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Subject: Re: "Lohengrin": What's It Cost & Does it hurt?
From: Enzo62 <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Enzo62 <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 21 Mar 1998 20:55:53 EST
Content-Type:text/plain
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Robert T. Jones wrote:

<< Several postings have commented, with an undercurrent of outrage, on the
cost of the Met "Lohengrin."  The cost, it is alleged, is something like
$4-million.>>

The outrage is understandable.  Especially when you consider how 4 million
dollars could have secured the Met an artistically viable production.  All the
Met got for its investment was a couple of tanning salon slabs, a swan wing
and a heap of bad reviews.  Fortunately, the costumes can always be recycled
as the sort of padding used to move pianos, trunks or other heavy-duty items.

<<Well, this indeed is a whopping lot of money. But true or not, it's hardly
 anybody's business.  These kinds of productions are always funded by specific
 donations of one kind or another.>>

That may be but VIEWINGS of that production are subsidized on a continuing
basis by a paying audience--an audience that has every right to question,
challenge, scrutinize or comment on anything it wishes as it pertains to the
bill of fare.  I might also add that there are many people who support the Met
as an institution and most certainly do make it their business to familiarize
themselves with the overall functioning of a company they contribute their
hard-earned money to.

<<Those who hate this LOHENGRIN would much prefer the money had gone to
something else (insert name of your favorite opera here), but this would not
happen.>>

I'm not sure I understand what you are claiming here.  The choice of work is
not the issue.  I happen to love Lohengrin and I'd be delighted if 3 or 4
million dollars had gone into a staging that had engaged the singers in
communicating something emotionally compelling about the work.

<<The money was meant for this show, and for no other. Put another way: if you
wanted to give $100 to the Met for Verdi, you would give it for Verdi, and if
somebody said they'd changed their minds and wanted to use your money for,
let's say, Stravinsky, you might properly object and withdraw your donation.
And since it's your money, you would have that right. That's the way it
works.>>

Okay, I'm confused.  Was the money "meant" for producing Wagner or producing a
Wilson staging?  Personally speaking, I could care less if the Met spends 4
million dollars on Zar und Zimmermann or Amelia Goes to the Ball, as long as
the artistic outcome justifies the expense.  Any outrage expressed about the
cost of the Met's Lohengrin concerns the staging, not the wisdom of producing
the work itself.

<<There have been several comments about how uncomfortable the LOHENGRIN
 singers "must" be, and how muscle strain "must" be happening. Again, I don't
 see that audiences have any business worrying about such things. Performers
 are often required to do strange physical things, but nobody is holding guns
 to their heads to make them do it.>>

No, just impressarios and other fixtures of the opera industry who will
blacklist an artist for not acquiescing to the demands of the all-mighty stage
director.  Just ask any opera singer working in the past 20 years about how
often he or she has been forced to compromise their artistic integrity in
order to stay alive in a cut-throat environment.  Not every singer has the
clout of Bartoli or Alagna or any other artist who can afford the luxury of
simply walking out of an offensive production.

Furthermore, audiences have every right to worry about the welfare of the
performers if something about the staging makes them inappropriately
uncomfortable.  Andrei Serban's 1990 staging of Lucia di Lammermoor for LOC
required June Anderson to sing the mad scene while dangling from three-story
high precipices and darting about collapsing scenery.  The audience was
extremely distressed throughout this scene, as evidenced by quite audible
gasps, cries and other expressions of concern for Anderson's safety.  Under
such circumstances, no proper assessment of the artistic merit of Anderson's
performance was possible.  It was enough that she managed to make it through
the ordeal without breaking her neck.

<<Performers have been known to walk tight ropes, let themselves be fired from
cannons, toss each other from one trapeze to another without nets, and stick
their heads into the mouths of lions (only a couple of weeks ago a lion bit
down, with near-fatal results). As for more "serious" art, instrumentalists
are always damaging their hands, and singers their voices.>>

Yes, but it's one thing when the damage is self-inflicted, quite another thing
when the damaged is imposed by the very person responsible for supporting and
assisting the singer in his or her efforts.  But, then again, Wilson has made
an entire career out of treating performers with disdain, so why should one
expect a caring attitude from either him or his cheering section?

<<I suggest these people fretting about the comfort of Met singers should turn
their concerns to the ballet: you think spinning around all night in toe shoes
is good for your arch supports? Then you've never seen an x-ray of a dancer's
foot.>>

Apples and oranges, sir.  A dancer knows full well the risks to life and limb
when he or she chooses a career in this field.  A singer does not concede at
the outset of his or her career that the work ahead will necessarily mutilate
his vocal chords.

 <<No, if you want to hate the Met's LOHENGRIN, go ahead and hate it.>>

I wasn't aware I needed your permission, but thank you.  I do hate the Met's
Lohengrin.  Loathe it, in fact.  Along with all the self-serving
rationalization dished out to justify this trash.

<<But not because it costs more than you've ever imagined, or hurts more than
you've ever dreamed.>>

Yes, this would be quite unneccessary.  Particularly since there are far more
pertinent reasons for detesting the production.  When a stage director turns
the lights out on the singers's faces during an important ensemble and
illuminates nothing but their outstretched hands, signs of the Apocalpyse are
appearing.

At no point in this production is the audience allowed to forget the real
focus of the occasion:  the self-aggrandizement of Robert Wilson.  Too bad the
Met management didn't turn the lights out on the whole concept before
inflicting it on a paying audience.  Perhaps it would have been best not to
involve Wagner in narcissistic exercises like this one.  Why not just schedule
a worship session on the Met stage for the Cult of Wilson and be done with it?
They can use that ice cream parlor chair that makes an appearance during
Elsa's "Euch lueften" number for his throne.  But don't expect to see any of
the Lohengrin cast among the acolytes.

<<And it certainly did sound splendid on the radio today, didn't it?!>>

Yes, it did.  No thanks to the staging.

Enzo Bordello

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