Metropolitan Opera: Curtain Call- Joseph Clark

Classic Arts Features   Metropolitan Opera: Curtain Call- Joseph Clark
As Met technical director Joseph Clark, the man Peter Gelb calls "the greatest technical director in the world," prepares to retire at the end of this season, colleagues and friends pay tribute.

Joseph Clark has been a fixture on, above, under, and behind the Met stage for the past 30 years. As the company's technical director, he has overseen more than 130 new productions and countless revivals.


James Levine
Music Director

My most unforgettable character?!: Joe Clark: the ideal, the unique Technical Director! The Best! My indispensable collaborator for 30 years: technically and, especially, musically! I can't imagine how the Met and I will get along without him. But I know that, as always, he is right to leave when his instinct tells him (it's been 30 years, after all), and I will honor and treasure all the memories that define this amazing period in the Met's artistic/technical development: all the fun, the originality, the laughs, the challenges and impossibilities: an endless string of fascinating problems and phenomenal solutions, always fantastic empathy and boundless energy. The Joe Clark era! We will not see his like again.

Julie Taymor
Director and Designer

The Magic Flute was the most complicated show I have ever directed. Joe made it happen. He is a technical virtuoso with a tremendous capacity to keep chaos under control and give an artist the moral support he or she needs. It's not enough to say he's a man who understands the technical aspects of opera, he also loves and understands the music and needs of the narrative. Joe took all of these elements into consideration while solving each problem. He is undoubtedly the greatest technical director I have ever had the privilege to work with, and the respect he earned from his outrageously talented team and backstage army was well deserved.

Bartlett Sher

Joe has elevated the work of production into an art of its own. His gentle (did I say gentle?) but strong (I do mean strong) guidance and intelligence really distinguish the deep artistry of everything that has made the Met what it is over the past decades. In every kind of field there are geniuses, but if there were a Mozart or a Wagner, or a Rodgers and Hammerstein, of production, it would certainly be the simple, profound Joe Clark.

Otto Schenk
Director and Actor

I have never in my whole career worked with a single person who fulfilled my difficult demands in such a nice, quick, and intelligent manner. Unsolvable problems were always solved in an amicable way: miracles took a little longer.

Michael Yeargan
Set and Costume Designer

Joe combines an innate knowledge of theater, music, art, their technical aspects, and human nature to create a model for technical directors the world over. He created a position at the Met that is indefinable in its importance to the physical realization of a design.

James F. Ingalls
Lighting Designer

Working at the Met is a huge experience, made all the more rich by Joe's collaboration. It is rare to find such a colleague: a technical director who is so helpful, so involved, and who guides each production with total expertise, true caring, and great humor. He thrives on artistic and technical challenges, and gives 1,000% towards making each production as good as it can be.

Nick Doumanoff
Head of Construction

Joe's greatest strength, beyond pure intelligence, is his interest to learn every little nuance of anything he comes across in his life. He gets to the very heart of everything he encounters: from hand-hewing all of his own logs for his barn, to taking a welding class or adding to his already deep understanding of music and art. Joe has the ability to access this vast knowledge in a split second. He can be discussing musical passages with a director and on a dime switch gears to suggest a mechanical solution to something totally unrelated.

Duane Schuler
Lighting Designer

Joe is the most immediate contact that designers have to the workings of the Metropolitan Opera. He possesses an extraordinary depth of knowledge about music, design, and what it takes to get a production from concept drawings to opening night. Row M, where the designers and directors sit during rehearsals, will be a very different place without him.

Douglas Lebrecht
Chargeman Scenic Artist

Joe brings to every decision not just the basic practicality of engineering and construction but the luxury of being conversant in architecture, design, sculpture, painting, theater, d_cor, furniture, textiles, optics, languages: not to mention music. With Joe, the choice of a hinge comes informed by a knowledge of
blacksmithing, and a flower arrangement is illuminated with botanical significance: and the Latin names.

J‹rgen Flimm

Joe knows everything about opera and the arts. Whenever we met and talked, it wasn't merely about technical matters. Every time I came to New York I walked down the steep flight of stairs to his office, and then we talked about theater and opera far and wide. I always invited him to come to the Salzburg Festival. He never had time, because his heart was with the Met. Now that he's leaving: incredibly: there are no more excuses.

Ming Cho Lee
Set and Costume Designer

I had the honor of introducing Joe to the Met. At Yale, I had always thought of him as a musician, destined to be a conductor. Instead, he metamorphosed into a super technical director and production manager who brought production values at the Met to a new height.

Joseph Volpe
Former General Manager

Joe Clark was a doctoral student at Yale in 1977 when designer Ming Cho Lee recommended him to me for an internship at the Met. I quickly recognized that this brilliant young man had a vast knowledge of opera and a great instinct for the craft involved in staging it. I was technical director at the time and Joe became my indispensable right hand until my retirement as General Manager in 2006. Joe could grasp the most ambitious and occasionally outlandish vision presented by the directors and designers, balance that against the capabilities of the house and the needs of the performers, and make it work with material and manpower. He is a unique blend of historian, architect, mechanic, and general.

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