Cher Public

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“Oh how I sympathize with King Canute!”

Norman Lebrecht, who seems now to have no goal in life beyond actively impeding the progress of classical music—and why not: look how cruelly the industry has treated him!—has published a “review” from a “critic” who walked out of a three-act opera after the first act.


  • papopera says:

    Inane diatribe from an imbecile

  • Signor Bruschino says:

    Lebrecht, Zeffirelli, and Maazel walk into a bar. Everyone else walks out.

  • Nero Wolfe says:

    I used to always stay to the end figuring it would get better. Now I realize that if the first hour sucks due to casting or production, it won’t get better. Why waste two more hours.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

      Exactly! And I remember being in the old MET horrified to see people leaving during the last act of Pélleas et Melisande conducted by Ansermet!

      • RobNYNY1957 says:

        It might have had something to do with train schedules. The last trains to Connecticut left around 11:45. If you missed the last one, you had to wait until about 6:00 AM to get the first one of the next day.

        The most famous manifestation of this phenomenon is Broadway’s “eleven o’clock number.” According to a friend of mine who is a retired Broadway producer, the reason the big title some, which would logically be the finale, comes about 20 minutes before the end is to accommodate the people who had to leave at 11:30 to catch the last train. After the title numbe, th last bits of plot play out (the knife fight, the impromptu trial) before a watery reprise of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” to bring down the curtain. According the same person, the producers of the fairly recent revival that starred Hugh Jackman in London and Patrick Wilson in New York wanted to restructure the second act to make “Oklahoma” the finale. Supposedly the Rodgers estate was OK with it, but the Hammerstein estate would not permit the book to be changed in any way.

        Certainly when I was living in Germany, people cleared out of the opera about 11:30 to get the last trams.

        • la vociaccia says:

          Hmm, interesting. When I was doing shows in high school I was told that the 11 o’clock number was designed to ‘wake whoever may be sleeping the fuck up, because there’s some heavy shit about to happen in these last 20 -- 30 minutes.” The example at the time was “Who will buy” in Oliver!

          • La Cieca says:

            I don’t know about the “last 20 -- 30 minutes” always being true. The definitive eleven o’clock number is Rose’s Turn, after which there is only the brief book scene between Rose and Louise, a couple of minutes.

            I think it may be an idea that transferred to Broadway from vaudeville, where the most favored spot on the bill was second-to-last. The final spot was when people would start reaching for their coats, checking their purses for change for the bus, and discussing where to do for a drink afterwards. So the idea is that you don’t want to waste a really good new number at the very end of the show when the audience’s attention is wandering. (This is also true in opera, at least at the Met, where invariably there are two or three oldsters who get up and start putting on their coats about two minutes before the end of the Liebestod.)

            And the eleven o’clocker is almost always something new, which contrasts with the rest of the second act, which includes quite a few reprises. Generally it’s also something novel in form, for example, the counterpoint duet in Call Me Madam.

            After the eleven o’clock number, all that’s left is to wind up the plot and sing a reprise of something noisy to get the applause started.

            • quoth the maven says:

              As much as I hate to disagree with our gracious hostess, I would say that Gypsy‘s 11-o’clock number is “You Gotta Have a Gimmick.” It comes about 20 minutes before the curtain, livening up the show after a book-heavy stretch. Also, it is entirely “something new.”

              “Rose’s Turn” is sui generis. But like a classic finale, it consists largely of reprised material--even the “Mama’s talking loud” section echoes a song that was cut before opening. But I in no way mean to say that it isn’t as thrilling as any 11-o’clock number ever written.

            • La Cieca says:

              I think part of the sui generis quality of “Rose’s Turn” is that it breaks what would seem to be the primary rule of the eleven o’clock number, i.e., that it should consist of new musical material. What is new about this piece is not the content but rather the form, a sort of “mad scene,” or as I believe Stephen Sondheim described it, “a vocal dream ballet.”

              Up until “Rose’s Turn,” Gypsy is essentially a superbly-crafted conventional musical, but that number transforms it into a concept show. What makes Gypsy unique is in large part the uniqueness, the unexpectedness of its eleven o’clock number.

        • David says:

          There is a no doubt apocryphal story about Reginald Goodall conducting Wagner (Tristan?) in Oxford for WNO. Before the third act an announcement was made that the last Oxford -- London train would be held until 15 minutes after the end of the performance to allow people to get to the station. So no mid-Liebestod coat scrabbling

          • MontyNostry says:

            I would have thought that missing out on the Liebestod would leave one with a distinct sensation of coitus interruptus.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            It sounds plausible to me, as he did conduct WNO’s Tristan in Oxford, With Johanna Meier’s statuesque and lyrically sung Isolde as I recall.

    • havfruen says:

      I’m not sure I see a problem with a reviewer stating that he left after the first act. The problem is when the reviewer leaves after the first act to go home and write the review of the complete performance as though he had been there. Dewey Defeats Truman!

