The Metropolitan Opera agreed to tone down indecent language in its Jan. 11 broadcast after radio station leaders warned that they would not risk airing a performance that would violate FCC standards.
Met staffers informed stations in a Jan. 7 email that Saturday’s broadcast of Die Fledermaus would contain profanity. An off-stage tenor, singing in his jail cell, would prompt a jailer to answer, “No opera! That stuff won’t last. Nobody’s gonna pay good money to hear that shit!” The Met planned to advise listeners of the strong language in an announcement at the start of the act.
Alan Chartock, president of WAMC in Albany, N.Y., complained to Met staffers, letting them know that he would not air the program if the profanity remained. He had been “infuriated” when a previous season’s performance of Nixon in China also featured swearing, that time with no warning, he told Current.
“This time, we got an advisory, which in fact made it worse,” he said. “If we were going to be held to FCC standards, we wouldn’t have an excuse — we had been told.”
Colleagues at other stations told Chartock that they wouldn’t air Die Fledermaus either. The next day, the Met informed stations that it would replace the offending word with “crap.”
Read some of the Met’s emails on the opera blog Parterre Box.