Cher Public

Cover to cover

La Cieca (pictured) is thrilled to announce the debut of a new online book club  hosted by Norman Lebrecht of “Slipped Disc” fame. The rules of the group are simple: each month Mr. Lebrecht nominates a book, which the members then proceed not to read. Then everyone unanimously and repeatedly declares the book should never have been allowed to be published. In other words, the same guidelines apply as in that blog’s discussion of opera productions

Newcomers interested in joining the Slipped Disc Society should note that anyone who dares to read the book under discussion, or who considers any action besides banning an unread but controversial book, will be summarily excluded from the group’s inner circle, the “Echo Chamber.” (Photo: Cory Weaver)

  • opera_fanatic

    “Then everyone unanimously and repeatedly declares the book should [not] have been allowed to be published.”

  • justanothertenor

    Those comments are exceptional! The poor “Rob” who tried to point out that everyone was criticizing a production no one had seen… only to be told “This is offensive nonsense”
    Oh dear… these must be the same people who have that regietheater hate group on facebook.

    • It does sound like the same crowd. They never see an opera or a play even. They’re never indoors long enough.

    • permanentfirsttimer

      Pretty sure that if we couldn’t criticize theatre productions we haven’t seen, most of theatre history would be immune to criticism. I know the book analogy is not meant literally, but still.

      Also Rob’s sarcastic “Oh no , don’t make me THINK at the opera!” is at least as much of a cliché as any of the standard anti-Regie clichés. And isn’t even usually accurate, since it usually comes from someone who would agree much less -- and therefore be challenged more by -- a production that didn’t question any of the assumptions that went into an older work. Maybe every house should have two productions: a literal production for pro-Regie audiences, and a non-literal production for anti-Regie audiences, and then everybody would be challenged.

      • la vociaccia

        Really though? You don’t see anything wrong with labeling a production a “stupid uninformed self-indulgent travesty” if you haven’t seen it? Is being informed passé? It’s not like these commenters have a play-by-play description of the production to go by; they only have a single description: there’s Nazis and it’s updated. If I were a scholar and wrote such scathing words about something that (for all my readers could see) I knew so little about, I’d be……. Norman Lebrecht, actually

      • RnR

        Well said, permanentfirsttimer.

        Sarcasm is best wielded in a less combative environment, and not during an argument during which one is likely to be taken to task for even one word out of place or misspelled. Especially in a let’s-argue-for-the-sake-of-arguing-and-be-sure-to-nitpick-a-lot situation. In fact I am surprised no one castigated me for misspelling Stefan Herheim’s last name.Probably because no one really wanted to discuss Herheim in the first place. :)

        The irony is that I didn’t mean necessarily to establish a pro-regie stand; I was just calling for some balance. But I guess that takes a lot of the fun out of the blog-banter :)


        P.S. sorry for the double post below.

    • RnR

      Thanks, justanothertenor(so am I) That would be me. After I took my blood pressure meds, I went back and posted my thoughts on my own blog. It really depresses me that people are so closed-minded. I wouldn’t even mind if they’d preface their comments with, “I think…”.

      If I didn’t learn stuff once in a while from Slipped Disc, I wouldn’t read it at all. It’s much more fun over here!


    • RnR

      Thanks, justanothertenor. That would be me. I tried for a bit, then decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation to keep arguing with people who are missing the point.

      Thanks, La Cieca, for this hysterical post. I feel better now :)


  • la vociaccia

    I had to stop reading two comments in. My blood pressure cannot handle those people. I notice a certain Jaworski of Piotr Beczala Is A Martyr For Traditionalism fame has joined in too

    • ianw2

      I find it helps to take a big breath and remind oneself that Lebrecht’s last book was so riddled with errors, not only did the publisher have to issue a public apology, they had to ask for all unsold copies to be returned so they could pulp them.

  • MontyNostry

    The words of the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland could readily be applied to the ever-provocative and opportunistic Lebrecht, who just wants to keep his name out there and get clicks on his blog:

    “He only does it to annoy/Because he knows it teases.”

    • Regina delle fate

      Heh, Monty! The revelation for me is seeing the sainted Alex Ross outed as an anti-Regie warrior. I haven’t read The Rest is Noise from cover to cover, but that bit seems to have been missed by the Parterrians who worship at the Ross shrine.