  • Cicciabella says:

    That’s a one virulent case of chickenpox on Lebrecht’s pillbox.

  • Manrico1 says:

    Was he drunk, or just stupid…??

  • willym says:

    I’m just wondering if the “reviewer” had press seats???? If that was the case and he “walked out” isn’t that a bit… well I don’t know what to call it? Dishonest????

    • Regina delle fate says:

      In the comments Norm says Steve Rubin paid for his tickets so he was entitled to walk out. If I’d paid good money to see Prince Igor, I’d have at least waited to see the Polovstian Dances before making for the exit. One of the commentators amusingly writes that Steve’s companion must have been very lovely indeed for him to leave so early! :)

      • Since I don’t get press tickets from the Met, I paid to see opening night of Igor from the mostly empty Family Circle Balance. And I stayed for the whole four hour show. (And yes the Mariinsky in 98 was better although this was very well sung.)

  • NPW-Paris says:

    Sometimes you can’t -- there’s no interval. At L’Amour de Loin, for example…

    • oedipe says:

      But it’s short.

      • NPW-Paris says:

        There’s real time and perceived time. I was at Einstein on the Beach recently. “The amazing thing,” said a friend as we left the Théâtre du Châtelet, “is that we’ve sat through this for four-and-a-half hours, without an interval and still weren’t bored shitless* like at L’Amour de Loin. Yet that was much shorter”.

        *”On ne s’est pas fait chier”.

        • oedipe says:

          If you found L’amour de loin unbearably boring, I gather you haven’t yet seen or heard Emilie (same librettist).

          • la vociaccia says:

            I enjoyed Emilie, but that was a combination of A) I was/am a fan of Elizabeth Futral and was happy to hear her in something in New York (and in a monodrama, to boot) and B) I had never listened to Saariaho for more than a smattering and wanted to see what she was about, and I did get my wish.

            I would see it again, but it would have to be similarly well-cast, if not better cast. Maybe with Veronique Gens

          • NPW-Paris says:

            You gather right. I’ve managed to avoid Saariaho (and her librettist) ever since.

        • manou says:

          Ah qu’en termes galants ces choses là sont mises!

  • operaassport says:

    He makes George W. Bush and Joe Biden look like intellectuals.

  • m. croche says:

    I think La Cieca may have missed the best part.

    The “critic” who left Prince Igor after the first act (and lived to tell the tale!) has his own Institute of Criticism at Oberlin College.

  • Icegoalie says:

    The only opera I ever walked out on after the first act was Tippet’s Midsummer Marriage at Lyric Opera. I went to a good restaurant and had an excellent dinner. I have never regretted my decision and will never go to see another Tippet opera.

    • operaassport says:

      Your loss. I saw 3 performances of this flawed, yet fascinating work.

      • arepo says:

        Could you possibly consider expounding on your above sentence?
        There is little to no remarks or reviews on this opera.
        After the little I have read I am ready to turn back my HD tickets rather than brave 4+ hours of practically nothing to recommend it but fine dancing.

        • operaassport says:

          I was replying to the post above me about the Tippett work.

          If you’re referring to Prince Igor, I would highly recommend it. Unless your idea of opera is just another Boheme or Carmen I think you will find it a beautiful experience. Go for it!

      • Regina delle fate says:

        operaassport -- TMM is a glorious score hampered in the theatre by an obtuse and occasionally pretentious libretto. I spent a lot of time with the wonderful Colin Davis recording -- Alberto Remedios has never been bettered as Mark in my experience and it shows his lyrical qualities to the full and in his vocal prime -- before seeing it on stage and it’s recent neglect in the UK is sad. It had a concert performance at last summer’s Proms with two excellent Americans, Erin Wall and Paul Groves, as Jennifer and Mark, conducted by Andrew Davis, but you need to see it as well as hear it. I’m really furious that I missed its most distinguised recent productions, Richard Jones’s in Munich and Tim Albery’s for Opera North and Scottish Opera. It’s sad that so few people were interested enough to warrant revivals of both. I guess the Proms concert might around a bit of interest, but our regional companies are really feeling the cold winds of the economic downturn and programming anything risky like TMM is probably off-limits for the time being. That said, English Touring Opera opened a new production of King Priam last week. That’s a far more “difficult” -- ie contemporary-sounding -- piece than TMM, but it’s the nearest Tippett gets to writing a vivdly theatrical drama with compelling characters, though of course, Homer had a hand in those, if he ever existed….I shall try to catch it somewhere on ETO’s extensive tour.

        • Regina delle fate says:

          arouse not around!

        • MontyNostry says:

          The short run of King Priam sold out promptly at the Linbury Studio at the ROH, but it does only seat 400 (not, I might add, in comfort!).

