant patron who was cursing constantly at a table near mine when I had my young children with me. The man learned his lesson very quickly when he refused to control in language and I would happily teach the same lesson under the same circumstances today.
While man may not be perfect, to condone imperfection and not try to rectify our faults is just not a moral way to live. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 09 2014 01:06 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Re thetruthfromles yes Operas many times deal with violence and death, however I know of NONE that OVERTLY incite violence and death upon public officials, and women as does the hip hop trash listened to by far too many of todays youth. Sir, these is a major difference between story telling and incitement. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 09 2014 11:58 AM

Neither language nor clothes make the man, it's his DEEDS. The best politicians have mastered the art of language but are in reality betrayers, genocidal and corrupt. Some are even great dressers.

I don't trust people who don't curse. In fact Time Magazine published a study a few years ago about the benefits of cursing and people who curse being more honest and trustworthy than those who don't.

Cursing in opera, of any language, is appropriate if the librettist has decided that it belongs and/or enhances the drama. False moralists should get over themselves.

Jan. 09 2014 11:58 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

The saying goes that "Clothes make the man". This is not true. It is LANGUAGE that makes the man. This is what I always tell my sons when they drift towards vulgarity in their speech. When our cavemen ancestors developed speech, they climbed up on the evolutionary ladder.

Jan. 09 2014 11:19 AM
The Truth from LES

So opera audiences can watch violence, rape, misogyny and other bad behavior in countless operas but a swear word somehow offends their delicate sensibilities?

Jan. 09 2014 10:17 AM
beachsiggy from NYC

Might someone please be so kind as to explain to me how "crap" is different or less objectionable than "shit"? And why either word ought to be used to describe opera IN an opera or operetta? I seem to have missed the point, but then, I also missed most of the "jokes" in the current presentation of Fledermaus. They should leave it in German, then noone can object to the language, only to the accent with which it is badly pronounced.

Jan. 09 2014 09:37 AM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Dear Bernie, Happy New Year, it is not the F bomb I care about, Lord knows I have expressed it during several cello study sessions when my fingers do not do what I wish. However it is the blatant call for rape, killing whites, and police that I have a problem with.
Music moves people to action, true, however orchestral music does not call for the killing of innocents or the rape of women. There is a major difference. There is enough violence in the ghettos of America already and I believe much of it has to do with the trash people are listen to, true art does not call for murder or rape, what goes over the air as hip hop frequently does. Go Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 09 2014 08:49 AM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

PS to Mr. Dunmar in Canada. You live in a country that inhibits free speech, we do not. According to the Criminal Code of Canada, it is forbidden to post
"hate speech" on the internet, or to focus hate speech on a minority, (black Muslim, Gay etc) here in America while it might not be politically correct our Constitution, which you may not have studied allows for freedom of speech so long as it does not directly call for physical harm against an individual. We do have civil rights laws but are free to express our opinions here. I do not know if you post calls people "idiots" would pass muster in Canada, but I am forwarding it to the authorities in Ontario with you name of course attached. If you get a knock on your door you may want to move to the United States. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 09 2014 08:41 AM
Bernie from UWS

Here's where I differ from my good friend Mr. Fishbein. Hip-hop can be an honest expression of the socio-economic circumstances of urban life - a life that includes vulgarity and beauty and truth. The finest rappers exude an expression that Mozart or Beethoven would have felt sympathy. It's a raw expression like the late Beethoven quartets or perhaps Mahler's 6th Symphony.

As for profanity, no one has ever been harmed by language. I don't advocate everyone speak like a drunken sailor, but there's no harm in an S-bomb or F-bomb once in a while.

Jan. 09 2014 08:29 AM
john dunbar from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

There are few things that reveal the weakness of the human intellect than idiots who object to certain words as `profanity'. Nothing could be less important that objecting to what people say unless those objections contain some kind of intellectual claim. Words that some intellectual pigmies cite as such are just words that enrich the language and extend the human capacity for expression. The real people in the world should insist that the Constitutional guarantees on freedom of speech are rigidly enforced leaving the small minded idiots to plug their ears.

Jan. 09 2014 07:57 AM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Mr. Rothenberg, God Bless You for noting all the trash that the FCC allows on the air.. The profanities our youth are exposed to in todays Rap (i will not call it music because it is not) is very sad. Playing this trash over airwaves that the FCC says are for "the public interest" shows the sorry state of some communities that support and listen to the radio stations that broadcast this repulsive junk 24/7. I am not in favor of censorship, however when words broadcast over public regulated airwaves encourage shooting police officers and the rape of women it is going too far. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Jan. 08 2014 04:07 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Well said Mr. Rothenberg. The violence expressed in rap music is OK according to the FCC.

Jan. 08 2014 04:05 PM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

It is fortunate that we are being protected from the deleterious effects of hearing the English translation of "Dreck" and "Merde".Fortunately,that word,along with other objectionable four letter words and racial epithets,is never permitted to assault our delicate ears in virtually every rap video,and every medium.

Jan. 08 2014 03:44 PM

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