Headshot of La Cieca

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Sax change

Notorious cumblogger JJ has finally cleaned up his mess. [New York Post]

26 comments

  • Cocky Kurwenal says:

    Thank you for explaining your stance on that one, La Cieca.

    I’ve always taken the view that unless reviewing a premiere or a total obscurity, the reviewer has no real business talking about a piece. If the reader doesn’t happen to be familiar with the work, he can go and look it up. There are exceptions of course -- one can ask why such and such a version of a piece has been chosen, in cases like Don Carlo etc.

    I don’t, personally, consider Les Huguenots to be a total obscurity, although given the stance of the presenters, it would seem fair enough to address the questions they were seeking to examine. It wasn’t clear though, that the opera had been put on in that spirit, to this reader at least -- I just thought why is JJ telling us all this, when all we really want to know is who was singing and how did they do.

  • quoth the maven says:

    Cocky—I know you’re in the UK, so you can be forgiven this, but can you possibly imagine that the readers of the NY Post have any inkling of what Les Huguenots is?

  • Cocky Kurwenal says:

    Quoth @22 -- everything I know about The Post is based on the mostly disparaging remarks about the publication and its readership written by people on this site, but you speak as if JJ’s writing is aimed at the lowest common denominator, which it absolutely is not. It’s certainly always approachable, but it is also usually highly informative, and absolutely worth reading by people like us.

    At least one person has implied that The Post readership isn’t going to get the Rigoletto reference, which may be true, but La Cieca also feels a reviewer should stick to talking only about a performance in the case of works like Trovatore. Surely Rigoletto and Trovatore are interchangeable in this context. I think that in the end, most people would take the stance that the only people likely to read an opera review are those already into opera, and then the assumption of a certain level of knowledge is fair, whether they’re Post readers or not.

  • La Cieca says:

    Cocky, our JJ’s mother was an English teacher, and her philosophy was “teach for the A students and then test for the C students” — in other words, to aim high but to allow for the fact that most students are going to be incapable of understanding 100%. That kind of philosophy would apply to an arts review in a mass-circulation daily as well, I think. There should be at least some content rich enough for the cognoscenti, but the general level of the writing should not be so dense or high-flown that a casual reader would be baffled.

    The journalist today has the additional advantage that there is some back and forth possible with and among the readers through comments. So if a reference goes over a reader’s head, he can perhaps say, “I don’t get it” and receive some guidance — if he likes.

  • kashania says:

    JJ’s mother was a wise woman. To go off on a bit of a tangent, I think that same philosophy also informed the TV show, Frasier — the only mainstream TV show in the last 20 years to make regular references to the arts. No, everyone didn’t get every reference, but that wasn’t the point. One of the producers of the show was quoted as saying that he always assumed that those who understood the references would explain them to those who didn’t. It didn’t mean that the masses couldn’t find the show entertaining.

    I think it’s the same with classical music radio stations. Some stations are so desperate to attract a younger demographic that they all but abandon their regular listeners and dumb everything down. If one operates under the assumption that every member of the audience needs to understand every little detail, then one is doomed to mediocrity.

  • quoth the maven says:

    well, I think you have to strike a balance. No matter what the readership, you have to take a different approach to Huguenots review than on for Rigoletto. Yes, a Post reader who turns to JJ’s review will likely have some initial degree of interest in the subject. (The others will ignore it in favor of sports, scandal, and anti-Obama bombast.) But if JJ were to have burbled about Joan and Franco and what they did, as compared to the current singers, he would lose any readers who opened the page hoping to have their mild curiosity satisfied. (This tactic wouldn’t work for a Times reviewer either, who must assume a similarly mild level of interest on the part of the reader.)

    Another factor--reading between the lines (I was not at the performance), it seems like the singers were young, worthy, but not exemplary. In other words, not to be dissected as one would great stars. Let us assume, for instance, that the Marguerite was not a Sutherland-in-the-making. Should JJ have pointed that out? It would seem unnecessarily cruel, and beside the point of this particular production, which was mounted to give a rarely heard piece an airing. In telling the readers about the work itself, its worth, and its place in operatic history, JJ was clearly adjusting his style to the circumstances.