        • Henry Holland says:

          Love King Priam, saw a great production of it in the 1990′s, in Nottingham (??) thanks to Opera North on tour. I didn’t quite “get” The Midsummer Marriage when I went to a performance at NYCO, but Regina’s comment “TMM is a glorious score hampered in the theatre by an obtuse and occasionally pretentious libretto” is spot on for me. The last time I tried to listen to The Knot Garden, I gave up after 20 minutes, it just didn’t work at all for me, despite being one of the very few operas that have an openly gay character.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            King Priam really works as it is Tippett’s response to Greek drama and Shakespeare’s history plays. I’ve seen all of Tippett’s operas, a few in more than one production, and I always look forward to a new Priam. The Knot Garden really doesn’t work. He always thought of it as his Così fan tutte -- Mangus is clearly modelled on Don Alfonso, and, by association, Thea is a sort of aged Despina. I’m always suspicious that when Tippett quotes famous music -- with the possible exception of the spirituals in Child of our Time -- it’s because he has run out of his own ideas. The Schubert song always sounds contrived in The Knot Garden. I think he bundled too many “right-on” issues and characters into that opera, and it has dated terribly. I think the same goes for The Ice Break, and I’m waiting to see another production of New Year before I write it off. Aren’t there two openly gay characters in it? Dov and Mel? Or is Mel bi-sexual? That Opera North Priam was the most beautiful I have seen -- very much in the tradition of Greek Classical drama, but the young Nicholas Hytner did a tremendous “Shakespearean” production for Kent Opera. It was one of the last shows the company did before it was closed down by the Arts Council. I’ve a vague memory of it being televised. Rodney McCann was Priam, Janet Price Hecuba and Sarah Walker was either Helen or Andromache. I also saw the last revival of the original 1962 production with Lizzie Vaughan and Felicity Palmer, Bob Tear, Tom Allen and Forbes Robinson, but it looked its age in the 1980s. Anyway, I’m looking forward to this “chamber” version by ETO. Bravely, they are taking it to about 20 venues, all around the country. It will do well in Snape and Cambridge, possibly Cheltenham, but I guess it will struggle elsewhere. It’s interesting that they aren’t even bothering to do it in some of their tour stops, who only get The Magic Flute and Paul Bunyan.

            • Henry Holland says:

              From the synopsis of The Knot Garden at Wikipedia:

              Mel and Dov enter dressed up as Ariel and Caliban from The Tempest. They are lovers, but Mel flirts with Thea, and out of jealousy Dov makes a play for Faber

              Dov = gay, Mel = bisexual when it suits him? :-)

  • Poison Ivy says:

    Isn’t it clear? His “lovely companion” wanted to leave. So Borodin lost out to a booty call.

  • derschatzgabber says:

    If he did have press tickets, perhaps the Met should follow the lead of Rush Limbaugh and insist that they are entitled to video of the critic and lovely companion.

  • Opera South says:

    “Music and Vision” is the “People” magazine (or worse) of classical music. Lebrecht seems to be obsessed with allegations of sexual misconduct in music schools -- reporting every accusation, whether or not there is proof. He also loves to announce the deaths of “well-known” or “important” musicians that no one has ever heard of outside of their home towns. His newest obsession seems to be instruments damaged by airlines. I think he posts everything he can get his hands on.

    • manou says:

      Norman is only seeking to increase “hits” to his website by posting sibylline tweets announcing tidbits about those “important” and unnamed people with the requisite link. Clicking on this takes you to Slipped Disc where you discover you have been “had” -- rather like Kruno’s tinyurl link to Mojca Erdmann lying on a bed of roses.

      • MontyNostry says:

        I think that is known in the trade a ‘clickbait’, manou. While bemoaning sexism in organisations such as the Vienna Phil, he also quite likes putting up vaguely prurient pictures of women to grab attention.

    • Chanterelle says:

      The “news” he “breaks” tends to be stale anyway. Former tabloid writer, is he?

    • MontyNostry says:

      He also likes bemoaning the sad death of an artist and shortly afterwards promoting library photos of the deceased held in the Lebrecht Picture Library. Ambulance-chasing, really.

    • havfruen says:

      Why complain about coverage of damaged instruments? Isn’t that something we should all be angry about? The mainstream media doesn’t much care, so thank goodness someone does.

  • Opera South says:

    Sorry -- meant “Slipped Disc” not “music and Vision!!!!”

  • none says:

    Roberto Alagna has received glowing comments in the press about his Werther in Paris. In fact I understand that the whole cast, music director and production have come together in a unique way to make a truly great show. What a pity it will be lost. It would have been nice for the many of us who cannot go to Paris to see a DVD. I know that many people will frown at this, but I wish that M. Alagna was singing Werther at the Met. His French is so much better that Jonas Kaufmann’s!

  • phoenix says:

    Mock them all you want, the crowd will celebrate any False Dmitri you throw up here.
    - Never fear, impressarios are too busy with fiscal matters to care that much about the artistic validity of their productions -- the Publicity Dept. (distributing cash for advertising & free tickets to ‘critics’ -- ‘critics’ who want to keep them rolling in) will be able to prove the superiority of any Regiban edition over any traditional score.