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Subject: Critics and Criteria
From: George Mott <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:George Mott <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 16 Mar 1998 10:42:46 -0500
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The controversy over Robert Wilson's new production of Lohengrin raises the
eternal question of criticism and subjectivity/objectivity.  Of course the
"correct" approach could be in terms of whether the production realizes some
inhererent truth in the opera itself, whether or not it is true to the
composer's intentions etc. etc. This opens up questions of ultimate authority
in such matters (whether musicologists, dramaturgs, biographers, cultural
theorists etc.- more suitable for the academic arena. But when you realize that
two New York Times' critics can hold opposing views (as is evident today from
Mel Gussow's interview with Robert Wilson as opposed to Bernard Holland's
negative review of opening night) the question of critical standards might be
raised.

My feeling is that the critics are writing (probably unconsciously) to fulfill
the public's expectations while the audience is waiting for guidance from the
critics.  This can lead to some stultifying banality on the part of critics and
public alike: a kind of cultural gridlock.  To put it slightly differently: the
public wants the illusion of being capable of making up its own mind but in
reality wants to be told what is "good" while the critics need to appear as
arbiters, as having the ability to form exclusive, independent views but in
reality they are often trying to second guess the public.  Is this why reviews
in The
New York Times (such as the Lohengrin) can seem so equivocal?

George Mott
NYC
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