Culture of complaint
A journalistic trope that has sprung up in the age of the Internet: a singer tells the truth about what he or she thought of a production. This is taken as immensely significant -- Samuel Ramey posting in the comments section of the Dallas Morning News review about his dislike of the Met's "Attila," or Linda Watson and John Treleaven bashing Achim Freyer’s “Ring” in the Los Angeles Times.
These comments are hugely titillating and make fun fodder for discussion. But I don’t entirely endorse them becoming stories in their own right.
It’s true that singers are important artists. They have a lot of experience; they get sick of being treated like idiots by know-nothing directors; and they can tell if someone is clueless.
(read more after the jump)
To play devil’s advocate, though: musicians are not in every case the best judges of the big picture when it comes to performance. I think of orchestra musicians deriding conductors who actually make them sound great, or praising ones whose work is eminently mediocre. Or of the reaction to two Metropolitan Opera productions that, to hear the talk when they were new, were both atrocious travesties: Robert Carsen’s “Eugene Onegin” and Robert Wilson’s “Lohengrin.” Carsen’s stage, the conventional wisdom went, was too empty and unfriendly to singers; Wilson’s stylized movement was mechanical and undramatic. The Onegin has gone on to prevail (justly) as one of the Met’s more popular productions. And the Wilson, though it wasn’t for everyone, certainly demonstrated its legitimacy as an interpretation of the opera.
There are a lot of crappy productions out there. But my hackles rise when I see blanket kneejerk condemnation applied to anything that’s new or different; and I hate to see backstage griping elevated in the press into legitimate complaint.
Though maybe it’s healthy for the field if the internet allows this kind of tabloid-like journalism to flourish. I suppose it’s better to have gossip making the rounds than to have everything received in stony silence.
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