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Subject: Re: "Lohengrin": What's It Cost & Does it hurt?
From: Bob Rideout <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Sat, 21 Mar 1998 21:50:10 -0500
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Hello everybody -

I've chosen to respond to Enzo's post because he is one, at least, with whom one
can have dialogue and not feel singed.  I was at the performance today, and to
 the
surprise of nobody, absolutely loved it.  Four Million is not a high price for
such an enormously successful project.  The number of people who experience a
catharsis is not as important  as the intentisty of that experience.  Opera is
 not
any one thing, it is above all what you bring to it in the context of that which
is being offered.  It is always a two way  street, and I found myself completely
mesmerized with the production, with some caveates, which I will talk about
tomorrow or Monday when my head clears from the exquisite visual images that I
 saw
at the Met this afternoon.  Suffice it to say for tonight that at the end of the
prelude to act 1, I had goosepumps from the sheer imagery of the colors that set
the mood for that which was to come.  It wasn't perfect but it was not too far
off.  I'll have more to say later.  One word before I sing off, Polaski knew to
make it work, she was brilliant, no, sensational visually.  If she could do it,
then maybe it is the limitations of the singers and not the expecations of the
production that are the problems.  More later!

And a lot more on Cerquetti later, since she has again come up, one of my
 favorite
subjects.

Enzo62 wrote: Robert T. Jones wrotde:

> << 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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