Friday, November 9, 2007

Whose Opera Is It, Anyway?

As he rode the elevator from the fifth floor down to sub-basement A, Erich von Blindt’s jaws were tightly clenched. This whole business about Supertitles made him sick to his stomach. The Maestro resented the way his musical authority was constantly being undermined by one financial crisis after another and was in hearty agreement with his predecessor that audiences should do their homework before coming to the opera.

In some ways, it seemed as if a conspiracy existed to divert people’s attention further and further away from the man who was at the helm of any operatic performance: the conductor. What was the point of those silly titles, anyway? When audiences tired of watching the ridiculously overblown spectacles the Met’s directors and designers put on the stage, were they supposed to read those stupid translations as if they were watching a foreign film?

Not if Erich von Blindt had anything to say about it! As far as he was concerned, the Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera was one of the few people in the world who could still insist that administrators show some respect for the composer. After all, the composer was supposed to be the most important force in an opera. And after that -- just in case anyone even cared anymore -- the conductor.

Without the conductor, reasoned von Blindt, there would be no control over the orchestra and singers. Even if the Met had been taken to task for its hard line on functioning as an operatic museum, wasn’t it a museum’s mission to preserve the past without succumbing to the pressures of present day fads?

As far as von Blindt was concerned, the Met’s Music Director was the equivalent of a great museum’s curator. All this talk of hiring singers for their marketability was absolute nonsense. What would happen to the Tate Gallery, the Prado, or the Louvre if their curators were instructed to start acquiring what Americans called "sofa-sized art" ? The public would bomb the museums!

As soon as the doors opened, von Blindt stormed out of the elevator, nearly knocking a coffee cup out of Wayne DiStefano’s hands.

Next: Great Ghosts From The Past

No comments: