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Subject: NY Times Article: New York v. Paris?
From: Frank Cadenhead <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Frank Cadenhead <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 20 Feb 2018 04:16:21 -0500
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https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/arts/music/paris-opera-young-
audiences.html

I have to wonder if this article was commissioned by people who are unsatisfied 
with Gelb’s recent surrender to conservative elements.  Not much in this article is 
new and European audiences have been growing younger. In Paris, Lissner’s 
approach to opera is not much different that his predecessor’s and the repertory is 
still mostly standard. Paris has slowly followed the theatrical revolution elsewhere 
in Europe and their programs to get youth in the doors and present less stogy 
productions has been gradually expanded. Lyon, for contrast, is way ahead of Paris 
in developing new audiences for ballet and opera. 

Young audiences have no built-in wall to experimentation. “You have to be carefully 
taught” that. And the distance between European audiences and American 
audiences was never more aptly illustrated by their reaction to Luc Bondy’s Tosca. 
Instead of the warm, syrupy love story with tourist scenery, the audience 
discovered a harsh reality show with a gross pleasure-loving boss sexually 
harassing the star because he can grab her crotch any time he wants to. The 
doomed painter, fighting for universal freedom and economic justice in an unjust 
world ruled by the .01 percent, is the person the conflicted Tosca turns to, listening 
to her soul and decisively abandoning fame and fortune. Yet the American 
audience (not the later European audiences) missed their cliche-filled comfort toy. 

Opera is related to your life. It always has been but you wouldn’t know it from 
banal, pompous discussion groups whose leaders are those that can still remember 
Corelli. There was a distant hope in Tosca: in “Vittoria!” you see the hope for 
justice in the coming world. Well, Napoleon did not deliver as originally promised 
but he did give traditional monarchy an upset stomach. But it was a hope of a new 
beginning. 

An opera about a school massacre? Even one that led to a revolution? “We’re the 
kids, you’re the adults! You’re supposed to do something!” could be a chorus in 
new opera about the historic revolution (that failed) in America as the moneyed 
classes tightened their hold on the masses. Just watched Noam Chomsky’s 
“Requiem for the American Dream” on Netflix. The 50’s and 60’s were an 
enormously promising time for America but the way the ruling classes have shut 
down “sharing wealth” since Reagan and have controlled their populace is a 
revealing story. The fact that military grade weapons are available at the corner 
store, contrary to the majority opinion of the populace, is only a crude example of 
the direct control the new aristocrats have over public opinion and the political 
process. 

There will be a march on Washington by the kids and maybe someone will sing 
“Vittoria!” but it will soon be over and nothing will change. Six of ten in a recent 
poll want access to marijuana. The public might get that. But “your 
representatives” (as they are called) cannot do more. The recent tax law is only 
one goalpost for the ruling classes. There will be more. 

Frank Cadenhead

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