      • You may be misreading the comments. Only the first sentence comes from AR, the rest is supplied by the commenter on NL’s site. I don’t have the book with me, but the quotation comes from p.527 and may in fact be about post-war composition in Western Europe, not Regietheater. Someone with the book can double-check.

      • MontyNostry

        Well, I tweeted Alex Ross with an informed and relevant comment on something (literary, not musical) that he had highlighted on Twitter and he didn’t dignify it with a response (OK, I know he’s busy), so he’s in my bad books anyway. ;-)

      • armerjacquino

        Ross isn’t anti-regie. The commenter has taken one sentence from TRIN and added his or her own interpretation to it.

        Whether or not this makes me a ‘worshipper at the shrine’ of the ‘sainted Alex Ross’, by the way, I think TRIN is a magnificent book. You should, you know, read it.

      • Batty Masetto

        Yes, the Ross quote is taken out of context, in the best Fox News tradition. (I played hooky from work for a few minutes and dug out our copy. The money quote is on p. 575 of the paperback edition.)

        Ross is talking about trends among certain contemporary German composers who feel a duty to avoid anything that smacks of the traditional musical experience for fear of seeming “fascist.” Here’s the whole paragraph:

        Thrilling as the latest voyages in “novel spheres” may be, much contemporary music in Austria and Germany seems constricted in emotional range – trapped behind the modernist plate-glass window of Adorno’s “Grand Hotel Abyss.” The great German tradition, with all its grandeurs and sorrows, is cordoned off, like a crime scene under investigation. [Emphasis added.]

  • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

    Authorities are reporting that the disease has spread to other parts of the British capital:

    Where next?

    • Oh god, the joke’s on me now, as I am genuinely not thrilled about the idea of a new Gatsby that’s all over the place. I mean, I’m going to see it, but I’m full of doubts!

      • ianw2

        At least you know it will look nice.

        I plan to spend the release huddled in a ball watching Strictly Ballroom on a loop, trying to purge memories of Australia from my mind.

        I found it fascinating that all those jazz guys were bleating that he used Jay-Z rather than authentic jazz of the period. All I could think was “welcome to the exciting world of classical music, gentlemen.”

    • MontyNostry

      It’s a **long** time since I read Gatsby, but I hardly remember it as being exuberant or overblown. Quite downbeat, rather.

      Anyway, I thought Strictly Ballroom was a fairly silly little film and haven’t seen anything by Bazza since!

      And last time I saw the 1974 movie of Gatsby (also quite a while ago), it struck my how miscast Mia Farrow was. Still, she has always been a pretty limited actress. Lois Chiles was rather gorgeous as Jordan, though. And, of course, we had Karen ‘I can’t fly this plane alone’ Black too.

      • ianw2

        I only read Gatsby for the first time recently, and I can see how Baz (and his production designer wife, to whom he owes most of his success) would be attracted to the lavish party and lifestyle scenes, but his biggest problem has always been with the introverted bits of which Gatsby is loaded.

        Strictly Ballroom (and Moulin Rouge, I suppose) works because it allowed Baz all his colour and camp and dizzying camera within a controlled environment, whereas that abortion known as Australia was too broad a canvas.

        Also, silly little film? You wash out that mouth.

        • MontyNostry

          I saw it on a plane (on one of those old-fashioned communal screens), which probably didn’t help, but it did seem to be a very obvious narrative of a kind that we’ve all seen a myriad times. And that very obvious Ozzie high camp doesn’t really do it for me.

          • MontyNostry

            … by which I mean that I wasn’t crazy about Muriel’s Wedding either -- and I haven’t even seen Priscilla ;-)

          • ianw2

            I find Muriel’s so utterly depressing, but Priscilla is a wonderful piece of cinema. I have a huge soft spot for Strictly as the soundtrack to it was the first cassette tape I ever owned.

          • Oof, it’s been ages since I saw Priscilla but I remember it as the most depressing variety of cheap gay camp.

          • ianw2

            No no no, in 1994 Australia a box office smash that had at its heart a love story between a middle-aged transgendered (played by Terrence Stamp, of all people) and a middle-aged outback larrikin was brilliant. I think its brilliance came from that although there was high camp- the opera on top of the bus- it didn’t play the three characters as freaks.

          • MontyNostry

            But CeCe Peniston’s ‘Finally’ is a great track. I bought a copy and the shop had placed the price sticker in a provocatively strategic position over part of her name …

          • DonCarloFanatic

            I have never understood why people called Muriel’s Wedding a comedy. What a sad, dreary thing it was.

