Headshot of La Cieca

Cher Public

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Web slinger

web_slinger_bugleOkay, Justin Davidson, it’s on. 

This Carmen gives hope. Opera, like most of its heroines, is constantly on the verge of expiring. On the Web, an orchestra of mournful aficionados clangs on and on about sickened stars, wan productions, dinky tenors, and ignorant impresarios. The Met attracts especially overwrought laments and even Gelb sometimes worries aloud that all his efforts at rejuvenating the form are needed to keep opera from becoming decrepit. But then 8:07 p.m. strikes, 4,000 audience members adjust their haunches in the Met’s red velvet seats, the chandeliers ascend to their showtime stations near the ceiling, and the music bucks like a bull out of the gate. If this is death, it sure comes dressed in rude and lusty glamour.

La Cieca may be mournful; she may even be overwrought, but she ain’t dumb.  At the very least she can figure out what Davidson means here by “the Web,” — i.e., “all those non-print nonentities.”

And if there is one last gay nerve in La Cieca’s body, the best way to get on it is to haul out the canard about how it’s the fans who are ruining opera for all the normal people.

32 comments

  • mrsjohnclaggart says:

    To follow up with some generalizations: Davidson has a master’s in composition from Columbia, so he is not ignorant about music. That he may not be terribly knowledgeable about opera or care much for it as a form is something else. I’m not defending what he wrote, but he is no dumber than Alex Ross and musically is better educated.

    John Simon who a certain person knows very well, is not gay. He has been married twice, first, annulled by rich papa, second, enduring with eruptions. Many, many well documented affairs with women, some beautiful and a few famous. He is not a ‘classical’ homophobe. A certain person would say he is in life rather homophile, with many gay friends, most not closeted and some political. He has endorsed openly gay writers, and did so when the New York Times and many other outlets branded all such as fags and either would not review them or panned them.

    It is not for me to interpret or defend John Simon’s aesthetic stances; but he has been more interested in art than political correctness and he has refused sometimes rather bravely and always consistently to praise art works just because a currently trendy label could be attached to them — ‘feminist’, ‘gay’, ‘left’ or for that matter ‘avant-garde’, ‘post-modernist’ or ‘original’. However he was a careerist; no one would suggest he did not make some extreme choices in print to advance himself and maximize attention, and thus his opportunities.

    His insistence that female entertainers be attractive is actually shared by a lot of people. Some of his carping was well aimed, and some was tasteless and cruel. But he has always attacked phonies and the mediocre and that includes those who play on the ‘poor little homely girl’ sentimentality embraced by some fans in NY especially. A certain person has never known John Simon to indulge the ‘lookist fascism’ so readily embraced by such stalwarts as [...]

    Simon is a passionate lover of music, pretty well educated musically, and an opera lover of long experience. He is much more stimulating to talk to about opera for example than the toadying loon from Santa Fe. He is stimulating to talk to period, a real critic, with brilliant insights into literature, the cinema and the visual arts. He is a critic not a ‘reviewer’. Criticism is never a matter of being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but of being bright or dumb.

    Peter Davis is a brilliant man, very well educated musically, with real in the opera house experience in Germany. Also a background in editing manuscripts by living composers for publication not merely a ‘passive’ scholar but someone involved in making difficult music clearer to those who would read and perform it. He fell into a journalistic career and perhaps regrets that now but he has been one of the best informed and most astute writers about all kinds of ‘serious’ music.

    There is no law that anyone, anywhere share someone’s opinions. But there is a vast difference between the hysterical nonsense of an anonymous nonentity such as [...] and the sharp witted, honestly expressed insights of James Jorden whoever that is.

    [...]

    • Bill says:

      Mrs. JC -- I might add that New York Magazine, for which both Simon and Davis wrote for a period of time, tends to prefer reviews which sometimes sensationalize the productions seen, or that emphasize the extremes (good or bad)with spiffy words and slightly exaggerated prose. Plus, of course, a definite controlling of the space allowance for reviews usually to one page only. To have read John Simon in the Hudson Review or articles written by Peter Davis in other publications (including the NY Times) allowed the reader to grasp further their respective insights into whatever theatrical productions or musical performances they may have viewed and be discussing. We are all critics, in a way, and we often go to performances with definite biases before the curtains even open. My main real quibble with critics would be against those who write half of their reviews PRIOR to viewing a performance -- deadlines in the Press excepting, it is a very lazy way to discuss the performance seen and often all that “fill” lends little insight for the reader as to what actually took place.

      In days of yore many of he opera critics writing for the NY Times or the Herald Tribune and other morning papers in New York were forced, due to he fact the reviews always appeared in he next morning’s edition, to miss he last act of an opera performance.

    • Cassandra says:

      Thanks for this clarification. Despite many people’s problems with him, I’ve always appreciated Simon as a critic, and New York made a big mistake setting him loose.