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Subject: Re: "Superficial Allegiances"
From: Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 29 Jun 2017 20:26:36 -0400

text/plain (124 lines)

Well, Mr. Innaurato, I stand corrected about Sessions' operatic analyses. But you work in 
the biz (unlike Genevieve), so it's really quite a bit different when that kind of info comes 
from you. Plus, we do essentially agree on the issues with Montezuma (which is, for the 
majority of us, the only link between opera and Sessions that we have - if even that, since 
one doesn't encounter that opera every day, lol), and I think it would be natural to take the 
leap that he was not an opera-centric man, to say the least. If he had great insights into 
Berg's operas, plus the others you mentioned, that's good to know. And yes, I also agree 
that his instrumental writing is a whole different story. 

But - please don't, in turn, lecture me on condescension or "past the pale" remarks - since 
we know that you've been prone to make many of those as well, lol. I'm not accusing, just 
pointing that out. As I recall, I believe I've even defended some of your remarks out here 
at times. Touche, mon ami. ;-)

In this particular day, where the news had been sabotaged yet again by a "man" who has 
zero control of his twitter ranting, and needlessly ugly childish, disgusting accusations are 
now, again, part of the permanent POTUS record - maybe it's time for all of us to take a 
step back and be just a little more thoughtful before hitting the "send" button - or not to 
post if there's nothing nice to say. (Of course, a well-placed zinger can sometimes be 
irresistible lol.) I love a good debate, even a heated one, but yes, they can quickly get out 
of hand. I'm sorry for my part in that. I still don't agree at all with anything Genevieve 
posted in this case, but as I already said, I don't intend to get involved with those kind of 
posts again. 


On Thu, 29 Jun 2017 14:12:43 -0500, albert innaurato <[log in to unmask]> 

>It's an admission of personal irrelevance to fight philistinism with
>philistinism. Jon Goldberg puts down Roger Sessions, a significant American
>composer. That is strange for someone who describes himself as a musician.
>I took a seminar with Mr. Sessions when I was at Yale. He was a brilliant
>man who knew infinitely more about music than anyone who contributes to
>this list. However, he had had little exposure to opera in his training. Opera
>was for idiots (with perhaps exceptions). That attitude lasted a long time
>and can still be encountered.
>John Adams is an arguably great composer who has written music of eloquence
>in his operas but in my opinion, has been badly served and in Dr. Atomic,
>which musically has a stunning first act, is sabotaged by a ghastly
>libretto. When asked tactfully about this issue, he responded, "well,
>better that than Madame Butterfly".
>He was wrong. If opera were alive for intelligent people (and Adams is
>brilliant) they'd understand that if you want to compose an opera,
>Butterfly is a good model, whether it's good in any other way or not.
>A theatrical problem for Dr, Atomic is that the story is essentially an
>internal one. It concerns the journey of the creator of the Atomic bomb to
>understanding the horrendous world destroying power he had unleashed.
>Butterfly's more trivial story is also an internal journey from an
>adolescent crush to a mature understanding of her own horrible fate.
>Keeping such a story alive is hard, making sure an audience stays in touch
>emotionally with that leading character is a challenge. Puccini and his
>gifted librettists (who he tortured) understood how to dramatize that story
>and character in a highly specialized form.
>When I worked with a small opera company here in Philadelphia, I worked
>with about twelve composers and librettists (or composers alone if they
>wrote their own texts). NONE knew anything about opera, none had taken the
>time to study particular operas that work no matter how badly they're done
>to understand that although their approaches would differ significantly
>there are ways to dramatize material so that it sings. One of these was
>Gregory Spears who has recently had a big critical success with Fellow
>Travelers. But I did the world premiere of Paul's Case and he was as lost
>in dramatizing the story and making the central character clear and
>powerful as everybody else. Perhaps he has learned in the meanwhile.
>Sessions had a bad libretto and neither he nor his librettist had any idea
>about how to dramatize their story in a theater for opera. But curiously
>when he lectured about Wozzeck and Lulu, two works that he loved, he not
>only explicated Berg's choices brilliantly but he referred with insight to
>operas of Verdi, Puccini, Mozart and Wagner as examples of either similar
>or alternative ways of approaching the issue of making an opera a powerful
>theatrical work. The other students became very restless when he went back
>in time to works they thought mostly beneath contempt. But I thought Roger
>Sessions was one of the most illuminating analysts of the difficulties of
>conceiving an opera I've ever encountered.
>It's past the pale for someone to write "I'm betting that JEFF Sessions
>probably knows more about opera ... than Roger ever did".
>A musician should have some idea of powerful work such as Sessions' 7th
>Symphony, Concerto for Orchestra, or his imposing "When Lilacs last in the
>Dooryard Bloom'd" (a wilder, more passionate and searing treatment of
>Whitman than Hindemith's impressive version).
>Condescencion of this kind strikes me as hard to defend.
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