          • I mean…a box office smash that had at its heart a love story, plus an indigenous woman who can shoot ping pong balls out of her etc. Ah, gay culture in the 90s.

  • I just can’t give Lebrecht the clicks, besides not wanting to be nauseated by him.

    • He’s kind of the worst but I was curious so I clicked through.

  • armerjacquino

    What’s actually disturbing about those comments is the complacent assumption that the Holocaust is something ‘been there, done that’ which doesn’t merit further enquiry.

    • la vociaccia

      Or that any decision to link Nazism and Wagner is done solely to sell tickets.

      The best part is the brilliant contradiction in statements such as: “As a Jew I am disgusted that a director would use such imagery to be edgy, and I am also disgusted that the GENIUS OF WAGNER is being defiled”

      Because Wagner really loved us Jews, dontcha know?

    • Regina delle fate

      This is Düsseldorf, of course, which is quite provincial, although Nazi imagery in Wagner always raises hackles, as anyone who has seen Katharina’s Bayreuth Meistersinger will know. A vocal minority of the audience was never completely reconciled to her production in the way that public has turned round for other controversial Bayreuth productions and it is the only staging in recent history for which it has been possible to get tickets for by turning up on the day. Middle-class subscriber audiences in place like Düsseldorf tend to be more conservative than people who take the trouble to go to Bayreuth, but even their this production would most likely have been rejected by a section of the public. Same in Munich or Berlin where Nazi imagery in Wagner is almost de rigeur, although not universally loved. Anyway, it all gives Lebrecht and his readers something to get their knickers in a twist about. Hilarious really. Where have they been these last 50 years? Wieland Wagner may not have put swastikas on stage, but his post-war productions all strike me as anti-fascistic from the photos I’ve seen. The only Wieland production I’ve seen live (and long after his death) is his famous blue-and-gold Lohengrin in Berlin, which looked very time by the time I got to it. Good cast, though: Ligendza, Hesse, Jerusalem.. :)

      • Regina delle fate

        oops tame!

      • MontyNostry

        De **rigueur**, cher Regina.

        • MontyNostry

          I suppose that that should really be ‘chère Regina’, of course, but I was assuming that you are really more of a re than a regina.

          • Regina delle fate

            Depends on which day of the week it is :)

  • Will

    Maury, it’s not only the Gatsby movie; next Sunday there will be a concert performance of John Harbison’s Gatsby in Boston premiering his new revised version. I don’t expect to go, but will post reviews here.

    • messa di voce

      I don’t expect to go, but I will review it here.

      • la vociaccia

        I too refuse to see such blasphemous trash made about Gatsby (which Wikipedia informs me is important), and I will also be here to express my misgivings

    • Bitches please, my review is ready. I will be posting it 24 hours ahead of the performance

    • Batty Masetto

      It was a horrible travesty, a disgraceful disservice to the author.

      (What was the show, again?)

  • laddie

    Sorry, but all this just sounds too fashionable left-wingy, as if works of art shoud in the first place be spaces to explore the flaws of modern society. And then, modern troubles do not in the least enlighten works of art of older times. The entire idea is wrong, upside down, inside out. We do not go to operas to better understand our own society, but to understand the operas themselves in the first place, and in terms of universal truths of the human condition. If I want to understand the specific social, political, philosophical, anthropological, mental, digestive problems of our own times, I go to the public library and borrow a couple of books. Opera is about the human condition in a universal, condensed way, which means that there are timeless aspects of existence which can be found in all times and places for being human. What modern regietheater wants to do, is already part of the work, but in a more general way. To dress up opera productions with contemporary problems in the foreground, bypasses the raison d’être of the art form, it is just distracting and superfluous

    This has to be camp. Must be. Lovely.

    • laddie

      I invite the author to spend a week with me on the psychiatric unit where I work.

  • havfruen

    ” Comment parler des livres que l’on n’a pas lus?”

    Might be worth reading for this discussion. Or,one could simply read “Lost Illusions” by Balzac.

    • redbear

      More signs that Regie has “settled in” in Europe. The Basel opera has just announced Calixto Bieito as their “Artist in Residence” and even the Verona Festival opera has this year’s production by Fura dels Baus.

  • CarlottaBorromeo

    Lebrecht’s stunning sense of self-regard is rather entertainingly revealed if you skim through the comments on this thread: