Cher Public

a choice, not an echo

La Cieca is warning you she’s going to get meta for a while here, so if it’s opera (or even hunks) you’re interested in, you might want to skim or just skip this posting altogether. Anyway, your doyenne has noticed lately on another blog or two where she is a commenter a phenomenon she is not entirely comfortable with, a kind of bullying behavior that tends to quash minority opinion. This is different from the so-called “echo chamber” effect, the complaint that all the blogs tend to report the same story at the same time in more or less the same manner and attitude, but La Cieca does think that word “echo” is applicable to the problem she is trying to describe. 

To go into a little more detail without turning utter whiner, La Cieca engaged in some commentary conversation over the past weekend on the subject of the media coverage of John Edwards‘ admission of adultery. Basically there were two tiers of discussion. One, which La Cieca found not particularly interesting, was on the morality of Edwards himself, with side trips into the psyches of the ladies involved. The other, which your doyenne rather warmed up to, examined what media’s role should be when this sort of story breaks, e.g., were mainstream and traditional media too slow to delve into the story, what is the relevance of a public figure’s private misbehavior to political discourse, and the broader question of whether this story, however factual, could be called news in the classical sense.

So anyway, all this palaver is taking place on a blog about the media, so you would think (or you might think were you as naïve as La Cieca) that the meat of the discussion would be the media’s role. This was not the case; unfortunately the discussion degraded very quickly into an emotion-drenched parody of what we used to call sexual politics. To put it another way, it was, roughly speaking, the boys against the girls, with the boys saying, “so what’s the big fucking deal” and the girls saying “I am going to tear off John Edwards’ balls with my bare teeth.”

Now, this is where the echo effect comes in. The thread grew into hundreds of comments, but the discussion basically just became a series of variations on “you go, girl,” and any disagreement was immediately dismissed as an endorsement of date-rape.

So why am I telling you this sad story, cher public, especially at such great length? Well, La Cieca is actually quite proud of the fact that the “echo” effect does not prevail here at, or at least that’s her impression. There’s a lot of back and forth, but, so far as your doyenne can tell, there’s little sense of minority opinion being quashed. Is La Cieca right about this, i.e., that the discussions on are reasonably untrammelled, or are there in fact some of you cher public who feel you have been taunted or bullied into silence? Is there anything La Cieca can do to make the discussion here more welcoming without losing the edge of passion that so enlivens the comment pages?

And with that, La Cieca will begin anew her search for controversial operatic topics.

  • Well, I was lured again by the debate about Bella Katya, and here I find the same old thing about British/Commonwealth singers going on again.

    I went because mine eyes were opened to the nature of messageboardery, ie that you will be enjoying a good chat with intelligent folk like Cocky Kurwenal and along come the trolls. It wastes too much energy, trying to fight all this.

    But so long as you realised that these things are school playgrounds, and don’t mind the bullies, fine. No point in trying to moderate them, La Cieca.

    Nice, fair points about Ann Murray above, tho’ (the truth is usually in the middle)

  • rd

    I agree Ann Murray’s voice was not extraordinary, but it was very good and, in her good days, also beautiful. She was also a particularly sensitive artist -- I find her Schubert disc on the Hyperion complete edition especially fine, for example. As I had never seen her live before that Met Marcellina, I was glad to see her. She was just ok -- but I agree that she “earned” the right to sing the occasional small role. The fact that she is British, Irish, Martian -- I find all that incredibly irrelevant.

  • Thackeray Gnomey

    Krunoslav’s judgements on Murray’s vocal quality are astute -- especially about the ‘short’ soprano, the edginess and the more sympathetic quality at lower volumes. I once saw her as Cenerentola in Salzburg and the voice just wasn’t right for it.
    She is certainly always intelligent and conscientious -- and, in my view, more interesting than her frequent singing companion Dame Felicity, but I don’t want to get further off-thread.

  • pushedupmezzo

    Dare I say it, there are many more true mezzos (and loads of British ones -- especially the fabulous Frances McCafferty) who can act and sing this part a good deal better than the Irish dame. How about Jane Eaglen or Jessye giving it a go? And having seen Gwyneth Jones’ Queen of Hearts in the Munich Alice, I’d subsidise her fee myself to watch her tackle it.
    Beginning to understand Janet Baker’s reluctance to sing opera outside UK.
    Please let’s keep opera international otherwise we go the way of Opera Australia over-parting most of their homegrown singers.

  • armerjacquino

    I’m late to the party on this one- I’ve been away from my computer for a few days. On the subject of Murray, I can see Krunoslav’s point of view- there are doubtless a slew of mezzos all over America who could give a Marcellina more than worthy of the Met, and he has proved himself better informed than I will ever be about the less-than-first-rank British singers who find themselves playing middle-rank parts in US opera houses. I have never heard of some of the singers he mentions, and here I am in London, so there may be something rum going on.

    On the other hand, and as others have eloquently said, opera is an international art form. When I go to the Garden and read the cast list, my first reaction about a Karolka or a Lola or a Barbarina is not to wonder what her nationality is; I’ll wait and see if she can sing or not, and if she can, she’s worthy of the hire. I don’t give a stuff where a singer comes from, and that applies whether he or she is native or not. I certainly don’t think that Covent Garden (by the way, the only major international opera house on this small island, set against the Met, Chicago, Houston, LA, and San Fran at the very LEAST in the much bigger US) has a responsibility positively to discriminate in favour of Brits. If an up-and-coming American singer, without much of a CV, is cast as Lola at the Garden, then so much the better- her career will develop if she’s any good and will dwindle if she isn’t. All the Susannah Glanville furore is germane here. Yes, she got the Met gig, but she couldn’t cut it. I don’t see how her failure reduces the opportunities of an American singer who is good enough to grab that opportunity with both hands.

    And, since I can’t resist, a couple of little factoids. Number 1- Britain does not equal Commonwealth does not equal mainland Europe. Often in this old, old conversation they are treated as if they were the same.

    And Number 2- Ann Murray is a Kammersangerin of the Bavarian State Opera. She became a global artist because of her work with Muti in Salzburg and La Scala, and because of her work on stage and on record with Harnoncourt, none of which happened in Britain, or her NATIVE Irealnd. Her career was made neither at Covent Garden, nor when she subbed in at the Met (and in fact, to judge her career on her NYC work is insular in the extreme, sub for Tatiana or otherwise). Both CG and the Met are lucky to have her as Marcellina.