Saturday, October 01, 2011

Anne Midgette vs Placido Domingo

Though I used to live in DC, I hadn't been paying any attention to Anne Midgette, music critic for the Washington Post, until I clicked to "like" her on Facebook.  Facebook is a great way to get into all kinds of trouble.

I guess there is a long-standing quarrel between her and Domingo.  The latest exchange began with Midgette's review of the current Tosca at the Washington National Opera.  She said:

"All the performances were hampered, indeed sabotaged, by the conducting. Placido Domingo, appearing for the first time since stepping down as general director, is a wonderful singer. But rather than supporting the singers, his conducting either drowned them out or tripped them up. He got warm applause, but I’m not sure his presence sells enough tickets to make up for spoiling the evening. Surely there are other ways to include him in WNO’s future."

I admit that letting the orchestra play really really loudly is one of my peeves, too.  This is the worst I have read about Domingo's conducting, which is generally described as uninteresting rather than just plain bad. 

Well.  Domingo responded with this letter to the editor:

"In more than 50 years of my career as a singer and nearly 40 as a conductor, I have accepted critics’ reviews, positive or negative, for what they are: personal opinions and points of view. But for the first time in my life, I am sending a letter to the editor of a newspaper, because your music critic Anne Midgette has crossed the line between reasonably objective criticism and what appears to be open animosity.

"I believe that during my 15 years with Washington National Opera, my colleagues have been able to observe my integrity as an artist and my love of and consideration toward all of them.

"Midgette’s statement that my conducting actually “sabotaged” WNO’s recent performances of Puccini’s “Tosca” is offensive and defamatory.  An act of sabotage is a destructive act done on purpose. Her remark suggests not only that I “spoiled” the performances but that I did so intentionally. This is unconscionable."

My goodness.  Or maybe Holy Shit! I wasn't there so I don't know what particular things she is criticizing.  I have the film of Die Fledermaus with Kiri Te Kanawa where he is conducting, and I like it a lot.

Midgette also criticizes the part-time nature of his management of the WNO here.

But let's get back to the conducting issue.  She rebuts his letter in another column here.  In her own defense she points out that he was booed at the Met for inattentiveness to his soprano, Anna Netrebko, when she slowed the tempo in her aria.  Opera conductors do like to maintain the fiction that the singers are supposed to be following them, but the audience at the Met was not fooled.

This is very interesting.  I admit that I have often wondered about Domingo's multi-faceted career.  Because he is Placido Domingo, voted by BBC Magazine as the greatest tenor of all time (see here), he seems to get to do whatever he wants and resents it that others might want him to prove his qualifications first.

He can't be regarded as a flop as an Intendant, but he's clearly not in a category with David Gockley.  I've always wondered if it wasn't possibly Mrs. Domingo who was actually running these companies.

This is all very interesting.


John Marcher said...

It is interesting- and now that you bring attention to the "intent" behind an act of sabotage I have to say that Midgette should have chosen her words with more care.

Dr.B said...

It might be possible to imagine unintended sabotage, I guess. Naive sabotage perhaps. She was trying to express something dire.

Think how much better a job the writer at the New York Sun has done by simply saying the audience booed and then describing what had caused this. A specific example, I think, is always better than epithets.