A recent rant by classical music gossip Norman Lebrecht makes me wonder just what all his fuss is about. A complaint that the Metropolitan Opera does not produce the most cutting edge work is both absolutely correct and absolutely meaningless. The Met is dedicated to the entire tradition of opera and is already demonstrating that under Peter Gelb’s direction they understand that tradition includes contemporary works as well (an article of mine in the upcoming issue of The Brooklyn Rail will discuss this). They are not an experimental house, they never have been and they never will be, and that’s perfectly fine. If they can, and should, be criticized it is for failing to understand the scope and meaning of the history of opera and again they are proving this awareness. Other houses may and do decide to question that tradition, the Met chooses to present it. Good for them.
In this, in New York City, they are like the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall, which are each like the Metropolitan Museum. These are institutions that are about preserving and presenting a history and tradition to the public, and striving to widen that audience. Their roles are important, just as the roles of avant-garde ensembles and cutting edge art and performance spaces are important. Altogether, they are complimentary. And on a personal level, the Met Opera, the Phil and Carnegie Hall have shown their openness to the interested public. I am an independent writer in every way, hopefully in that my ideas and values are the product of thinking for myself, but especially in the sense that I am completely on my own, working for no one but myself. There are benefits in that I am my own Assignment Editor and the blog format allows me to go on at some length (hopefully not too great). The drawbacks are that I have no institutional resources or connections. I am sent music to review, and I am occasionally offered tickets, but a great deal of what I write about comes from my own decision to spend what is a very limited amount of money. That means there is some bias involved in that I’ve already made the decision that something is worthwhile, but I am confident that my criticism is completely honest.
Because I’m serious about this work, I have presented myself to a variety of New York City performing institutions, offering my work and requesting access to performances so I can write about them and share them with my readers. Miller Theater has already been a welcome partner in the discussion of great music. The institutions that at first thought would seem to be stuffy and thus dismissive of someone without an institutional domain in my email address have proven to be accessible, open and generous, putting effort into making it possible for me to see and review their performances, while the institutions that would seem to be cutting-edge, hip, looking for alternative audiences have been silent, rudely unresponsive. So in the coming months my readers will see my thoughts on the wide variety of musical art being presented at the Met Opera, at the NY Phil, at Carnegie Hall, while unfortunately there will be no news from the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Surprising and disappointing, perhaps, but there it is.
As a postscript, I would like to quietly announce a general fundraiser for my work here at The Big City. I do this work out of something more than love, something more like the idea that this is important for the world around me, but it is work. Any donations (via the PayPal button upper right) obviously would go directly to supporting my work generally and make it possible to do some additional things on the blog, such as add more media, including examples of my own work. The same is true for the items on this blog’s Amazon Wish List, which is a mix of things that I would write about specifically, things that would give me context for other reviews and projects, and things that would further my own music production for the long term. If you find value for yourself here, even the smallest donation would be helpful and deeply appreciated. Thank you all, and keep reading.