Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Professional critics are given materials to help them write their reviews. I know this because for a very brief time I was one. You also get a free seat in a nice part of the house, with excellent sight lines.

The professional critics writing about Semele all knew that it was done as Marilyn-Jack-Jackie and had time to notice that the people littering the stage were secret service agents. Now what could those people tell? Opera as celebrity gossip! We ordinary people had to figure it out ourselves. I'm old enough to recognize the scene from Seven Year Itch, though it took me a while to remember which movie it was. Sieglinde thought she might be Christina Aguilera.

The point is what the critics are writing may be one part opinion and one large part propaganda. I think the music has to make its point in the opera house or concert hall and not in the propaganda materials. I don't care how complicated your compositional methods are; I only care if it works when I hear it.

I attended Peter Sellars' lecture before Doctor Atomic where he enthusiastically raved over what a great opera it is and what a great production he had invented. I don't care if the opera sells when you're talking about it. I don't care if part of it came from John Donne. I only care if it plays while I'm watching it. Do the characters matter? Does the drama draw me in? Or is it all BS?

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