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Subject: How much do opera managers matter?
From: James Camner <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:James Camner <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 6 Sep 2017 10:32:44 -0700
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The news is so relentlessly grim these days what with weekly "1000 year
storms", apocalyptic fires, and the bellicose threats from NK, not to
mention the dreaded daily tweets, that I was relieved to find this story in
the New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/05/arts/music/oliver-mears-director-royal-opera-london.html?_r=0

The article is funny, if unintentionally so.

The usual declarations: "Programming aside, Mr. Mears seemed determined to
press ahead with his vision for the company: broadening audiences and
making opera more accessible to more people."

This was probably the screamer in the article: "....the Royal Opera House,
in its current form, was born around the same time as the National Health
Service, Britain’s universal health care system. “That to me is very
significant: It means that we have a very strong social responsibility to
all of the citizens of the U.K. to ensure that they at some level have
access to what we do,” he said."

What can you say about that except that the only thing the Royal Opera and
the National Health service have in common is a need to treat geriatrics...

And how about this: "The new season — put together by Mr. Holten and
welcomed by the London critics — features the world premiere of a “La
Bohème” by the British director Richard Jones."

Richard Jones. Funny, I thought La Boheme was by Puccini and that it had
already had a world premiere...

That of course is the problem, Puccini has been dead a long time and no one
has replaced him, not even come close. Italian opera composing is as dead
as a door nail and when he died, the traditional art form died with him.

But back to Mr. Mears who is making his "leap" from Opera North. How many
people know who the opera managers were who actually mattered? No I don't
mean Rudolf Bing or even Gatti-Casazza (though he did matter for real), I
mean once giant names like Benjamin Lumley, Domenico Barbaja, Leon
Pillet, Pedro
Gailhard, or Pierre Francois Laporte whose career as a stage comic and
embattled, but undeniably titanic manager is the stuff of legend:
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Dictionary_of_Music_and_Musicians/Laporte,_Pierre

But their names are totally obscure today while we do remember the folks
they worked with like Bellini and Weber and Donizetti and Meyerbeer, and
Verdi, (as well as the stars like Malibran, Pasta, Lind, Rubini, Grisi,
Tietjens, Tamburini -of the once famous riot, Lablache) the names that
really matter and the names that have no successors in opera today, though
we do still have those managers and now those pesky stage directors who
want to make operas written hundreds of years ago "cutting edge".

There isn't much humor in the news these days, but at least we'll always
have the New York Times classical music columns (or will we?)


James Camner
[log in to unmask]

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