Who criticizes the critics?

watching_the-watchmenSee, La Cieca thinks Brian Kellow is asking for trouble when, in the second paragraph of his analysis of last March’s Slatkinshchina, he admits, “I did not attend the March 29 opening-night performance of La Traviata, nor did I listen to it on Sirius Radio.”  

Because, you see, it’s hard to convincingly criticize the criticism (as Kellow does in the “current” Opera News, but don’t bother to check because it’s not online) without having heard the thing criticized.

BK goes on to rip Anthony Tommasini‘s coverage of Leonard Slatkin‘s ill-fated foray into Verdi, even going so far as to say that Tommasini’s review “[wound] up causing the withdrawal of a respected conductor.”

But as always it seems La Cieca’s on the wrong side of the argument, because she thought that the Slatkin review showed a welcome hint of snarky spine in Tommasini, who, for all his moistness over barihunks, is after all a well-trained and intelligent musician.

For once (or for rarely anyway) AT worked up a bit of righteous anger over what he saw as a massive artistic blunder. He didn’t explain it away by saying Slatkin had an off day, or maybe his old war wound was bothering him, or, you know, Traviata is such a rare and difficult gem that he deserves kudos for even making the attempt. No, Tommasini yelled “tripe” when tripe was served, to paraphrase one of those early sixties sitcoms La Cieca is talking about so much today.

Kellow does make one solid point, which is that Tommasini might have made “a point-for-point case for how [Slatkin] failed at various points in the evening,” that is,offering specific examples from the score of what went haywire and how. To attempt such an analysis in a daily paper would be folly, of course, even in the capacious pages of the Times. But blog space is cheap, and the NYT even has the advantage of multimedia capabilities.  They could have done a score animation, for example, demonstrating the same passage as led (differently but with equal validitiy) by a couple of recognized experts, as contrasted with the Slatkin stumbling.

Or, then again. As fond as La Cieca is of examples (ask any of her writers what her edits invariably ask for more of), there does come a point when, if only for reasons of convenience, the general reader wants to let the critic do the heavy lifting and then deliver a few carefully-chiseled adjectives to sum up: “is this worth my $200 or should I stay home and catch up on my Real Housewives?”